15 Places to Eat and Drink for Your Birthday

15 Places to Eat and Drink for Your Birthday

It’s mid-October and it’s been way over a month since our birthdays so I thought it was about time I gave a synopsis of where we celebrated our special month. Being that my birthday is on the forever known day of 9/11, it’s always a bittersweet celebration on the day of. After all these years, I still have a hard time celebrating my actual birthday when the day has been darkened by so many lives that perished and many more that will never be the same. 9/11 reminds me how short life is and to take a breather and celebrate our birthdays throughout the whole month.

But as years go by, my age goes up and I forget how old I actually am. The other day, I was reminded that the Loma Prieta earthquake rattled our world 25 years ago and I remember that day well too. I can’t believe just how fast time flies. To continue with blurring my memory and celebrating our great lives together, we indulged on a ton of alcohol and really tasty food with good friends and family. By the way, every restaurant we ate at listed below has low carb and gluten free menu items and most serve vodka. Life sure is beautiful.

15 Places Where We Ate and Drank for Our Birthdays

If you don’t want to read my stories, just check out the list:

1. Hard Water – Embarcadero
Address: Pier 3, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94105
Phone: (415) 392-3021

2. Gott’s Roadside – Embarcadero
Address: San Francisco Ferry Bldg, San Francisco, CA 94111
Phone: (415) 318-3423

3. Osha Thai Restaurant & Lounge – Embarcadero
Address: 4 Embarcadero Center, San Francisco, CA 94111
Phone: (415) 788-6742

4. Tartine Bakery – Mission
Address: 600 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone: (415) 487-2600

5. Foreign Cinema – Mission
Address: 2534 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone:(415) 648-7600

6. El Techo de Lolinda – Mission
Address: 2518 Mission St (between 21st and 22nd St), San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone: (415) 550-6970

7. Locanda Osteria and Bar – Mission
Address: 557 Valencia St (Between 16th and 17th St), San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone: (415) 863-6800

8. Farina Pizza & Cucina Italiana – Mission
Address: 700 Valencia St (at 18th St), San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone: (415) 565-1900

9. Original Joe’s – North Beach
Address: 601 Union St (at Stockton), San Francisco, CA ‎
Phone: (415) 775-4877

10. Bocce Cafe – North Beach
Address: 478 Green St (at Grant Ave), San Francisco, CA
Phone: (415) 981-2044

11. Per Diem – Financial District
Address: 43 Sutter St (between Sansome St and Montgomery St), San Francisco, CA 94104
Phone: (415) 989-0300

12. La Fusion – Financial District
Address: 475 Pine St (at Kearny), San Francisco, CA ‎
Phone: (415) 781-0894

13. Banana Island – Daly City
Address: 273 Lake Merced Blvd (Westlake Village), Daly City, CA
Phone: (650) 756-6868

14. Xiao Long Bao Kitchen – South San Francisco
Address: 331 Grand Ave, South San Francisco, CA
Phone: (650) 589-8188 ‎

15. Ben Tre Vietnamese Homestyle Cuisine – South San Francisco
Address: 219 Grand Ave, South San Francisco, CA
Phone: (650) 952-2243

Celebratory Lunches and Dinners

Hard Water – Embarcadero
Address: Pier 3, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94105
Phone: (415) 392-3021

hard_water_pappy

We kicked off the birthday month at Hard Water because we heard they had award winning whiskies by Pappy Van Winkle. Since it was Steve’s birthday, we ordered him the $100 flight of 4 – 1 ounce pours of the 10, 12, 15, and 20 year aged whiskies. There’s a limited amount of Pappy available and Hard Water was one of the only places in town at the time with some in stock. Steve considers himself a Bourbon aficionado and agrees that Pappy is simply divine.

When we walked into Hard Water, I was a little disappointed by its lack of decor and its confined space. We had reservations but initially, the host and hostess seemed put off that they had to set up a spot for us at the bar. The bar is situated in a U-shape and you sit pretty close to each other. They have communal tables available but those are snug as well. We settled in at the bar and ordered our drinks but after a few minutes, we realized we didn’t have menus.

Luckily, the food made up for their poor first impressions. We started with a 1/2 dozen each of Miyagi and Fanny Bay oysters, followed by a good, but nothing special, Heirloom Tomato Salad. The Mignonette Sauce served with the oysters had a very good flavor and complemented the oysters perfectly. We had to get the Shrimp Hushpuppies and Fried Peppers because for his birthday, fried goodness is a must. Steve liked the hushpuppies and I liked the peppers. We had low expectations on the Andouille & Chicken Gumbo because it’s hard to find a good one and we’ve come to realize we shouldn’t compare it to any other but rather just enjoy it like its any other thick soup. This one tasted pretty good but it was more like a stew. Their Fried Chicken served with Buttermilk Waffles was delicious and we highly recommend it. The chicken was juicy and the skin was crunchy and tasty. We’re willing to go back to try some other dishes. By the way, they pre-make their own concoctions for their specialty cocktails and can’t really modify them so I stuck to vodka and sodas after trying their Pimm’s Cup. Though it didn’t taste like nasty gin, it was too sweet for me.

Gott’s Roadside – Embarcadero
Address: San Francisco Ferry Bldg, San Francisco, CA 94111
Phone: (415) 318-3423

I had a great birthday this year. I only worked a half day and my friend took me to a Giants day game. The sun was out and it was extremely warm. We had awesome seats close to the bullpen where I got to watch Sergio Romo warm up before pitching another win against the Diamondbacks. After the game, we walked along the Embarcadero and decided to stop at any place that looked inviting. Gott’s which always had a long line had no one waiting and available seating in the patio so we took the opportunity to give it a try. I started with a bottle of Schramsberg champagne and we shared some fried goodness. It turns out they don’t sell glasses of wine but offer only bottles of wine and beer on tap. Since I don’t drink beer, I somehow ended up with a few bottles but I didn’t get neither Soft Serve Ice Cream nor a Cheeseburger, which they’re famous for. The Fried Chicken Tenders and Sweet Potato Fries were great for soaking up the alcohol and they didn’t taste bad either. I’m just glad I got to enjoy more sun and drinks while waiting for friends and family to come celebrate with me.

Osha Thai Restaurant & Lounge – Embarcadero
Address: 4 Embarcadero Center, San Francisco, CA 94111
Phone: (415) 788-6742

osha_thai_birthday

Steve, my brother, and I, parted ways with our friends and headed to Osha on the Embarcadero while our friends went to Osha on 3rd Street. I was having a good time and it was my birthday so I slightly over ordered. We had Tuna Tower, Angel Wings, Pad Kee Mao, Green Curry Chicken and Lemongrass Chicken. The food here is always really good though completely over priced for Thai food but I still like going to Osha’s. We got to sit at a table with a bench so the three of us sat together facing the restaurant patrons. This was a fun way to enjoy dinner and people watch over more cocktails. They have a good selection of specialty drinks from sweet to not so sweet. I’ve always been impressed by the quality of their food and their high level of service.

Tartine Bakery – Mission
Address: 600 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone: (415) 487-2600

For the record, I want to say I have the best team around. I had mentioned at one time that one of the only pies I like is Banana Cream Pie. My team coordinated bringing in a Banana Cream Pie from Tartine Bakery to the office for my birthday. I specifically said I didn’t want a cake for my birthday because I don’t eat dessert and I knew the office always celebrated birthdays with a cake. My team did know that I didn’t actually want sweets or any desserts as that’s contradictory to a low carb diet but one very persuasive team member took the literal translation of “no cake” to mean “we can get pie” and convinced another member to BART down and wait in line to pick up the pie. I must admit I’m glad they got the pie because Tartine’s Banana Cream Pie was the best pie I’ve had in my life. Lining the pie crust is a layer of chocolate. Then they fill the pie with cream made with bananas and slices of banana topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with chocolate flakes. Tartine Bakery is deserving of the James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef. I’ve even gone back for more Banana Cream Pie. Okay, well, I sent Steve to go wait in that long line.

Foreign Cinema – Mission
Address: 2534 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone:(415) 648-7600

Foreign Cinema always seems so out of place in the Mission but with the great weather down there, it’s an awesome restaurant to visit on a nice night. They have outdoor seating and the indoor area is brightly lit with the skylight and large open windows and glass doors. We have yet to have a disappointing meal here.

I had tried to get reservations but they were booked. The hostess informed me that if we arrived soon after they opened, they’d be able to seat us so we took the BART down there and had a few drinks while waiting for our friends to arrive. Unfortunately, our friends had a slight delay and the hostess said we only had an hour to dine. We thought that was fine but then there was some miscommunication with our server and she was very rude to us when she believed we were rushing her. After a few interactions, I finally told the server that it was the hostess that said we had to hurry out of the table and then the server apologized and was much more pleasant. We wanted to share the Plateaux des Fruits de Mer but that takes 25 minutes to prepare so we shared a dozen raw oysters instead. Steve and I also shared the Beef Carpaccio appetizer and Duck entree. All the food was delicious and prepared well and presented beautifully. We usually get our own entrees but the other couple shared one so we didn’t want to seem like pigs and we just ordered one. One downfall about this place is it takes an extremely long time to get your drinks so order before your glass is empty.

El Techo de Lolinda – Mission
Address: 2518 Mission St (between 21st and 22nd St), San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone: (415) 550-6970

We went to El Techo de Lolinda for after dinner drinks, a breathtaking view and some chips and salsa. El Techo de Lolinda has one of the only open roof top bars in San Francisco. You don’t actually enter through the fancy restaurant on the bottom floor like you did at Medjools. I don’t even know what that restaurant is called but there’s an entrance next door to elevators that will take you to El Techo. Just tell the guy at door and he’ll let you up.

El Techo which replaces the old Medjools has a glass windscreen barrier that saves you from the wind. You can see through it so you can still check out the view of the city. It’s actually a great idea because the weather in San Francisco can change drastically within an hour. We stood around for about 5 minutes and poached a table in the bar area. We didn’t grab dinner up there but the food that went by us looked pretty good.

Locanda Osteria and Bar – Mission
Address: 557 Valencia St (Between 16th and 17th St), San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone: (415) 863-6800

locanda_birthday_meal

During a week night, we double dated at Locanda Osteria which is known for their appetizer Radishes so we had to try them. They were fine. I didn’t notice anything special about raw radishes and rock salt served with their homemade Anchovy Butter. They offered great service and a cool atmosphere but I wasn’t all that impressed with the food here. I will go back to try them again though.

The guys loved the food but us two girls thought their dishes were OK. Our guy friend had Short Ribs and Steve had the Lamb Chops and we shared Grilled Corn, all of which were too salty for us girls. Their bread was extremely salty and we tried to ask for bread without the salt baked into the top but that’s how they bake it. They just ate the bread without the top. I was surprised to find out that they had a house made gluten free Rigatoni pasta that was supposedly the best in San Francisco and it really was quite . The texture was similar to regular pasta and was pretty good with the Rabbit Sugo and my girl friend had a pasta dish as well. We enjoyed both pastas but would have preferred a little less salt. I’d like to think Locanda was just having a bad day and I’ll return for them to redeem themselves because we had heard really good things about them.

Farina Pizza & Cucina Italiana – Mission
Address: 700 Valencia St (at 18th St), San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone: (415) 565-1900

farina_birthday_desserts

Since it was one of those unusually nice nights in San Francisco, I wanted to get dessert at an outdoor restaurant. We headed up the street to Farina and grabbed their last available table outside. I always get their Tiramisu because they make a unique tasty version with an Oreo like cookie crumble over a mound of creaminess. When they brought out a regular Tiramisu prepared without the Oreo cookie crumb I was utterly disappointed. I hadn’t been to Farina in a few months so I had no idea they changed their recipe! The Tiramisu was still good but it was similar to any you would find elsewhere. I still do love sitting outside at Farina because it is great for people watching in the Mission. The night we went, there had been a fight where one of their chairs went flying and some stupid girl let her dog take a shit at the tree by our table. She wasn’t pleased when we had the server ask her to clean up her dog’s business but are you for real?

On a normal night, we split their Charcuterie plate, a pizza and a pasta dish. Maybe we throw in a salad and end with their Tiramisu but it looks like I’ll be skipping dessert since I only order it when it’s something special. Everything here is delicious including the bread served with the Charcuterie plate which is a huge portion by the way.

Original Joe’s – North Beach
Address: 601 Union St (at Stockton), San Francisco, CA
Phone: (415) 775-4877

original_joes_meals

Not many probably know the story behind the Original Joe’s Italian Restaurant. The very first Joe’s opened in the Tenderloin in the late 1930’s and when the owners had a falling out, one of them left to open Little Joe’s on Broadway Street on the outskirts of Chinatown and North Beach next to the strip clubs. Neither restaurants are still at their original location but luckily we now have Original Joe’s on Union Street in North Beach opened by the original family that owned the one in the TL, hence the name Original Joe’s. I had only been to Little Joe’s which was like a diner serving Italian food and their famous hamburger. They had a black marquee with plastic white letters with their menu and that same look is at the current Original Joe’s.

The Original Joe’s offers home cooked dishes in huge portions. Their prices are reasonable but you wouldn’t think that when you walk in to see their fancy bar and booths. I haven’t have a bad meal here. I had dinner three times at Original Joe’s in the month of September so I’ve practically tasted half the menu in a very short time. Their Eggplant Parmesan is fantastic but it’s not like the one you’ve come to expect with fried batter. It’s prepared with thinly sliced eggplant layered in between cheese and drizzled with a marinara sauce. If you want a Lasagna-like dish with fewer carbs, eat this! If you want a Lasagna, order it because it’s really good. If you’re looking for Grilled Liver and Onions, Original Joe’s is your place! All the Chicken dishes are great as are the Fish dishes and their Steak. The side pastas of Spaghetti and Ravioli have no frills. They taste home cooked and are good but nothing special. They are what my friend calls “stick to your ribs” good comfort food. Their Meatball appetizer is really good and their Antipasto is awesome but huge so be kind and share.

This place can serve large parties, even in a slick booth so it’s great for groups. They also have outdoor seating which I missed on my last visit because it’s around the side. I can’t wait for them to re-open Westlake Joe’s because that’s close to home. I just hope they don’t lose the Good Fellas decor and charm. They bought the place and are currently remodeling it.

Bocce Cafe – North Beach
Address: 478 Green St (at Grant Ave), San Francisco, CA
Phone: (415) 981-2044

I also dined at Bocce Cafe this month and the food was good but I was disappointed to see that on a Saturday night our party of 10 was only their fourth table. It was a really quiet night which was perfect for us since we kind of had the whole place to ourselves. They still had a two-piece live band entertaining us so it created a nice atmosphere. But come to think of it, I’ve been going here for years and I’ve never seen this place packed. They do serve large parties so the tables are set up in long rectangles and I have noticed bus loads of people get dropped off in the past. We were all a little buzzed from wine tasting so I hope no one in our party really noticed we were the one of the only ones in the joint since I picked this place.

None the less, Bocce Cafe’s food was still good. Our party started with some delicious Bruschetta and Garlic Bread. I highly recommend them both. If you’re avoiding gluten and carbs as a preference, let it go and taste this shit. It’s well worth it. Each person ordered their own dishes ranging from Chicken Marsala, Ravioli and other Pasta dishes, Eggplant Parmesan to Lasagna. My friend and I shared a Vodka Penne with Salmon and a Linguini Gamberoni with Shrimp (Spicy Marinara Pasta) dish. They were so good! We loved our two pastas and little did I know, I even took some home with me on my shirt. For those that know me well, this is not an unusual habit. Overall, it seemed like everyone enjoyed their meal and we had fun there so that’s all that matters really. Also, Bocce Cafe has valet parking and their little garden walkway is cute and their outdoor patio is also pretty.

Per Diem – Financial District
Address: 43 Sutter St (between Sansome St and Montgomery St), San Francisco, CA 94104
Phone: (415) 989-0300

Per Diem has a nondescript front door. If you don’t pay attention to the sandwich board outside with a finger pointing towards the door, you’d totally miss it. Plus, the streets in that area are weird. I always seem to walk down Battery Street expecting it to hit Sutter Street and it doesn’t meet.

We went to Per Diem for a lunch meeting and I went on my actual birthday for delicious Bloody Marys. It’s the perfect place to discuss business or what not because it’s quiet during the day time. I don’t mean not busy, I mean they did a good job with the sound baffling upstairs. At dinner time, that’s a different story. With all the drinking, there’s loud talking and it gets extremely hard to hear your friends if you sit downstairs but they have booths so it makes it easy to lean in if you don’t mind cuddling up next to your friends.

I love their decor. Each table upstairs has their own set of matching upholstered chairs. The walls are covered in nice fabric. If you love spicy Bloody Marys, you’ll love Per Diem’s. On my way to a baseball game, I lubed up here and I was so happy I did because a GOOD Bloody Mary is hard to find. Sure they get served at a lot of places but a GOOD one? Probably not. The bar was full but the hostess let us park our butts next to all the male patrons having lunch at the bar. Since we were two girls, no one seemed to mind.

As for their food, their Pizzas and Pastas are both good and their Salads are a healthy size and quite filling. We had their Pear and Arugula Salad and it was light and refreshing. I love their Ciopinno and no they don’t serve it in a half order. I dude I recommended it to at the bar tried to get a smaller portion and they said no. I also like their Beef Carpaccio appetizer. Their Salmon Sandwich is served open faced which looks great and tastes good. Do make reservations because they are always packed or closed for a private party. I’ve had bad luck trying to get a table here a few times.

La Fusion – Financial District
Address: 475 Pine St (at Kearny), San Francisco, CA ‎
Phone: (415) 781-0894

I’m sure you’ve never heard of La Fusion or have ever seen it. If you walk up Pine Street and hold your nose and blink when you pass the cigar bar, you’ll miss it. La Fusin doesn’t have a sign or even a visible address if I recall correctly. But what I do remember is some f’in delicious Ceviche and Rotisserie Chicken. They serve Peruvian dishes with an Asian twist. Their Empanadas are quite large so you can share them. The sauces that come with the Empanadas and the Rotisserie Chicken are really flavorful. They are different from one another so you can really enjoy each for its unique spices and textures.

La Fusion is really small so call ahead for a table, especially for lunch. Don’t use their email for reservations because I haven’t received a response. I think this place is so popular that they don’t have trouble filling the place hence, their lack of Open Table. Good for them. You won’t be disappointed by their food or service. Their Ceviches are always fresh and uniquely prepared with different sauces or fruits and veggies. Try their Ceviche Sampler so you can get three variations. They have daily specials and it’s usually a pretty good selection of items. I’ve had a really good dish that look like sushi but is actually raw fish rolled in some kind of mashed veggie and sliced and served like sushi. I think their dishes are meant to be eaten family style or at least that’s what I’ve always done here. It’s the best way to enjoy Spanish and Peruvian food.

Banana Island – Daly City
Address: 273 Lake Merced Blvd (Westlake Village), Daly City, CA
Phone: (650) 756-6868

banana_island_birthday

Another great restaurant we went to celebrate our birthdays was Banana Island. I’ve mentioned them before. I just love this place. They serve Malaysian, Thai and Singaporean food with hints of many other South Asian cuisines and it is all very delicious. Banana Island reminds me of our trip to Malaysia as it is decorated to resemble a hut like you’d see back in Malaysia. They are always busy so I would call ahead for a table if you’re going during the prime dining hours. But if you want to wait for a table, it’s well worth it. I made my family wait 30 minutes one time and they were pleased with the food with no complaints. For those that know my family, they don’t like to wait for food.

Steve’s favorite dish is their Sizzling Malaysian Tofu Platter made with ground chicken and broccoli on an iron plate. We also usually get a Noodle dish like Chow Kueh Teow (flat rice noodles), Mee Goreng (egg noodles) or Mee Hoon (rice noodles). All of their Noodle dishes are good and are authentic if I can consider myself a good judge just because I went to Singapore and Malaysia and had a lot of noodles. Their Asam Laksa is really good minus the pineapples but I didn’t care for their Seafood Tom Yum. It’s not bad but it’s not great. The veggie dishes are marvelous and flavorful especially their Ong Choi with Shrimp Paste. I also like their Poh Piah and Thai Minced Chicken Lettuce Wraps as appetizers as well as their Hot & Spicy Squid, Beef Rendang and Chicken & Salted Fish Fried Rice for main dishes.

Xiao Long Bao Kitchen – South San Francisco
Address: 331 Grand Ave, South San Francisco, CA
Phone: (650) 589-8188 ‎

The last place we celebrated our birthday at was Xiao Long Bao Kitchen in South San Francisco with my parents. I had been out of town all weekend and really didn’t feel like seeing them but my parents insisted on celebrating our birthdays so I got off a plane and begrudgingly picked a restaurant and slapped a smile on my face. At least the food at Xiao Long Bao Kitchen is good. They speak both Mandarin and Cantonese but are actually Toy Saan if you can believe it. How they came to own a Mandarin restaurant, I have no idea but I like to go here and pretend I can speak Mandarin by reading the items in Mandarin under my breath. Then when it comes time to order, I speak Cantonese.

Xiao Long Bao Kitchen has everything that a real Chinese girl likes to eat. You can get a variety of Steamed and Pan-fried Dumplings, Shanghai Rice Cakes, Tripe, Jelly Fish, Beef Stew with Tendons, and even Cantonese dishes like Beef Chow Fun and House Special Jeen Mein and Singapore Rice Noodles. Since it was my last celebratory meal for the month, I went all out and ate a bunch of carbs. I used to say that Dumplings weren’t carbs but get real and know that the little wrappers are made with flour. Then order as many kinds of Dumplings your little heart desires. They are so yummy. Give me a soup spoon, Xiao Long Bao and some julienned ginger with red vinegar.

Ben Tre Vietnamese Homestyle Cuisine – South San Francisco
Address: 219 Grand Ave, South San Francisco, CA
Phone: (650) 952-2243

ben_tre_birthday

Since celebrating our birthdays often included alcohol, we had a recovery lunch called Pho! Vietnamese Pho Noodle Soup is the best cure for hangovers. Cutting back on carbs makes it tough to enjoy Pho but I just eat a few bites of Steve’s bowl and it does the trick. During the month, we went to Ben Tre a few times to get our fix. Ben Tre usually has a line so get their early or go after the lunch rush. If you’re there for dinner, expect a wait no matter what time or day of the week it is.

They are known for their Garlic Noodles with a side of Grilled Meat. Ben Tre has a big menu and a large selection of Pho (Soup Noodles), other Soup Noodles, Bun (Dry Noodles with Veggies and Meat) and other cooked dishes. Since I’m cutting down on carbs, I like to order their Meatball appetizers and Raw Beef Carpaccio. Their Crepe is delicious as well but it is prepared with rice flour which is good for those wanting to eat gluten free.

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