Sumika: A User’s Guide
Casual Japanese Izakaya | Rice Bowls | Skewered Meat and Seafood | Michelin Guide Recommended | Imported Japanese Charcoal
Appetizer: deep fried octopus
Grilled skewers: scallops, steak, and pork cheek
Rice dish: oyakodon
Dessert: frozen custard pudding
The Vibe: a casual izakaya with counter service and a few wood tables
Where to Sit: at the front counter, which offers a good view of the meat skewers cooking over a charcoal fire in the kitchen.
Diners may bring in outside desserts for a $3 plating fee per person.
The restaurant doesn’t serve lunch on Sundays, and they close up the kitchen entirely on Mondays.
Press and Praise
The Michelin Guide recommends a visit.
Los Altos Town Crier highlights the quality of ingredients, saying “Sumika imports binchotan charcoal from Japan. The restaurant also uses high-quality meats – organic chicken from Petaluma Poultry and Kobe beef.”
Izakaya: a Japanese style of dining where dishes are brought to the table in a consistent, casual fashion designed to encourage sharing.
Oyakodon: meaning “parent-and-child” in English, this rice-based dish features a simmered sauce that contains both chicken and egg.
While You’re in the Neighborhood
Linden Tree Books has plenty of music makers, storybooks, and games to keep kids and adults occupied until dinner (265 State Street).
If You Can’t Make It, Try This: the sushi at Akane Japanese Restaurant (250 3rd Street).
Enjoy finger-licking barbecue year-round at Armadillo Willy's Ranch Grill in Los Altos.
Quit fat and gluten at Armadillo Willy's Ranch Grill, where low-fat fare and G-free offerings are the norm.
You'll find a wonderful selection of drinks from this restaurant's full bar to top off your meal.
Load up the mini-van and bring the kids to this restaurant — they'll love the menu and scene here as much as mom and dad.
At Armadillo Willy's Ranch Grill, you won't have to wait for your large or small group to be seated.
Whether it's just you and a date or you're bringing the whole gang, it's best to call ahead and make a reservation.
Spruce up your look...but not too much! Armadillo Willy's Ranch Grill's style is business casual, so formal wear should be left on the hanger.
Looking for something delicious to serve at your next party? Armadillo Willy's Ranch Grill also offers catering.
If you're in a hurry, place an order for pickup instead.
Parallel-parking experts can find room on the street, though patrons also have access to the restaurant's adjoining lot.
For those who prefer to travel by bike, Armadillo Willy's Ranch Grill is a great option due to its generous bike parking options.
Prices at Armadillo Willy's Ranch Grill typically stay below the $30 mark, so you can afford to bring along a friend or a date.
Early risers and night owls alike can enjoy Armadillo Willy's Ranch Grill since it offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
So head on over to Armadillo Willy's Ranch Grill and browse the extensive menu of classic and innovative barbecue dishes.
So don't wait to try the slow-cooked and marinated deliciousness at Armadillo Willy's Ranch Grill. This tasty joint hits a homerun in barbecue.
Mexican-food cravings are easily satisfied at Fiesta Vallarta — this popular spot puts a fresh, five-star spin on run-of-the-mill beans and cheese.
Fiesta Vallarta knows how to make gluten-free and low-fat fare taste great, so stop by for a healthy (and flavorful) bite.
Enjoy a drink with your dinner — this restaurant has a full bar to serve up a glass of wine, beer, or more.
Tots are more than welcome to dine with their parents at this restaurant.
Take your meal to the next level on the patio at Fiesta Vallarta.
Fiesta Vallarta is a good restaurant to dine with a small or large group.
Get connected at lightning fast speeds with Fiesta Vallarta's complimentary wifi.
On busy nights, it's best to book a table ahead of time.
Fiesta Vallarta is completely informal — dress as you see fit (and are most comfortable).
Don't be afraid to enjoy your food on the go — this restaurant offers takeout for your busy schedule.
Those driving to Fiesta Vallarta can choose to find street parking or leave their vehicle in the nearby lot.
For those who travel by bike, Fiesta Vallarta offers bike racks for diners.
Fiesta Vallarta s fare is so good, you ll want to sample everything on the menu (and with its middle-of-the-road prices, you can!).
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all served at the restaurant, but the dinner menu is the real standout.
Come experience an amazing array of Mexican dishes when you try the highly-rated Fiesta Vallarta.
So amp up your lunch hour and head over to Fiesta Vallarta for a casual Mexican meal.
When it comes to Mexican cuisine, Fiesta Vallarta has you covered. Visit the restaurant today and enjoy a tasty meal.
Deemed "pizza of the year" every year by Spot A Pizza Place's loyal fans, this deliciously-cheesy pizza will have you reaching for seconds, thirds, and even fourths.
Enjoy a low-fat or gluten-free meal at Spot A Pizza Place, a local favorite.
Grab the kids when you head to this pizzeria — its family-oriented menu and ambience are perfect for the whole clan.
If dining outdoors is your idea of a good time, you'll love the gorgeous patio seating at Spot A Pizza Place.
You can't reserve a table at Spot A Pizza Place, so be sure to show up early.
Shake off the stiff workday duds at Spot A Pizza Place — attire is casual.
This pizzeria offers convenient carryout and delivery, so diners aren't limited to the pizzeria space.
At Spot A Pizza Place, you can easily find street parking just steps away from the door.
If cycling is more your speed, you'll find plenty of space to stash your bike outside the pizzeria.
Spot A Pizza Place's mid-priced fare will typically cost you about $30 per person or less.
For talk-of-the-town pizza, Spot A Pizza Place is your pizzeria. Stop by for a slice or two and judge the ratings for yourself.
For a low-key yet delicious pizza experience, people can't stop talking about the pies at Spot A Pizza Place. Swing by for a quick bite next time pizza's on the agenda.
So if you're looking for a casual hangout spot in town, be sure to stop in for a hot pizza at Spot A Pizza Place.
Isn't it time you stopped trifling with average pizzas and went with the masters at Spot A Pizza Place?
For Italian fare that doesn't mess around, Cafe Vitale is home to top-notch ratings and reviews.
Cafe Vitale serves food that not only tastes great, but is low in fat and gluten-free.
The drink list at this restaurant has everything you need to complete your meal (and your night out).
Have a few picky young eaters in the family? Not a problem at this restaurant, where the food and ambience are perfect for family dining.
For comfortable outdoor service, Cafe Vitale sets up a seasonal patio.
Get online for free courtesy of Cafe Vitale's wifi.
Cafe Vitale is well-known for being able to seat large parties.
The restaurant accepts reservations, so you can get around the busy crowd.
Put the suit away when heading to Cafe Vitale — dress is casual, as are the vibes.
The food's ready when you are. Come on in or carry out.
At Cafe Vitale, diners can easily find street parking or parking in a nearby lot.
Cafe Vitale offers various parking options, including bike parking.
Customers should be prepared to spend around $30, but more importantly, they should be prepared to enjoy a great meal.
Cafe Vitale serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so stop by whenever is most convenient for you.
See for yourself why Cafe Vitale's Italian food is so highly considered.
Feeling some delicious pasta or savory prosciutto tonight? Stop in at Cafe Vitale.
Make sure your next meal is completely gluten free by ordering out with Cafe Vitale.
Los Altos Grill
Los Altos Grill’s American-fusion menu is overshadowed only by its fiery display of exhibition cooking. Chef Travis Vaughn offers comfort food with a Southwestern twist and some visual flair; dishes like the cornbread in a skillet, or the tri-tip steak with butternut enchiladas, are prepared in open view in the “kitchen in the round.” The dining room’s dark-wood accents, leather booths, and horseshoe bar create a warm venue for diners to enjoy a cocktail and watch Vaughn and company chop, season, sauté, and fry their dishes—as well as stoke the woodfires that slow-roast their signature rotisserie chicken.
Try This: Wood-Fired Rotisserie Chicken
The centerpiece of Los Altos Grill—its wood-fired oven—is responsible for the centerpiece of the menu: the Bandera-style roast chicken. The open kitchen gives guests a front row seat for Chef Travis Vaughn’s artistry, replete with sightlines, smells, and then mouthfuls of the signature bird. The process begins anew every day as the staff builds a new hardwood fire inside the stone oven. Locally sourced chickens are then slow-roasted throughout the day. Once the chickens have reached a state of optimal seasoning and tenderness, chefs transfer them from the oven to the plate. The juicy chicken finds its way into salads and rib platters, though the signature Bandera-style platter best showcases the bird’s slow-tended flavors and textures by placing it atop a pomme purée.
Most Top Chef finalists launch their restaurant careers right after their time on television ends. Not Casey Thompson—she spent seven years after season three traveling, all the while thinking hard about what she wanted in a venue. She met farmers, built relationships, and finally opened Aveline (plus its cocktail bar sibling, The European) in June. As the result of so much careful planning, the restaurant truly embodies Casey’s vision, both in the space and on the plate.
One key part of that vision? Pigs. Casey loves to use almost every part of them, including the head. In honor of Aveline’s recent launch, we asked her about her fondness for pork, her cooking philosophy, and some of her go-to spots in San Francisco.
GROUPON: One ingredient that crops up on the menus at Aveline and The European is pork. Specifically, pork from the pig’s head—pork jowl, pig cheek, pig ear. What do you like about this ingredient?
CASEY THOMPSON: In general, I love any animal that tastes good from head to toe! As a chef, it’s really beneficial for me to use different parts of an animal that might otherwise be underutilized. It keeps costs down and provides guests with the opportunity to try things they may not otherwise try.
There is a lot more marbling in these parts than you might think, and there are a variety of different textures in specific parts like the ear.
G: Do you think that pig face is trending right now?
CT: I don't know. I try not to pay too much attention to what’s “trendy.” I just want to make food that tastes good, and if it means using parts of an animal that are unfamiliar to most people and [then] educating people about them, I’m happy to do so.
G: If someone hasn't tried any part of the pig’s head, where should they start?
CT: I think a good place to start is with pig cheek—it’s rich and it braises perfectly! Confiting a pig cheek [at home] is easy. The most difficult part is probably finding the product, but your local butcher can help with that.
G: Are there other pig dishes in San Francisco that you like?
CT: The pork at Kokkari is unreal, and Namu Gaji does a pretty impressive job too!
G: Aside from cooking with pig parts, you’re also an advocate for sustainability and the environment. Where does that passion come from?
CT: I have a job that impacts the environment, and as such, I have a duty to make sure that my staff and I do all we can not to add to the overwhelming issues we’re already facing.
I am also a firm believer in good husbandry. All animals deserve to live a good life, especially if they are giving us theirs for nourishment. It’s our responsibility as humans to recognize that.
G: Some of your dishes have original ingredients with a cool, earthy vibe. I’m talking about the "ham snow" and "chicory soil" on Aveline’s menu. Can you tell us more about these?
CT: Environmental elements in a dish add interesting flavors. The chicory soil contains nori, breadcrumbs, candied cashews, and chicory—all pretty earthy, you’re right. Now, the ham snow is highly technical stuff: we freeze ham, grate it over cold amberjack, and call it snow!
G: You’re also creating the menu over at The European, your bar-and-lounge project with Adam Wilson. It seems like the snacks have more of an updated comfort-food feel. Is The European the other side of Aveline's coin?
It absolutely is! There is a secret kid side to me with that menu and, really, it’s us having fun. I do think we have the best burger—it is so good. I want people to use both spaces! Come and eat at The European!
G: To close out, can you share some of your favorite San Francisco spots to grab a bite?
For coffee: Réveille Coffee Co.
For breakfast (and guilty, greasy pleasures): San Jalisco
For lunch and dinner: Kokkari, Kin Khao
For after-hours drinks and eats: Rye, Tradition, Le Colonial
For outdoor dining: The Ferry Building, Slanted Door, Cavallo Point, Coqueta
This interview has been condensed and edited. Photos courtesy of Casey Thompson. The European photo by Andi Fisher.
When you live in a city with so much scenery, eating inside can feel a bit stifling. Here are five beautiful restaurant patios in San Francisco that allow you to order in the great outdoors.
Mission Rock Resort (817 Terry Francois Blvd.)
The restaurant group that owns South Park staples MoMo’s, Pedro’s Cantina, and Pete’s Tavern overhauled Mission Rock Resort in late 2012. Now, it’s a bayside escape with plenty of deck seating, calming ocean views, and easy parking. Try bites from the raw bar or fried seafood for lunch, brunch, or happy hour.
Foreign Cinema (2534 Mission St.)
The most popular tables at this Mission stalwart are in the romantic covered patio. In the evening, artsy or retro flicks are projected on the patio wall while sound can be played through drive-in–style speakers at each table. The movies, however, are a secondary draw compared to the Californian-Mediterranean food.
Waterbar (399 The Embarcadero S)
Waterbar is a perennial Top 100 restaurant, so you can bet on some memorable seafood with views of the bay, the Bay Bridge, and the Bay Lights—not to mention $1.25 oysters every day before 5:30 pm.
Bar Agricole (355 11th St.)
Opened by a collective of the city’s best bartenders and sommeliers, Bar Agricole is led by master drink maker Thad Vogler. Unsurprisingly, its cocktails are just as good as its seasonal food. The space’s award-winning design features plenty of redwood, concrete, and glass, plus a spacious patio that’s covered and heated during the winter months.
Biergarten (424 Octavia St.)
Biergarten takes its name literally—its only seating is outdoors, where all of its Bavarian-style street food is served from shipping containers converted into a kitchen and bar. Brews can be ordered by the half- or full-liter, but considering the long lines, it’s best to get the larger of the two before you squeeze into one of the communal picnic tables.
Photos courtesy of Mission Rock Resort, Foreign Cinema, Waterbar, and Bar Agricole; Biergarten photo courtesy of BarFlySF.
San Francisco is a city with many different vantage points: between the Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the various eclectic neighborhoods - there are so many sights to take in!
Here are 5 restaurants with stunning views and some of the best ways to see San Francsico:
#1: Greens Restaurant. Located in a converted warehouse in Fort Mason, Greens was a pioneer in establishing vegetarian cuisine in the 80s. One entire wall has floor to ceiling windows, which is perfect for enjoying spectacular views of the SF marina, Golden Gate Bridge, and the hills of Marin. Their meals, made with locally sourced produce and enhanced by wonderful wine pairings, offer an epiphany for meat eaters and vegetarians alike.
#2: Top of the Mark. Built in 1939 and located at the top of the Mark Hopkins Hotel, this bar, lounge and restaurant offers 360 degree panoramas of the San Francisco cityscape. The menu includes an intoxicating selection of 100 martinis along with wines, beers and other spirits. They also have a three course prix-fixe dinner offered with an amuse-bouche and wine pairings.
#3: Slanted Door. A modern Vietnamese restaurant overlooking the San Francisco Bay, located in the Ferry Building and right on the waterfront, this hot spot blends Vietnamese cooking with local SF ingredients. The wine list is Riesling-driven, and other drinks include fresh squeezed juices and hard-to-find Chinese teas. All of their meat is sourced from local farms in the SF Bay Area.
#4: Waterbar. The Waterbar gives diners amazing views of the Bay Bridge while serving up top-notch seafood. Built in 1969, it was converted from a longshoremen’s bar into the restaurant it is today. A favorite among locals, businesspeople and tourists, The Waterbar will not disappoint in its views of the waterfront!
#5: Sutro’s. Located inside the famous Cliff House, Sutro’s features stunning views of the cliffs overlooking Seal Rocks, the Pacific Ocean and Marin coastline. A stylish-casual restaurant, with floor-to-ceiling windows, Sutro’s menu changes seasonally and is focused on the finest organic produce, fresh seafood and local ingredients that are farmed using sustainable practices.