Miyoko Eats: Tacos, Custard Tarts, and Burger Bar

This week, the title of my blog—Miyoko Eats—is a far more accurate a descriptor of what I’ve been up to than usual. (My good friend Julie has affectionately advised that I change the name from “Miyoko Eats” to “Miyoko Cooks and Teaches Others How to Cook, Too”.) But with out-of-town friends to entertain last week and dinner with a good friend Tuesday night, I have much to report from recent restaurant visits.

Me eating tacos at Nick's Crispy

San Francisco is a city of food—and foodies—and Nick’s Crispy Tacos was one of the eateries I most wanted to take my friends to while they were here. Sure, it wasn’t La Taqueria or any of the taco trucks in the Mission but it was a sampling of what a taco (my order), burrito (Cait’s choice), and quesadilla (Sarah’s pick) should taste like. It’s also in my neighborhood and is a Russian Hill staple.

As always, the lights at Rouge (the bar connected to Nick’s) were up and the hanging chandeliers and red, velvet, semi-circular booths were looking as gawdy—and familiar and welcoming—as ever. Being in a bar during the day is like seeing a TV anchor right after he films his news spot: Both immediately lose their luster and the effort that goes into looking good becomes incredibly obvious. But eating tacos below multi-tiered, faux-crystal pendants is part of the charm of going to Nick’s.

We waited in the longest line I’ve ever been in there—more than 20 deep—but happily quenched our thirst with a pitcher of margaritas while we queued. (Later in the week, we waited in an even longer line—again, worth it—at Taylor’s Automatic Refresher, which is being unfortunately renamed Gott’s Roadside Tray Gourmet.)

Grilled fish and shrimp tacos from Nick's

When we arrived at the front of the line at Nick’s, I ordered one grilled fish taco and one shrimp taco, both Nick’s way (crispy and topped with cheese and guacamole), and then, when Cait and Sarah each asked where the ground beef option was on the menu, I realized that no one in San Francisco eats beef tacos! I had forgotten that the norm here is carne asada. Fortunately, they were more than pleased to try the carne pollo, and I was excited to be, for the first time, the person in my party who could speak the most Spanish. My vocabulary is still limited to ordering beer and tacos but that was all we needed so we were set. We finished our order with nachos and a side of jalapenos. It was a very un-Irish meal (we went on St. Patty’s Day) but a most delicious one and an excellent start to a fun evening.

The next day, during my lunch hour, I sauntered over to Chinatown in search of Golden Gate Bakery. (I’d been there before but forgot where it was located.) One of my former roommates is of Hong Kong decent and knew all the best places to go for Chinese donuts, rice porridge, and custard tarts—my favorite dim sum treat. After a few passes up and down Stockton and Grant streets, I found it. (It’s on Grant between Jackson and Pacific.) To my delight, I also found it to be open.

Golden Gate Bakery is the best bakery in Chinatown and as such, its owners are granted the liberty of regularly posting signs in the doorway announcing impromptu weeks-long shutdowns. Though I have not witnessed this myself, my roommate has told me that patrons wait hours to purchase moon cakes during the annual Moon Festival. There was no line when I stopped in, and I soon had a custard tart in my hands—for a mere dollar and some-odd cents. Back at the office, I slowly savored the creamy dessert—the crust flaking into many layers and the center only just solid enough to hold together. I also checked it off the Big Eat list as No. 61: Egg custard tart at Golden Gate Bakery.

The incredible egg custard tart from Golden Gate Bakery in San Francisco's Chinatown

Tuesday night, I had dinner with a good friend—the one, in fact, who leant me Julie and Julia, which, in a big part, prompted me to start this blog. Though she and I met at the fancy food court of the Westfield Mall, we end up on the sixth floor of Macy’s in Union Square at the recently opened Burger Bar.

I have been particularly interested it trying this place ever since another one of my friends gave it a scathing review as being overpriced, overhyped, and not very tasty. Since then, another mutual friend gave it a review that simply entailed, “It was good.” I am giving it two thumbs up—though that is almost decidedly because I had the option of putting a fried egg on my burger and you all know how I feel about fried eggs: the more often they appear on my food, the better.

The menu had two options: make-your-own burgers or burgers designed by the chef-owner, who turned out to Hubert Keller. Neither my friend nor I knew who he was or that he owned the restaurant. We both initially read one of the specials as the “Hellen Keller Burger” and thought it was a bit odd. The name was, of course, the “Hubert Keller Burger.” We also laughed at the fact that Burger Bar is clearly not a San Francisco restaurant: The first choice of meat in the make-your-own burger list was described as “the very best grain-fed beef, the pride of America’s heartland”. I’m quite sure that most San Franciscans, aka the cult of Alice Waters and Michael Pollan, would balk at the idea of eating grain-fed beef. Luckily for them, there was a “Country Natural” option made of beef from the restaurant’s “family-owned ranch” that practices “sustainable ranching”. (Admittedly, I went for the country natural burger myself.)

My Make-Your-Own Burger: burger, Swiss cheese, pesto, and a fried egg on a ciabatta roll. Mmm!

My friend ordered the veggie burger, which she described as “mushy, but I like my veggie burgers mushy,” and I, after much deliberation, topped mine with Swiss cheese, pesto sauce, and the fried egg and had it on a ciabatta roll. We shared an order of sweet potato fries and it made for an excellent, very filling meal.

I got back to the gym this week and that was also most excellent for all the eating I’ve been doing! More cooking to come but mmm, those were some good eats.


1 Response to “Miyoko Eats: Tacos, Custard Tarts, and Burger Bar”

  1. 1 Julie 03/25/2010 at 11:47 am

    Miyoko– your blog pictures and descriptions are awesome! I’m also a big fan of both Nick’s Crispy (as you know) and Burger Bar! I will say that I think the salmon burger is a great option for non-meat eaters, and I’d love to try their vegan special (eggplant between 2 portabella mushrooms)!

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