Husband and I have a favorite restaurant and since it’s Valentine’s Day I thought I’d take you on a virtual trip to our special place. I spilled the beans about how Husband and I fell in love (sealed with a kiss on the Golden Gate Bridge) over at The Kitchen Mission, but I’ll save the lovey-dovey sentiment and keep the story food related here at the cafe.
Tucked in the hills of San Francisco’s posh Union Street area, Betelnut has been on our radar for over a decade now and every time we are in the City by the Bay we cozy up for an evening of seriously good Asian cuisine.
Modeled after a side street Asian beer house, Betelnut serves traditional “street food”, but trust me there is nothing pedestrian about this eclectic, bold menu.
Husband and I first dined at Betelnut in 1996 on that fateful first trip and we’ve been hooked since. Last weekend we had the pleasure of taking one of the Littles to San Francisco for her birthday. We shared our secret spot with her and now our eight year old is a Betelnut fan too.
A pioneer on the Pan-Asian restaurant scene, the Betelnut hype has subdued over the last 15 years, but the outstanding menu remains consistent. I remember booking reservations three to four weeks in advance back in the day, and still only securing a post-prime-time slot. Last week, the vibe seemed more relaxed and I was grateful to see families like ours nestled into booths, reaching with chop-sticks for the family-style served deliciousness. These middle-aged city dwellers have watched Betelnut grow up in closer proximity than Husband and I, but even from afar we’ve kept a possessive enthusiasm for ‘our’ place.
So, what do we order when we are at Betelnut?
I feel certain we’ve tried every single option on the menu at some point, but I took a quick straw poll and here’s what Husband, Little and I recommend as our favorites:
Husband: Oven-Smoked Sea Bass and Szechuan Green Beans
Littlest-Middlest: Happy Buda Dumplings and Cecilia’s Minced Chicken Lettuce Cups
Moi: Mao-jito (Betelnut’s spin on the uber-popular mojito cocktail) and whatever is on the tasting menu! I’m sucker for the pine-nut speckled chicken lettuce cups and the spicy tuna tartare.
I realize Betelnut is not on the beaten path for most of us, but if you do find yourself in San Francisco I hope you’ll enjoy Betelnut as much as we do!
Happy Valentine’s Day!