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312 8th Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94118
A family restaurant in the Inner Richmond, Halu possesses its own little nook of the city. The restaurant is almost as well known for the décor, which pays homage to the Beatles, as it is for the food. While its quirky atmosphere certainly adds to the personality of the place, the sustenance keeps the customers coming back time and time again. In particular, Halu has built a strong reputation for having some of the best yakitori in the city. It offers chicken, pork, beef and vegetable-sizzling skewers that have a nice crunchy sear on the outside and are tender on the inside. Among some of the favorites are the chicken liver and enoki bacon. All are served with the house special yakitori (tare) sauce or with blended rock salt and sea salt mix (shio). With tasty food and a vibrant – albeit divey – atmosphere, it is hard not be charmed.
1500 Irving St.
San Francisco, CA 94122
The Inner Sunset is home to Izakaya Sozai, a cozy and modest eatery serving Japanese fare. As the first restaurant for Ritsu Osuka, he has created an izakaya in the city that has won fans for its casual environment reminiscent of those found in Japan. The menu offers a variety of Japanese dishes, but one main focus is its yakitori. Izakaya Sozai’s roster of grilled skewers features salty bacon-wrapped mochi, tender pork jowl cheek and hearty beef tongue. With a menu that delivers the goods and a chef that really knows how to execute, Izakaya Sozai is proving that yakitori is more than just a trend.
598 Guerrero St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
Izakaya Yuzuki, located in the Mission District, was born out of a desire to expose locals to authentic Japanese cuisine. With quality at the forefront, the establishment uses seasonal, organic ingredients and makes everything from scratch – including the miso and tofu. The creation of Yuko Hayashi, first-time restaurateur, and chef Takashi Saito, who previously held positions at Ame and Nojo (another restaurant on the list), are creating comfort food with sophisticated and simple flavors. Its selection of yakitori is modest but boasts such combinations as grilled chicken meatball and grilled chicken with scallion. Izakaya Yuzuki is able to perform a fine dance between delicate and hearty flavors, making its yakitori a standout.
231 Franklin St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
The busy streets of Osaka, Japan served as the inspiration for Nojo, a Hayes Valley restaurant specializing in Japanese-style skewers and pub food. Chef and owner Greg Dunmore characterizes the fare as Californian with a strong Japanese influence because of the prevalence of local ingredients in the dishes. Dunmore sports some serious cred in Japanese cuisine having worked under chef Hiro Sone at Michelin-starred and James Beard winner Terra in Napa Valley, and later he was the executive chef at Ame, a Michelin-starred restaurant in San Francisco. At Nojo, he is serving up skewered delights with the traditional tare sauce. With a yakitori menu that features liver, tare and fig jam and pork jowl, tare and onion, it may not be Japan but it is a nice escape for the night.
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Jenna Broughton can frequently be found exploring the streets of San Francisco looking for her next adventure and gastronomic delight. She has traveled far and wide, from Paris to Savannah, GA, to satisfy her adventurous palate. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.