Small Bite: IT’S-IT

” Essentially San Francisco’s version of a Klondike Bar “

Every part of the US has a food item that they are famous for. Maryland has crabcakes, Chicago has deep dish pizza, and San Francisco has IT’S-ITs. If you’ve spent a reasonable amount of time in the San Francisco Bay Area, there’s a good chance you’ve already heard of these delicious little ice cream pucks; if you are a native, you probably grew up on them.

This one is mine, you can't have it.

This one’s mine, you can’t have it.

What is an IT’S-IT? It’s two oatmeal cookies made into an ice cream sandwich and dipped in chocolate. That’s it. This tasty treat is extremely simple, but it’s an all-time classic. It’s essentially San Francisco’s version of a Klondike Bar.

For a lot of people, myself included, biting into an IT’S-IT is like taking a time machine back to the good ol’ days. It makes me think of sitting in the bleachers on a hot day for an A’s game, or maybe hanging out with friends after school and absolutely positively NOT causing trouble of any kind. Well, not getting caught anyway. Even if you haven’t grown up with melted IT’S-ITs running through your veins, there’s still something very comforting, even wholesome, about them.

Stop licking the screen. That's disgusting.

Stop licking the screen. That’s disgusting.

It’s not quite worth your while to buy a plane ticket to SFO just to try an IT’S-IT, but if you’re not from the San Francisco Bay Area and you happen to find yourself in the general vicinity, stop by a convenience store, pick one up, and savor the inevitable ice cream headache. Oh, and absolutely do not eat it in your car. These things are messy.

Nonstandard Disclaimer of Randomness
The author does not apologize in any way for waxing nostalgic or making you hungry for an IT’S-IT. The author also recommends that you do not read the calorie count on the packaging for the aforementioned delectable treat, because it will make you sad and guild you into running on the treadmill for three days straight. The author is also not responsible for any traffic accidents caused by ice cream headaches or melty chocolate bits dropped into your lap. I told you not to eat it in your car.

Epic Roasthouse

meter-great+Any restaurant named “Epic Roasthouse” is either incredibly good or a total disappointment. As luck would have it, I had the opportunity to find out for myself recently, and I am happy to report that I had a very non-disappointing experience. The service is great, the food is even better, and the view isn’t bad either. Epic Roasthouse isn’t exactly cheap, but if you’re looking to save a few bucks, Taco Bell is right down the street.

We were banished to the 'outdoor area' which was still quite cozy.

We were banished to the ‘outdoor area’ which was still quite cozy.

” Oh dear. This was going to hurt. “

After a trafficky but otherwise uneventful drive into San Francisco, my wife Shawn and I left the car with the valet and walked inside Epic to claim our reservation. The place is oozing with a “reclaimed industrial” vibe, complete with exposed pipes and other excitingly chunky rusted things. It’s trendy and dangerously close to being too hip, but it works. We were led to our table on the patio, where we met up with the remaining 33% of our dinner party and sat down to enjoy the view.

The view here does not suck.

The view here does not suck.

The menu was what I call “typical steakhouse length”, meaning that it fit on exactly two pages. This is either good or bad, depending on your particular tastes, but in this case it was a very good thing. Epic seemed to be reading my mind with every single menu item.

The offerings were refreshingly simple without being boring. Each featured some slight twist to show that they cared enough to make it unique, but not gourmet’d-to-death like so many restaurants love to do by adding of cheetah larnyx extract, hyper rare panda dung mushrooms, and tree frog kidneys. Nope, Epic forgoes the gastric silliness and instead offers good, old fashioned kick-ass steaks with kick-ass sauces, honest but delicious-sounding sides like “Julia Child” potatoes and bacon roasted Brussels sprouts, and desserts so wickedly decadent that you are tempted to skip dinner altogether.



We ordered a couple steaks, a build-your-own salad, and a healthy assortment of sides. The steaks were… well, they were epic. Ok fine, Epic Roasthouse gets to keep its name – they do indeed live up to the hype. They both talk the talk and walk the walk. Confirmed.

To be honest, I expected the steak to be amazing, so it was hardly a surprise. To me, the true character of Epic would be revealed in the side dishes, and I am happy to report that these were even better than the steaks. The clear star of the show was the späetzle gratin – it was a succulent and deliciously cheesy interpretation of classic baked mac that absolutely exploded with flavor. The fries were slightly above average, and the asparagus was tasty and fresh. We all kept going back to the späetzle though, it was simply incredible.

'Späetzle' is German for 'straight to my waistline'.

‘Späetzle’ is German for ‘straight to my waistline’.

At this point in the meal I was already uncomfortably full, and there was no way I was going to have dessert. No chance, none. The waitperson dropped off a dessert menu anyway, a useless gesture, and then my eyes fell on the s’mores brownie cake with peanut brittle.

Oh dear. This was going to hurt.

Have you ever seen peanut brittle at a restaurant before? Me either.

Have you ever seen peanut brittle at a restaurant before? Me either.

Mercifully, Epic’s dessert portion sizes were decidedly un-American (i.e., they were smaller than an aircraft carrier). The smores cake looked exactly as decadent as it sounded, and it tasted even better. The addition of scratch-made peanut brittle to the standard chocolate-graham-marshmallow combination really worked and helped to bring the whole dish together.

One of this things is not like the others.

One of this things is not like the others.

A trio of sorbets also made an appearance at our table. The flavors were cala orange, blackberry, and banana. Those same flavors represented in intensity by font size were cara cara orange, blackberry, and BANANA. The orange was light, the blackberry was light and refreshing, and the banana was IN YOUR FACE and was at least ten times more potent than the other two. The orange and blackberry seemed downright watery after tasting the banana, but they actually worked quite well as a trio.

I have to say that I was rather impressed with my meal at Epic Roasthouse. It’s not a cheap place to eat, but in a strange twist I felt like I actually got my money’s worth out of the meal. Well, mostly anyway. The food is honest, well-made, and just creative enough to justify the lofty prices; think of it as an upscale restaurant that offers real food instead of typical “fine dining” fare. I give Epic 37 out of 40 feet of rusty industrial pipe, a solid rating for a solid establishment.

 +  Straightforward, good food
 +  Killer views
++ Best späetzle outside of Germany
It stings the wallet a bit
The dessert menu will hurt you
+ I guess that’s a good thing though

Epic Roasthouse
369 The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 369-9955

Click to add a blog post for Epic Roasthouse on Zomato

This is the gateway to an extremely full belly.

This is the gateway to an extremely full belly.

P.S. Whew, I made it through the whole writeup without saying “epic win” once!

P.P.S. Damnit, I just did.

E&O Asian Kitchen

meter-great-E&O Asian Kitchen is a great place to eat. The varied and fanciful menu is packed to the gills with delicious Asian-influenced flavors and preparations, but somehow everything still seems down-to-earth. Some “fusion” type restaurants seem to trip over their own feet by trying too hard to be weird, but E&O has a much better idea of how far to go without over-cheffing things. The food is interesting but not shocking, and even the pickiest eaters are likely to find something here they’ll enjoy.

” It sounded too much like a place to buy T-shirts “

It was Friday night, and I was fighting tooth and nail with an intersection full of other exasperated drivers for the very last parking spot in San Francisco. Miraculously, I emerged victorious – neener neener! I had arrived at E&O only just in time for the 6:30pm reservations that had been made, dinner party in tow. Whew. A few minutes later we were seated at our table in the back of the restaurant’s stylishly appointed dining area, browsing the drink menus. E&O has a decent selection of hand crafted specialty beverages, as well as a small but admirable selection of beers.

We placed our drink orders and got down to the serious business of narrowing down our food choices, most of which feature an Asian flair of some sort. I remember this restaurant back when it was called E&O Trading Company, but apparently the ownership decided it sounded too much like a place to buy T-shirts or trade stock online. In a cunning stroke of subtlety, they changed the name to “E&O Asian Kitchen”, an obvious attempt to club people over the head with the fact that they serve Asian cuisine. Still, as a business I can’t really fault them for this approach. Sometimes you need to shout in the faces of your potential customers in order to get their attention – that’s life in the cutthroat restaurant industry.

Meat on sticks. Satay is caveman food done all fancy-like.

Meat on sticks. Satay is caveman food done all fancy-like.

Ham-fisted name changes aside, E&O’s menu is varied, intriguing, and fun to explore. There were so many different things we wanted to try that we opted for a collection of small plates and appetizers instead of ordering entrees. We kicked it off with one of E&O’s signature dishes: Indonesian corn fritters. We added steak satay, butternut squash dumplings, drunken noodles, and black pepper shaking beef. Our food arrived remarkably quickly and looked wonderful. Kudos to the kitchen staff for being on top of things in the middle of a busy Friday night.

Probably the worst picture of anything I've ever posted. Deal with it. These are corn fritters.

Probably the worst picture of anything I’ve ever posted. Deal with it. These are corn fritters.

The steak satay was so good that we immediately ordered another plate, and we nearly doubled up on the corn fritters as well. Ahh, the corn fritters. They were delicate, crispy, decadently fried, and yet as light and sweet as fresh corn. I could make an entire meal of just those, no problem. If you feel like maybe you’ve heard of E&O’s corn fritters before, you probably have. They are awesome enough to have been featured on the Food Network, so if you haven’t tried them before you owe it to yourself to seek them out.

Butternut squash dumplings. Who'da thunk it?

Butternut squash dumplings. Who’da thunk it?

The butternut squash dumplings were the biggest surprise for me personally, mostly due to the fact that I didn’t expect to like them. I find the flavor and texture of squash to be off-putting at times, but neither of these traits made an appearance in the dumplings. They were creamy and wonderful, and the red curry lemongrass sauce was jam packed with the delicious flavor of every single Thai dish you’ve ever had. The drunken noodles were the only real let-down, and that’s because they were simply good and not great like everything else on the table. I’ve also been spoiled by the drunken noodles at my favorite Thai place, so E&O’s version just didn’t quite make the grade for me.

The drunken noodles were mostly just tipsy.

The drunken noodles were mostly just tipsy.

For dessert we opted for an order of “bananamisu”, devil’s food cake with salted caramel, and spicy ginger cookies. As with the savory dishes, all of the desserts were excellent. The bananamisu, as astute readers might guess, is a banana-based twist on tiramisu. It’s a combination that really works.

Knock knock. Bananamisu. Bananamisu who? Not sure where else to go with this one.

Knock knock. Bananamisu. Bananamisu who? Not sure where else to go with this one.

The well-executed (although predictable) devil’s food cake was delicious, but it was the ginger cookies that got my attention. They were just-so chewy, warm, and intensely gingery. Two of us at the table thought the cookies were tastiest, while the devil’s food cake and bananamisu got one vote each for best dessert. Because I don’t care about opinions that differ from my own, we can conclude that the ginger cookies were indeed the best. One thing that did catch my eye about the bananamisu and devil’s food cake was how similar they looked to one another. They were both dark brown, rectangular bricks of the same size served on the same dish at the same offset. Considering how creatively everything else was plated, this stood out as a bit of a shortcut. There, how’s that for being picky?

COOOOKIIEEEEE  (These are the ginger cookies I mentioned earlier, by the way.)

COOOOKIIEEEEE (These are the ginger cookies I mentioned earlier, by the way.)

In the end, I wasn’t able to find much at all to complain about with regards to my experience at E&O. The only thing that really stood out was that the shaking beef would have been better if it was served with rice. Of course rice is available as a side, but it wasn’t until after the meal that we realized we had missed out on soaking up all that wonderful sauce. It wasn’t a deal breaker by a long shot, just a curious omission. Based on the excellent experience all of us had throughout the meal, I rate E&O Asian Kitchen a solid 9.2 out of 10 corn fritters. It’s certainly worth looking this place up, assuming you can somehow find a parking spot.

E&O Asian Kitchen
314 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 693-0303

E&O Asian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

If I squint my eyes I can almost see the salted caramel. No, it's gone now.

If I squint my eyes I can almost see the salted caramel. No, it’s gone now.

Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart today.