China House, 2794 Diamond St., San Francisco, CA 94131

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China House replaced Glen Park’s 26 year old Hong Sing. It looks nicer now – brighter and cleaner. The menu isn’t as long as many Chinese restaurants and the dishes are pretty standard/safe (e.g., sweet & sour pork, honey walnut prawns, chow mein). There’s a page dedicated to vegetarian dishes. The most interesting dishes are on the “Traditional Chinese dishes” menu. The place settings include forks and fortune cookies are served at the end of the meal.

* Salt & pepper crispy filet of cod ($10.95): these were nice, golden thin crispy shell, tender fish inside, you can taste the salt and pepper but there’s not too much of either

* Mango chicken: big tender pieces of chicken stir fried with snow peas, carrots, mango, zucchini – not a strong mango flavor, glossy, simple but pleasant

* Mongolian beef: not bad at all, tender pieces of beef, onions, scallions

* Szechwan dan dan noodle ($7.95): round chewy noodles tossed tableside in a peanut sauce, mildly spicy, comforting

* Asparagus with double mushroom: Stir-fried, shitake mushrooms were plump and juicy, glossy, boring but not bad

Complimentary hot tea isn’t served (they charge for tea) but they will give you glasses of water. The food is fresh tasting and made without MSG.

3 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Pissed Off Pete’s, 4528 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94112

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A dive bar is a weird place to find good food and to dine (it’s dark and noisy) but stumble into Pissed Off Pete’s and your tastebuds will be rewarded. Back in January of this year they brought in two new chefs, who cooked at Schmidt’s, Osteria Coppa and Southern Pacific Brewing.

Head to the back to find the kitchen. Check out the specials on the day on the chalkboard menu. They also have a printed menu with sandwiches, pizzas, salads, appetizers and a few entrees. The comfort food dishes (e.g., mac & cheese balls, shoestring fries, fish & chips) have cute names and Velveeta fonduta appears often. The service is a bit confused but friendly.

* Buttermilk fried chicken wings with buffalo ranch sauce ($9): Hot, juicy, meaty wings with a thin crispy buttermilk batter and a tangy, creamy buffalo ranch sauce…definitely way better than Wing Stop. I don’t like ranch but I did like their ranch dressing.

* Beet No Meat salad with quark, pickled onions, toasted hazelnuts, golden beets, seasonal greens and blood orange balsamic vinaigrette ($8): So fresh with lots of tastes and textures, crunchy nuts, sweet chunks of beets, tangy beets. The quark was very mild. Loved the light tangy dressing.

* Spring Thing pizza with roasted garlic puree, asparagus, spring onions and lemon thyme ($9): A vegetarian pizza without tomato sauce…I was hoping for something really garlicky…I could taste the garlic but it wasn’t that strong. The crust was soft and puffy…not bad but I’d like it better if it were crispier. The asparagus was cut into small pieces and while there was a lot of it, the veggies weren’t that flavorful, nor was the sauce…the balsamic drizzle added a little sweetness and the lemon thyme made the pizza smell really good. The pizza is a personal pizza size.

The interior is narrow and dominated by the bar where you can sit and watch sports or admire their bobblehead collection. There are a few small tables in the bar area. Way in the back there is a pool table.

4 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Ty Sandwiches, 4829 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94112

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The new Ty Sandwiches is definitely one of the better banh mi shops in SF. Like most banh mi shops, it’s no frills. They have seven kinds of banh mi (tofu, combo, steam pork, grilled chicken, meatball, grilled pork, ham & pate), spring rolls, chicken wings, rice plates and drinks. Banh mi sandwiches start at $3.75 and are made to order.

While you’re waiting for your sandwich, you can peruse the selection of chips, canned beverages and instant noodles. I also saw one cup of che in the fridge. They only have one table but there is additional counter seating.

* Grilled pork banh mi ($4): There’s something very nice about the soft, thin, warm toasted roll because it has a slight crunch. On the other hand, beware of crumbs because you will have many to deal with. The marinated grilled pork was cut into in small flavorful, tender strips. The thinly julienned pickled carrots and a tiny bit of daikon were crunchy and sweet. The jalapenos didn’t pack much heat. The mayo taste was on the heavy side. The sandwich also had thin strips of cucumber and cilantro. The sandwich was generously stuffed (yay).

* Combination sandwich ($4): I found three different types of cold cuts, all thinly sliced but not super thin. I prefer a thinner slice. The cold cuts wound up being very chewy and very gelatinous. The cold cuts and pate didn’t have much flavor. The cucumber was cut more thickly this time. The grilled pork sandwich has more flavor.

Cash only.

4 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

La Purse, 888 Brannan St., Suite #1050 San Francisco, CA 94103

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It sounds like a purse store…but it’s actually a scarf store. It’s a good size shop and there are scarves everywhere – thin, thick, knit, silk, print, ruffled, infinity, etc. Most of the scarves are for women and they’re imported with brands you’ve never heard of. The quality is decent but not high end but the variety is impressive.

They have pashmina scarves made out of viscose in a huge variety of colors for $25 each. Most scarves are well under $40.

The shop is inside the GiftCenter & JewelryMart which is for trade and has entry requirements. You can shop for scarves online at http://www.lapurse.com

4 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

GiftCenter & JewelryMart, 888 Brannan Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

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I hadn’t been to the GiftCenter in years…it’s been remodeled to add more space and light. There are two floors of small showrooms, mostly jewelry and accessories. While there’s plenty of fine jewelry, they also have costume jewelry, beads, sunglasses, purses, scarves, wedding gowns, sunglasses, watches, perfume, and even a store with just different kinds of pearls. It’s a great place to find wedding and engagement rings.

Some of the jewelry showrooms look the same. There’s a lot to look at so plan to be there for an hour or two. There are restrooms and vending machines with snacks and beverages. It can get stuffy inside and the signs are confusing (not all the stores are listed on the maps).

The GC & JM is not open to the general public. The entry requirements are listed on their website.

http://www.sfgcjm.com/about-us/entry-requirements/ You have to sign in and wear a name tag.

3.5 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

KPFA Crafts Fair, 635 8th St., San Francisco, CA 94103

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Did you know that KPFA’s holiday crafts fair has been around for 42 years? This was the first year that I’d heard of it or KPFA. The crafts fair benefits KPFA radio.

The crafts fair, inside the Concourse, was well organized and included free shuttle buses from the Civic Center, live music and over 200 exhibitors. I’ve been to many craft fairs and this one was different – the quality of exhibitors was noticeably higher. It wasn’t just the same stuff over and over. They had artisans representing many different crafts and different cultures. I spotted jewelry, soaps, rugs, paintings, chocolatiers, hats, scarves, ceramics, posters, glass, etc.

On the mezzanine, they had a food court with four vendors (coffee, crepes, Indian food), tables, and masseuses.

They had food vendors selling toffee, cookies, iced tea, pickled veggies, granola and more – and they were offering free samples. I wasn’t too impressed with the food vendors but I did like the jewelry and my friend liked the jewelry and artwork.

Admission for two was $10.

4.5 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Bonjour Patisserie, 655 Townsend St., San Francisco, CA 94103

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Bonjour Patisserie took over the Patisserie Philippe space. The decor doesn’t look that different from the Patisserie Philippe days though the baked goods don’t look as tempting as they used to. Bonjour bakes on site and offers croissants, cookies, macarons, pretty cakes, caneles, quiche, sandwiches, salads, and brunch/lunch/dinner menus. It’s a popular brunch spot with limited seating and small tables.

* Croque madame ($10) served with half a grapefruit. The two fried eggs on top ooze into the bread, yum, the bread was a little soggy because of the béchamel sauce but it was still tasty with good bread, good cheese, good ham. I would have preferred a side salad to a grapefruit.

4 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Papa November, 15th and Kansas St., San Francisco, CA 94103

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It’s a pain to find parking in the Design District but it was a hunt for parking that allowed me to spot a cute coffee trailer. Papa November – cute name and baked goods too. The menu is simple: espresso drinks and pour over coffee made with Stumptown Coffee. They also have milk tea, sparkling water and a changing assortment of baked goods (during my visit they had snickerdoodles, pistachio financiers and granola with yogurt.

* Milk tea ($2.50): I didn’t know you could get milk tea in the Design District…there are no pearls but it’s a delicious milk tea with brewed tea flavor. I think it’s already brewed because of the speed it was served. It was less sweet than usual (yay) but the cup was small and half of it was filled with ice. I guess I’m used to giant cups of milk tea.

* Pistachio financier: Pretty amazing, quite moist and soft with a nutty topping

4.5 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Over the Moon Ice Cream, 50 Drumm St. Embarcadero 4, San Francisco, CA 94111

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Fro-yo girl here. Yes, Over the Moon is an ice cream shop but it happens to have good frozen yogurt that’s reminiscent of the former tenant of this location, Yogorino. The toppings look like Yogorino toppings (which they probably are since Over the Moon bought Yogorino’s machines, fixtures, cups, spoons, etc.) but there are fewer toppings now. I spotted sprinkles, nuts, sauces, and candy – but no fresh fruit.

Over the Moon also offers 8 flavors of housemade ice cream, cookies, and mini pies. You can build your own ice cream sandwich.

* Plain yogurt: Does remind me of Yogorino…½ way between tart and sweet froyo, it wasn’t tangy but it wasn’t that sweet either, the texture is lovely: creamy, thick, smooth, mild, richer yet not heavy with a sweet aftertaste. Their froyo is lowfat.

* Dulce de leche soft serve: creamy, smooth, not too sweet, good

The décor is simple and the space is tiny. They need better ice cream toppings…and fresh fruit for the froyo. Also, it doesn’t smell like freshly baked cookies inside.

Prices: Small ($2.35)/ Medium ($3.35)/ Large ($4.35)/ Pint ($6.95)

3.5 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

The Pizza Shop, 3104 24th St., San Francisco, CA 94110

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Simplicity. Simple name. Simple pizzas. This no frills shop serves up high quality pizzas by the slice. Whole pizzas are also available. They had about 10 kinds of pizzas in the display case. The pizzas (e.g., pesto, pepperoni, white spinach) have about two types of toppings max. Toppings are traditional. Cheese slices are $3, other slices are $4. Taxes are included in the price.

The slices are heated for a few minutes after you order them. There are only a few small tables.

* Artichoke pizza ($4): The delicious crust is thin and extra crispy. It was interesting how it was a white pizza with little pools of tomato sauce on top of the cheese. The artichoke was cut into tiny pieces but there was a lot on there – lots of artichoke flavor. I liked the tangy tomato sauce. The toppings and cheese stayed on the slice (hate when they slide off) and the pizza wasn’t too greasy.

4.5 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.