Sushi, sandwiches and fried chicken skin 

Faves and raves by David Averbach

Personal stats

AGE: Older than I look

YEARS IN THE CITY: 19½

NEIGHBORHOOD: Castro

OCCUPATION: Creative director for an independent film distribution company

SELF-DESCRIPTION: Farmers market-loving cook with a penchant for discovering new kitchen gadgets at Sur la Table, then ordering them on Amazon for cheaper; he loves knowing about cool restaurants and what to order at those restaurants

FAVORITE ANTIDOTE TO A LONG DAY
Starbelly
WHAT: Inventive menu, lively atmosphere
WHERE: 3583 16th St., between Market and Noe streets
INFO: (415) 252-7500 or www.starbellysf.com

The chicken liver pate with sweet onion marmalade and grain mustard, and a glass of red wine, will make you forget that your boss yelled at you earlier. Save room for the salted caramel pot de creme with rosemary cornmeal cookies. Sometimes has slightly erratic service.

FAVORITE LATEST COFFEE OBSESSION
Cafe Sophie
WHAT: Great coffee and teas, great service, great space
WHERE: 3463 16th St., between Church and Sanchez streets
INFO: (415) 529-2972 or www.cafesophiesf.com

This cafe offers a variety of blends from Verve Roasters coffee, and the baristas are very congenial and knowledgeable. They make you appreciate coffee as if it were wine. Lattes made with Sermon espresso are sweet, almost as chocolaty as a mocha.

FAVORITE SANDWICH SHOP
Dinosaurs Vietnamese Sandwiches
WHAT: Vietnamese sandwiches
WHERE: 2275 Market St. (behind Books Inc.)
INFO: (415) 503-1421

Forget Ike’s and its hipsters ... I’m sorry, but $5 is the price a sandwich should be, not $10. Not as generous as some of the places in the Tenderloin, but in the Castro it’s a godsend. The pork one is my fave.

FAVORITE NEW RESTAURANT
Baker & Banker
WHAT: Amazing for dinner, brunch or to-go bakery items
WHERE: 1701 Octavia St., at Sutter Street
INFO: (415) 351-2500 or www.bakerandbanker.com

How great is this? Dinner: Soy and mirin- braised black cod, foie gras-shiitake sticky rice, grilled bok choy. Dessert: kumquat-prune sticky toffee pudding with candied kumquat ice cream and blood orange sauce. Takeaway from bakery/brunch: the sticky bun or cinnamon roll.

FAVORITE WAY TO BE TRANSPORTED TO PARIS WITHOUT ACTUALLY GOING
L’Ardoise Bistro
WHAT: Authentic French food, picturesque setting
WHERE: 151 Noe St. at Henry Street
INFO: (415) 437-2600 or www.ardoisesf.com

We loved the coq au vin and the pan-seared Black Angus filet mignon, but it is the atmosphere that makes this place a treasure.

FAVORITE CHINESE RESTAURANT TO VISIT WITH A BIG GROUP
Kirin Chinese Restaurant
WHAT: Extensive menu, but it’s the unusual items that make it worth the trek
WHERE: 6135 Geary Blvd. between 25th and 26th avenues
INFO: (415) 752-2268

Face it: Chinese food is meant to be eaten family-style. Call ahead and pre-order these: 1) Winter melon soup — cooked inside the carved whole melon. 2) Fried chicken skin stuffed with sticky rice — comes out in the shape of the chicken! So delicious it’s just wrong.

FAVORITE DATE NIGHT SUSHI NO. 1
Kiji Sushi
WHAT: A gem off the beaten path
WHERE: 1009 Guerrero St. at 22nd Street
INFO: (415) 971-0730 or www.kijirestaurant.com

This place is an oasis. Get the hamachi carpaccio appetizer to share. As it melts in your mouth, remind yourself that continually glancing at the ridiculously handsome server is a big faux pas when you are on a date.

FAVORITE DATE NIGHT SUSHI NO. 2
Akiko’s Restaurant & Sushi Bar
WHAT: Authentic atmosphere and food
WHERE: 431 Bush St. between Grant and Kearny
INFO: (415) 397-3218 or www.akikosrestaurant.com

I lived in Japan for many years, and while the menu is standard fare, everything is a cut above the usual S.F. Japanese food. I usually stay away from cliched items such as beef teriyaki, but it blew me away. Note: different from Akiko’s Sushi Bar on Mason.

FAVORITE HIKE
Lands End
WHAT: The perfect city hike if the coastal weather is nice
WHERE: Point Lobos Avenue and 48th Avenue at El Camino Del Mar
INFO: (415) 561-4323 or www.parksconservancy.org/visit/park-sites/lands-end.html

Scenic cliff-top path through swaying cypress trees where you can see miles and miles of coastline. Slide down to lots of pocket beaches then scramble up again. This is how I work off all the food I eat at my favorite restaurants!

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Paula Grace

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