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8 Bay Area Chains We Love

By Tamara Palmer
January 20, 2014
Photo by: Super Duper

We are lucky to live in a region where there is a proliferation of local chains that defy the mega-corporate, multinational tendency to value high volume over a quality product. This is especially true in the food world, where small businesses are growing based off of a commitment to being creative and environmentally conscious. Here, we've singled out our favorite local chains, which we've defined as companies with three or more locations in the Bay Area.

  • Photo by: Flickr/gnaihc

    Turtle Tower

    The Formula: Pho soup and other traditional dishes from North Vietnam
    Number of Locations: 3
    Lunch for One: Averages $10.50
    Menu Highlights: Combination beef pho, bun vermicelli noodles with imperial rolls
    Tasting Notes: Be advised that the double T doesn't like the double C; Turtle Tower is cash only.

  • Photo by: Tamara Palmer

    Samovar

    The Formula: Global bites and international teas
    Number of Locations: 3
    Lunch for One: Averages $22
    Menu Highlights: Wasabi Caesar salad with salmon, smoked duck and vegetable stir-fry with brown rice, squash dumplings and blood orange pu-erh tea
    Tasting Notes: Choose from pre-selected lunch sets that include tea, or construct your own à la carte meal.

  • Super Duper

    The Formula: "Fast-food burgers, slow-food values"
    Number of Locations: 7
    Lunch for One: Averages $8.50
    Menu Highlights: Super Burger with bacon, spiked organic Straus milkshakes 
    Tasting Notes: The hamburgers are made with Niman Ranch beef that is ground fresh daily.

  • Photo by: Flickr/rieorrie

    Osha Thai

    The Formula: Thai staples served in nightclubby decor
    Number of Locations: 7
    Lunch for One: Averages $13.95
    Menu Highlights: Roasted duck in red curry, volcanic beef in lava sauce
    Tasting Notes: Osha focuses on a late-night crowd, open until 1 AM on weeknights and 3 AM on the weekends.

  • Photo by: Flickr/hinnosaar

    Crêperie Saint Germain

    The Formula: French crêpes and sandwiches with organic ingredients
    Number of Locations: 3
    Lunch for One: Averages $10
    Menu Highlights: Spicy sausage and cracklins crêpe, Nutella and banana crêpe
    Tasting Notes: The CSG Express location (222 Second Street) has late-night hours on Friday and Saturday from 9 PM to 3:30 AM.

  • Zachary's Chicago Pizza

    The Formula: Deep-dish pizza with cornmeal crust
    Number of Locations: 4
    Lunch for One: Averages $9 (for slice special; whole pizzas start at $10.60)
    Menu Highlights: Spinach and mushroom stuffed pizza, Good Health chicken pizza on whole-wheat crust
    Tasting Notes: Zachary's specializes in stuffed thick-crust and thin-crust pizzas.

  • Photo by: Sonya Yu Photography

    Asian Box

    The Formula: Fast-casual Vietnamese rice boxes, noodles and salads
    Number of Locations: 3, with 2 opening soon in Southern California
    Lunch for One: Averages $12
    Menu Highlights: Lime basil shrimp, jungle jerky
    Tasting Notes: The menu here is entirely customizable to your preferences, so if you want to, you can say, "Hold the Asian Space Dust, please." (It's just a spice blend, but fun to mention.)

  • Crème Brûlée Cart

    The Formula: French dessert with Americanized toppings
    Number of Locations: 3, plus roaming markets
    Dessert for One: Averages $5
    Menu Highlights: The Tupac (vanilla crème brûlée with champagne cranberry sauce and pecans), the Kentucky (vanilla with candied pecans and salted caramel sauce; pictured)
    Tasting Notes: The Mission storefront location is temporarily closed, but you can still catch the truck in the Castro, the cart in the Financial District and several of the Off The Grid markets throughout the Bay Area.

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