Dive Bar Bite: Box Kitchen at the Tempest

Categories: Cheap Eats, SOMA

Ferron Salniker
Captions: The elote at Box Kitchen inside the Tempest in SOMA.

Stumble home too quickly out of the Tempest and you might miss Box Kitchen. I work across the street and have long discovered that the Tempest is the perfect SOMA dive bar to arrive to after a long day: the crowd is unpretentious, the drinks are cheap, the music usually takes me back to middle school, and the food actually tastes good even before I'm tipsy.

Box Kitchen serves bites ranging from $4 to $9 and is operated by the Tempest, so order inside the bar during lunch or walk over to the order window next door in the evenings.

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Dive Bar Bite: Farmers' Market Sundays at Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon

Ferron Salniker
The bar at Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon, where most items on the wall are over a century old.
Time has had a gradual effect on the interior of Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon since it was built from the timbers of an old whaling ship in 1880. The small shack-like bar at the foot of Jack London Square still uses its original gas lights, the floor has remained tilted at a noticeable slant since the 1906 quake, and there's very little wall space between the dusty collages of business cards, caps, and other memorabilia. But outside, sandwiched between shiny upscale restaurants and palm trees, there's a modern patio with tables, umbrellas, and a view of the docks. On Sundays it makes for a quiet spot to anchor yourself over a beer and a bite from the neighboring farmers market.

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Who Makes the Better Chinese Dumplings: S.F's Kingdom of Dumpling or Oakland's Shan Dong?

Kate Williams
Kingdom of Dumpling's boiled dumplings with pork and napa cabbage
Whether slurped down during a hungover dim sum expedition, demolished after an afternoon run, or eaten as part of an elaborate multi-course meal, Chinese dumplings are some of the best comfort foods around.

San Francisco and the East Bay both boast quality Chinese destinations, many of them slinging their own variations on xiao long bao, shu mai, and a plethora of other dough-rapped delicacies, the simplest (and often most satisfying) of which are shuijiao, or boiled dumplings. With little oil or broth to get in the way of the supple wrapper and flavorful filling, these slippery, starchy treats are a fine way to establish a restaurant's dumpling finesse. In order to find the best in the Bay, we dropped into two perennial favorites: S.F.'s Kingdom of Dumpling and Oakland's Shan Dong.

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Dive Bar Bite: Carnitas Tacos at El Cerrito's El Autlense

Ferron Salniker
Carnitas tacos at El Autlense

The vibe at Tacos El Autlense is not unlike other taco truck scenes. It's sunset on a rare Bay Area evening when it's warm enough for a woman wearing flip-flops and a tank top to sit comfortably on her car hood, with tacos on white paper plates scattered around her. A toddler and her grandmother are singing the Frozen song for the third time, and a guy trying to recover from happy hour suddenly realizes as he orders that he needs to borrow a dollar. There's the metallic clinking sound of the spatula hitting the griddle and the smell of freshly chopped onion floating out from the truck windows. The only unusual thing is that El Autlense sits in the driveway of Albany's oldest bar, the Hotsy Totsy Club.

See also: Drink of the Week: Bitter Rivers at Hotsy Totsy

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Sammy's Aloha: A Hawaiian-Style Pop-Up on the Bay

Anastasia Crosson
Sammy's Aloha ahi poke bowl with Thai black sticky rice, topped with a poached egg, salmon roe and garden fresh fixings.
San Francisco's cool bayside breezes may be far from the sunny shores of "the big island," but that doesn't stop lines from forming outside Sammy's Aloha (no website). Occupying a curbside corner of the takeout window at Butterfly on Pier 33, this casual Hawaiian-style pop-up that took the place of Pan Grill serves a unique take on the usual suspects, like kalua pork and loco moco.

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Dive Bar Bites: French Onion Sandwich at The Galley

Ferron Salniker
Justin Navarro at his pint-sized kitchen inside Clooney's.
When I walked into Clooney's Pub at noon no one at the bar turned around to check the door. The regulars had long since taken their seats at the bar, the baseball game was on, and the guy playing pool by himself under the illumination of a Budweiser light was focused on his shot. The stools, with green carpeted backs, looked grimier than BART seats. If we weren't in the heart of the Mission, it would be an unexpected place to get a really good sandwich.

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It's Saturday night, and the craving for Mexican food hits you. But this is no Mission burrito type of craving. You want to sit down and languidly enjoy a margarita (or two); you want knowledgeable service and food that won't sit in your stomach like a brick all night ... you want Nopalito.

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Find Under $5: A Slice of N.Y. on Mission

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Slice of Neaploitan style cheese
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