1499 Valencia Street
Photo courtesy of Al's Place
Veggie Delight: Dining at Al's In the buzzy Mission neighborhood, Al's Place is the creation of former Ubuntu chef Aaron London and does genius things with seafood and vegetables, especially vegetables—vegetarians love this spot. This is one of the hottest restaurants in the city: Its menu is inventive, and the dishes come out tasting as rich in flavor as their menu descriptions. Take the french fries, for instance. Rather than just being cut, fried, and seasoned, these are made from new potatoes grown on-site, brined for four days in 68-degree water with cabbage leaves and salt, then fried in rice bran oil and served with smoked apple barbecue sauce. The resulting fries taste crunchy on the outside, creamy in the center, and slightly pickled. And all this work is just for a side dish! Imagine what goes into the main dishes, which include an excellent green pea curry with black-lime cod and pickled strawberry. The interior decor is unassuming and doesn't detract from the food; it's a modern, hip version of a cafeteria, with tile floors, white walls hung with paintings, and wooden tables and chairs. The dining experience is complemented by an excellent cocktail and wine list.