Travelin’ Illini gotta eat!
Illinois vs. Cal at the Redbox Bowl is wedged nicely in between Christmas and New Years.
Here’s an eclectic list of places to eat and drink in the Bay Area.
Sandwiches and Burgers and More
Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen
For our Jewish readers and followers out there — and even those that are not, Deli sandwiches, soups and cold cuts platters can be a treat of the most satisfying order. Located in the popular Mission District neighborhood of San Francisco, Wise Sons offers a friendly, non-pretentious atmosphere serving up bagels and some delicious pastrami that is wood-smoked for seven hours.
The holiday of Hannukah starts on December 22 and lasts through December 30, the day of the Redbox bowl. Is there a better way than to celebrate Illinois bowling over a giant bowl of matzo ball soup? Methinks not. Check out their menu and website here. You can also make reservations on Opentable.
The Yellow Submarine
A Boston style Italian sandwich place, this spot is as old school as a classic sandwich shop can be. Located just a block away from Golden Gate Park, their Italian Combo sandwich is the recommended best thing to order — you cannot go wrong with any other choice, but that’s what is supposed to be the primary go-to. The thin-cut potatoes also look delicious.
A tiny little shop on a street corner, this is far from a tourist spot. Come and eat like a local.
4505 Burgers & BBQ
Located not far from Height-Ashbury and the University of San Francisco, this spot serves up some delicious BEEF. Their bbq beef brisket is the best in town — and there is a chance they run out by the time you go there — it is pretty hit or miss as to its availability because it is that good and people often come in just for that.
They have a nice outdoor space too, so if the weather is good and you want to sit outside and feast, this might just be the place.
Their burgers are also really, really good. Their “best damn cheeseburger” is great, and do not forget to order a side of frankeroni — it is a fried mac and cheese square with bits of cut up hot dog inside.
Unique. Delicious. The Bay Area is not really known for their BBQ, but this place has some items on its menu you likely cannot resist.
Mexican Food (Because California borders Mexico)
La Taqueria & el Farolito
These are the two most well-known and popular/famous Mexican spots in all of San Francisco. Expect big crowds (the hype is real for both), but all of the food is great.
From a friend who’s been to el Farolito, be sure to order the chorizo, especially on a breakfast burrito. It’s well-seasoned and really yummy.
La Palma Mexicatessen & Taqueria Vallarta
Both of these are located in the Mission District neighborhood of San Francisco and are located just two blocks away from one another.
La Palma Mexicatessen: They home make their tortillas in the back of their store, so everything on the menu that has a tortilla (which is pretty everything on the menu) is going to be delicious.
Taqueria Vallarta: Arguably the best tacos in the entire city of San Francisco, be sure to order their el Pastor (grilled pork) tacos.
A tiny little shop that is cash only, they are, in one friend’s opinion, the makers of the best burrito in all of San Francisco. Again, the Pastor is the best choice of meat, but really anything (as long as it’s a burrito!) will be good.
Seafood (Because California borders the ocean)
Hook Fish Company:
Located in the Sunset District of San Francisco (far West side and a block away from Golden Gate Park), this place serves up some of the freshest fish around. There’s a “catch of the day” and you can pretty much get any fish you want any way you want — in a sandwich, in a burrito, on a plate cooked the way you prefer. If the weather is good — unlikely given the time of year — this place is also right next to the beach.
The Boiling Crab (San Jose):
Ah yes, a place in San Jose and real close to Levi’s Stadium, at least in comparison with the rest of the spots on this list.
It’s a chain, but this place is exactly the type of seafood spot you’re looking for: Bibs, boiling seafood served by the pound, use your hands, copious amounts of butter and spices that will drip onto the bed of fries below for a delicious meal.
Save room for dessert... there’s a Krispy Kreme nearby in the same center.
Sports Bars & Beer Spots (Because sports and beer)
Greens Sports Bar
This one is more about drinking than eating if we’re being completely honest, but this sports and dive bar in the Russian Hill neighborhood of San Francisco is a great spot, especially if you are a native of the Midwest.
A simple google search will tell you that they do have sandwiches, although you are likely to find much better eats just walking around the area. The Infatuation (a food blog based in major cities) recommends grabbing some tacos from nearby Nick’s Crispy Taco’s and bringing your food back to the bar to watch some games — that is completely acceptable and the bar allows outside food to be brought in.
TV’s are everywhere. The crowd can be fun and rowdy. There are other college bowl games in the days leading up to the Redbox Bowl including the College Football Playoff games on December 28, so if you are looking for a spot to catch some college football before the season ends, head on over to Greens.
Not to be confused with a restaurant called Kezar nearby, Kezar Pub has the best buffalo wings in the entire city. Kezar Pub is right next to Golden Gate Park and right next to Haight-Ashbury. For sports history buffs, it’s also right next to Kezar Stadium — a tiny 10,000 seat track (that at one point could hold up to 60,000 spectators) that was once the home of the San Francisco 49ers from 1946-1970 pre-Candlestick Park.
Back to the pub. Sports and TVs everywhere, all of the time. This place is packed with a dedicated sports crowd and people flock to this place to watch games. A sports maven and haven.
Golden Gate Taproom
Located near San Francisco’s Union Square and just a stone’s throw from ChinaTown, Golden Gate Taproom is a 3-story sports bar paradise showing every game. This place is HUGE, and a lot bigger than the previous two bars listed.
Dozens and dozens of beers on tap. You can play games like pool and shuffleboard and darts, skee-ball and other arcade games. Overall, a master-class of a sports bar establishment.
*Major compliments and thanks to TCR’s Raul Rodriguez and close friend/food aficionado/San Francisco entrepreneur Joey Boujo for some of these recommendations.