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    Moroccan Magic and a Sizzling Steakhouse, All in San Francisco

    By David Landis, The Gay Gourmet–

    One of the great appeals of San Francisco is that when restaurant hopping, you can travel the world all within our city’s compact 49 square miles.

    So it happened that within a couple of weeks recently, I navigated (culinarily speaking) to Morocco and back to a midwestern, upscale American-style steakhouse. And still, I stayed within the confines of San Francisco.

    Daisy Rose Performs


    Let’s start with Morocco. When it comes to fine dining, who doesn’t love a good deal? How about a Michelin-star restaurant and a show in San Francisco starting at only $95? At Berber, near Polk and Broadway, a tasty, affordable dinner with a high-flying show is a fun-filled reality.

    When you enter the contemporary designed space at Berber, you know you’re in for a treat. A hip, modern bar lines the left side of the lofty, high-ceilinged dining area, all accented with Moroccan lighting. But when you’re there for the show, you proceed to the intimate and private, cabaret-style back room.

    A Moroccan drummer sets the stage (literally) as you are seated, providing an ambience that lets you know you’ll be travelling to North Africa. Ginger and rose water tea greets you, along with marinated olives—and that’s before you even get to your three-course dinner. A kesrah semolina bread course follows with three different spreads: carrot, red pepper dip, and yogurt. What came next was absolutely scrumptious and best described by my able husband as a “Moroccan minestrone soup with African spices.”

    You can either opt for a wine pairing (a reasonable $35 extra) or order cocktails or wine by the glass. We opted for glasses, including a Lebanese white wine called Ksara; LVE, a sparkling rosé from France; and La Ferme Rouge, a Moroccan Sauvignon Blanc. The next course was a deliciously fresh, mixed green salad with pomegranate, almond, and tahini vinaigrette. The main course featured an authentic lamb tagine and couscous with prunes, Turkish apricot, saffron, and sesame seeds. To top it all, the dessert was a lighter-than-air baklava with Madagascar vanilla ice cream. We were appreciative of the fact that the portions didn’t overwhelm; we felt satisfied without being stuffed. I also want to give a shout-out to server extraordinaire Ciarrai, who was knowledgeable, friendly, and always there when we needed her.

    Interspersed between courses is the three-act show, all moderated by a lovely jazz chanteuse named Heather. Reminiscent of a Cirque du Soleil type show, our featured performers included Stephanie, a belly dancer whose movements reminded us of Gumby; Joey the Tiger, a fit, athletic acrobat with to-die-for sequined pants; and Queen of the Chains, Viva the Glam (yup, her name says it all). One of the evening’s highlights was when Heather asked everyone in the audience for a personal tidbit and wove that into a song created especially for the show. The Gay Gourmet gives Berber’s show 5 stars!

    You can also dine without the show at Berber and the menu looks delectable: duck bastilla, shakshuka, zaalouk, and more round out unique, Moroccan-inspired offerings. If you’re looking for a fun, delicious, and entertaining kind of evening out in the city, look no further than Berber.

    Harris’ Restaurant

    Travelling just a few blocks—but a culinary world away—is Harris’ Restaurant, a tried-and-true San Francisco steakhouse. It is one of my favorites that we have enjoyed over the years. We visited recently, but it must have been an off-night. So, we returned, and I’m happy to report that all is back on track.

    One of my favorite things about Harris’ is that it feels like a throwback to an elegant, 50s-style steakhouse. It’s complete with a music-filled lounge (where they also serve food), a butcher counter (where they sell their steaks to-go), murals by a local artist, and the ambience of a long-ago era. In the main dining room, all the tables are candle-lit booths clad in leather. Despite the impressively high ceilings, this affords a welcome respite of privacy.

    Another treat? The cocktail service at Harris’. You don’t just get a martini (or in my case, a Negroni). You get a carafe of liquor in a mini-tub of ice, all served with stylish barware—so your cocktail is what many of us love to call “a heavy pour.”

    The wine list includes a great selection of California varietals, but some nice foreign wines from Italy, France, and even Hungary. Another pleasant surprise is the offerings of good wines by the glass; gladly, they don’t break the bank. We chose a French Chablis and a Bandol Rosé for the starters, and then switched to a Tenuta di Arceno Chianti and a Clementine Bordeaux for our mains.

    Our starters included a tender, lightly smoked salmon with whipped sour cream and chives, and homemade bruschetta-style croutons. We also couldn’t resist the famous Harris’ fried onion rings and fried mushrooms, served with a deliciously-different sesame seed soy sauce. Another welcome surprise? Having parsley on the plate, just like the old days! Next up, we opted for the often-ordered wedge iceberg salad. This one stood out with its crispy bacon, blue cheese dressing with real blue cheese, and the black olives with ripe, cherry tomatoes accompanying the salad.

    Since we were at a steakhouse, we had to sample the filet mignon. One of the things I prefer about Harris’ meat is that it’s corn-fed, not grass-fed. This delivers a flavor profile that is creamier, tastier, and more complex than the grass-fed version so common on menus now. The steak was cooked perfectly medium rare, and our sides included mashed potatoes that melted in our mouths as well as green beans and carrots. For dessert, we sampled a creative pumpkin baked Alaska, chocolate profiteroles, and a pistachio crème brûlée that may have been one of the best crème brûlées I’ve ever tasted.

    The piece de resistance with our dessert? In honor of my husband’s mother, Marie, we ordered a Grasshopper (her drink of choice). Although our request was out-of-the-ordinary, the bartender happily concocted one that packed a punch!

    Service is always professional, welcoming, and helpful at Harris’. Our server Lucy was attentive, smart, and welcoming. So, when you’re looking for a great steak with a continental retro atmosphere, you can count on Harris’ Restaurant.

    And when you’re looking for any kind of a different cuisine, there’s always a restaurant to satisfy your whims in San Francisco.

    Bits and Bites

    Growing up in Chicago, I’ve always been a sucker for a good cheesecake. Unfortunately, they seldom meet my expectations. So, when I heard about the East Coast’s Lilac & Crème, I was skeptical. But I wanted to give their New York-style cheesecake a try. It’s easy to order online, and when it arrived, I invited my discerning New York transplants Tony and Kip (who now live in San Francisco) to taste test it with me. First off, the packaging is gorgeous and elegant, making for a nice holiday treat or hostess gift. I liked the fact that the company uses locally sourced eggs and real cream cheese. The verdict? This cheesecake is first-rate. It sports a creamy but dense melt-in-your-mouth goodness, with a true, buttery, hand-made graham cracker crust. It has a bit more of a vanilla aftertaste, but that doesn’t dominate. The company also makes a caramel-top cheesecake, cookies n’ crème cheesecake, pecan cheesecake, and more. If you’re then looking for the perfect holiday cake, try Lilac & Crème. The Gay Gourmet gives this cheesecake a “high five.”

    The dazzling “Winter Wonderland” has returned to the outdoor Vault Garden at San Francisco’s Bank of America plaza for the holiday season. With a covered and expansive, twinkling view of the plaza’s beautifully decorated multi-story holiday tree, guests can expect special holiday drinks such as Kris’ Jingle (a gin and sherry combo) and the eggnog-infused Buddy’s Nutty Buddy.

    Our friends at San Jose’s new Eataly were nice enough to send me a Muzzi Tommaso panettone with orange cream and chocolate chips. While I haven’t yet tried it, the producers say it pairs well with berries and whipped cream. Also, I love that this confection has a long shelf life. The beautifully designed packaging makes for a perfect present, and who doesn’t love panettone, especially during the holidays?

    It’s fun for the whole family at the annual Teddy Bear Teas at the Ritz Carlton, San Francisco. Every kid aged 2–11 gets a free teddy bear, and what could be better than that? The high tea menu includes: hot chocolate, scones, tea cakes, teddy bear sweet treats, and assorted sandwiches including classic egg salad, winter spiced apple butter with pickled pink lady apple, and one with smoked salmon mouse, wild Alaskan salmon roe, cornichons, and dill. It’s a benefit for Make-A-Wish and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals. These popular teas are available through December 23.

    Here’s another reason to visit the wine country. Now open in downtown Napa is the new Morimoto Asia Napa, helmed by celebrity Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. The restaurant features upscale Asian and Western dining with Napa’s only sake and Japanese whisky bar.

    Another new celebrity chef in town: Dennis Efthymiou is the new Chef de Cuisine at Luce in the InterContinental SF, located south of Market. With an impressive pedigree, Chef Dennis has worked at the famed Central in Lima, the UK’s iconic The Fat Duck, and Wicked Jane in New York.

    Finally, Apartment Guide’s latest survey just named San Francisco the #1 city for sandwiches. Yay, us! According to the Guide, “One of San Francisco’s (best) is Freddie’s Sandwiches, an institution for nearly a century (with) a long line of celebrity fans. But there are plenty of other beloved sandwiches to experience, including the Turkey Butta at Le Beau Market, Black Forest ham and Swiss on popular Dutch Crunch at Molinari, Mortadella at Lucinda’s Deli, and The Ron at Deli Board.”

    Happy holidays to all and here’s to 2023!

    Harris’ Restaurant:
    Lilac & Crème:
    The Vault Garden:
    Eataly Silicon Valley:
    Muzzi Tommaso at Eataly:
    Teddy Bear Teas at the Ritz Carlton San Francisco:
    Morimoto Asia Napa:
    Apartment Guide:

    David Landis, aka “The Gay Gourmet,” is a foodie, a freelance writer, and a retired PR maven. Follow him on Instagram @GayGourmetSF or email him at: Or visit him online at:

    The Gay Gourmet Wins San Francisco Press Club Award

    Congratulations are in order for David Landis, whose story “Poesia Delivers an Authentic Calabrian Dining Experience” for his The Gay Gourmet column in the San Francisco Bay Times won third place in the Newspapers Non-Daily: Feature Story/Light Nature category of the San Francisco Press Club’s 45th Annual Greater Bay Area Journalism Awards. A list of all of the winners is here:

    Landis has also been named a judge for the forthcoming 14th Annual Taste Awards. Our Bay Times team is proud that he received this honor for a second year in a row.

    The Gay Gourmet
    Published on December 15, 2022