Saiwalks is the perfect antidote for all you Marinaites experiencing Asian food withdrawal (Chestnut Street isn't exactly Little Saigon, after all). The menu at the new little spot offers up Vietnamese best hits, including sizzling crepes (pictured), vermicelli bowls, pho, and rice plates. The Hanoi Hustler—a healthy bowl of grilled salmon, rice noodles, mango and papaya—is Lululemon friendly. Suppress your angst about global warming and soak up the winter's sun at one of the sidewalk tables.
One my favorite neighborhood restaurants is Firefly. The lighting is right, the service is professional and friendly, and the food is solidly delicious, with a pleasant touch of Cal-hippy, and pretentions are low. My husband and I eat at their bar on a regular basis. This month, until January 29, Firefly is supporting public schools. Make a reservation for dinner on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday and they'll donate 20 percent of your bill to the local school of your choice. We invited my in-laws to join us there last night for dinner, and dropped the name of my kids' school (SF Community). Giving back made my mushroom ragout with hearty grains, kale, and Parmesan taste that much better.
I've been on a bit of an Ethiopian/Eritrean tear of late. (Which means I've had Ethiopian food two times in three weeks!) First I dined at Assab Eritrean Restaurant (2845 Geary St. near Collins St.) out in the Richmond. It was so tasty that it inspired me to return for more, but this time at Cafe Ethiopia in the Mission. I brought my kids, concerned that the food wouldn't fly, but I was mistaken—so much so that my 12 year old begged for a second helping. Though I love Ethiopian food for its veggie options, I usually go for the meat and veggie combo: Try the tsebhi doro (chicken legs with almost a sweet-spicy mole-like sauce), the alecha ater (a mash of yellow split peas), and hamili (long-cooked collard greens).