Ike's Place Has a Secret Menu!

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Pete Kane
The John Connor (#154): Steak, habanero, mushrooms, avocado, and mozzarella sticks.

As a rule, the concept of a "secret menu" should be regarded with healthy skepticism. They're essentially a ploy to get you to feel super-cool and in-the-know about ordering from things you don't see the price of, so you usually wind up paying extra for the warm feeling of superiority towards the sheep who think, say, a Double-Double is the end-all-and-be-all.

See Also: Salumeria's $12 Sandwiches Are Worth Every Shekel


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Who Makes the Better Burger: S.F.'s Super Duper Burger or Oakland's True Burger?

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Kate Williams
Super Duper Burger's cheese burger comes complete with sustainable beef.
Chances are, most of us have enjoyed our fair share of fast food burgers, whether they be the objects of a late-night McDonald's craving (don't deny it) or the lauded prize at the end of a pilgrimage to In-N-Out. The growth of smaller-scale burger franchises and food trucks has made it easier than ever to land a tasty burger. These restaurants often source higher-quality products, making them even more desirable than, say, In-N-Out, but their slim, juicy patties, generous dollops of mayonnaise-based special sauces, and fluffy white buns make them just as satisfying as their less-noble predecessors.

Outposts of small burger chains dot the Bay Area. Two of the best are San Francisco's Super Duper Burger, located in the Castro, Downtown, the Marina, and the Financial District; and Uptown Oakland's True Burger. But who slings the better burger? We stopped in to both to find out.

See also: Who Makes a Better Burrito: S.F.'s Taqueria Cancun or the East Bay's La Mission?
Super Duper Burger: The Burger Stand Evolves
Super Duper Burger's Got Big Plans


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Gyro Xpress: Good Middle Eastern Food on a Corner That Needs Love

Categories: Castro, Opening

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Pete Kane
Replacing K-Pop at the lively junction of 18th and Castro Streets is Gyro Xpress, an unfortunately named Middle Eastern joint with a wine list and some really nice lighting fixtures. The menu, while larger than the offerings at the New York-style halal cart on Market, leans heavily on a conservative formula. This is standard stuff: gyros and shawarma, mostly. Gyro Xpress is probably going to do a lot of takeout business.

See Also: Market Street Gets a New York-style Halal Cart

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Drink of the Week: The Declaration at Starbelly

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Lou Bustamante
The Declaration cocktail
The stigma associated with low-alcohol cocktails may be coming to an end thanks to bars that are creating the drinks out of choice, not necessity. Places like Brass Tacks, Bergerac, and Range devote subsections of their menus to the low-proof drinks that taste, well, like real cocktails. Even books entirely on the subject are making their way to bar shelves, like The Art of the Shim: Low-Alcohol Cocktails to Keep You Level by San Francisco-based author Dinah Sanders.

At Starbelly (which doesn't have a full liquor license), mixing low alcohol cocktails is something they've been doing for a long time and doing it very well. There are no soju "margaritas" or "cosmopolitans" on the menu, but you will find legitimately tasty drinks like The Declaration ($9, Madeira, port, Bonal, rosemary). The drink is has both plenty of heft and flavor.

See also: Drink of the Week: Pig 'N Boots at Parallel 37
Drink of the Week: Drinking Inside the Twelve-Mile Limit at Revamped Comstock Saloon
Drink of the Week: Engaging in Some Risky Business at Fog City

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Drink of the Week: Winter Smash at Pesce

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Lou Bustamante
At the newly transplanted Pesce, the cocktail menu does something unique: five different themes get translated into two drinks per theme, one light on the alcohol and another with a little more kick. The drinks aren't the same cocktail with more or less liquor, but rather each drink a completely different iteration on the concept.

I'm a sucker for citrus, and the Citrus Season pair has the awesome Winter Smash ($10, George Dickel Rye Whiskey, maple, lemon, blood orange, mint). The tart mix of lemon and orange kicks up the rye spice and oaky vanilla flavors in the whiskey and makes it wonderfully drinkable. The crimson color may fool you into thinking you there's vermouth in there, but instead of infused wine, you'll find cooling mint and woody maple sweetness.

See Also:- Drink of the Week: Drinking Inside the Twelve-Mile Limit at Revamped Comstock Saloon
- Drink of the Week: Engaging in Some Risky Business at Fog City
- Drink of the Week: Picking an Orchard Cane at Cotogna

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Pesce

Mall-Like But Stylish, Espressamente Illy Opens in the Castro

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Pete Kane
If the Castro was arguably undercaffeinated a few months ago, it's not now. Eureka! Café, which serves Blue Bottle, opened on Castro Street around the corner from Starbucks and now Espressamente Illy is up and running on Market a block from Peet's.

See Also: Four Barrel Opens on a Peculiar Cul-de-Sac in Portola
Lt. Waffle, Inside Linea Caffe in the Mission


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Wholier-Than-Thou: Gigantic Food Porn Emporium Opens in the Castro

Categories: Castro, Opening

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Pete Kane
A lot of people have a real issue with Whole Foods, which has now opened its seventh San Francisco location at Market and Dolores. Crazy CEO, Whole Paycheck, gentrification and all that. This one's on the ground floor of a building that has become semi-notorious for housing a butterfly habitat so that the one percent may experience a sense of self-worth vis-a-vis an endangered species. The comments section of Castro Biscuit actually physically caught on fire. And yet...

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Beaux, A Fatally Generic Gay Bar, Now Open on Market Street

Categories: Castro, Opening

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Pete Kane
Considering that over the last couple of years, gay bars seem to be suffering from colony collapse disorder, we should probably be grateful that the long-shuttered Trigger didn't become a CVS or a Coldwell Banker.

See Also: Brass Tacks, the Former Marlena's, Gets Post-Gay on Hayes
Virgil's Sea Room Washes Ashore in the Mission


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Exploring the New Cocktail Menus at Rickhouse and Blackbird

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Lou Bustamante
Rickhouse Mint Julep ($12, Custom Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon, Mandarine Napoleon, mint, spring bitters)
We may not get the dramatic announcements of spring's arrival that other parts of the country get, like crocuses jetting out through the snow, but we do get our own subtle declaration of a new season. With asparagus season having peaked, the presence of local strawberries and cherries forecasting longer, warming days, and cocktail menus around town start to get a refresh.

While Blackbird has shifted their entire menu from the heavier drinks of winter, warming and substantial, to a collection of refreshing sippers, Rickhouse has introduced an entirely new menu, doing away with the drink bible and focusing their offerings. Here's a quick look at both new menus:

See Also: Drink of the Week: Getting Poached Like a Pear at Blackbird
The King Hippo Cocktail--a Tiki Punchout

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Pica Pica Brings Venezuelan Arepas And Other Staples to the Castro

Categories: Castro, Opening

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Pete Kane
The shredded beef pabellon arepa at Pica Pica.
Hugo Chavez is dead, but Venezuelan food lives on at Pica Pica Maize Kitchen, the second S.F. spot for Carácas cuisine. And it's far less polarizing than inflammatory anti-American rhetoric. In fact, it's delicious.

If you can find it, that is. The nondescript Castro location is hidden in plain sight, such that you might find yourself leaning on the front door, scanning Google Maps. (Hint: Pica Pica is next to the Chevron station, behind the accumulation of idling F-Market streetcars). Inside, however, the warmly painted walls and friendly staff indicate that this is a cut above the sea of mediocrity that is eating in the Castro.

See also: Mission Picnic Is Open For All Your Dolores Park Sandwich Needs
Charles Phan on His New Restaurant South, Now Open at SF JAZZ


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