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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

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CultureFood & DrinkGood Taste: Food names you can trust

Good Taste: Food names you can trust

Louie’s Original, Barbara’s Fish Trap, and more Bay Area places named after people worth knowing.

This is Good Taste, a space where we appreciate the gift of the Bay Area food world. Today, we present a bit of a name hall of fame.

With Michelin star restaurants like Spruce in San Francisco and Selby’s in Redwood City, the Bacchus Management Group has shown a reverence for placing hamburgers in the fine dining realm. Bacchus’ four-month-old fast casual burger joint Louie’s Original (1685 Mariposa St., SF) offers three different charbroiled (I think), American-cheese-draped, and Brioche-bunned burgers at lower prices. They’ve got a $10, single-patty Little Louie, a $16 double-patty Big Louie, and a $19 Little Sister, which is similar to Spruce’s famous burger served on a fluffy English muffin. I don’t eat burgers very often, but darn it if I can’t get the Little Louie I tried the other day off my mind. It’s putting any remaining $10 burgers in town on notice, as far as I’m concerned.

The Louie’s Original experience, which also included a pretty epic Bananas Foster milkshake, got me thinking about a tradition of spots that are beloved in the Bay Area and are named after people that probably goes way farther back than when a San Francisco radio DJ named Tommy Harris started slinging buffalo stew at his restaurant called Tommy’s Joynt in 1947.

While I’m glad that Tommy’s is still around as a San Francisco landmark, it’s honestly not part of my regular rotation of interesting restaurants with first names. Louie’s Original may become one, especially if they get a veggie burger going. But I’m going to share a few of the spots that actually are some of my favorites, including places that have represented the Bay Area well for generations.

Bread basket at Original Joe’s of Westlake
Butter cake at Original Joe’s of Westlake

Original Joe’s of Westlake

Originally opened as Joe’s of Westlake in 1956, this perennial Daly City hotspot became Original Joe’s of Westlake (11 Glenwood Avenue, Daly City) in 2016, when it reopened after a brilliant, upscale remodel by new owners Elena and John Duggan, the family behind the Original Joe’s of North Beach. It’s been a special occasion spot my entire life, including all the decades when it really looked like a Bay Area time capsule of lounge and diner fabulousness. When there, I want all the bread baskets, all the pasta, all the fried seafood, and all the butter cake.

I really enjoy what the Duggans have been doing in recent years, including bringing Little Original Joe’s and the new Elena’s Mexican Restaurant to SF’s West Portal neighborhood and preserving the legacy of Zanze’s Cheesecakes by buying the business and offering the desserts in their restaurants. As far as I know, the Westlake restaurant remains the most hopping early bird restaurant in the region.

Barbara’s Fishtrap in Half Moon Bay
Dungeness crab Louie from Barbara’s Fishtrap]

Barbara’s Fishtrap

A recent visit to Barbara’s Fishtrap (281 Capistrano Road, Half Moon Bay) after a few years away reminded me of a time when I drove down the coast practically every month to either sit down in the restaurant or order food to eat outside from the takeout stand. Whichever method you choose, you can order from a large menu of huge plates, salads, and sandwiches as well as guilty-pleasure fried fare such as fried artichoke hearts, corn fritters, and fried clams. (All major weaknesses over here.)

The restaurant opened in 1978 and, unfortunately, its namesake, Barbara Walsh is no longer with us, having passed away in 2017. Thankfully, her legacy still is, and I will forever be grateful for her for establishing a place that has made me and so many others happy for our whole lives.

Cream biscuit from Brenda’s French Soul Food
Brenda’s vegan po’boy

Brenda’s French Soul Food

Brenda’s French Soul Food (652 Polk Street, SF) gets a lot of attention for Southern staples like shrimp and grits as well as savory and sweet beignets, and rightfully so. But give yourself permission here to carb-load so you don’t miss out on the divinity of the cream biscuits or the po’ boy sandwiches. Chef Brenda Buenviaje also has a French Soul Food location in Oakland and a similar Brenda’s Meat and Three in San Francisco. And you’ll find her tossing out beignets during a “Booty Bounce Brunch” segment of the Outside Lands festival every year.

BBQ hot links, collards, and macaroni and cheese at Everett and Jones

Everett and Jones

It’s been a minute since I’ve been to Everett and Jones (126 Broadway, Oakland), but I think I’m a regular there in my head because I always have a jar of their spicy BBQ sauce in my refrigerator. This is a meaningful spot to so many people not only in the East Bay, but in all of Northern California, and let’s support its continued longevity. Dorothy Everett started the restaurant with her nine children and her son-in-law, whose surname is Jones, in 1973. There’s also a second location in Oakland and one in Antioch.

Pho from Kevin and Chris’ Noodle House
Kevin and Chris’ strawberry slush with boba

Kevin and Chris’ Noodle House

I’m not sure when the OG Sunset District pho spot that was known as Kevin’s Noodle House became Kevin and Chris’ Noodle House (1833 Irving Street, SF). But I do know that, besides noodle soups, they are really proficient at slush drinks with boba. This is especially significant in the context of its neighborhood, which was the first to bring boba to the Bay Area, and still boasts several practitioners of the chewy craft.

Baked chocolate soufflé at Restaurant Gary Danko
Restaurant Gary Danko’s breakfast gift

Restaurant Gary Danko

So storied is the aspirational nature of eating at the 25-year-old Restaurant Gary Danko (800 North Point Street, SF) that Berkeley rapper Rexx Life Raj once wrote a whole song about it. It’s a definite splurge spot in any era, but the current prices of three courses for $122, four courses for $150, and five courses for $170 seem more attainable than they used to be at a time when it feels too easy to spend $100 on something way less exquisite. The amount of choices within these menus is almost overwhelming, but there aren’t any wrong answers here.

Tamara is the publisher of California Eating and the founder of the new online Music Book Club.

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