The Bay Area's Top 10 Most Uniquely Satisfying Restaurants

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Tired of the food chains when you're traveling? For a refreshing change of taste, stop by one of these one-of-a-kind San Francisco Bay Area restaurants. After all, there's more to ethnic cuisine than sushi. Read on for some tongue-tingling suggestions, and treat yourself to a culinary blast! 

 

Coi
The ever-changing, innovative menu at Coi's in North Beach reflects the freshest local ingredients. Recent offerings include chilled yellow squash soup with edible flowers and prawns flavored with cucumber, lemon, and watermelon. The decor features deep neutral tones awash in soft lighting. Coi is known for its understated ambience and imaginative recipes. Locals don't mind the high prices. After all, they can afford to live nearby.

 

Akiko Japanese Restaurant And Sushi Bar
Nestled behind an inconspicuous bamboo storefront in San Francisco's Financial District, diners by the score enjoy succulent slices of fresh fish over perfectly textured rice of precisely the right temperature. Every menu item is brilliantly designed. The crisp, cool, marinated cucumber salad is a mouth-watering blast. A popular weekday lunch stop for local nine-to-fivers. Closed on Saturdays.

 

Amici's East Coast Pizzeria
The closest thing to New York Pizza west of the Mississippi. A crust so thin and crispy that even transplanted New Yorkers enjoy it. Order a pie or eat it by the slice. They even deliver it to your doorstep. How New Yorkish is that? Amici's now has 13 Bay Area locations.

 

Juanita's
From the heart of Alameda's shopping district, Juanita's serves unpretentious, truly superb Mexican cuisine. Try the shrimp cocktail with gigantic prawns in a broth of warmed gazpacho. Savor the crunchy-chewy cheese flautas. Dip crispy tortilla chips in perfectly spiced salsa and smooth guacamole. Arrive early for the sweet, warm corn muffins made fresh daily at a nearby Mexican bakery.

 

Marica
Located in a classy Oakland neighborhood near Rockridge, Marica's serves California cuisine made with the freshest locally farmed fish. The unassuming, gently lit, amber-colored ambience calmly turns your focus to the food. Popular menu items include mesquite-grilled Scottish salmon with lemon caper butter. You can also get Washington Skookum oysters for a dollar apiece, a secret we don't want tourists to know. Shhh!

 

Torch Of India
A Santa Rosa restaurant serving palate-teasing Indian cuisine from the Punjab region (not that most of us would know the difference). This neighborhood haunt is particularly popular for its $8.95 buffet of tasty recipes like dahl, naan, and mataar paneer. The versatile menu features many meaty selections alongside various vegetarian and vegan delights. Mild spices subtly enhance the food's natural flavors without trying to blow your head off.  

 

Bistro Sabor
Snuggled within that one square block between Napa Town Center and Napa River, this restaurant serves Latin American cuisine to shoppers and swimmers alike. The contemporary “street food” menu features casual creations like pulled pork pupusas, fire-roasted chile relleno, and Peruvian cheese fries. The taste is so authentic that we Napa natives could swear we're in Latin America...wherever that is.

 

Paprika Cafe
Intriguing Middle Eastern cuisine in Monterey. Everything from the piping hot pita bread to the tender, juicy lamb kabobs is masterfully prepared for this cozy little restaurant's many repeat customers. The friendly, multi-tasking owner does everything from cooking to serving to wiping tables, which doesn't take long in so tiny a place. Plan for a party of two. 

 

Cafe Brasil
Closing at 3 p.m., this Santa Cruz eatery serves authentic Brazilian cuisine. For breakfast, try huge, fluffy banana pancakes with orange blossom syrup. Or the acai bowl, a tasty concoction of berries and granola. At lunch time, the "A Cavalo" (steak, egg, onions, and tomato on a fresh baguette) is to die for. Best if you live within walking distance, as parking is a joke around here. 

 

Walia
The best Ethiopian cuisine in San Jose, according to regular customers who live nearby. Ethiopian cuisine is characterized by buttery, stew-like recipes served with a spongy flat bread called injera. The beef stew here is delicious, not to mention the lamb with jalapeno and onions, the chicken in red pepper sauce, and just about anything else on their drool-inducing menu.

 

—By Judee Shipman

Judee Shipman authored Top50States.com, prntr.com, countless online articles, and a book called Portable Chess Coach. She's also penned poetry and published crosswords in TV Guide.

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