Culture Features Feel Good Restaurants

Why One of 2019’s Most Hyped Indian Restaurants Doesn’t Serve Curry

Heena Patel is mad. 

As the owner of Besharam, an acclaimed San Francisco restaurant that serves cuisine from Chef Heena’s home state in India, Gujarat, she’s tired of the expectations for Indian restaurants. Buffets, chicken tikka masala, curry — this isn’t what Indian food means to her, so none of it is on the menu. 

“Why call it curry, if it doesn’t even mean anything?” she says, referring to the fact that “curry,” as most people know it in America, is a catch-all term used for a number of dishes that span the entire Indian subcontinent. Curry isn’t a dish, it’s a spice blend, and Heena wants her menu to reflect that. 

She refuses to use the umbrella term (or any others, like naan) on her menu for ignorance’s sake. And, when oft-seen Indian dishes do appear on her menu, she uses their traditional name. So, no, she doesn’t serve butter chicken. She serves murgh makhani. 

Indeed, she’s fiercely insistent on not indulging uncompromising customers. But, she has no problem educating them, and she’ll do so excitedly.

For serving such spicy food, Heena is remarkably sweet. She says your name constantly throughout conversation as if you’re lifelong friends, she sighs softly before talking about something that excites her, and she’ll tell you to give her a call if you’re ever in the area a mere 30 minutes after meeting her over the phone. She’s a mainstay at the restaurant, along with her husband, Paresh, who runs the front of house operations.

“I’m here everyday, to tell my food that I put on my menu… We are ready to say the stories. We are not just putting [food] in front of them!” she emphasizes before giving the background behind her shrikhand cheesecake, which is a hybrid of two childhood treats: shrikhand, a popular Indian yogurt dessert, and Parle-G, a crunchy biscuit sold in most Indian stores.

When Besharam originally opened in May 2018, this sense of homeliness wasn’t exactly the case. 

Initially opened in partnership with esteemed chef Daniel Patterson’s restaurant investment group, Alta Restaurant Group, Besharam was described as “Californian Gujarati cuisine.” The menu aimed Gujarati cuisine palatable towards those who would otherwise be thrown off by its distinctions, like its lack of meat options. While the restaurant received encouraging reviews, and business was good, conflict was brewing behind the scenes. 

For Heena, staying true to herself is of the utmost importance. Sometimes, that means going against the grain. Born and raised in Mumbai, the second largest city in India, Heena had a traditional upbringing. 

“In my household…  if you stay home, if you manage your house, if you feed your in-laws, your children, then you’re the best daughter-in-law in the world… If you decide to go out of that box, you are not. You are besharam, you are shameless,” she says, shining light on the name of her restaurant. “I always wanted to have a different life than my grandmother and my mom. It’s sad to say.”

Despite this, she followed in their footsteps. She moved to London at 21, where an arranged marriage was waiting, and, after spending five years helping her mother-in-law around the house, moved to Vallejo, CA five years later. There, the Patel’s opened a flower shop and liquor store. While their businesses provided enough for a comfortable life, Heena still felt unfulfilled.

“I wanted to have my own path. I won’t wait for someone else to give me my happiness, I realized I had to go for it.” she said.

During those 20 years, Heena delved into her culture’s cuisine, and learned how to make the childhood dishes she often craved. She began introducing it to her friends, who suggested she open a restaurant. 

Heena initially wanted to open a food truck. This meant joining La Cocina, an incubation group that assists underrepresented populations in the restaurant community in organizing a plan to achieve their restaurant aspirations. After a couple years of running successful pop-ups and catering events, the food truck idea became a restaurant idea that soon became reality.

In early 2018, Alta approached her. At the time the group was looking to support underrepresented chefs, most of whom it has since split with in highly publicized feuds, and offered her a space. Besharam opened later that year, in May, in the Dogpatch San Francisco neighborhood in which it still resides, as a partnership between Heena and the restaurant group. 

Often restricted by this agreement during the initial run, Heena found her restaurant, and herself by extension, pandering to those who only want to eat what they know. After not even a year, Heena and Alta split in April 2019. Backed by investors, she took full control of the restaurant space, and introduced a revitalized menu.

Since then, Besharam has excelled. In 2019, it was named Eater SF’s Restaurant of the Year and was featured in Thrillist’s roundup of the best places to eat in San Francisco, among other praisings.

“Not to show off, but it boosts my confidence… I wanted everyone to recognize me as a chef,” she says of the recent hype. “Because I don’t have any process, I don’t have any template to follow. I don’t have any… say, my mom or grandparents are in the hospitality business. I’m doing it because I know. All I have is me and my confidence.” she professed.

At the end of the day, that’s all any of us have: ourselves and our confidence in who we are and what we do. And Heena Patel, the chef unabashedly bucking her family’s traditional desires to fulfill her own, and carving a space for an Indian restaurant that scoffs at relying on popular Indian dishes, is living proof of what can be done with that.

Entrepreneurship Fast Food Restaurants What's New

High Quality Pizzas For Under $3 Is A Reality At This New Aspiring Chain

If I told you, without any context, that an up-and-coming pizza chain was selling their pies for under $3, you’d probably have some pre-conceived opinions on what the quality of that meal would be. To then tell you that they’re selling 9-inch pizzas at that price in San Francisco and utilizing high-quality ingredients to do so would blow such assumptions out of the water.

Photo courtesy of apizza

This is exactly what disruptive new pizza concept apizza is achieving. Less than a week into their grand opening, they’re already drawing crowds at their SF location because of how good the pizzas have reportedly been at such a low price. It’s already led some local outlets to describe apizza as “The In-N-Out of Pizza,” something apizza Chief Financial and Development Officer Jason Thompson both loves and shies away from.

“In-N-Out does a great job, I’d be proud to be the In-N-Out of pizza,” Thompson told Foodbeast. “[But] our quality is something that isn’t even available at In-N-Out.”

It’s what apizza’s mantra is all about: Bringing high-quality pizzas to the people, but at an affordable price. Their team comes with the experience to make it possible, too: Thompson and his family have franchised across multiple fast food concepts over the years, while co-founder Nicolas Bernadi is a partner at La Boulange, the celebrated bakery chain once owned by Starbucks. Bernadi, co-founder Pascal Rigo, and their team spent about 3 years ideating their business to create a chain that optimized costs everywhere else to bring the best quality pizzas possible.

Photo courtesy of apizza

That includes utilizing compostable bags over pizza boxes, which helps cut down on packaging costs. It does mean your personal pie comes served folded, but it makes it much easier as an on-the-go option, whereas pizza is usually a sit-down affair. apizza has also sourced a bunch of their ingredient manufacturing to food producers that can make the quality they want at scale, which helps lower costs as well. This means that a $2.75 margherita pie can be made with organic dough and tomatoes, ingredients that traditionally come at a higher price point.

For comparison, Blaze Pizza, one of the larger and more competitive chains in the pizza scene right now, sells their basic pizza for $5.55. That puts apizza at about half the price of its current competition. The most expensive pizza on apizza’s menu is the mufuletta at $6.49, which is still about $2 less than comparable options at Blaze.

Apizza also makes their own Italian sodas in-house, and offers drink discounts if you bring your own cup. For dessert, they’ve got Loving Cup frozen yogurt, which you can custom make by the small portion or pint. No option on the menu is higher than $9 as a result, even if you factor in adding toppings like a poached egg ($3) or substituting Impossible plant-based meat ($3) onto your pie.

Photo courtesy of apizza

So far, apizza seems to be disrupting the pizza scene through its optimized business model, and it hopes to build on that to create a chain that brings these affordable pizzas everywhere. They’re already off to a strong start, with a second location in Belmont, California already slated to open at the end of this year. Other locations will also be confirmed in the coming months.

#foodbeast Culture FOODBEAST Restaurants SPONSORED

These Crispy 5 Spice Chicken Wings Are INFUSED With Hidden Valley® Ranch

It may as well be a crime to serve chicken wings without ranch dressing. The veggie sticks come and go, but the ranch stays. Order chicken wings at any diner, dive bar, or bowling alley in America and you’ll more than likely find yourself face to face with a trusty side of ranch. That is, unless you’re going to Oakland’s Dragon Gate Bar & Grille where, in honor of the Coast 2 Coast Ranch tour, presented by Hidden Valley ® Ranch, they’ve created a Chinese-style chicken wing that’s pre-ranched, if you will, with ranch seasoning.

By using the new Hidden Valley Original Ranch Seasoning shaker to add to their signature 5 spice blend, Dragon Gate is giving the traditional Chinese chicken wing an American spin.

Now you can enjoy those juicy, crispy wings dipped in ranch, elevated with even more ranch flavor. If you’re still feeling saucy, there’s a spicy Hidden Valley Original Restaurant Ranch sauce available for dipping.

Dragon Gate will be serving another ranch-themed dish during September, as well. Their Hidden Valley Ranch Cold Noodles feature egg noodles, julienned cucumber, carrots, tamago, green onions, sweet corn kernels, and shrimp. This lovely mix is then tossed in Hidden Valley Original Ranch Seasoning and fish sauce to round out a winning fusion of flavors.

If either of these original, ranched-up dishes grab your palate’s attention, you can feast on them all September long, as the Hidden Valley Coast 2 Coast Ranch Tour runs its course. And, if you want more ranch in your life, check out for more locations on the tour.

Created in partnership with Hidden Valley Ranch. 

#foodbeast Adventures Culture Food Festivals Health Pop-Ups

KIVA Confections Elevates Cannabis Culture at Outside Lands Music Festival

Photo by Omari Allen

Recently San Francisco held their 11th annual Outside Lands Music Festival in Golden Gate Park. Like any music festival, the bill featured a long list of performers across a wide range of genres. Aside from great music, the main draw to Outside Lands is its emphasis on food, wine, and art. San Francisco is known for its restaurant scene and with Napa Valley and Sonoma nearby, its wine scene is pretty poppin’ too. Each year Outside Lands invites visitors to feel like a San Franciscan for a weekend in what may be described as a love letter to the city. 

Another thing San Francisco is famous for is it’s cannabis culture. Haight-Ashbury, a district widely known as the birthplace of the hippie movement, has had a storied history with cannabis. The first well known cannabis dispensary, or “head shop,” was called Ron and Jay Thelin’s Psychedelic Shop, which opened in 1966 and grew, along with others, to become a major hub for the hippie movement. Steeped in counter-establishment ideals and widespread drug use, the movement was regarded by mainstream society as naive and idealistic. Popular terms used to describe hippies were tree-hugger, beatnik, granola, liberal, and the most notorious, stoner. 

Photo: MK Feeney on Flickr, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

The “stoner” image still stigmatizes cannabis culture, although the movement dissipated long ago. Only in recent years has the word shed some of its negative connotation, gaining popularity through entertainment and the internet. With access to information and a global community, the benefits of cannabis began to see the light of day. One example of progress was this year’s aforementioned Outside Lands Music Festival. It wasn’t the first year OSL allowed visitors to consume cannabis, but it was the first time it has been legally sold at a music festival. I was curious to experience the “experiment” first hand, especially the booth by California-based brand, KIVA Confections. The edible market has evolved considerably in the past few years and KIVA is at the forefront.

Photo by Omari Allen

KIVA Confections was started in 2010. Their goal was to offer cannabis edibles that were potent, consistent and tasty.  At the time, the cannabis edible market was less regulated, having a more inconsistent homemade quality. KIVA co-founders Scott Palmer & Kristi Knoblich saw an opportunity to elevate the cannabis edible. Searching for fresh approaches to cannabis infusion, they consulted with a local chocolatier which helped bring everything into focus. They next met with expert cannabis cultivators and certified analytics laboratories to ensure the highest quality product. Like with any start up, it took some effort before they landed on the perfect edible. Fast forward to today and KIVA Confections, through efficacy, food safety, and business integrity, has become one of the leading California-based cannabis edibles. They have maintained their mission to offer a premium cannabis experience for customers. I witnessed this first hand during my visit to their confectionary booth at Outside Lands.

Photo courtesy of KIVA Confections

If you’ve never attended Outside Lands, it is made up of different “lands” which offer unique experiences. For example, if you’re looking for libation, there is Beer Land and Wine Land. And for “canna-bation,” there’s Grass Lands, a sprawling stoner paradise perfectly situated under a shadowy canopy of tall blue gum eucalyptus trees. The Grass Lands were definitely the chillest land around, filled with a wide range of cannabis vendors, smoking sections and interactive activities. Located squarely in the center, and standing out amongst the more subdued color palettes of neighboring vendors, was the KIVA Confectionary booth. 

Photo courtesy of KIVA Confections

The booth was shining white with gold trim and had a See’s Candies feel, an aesthetic akin to quality confectionaries consumers are typically familiar with. Workers were dressed in white dress shirts with black aprons, wearing white 5-panel baseball caps which added a hip, yet classy feel. Festival-goers bustled around the booth, patiently waiting to get their hands on one of KIVA’s confections. My personal favorite was the dark chocolate KIVA bar with the Camino pineapple habanero gummies being a close runner up. KIVA’s chocolate tastes rich, full and creamy yet has a subdued bite with a balanced sweetness. Their gummies melt in your mouth. The pineapple habanero flavor leaves a slight tingly feeling on the tongue, adding a spicy kick to the sweet flavor profile. With only 5 milligrams of THC in each serving, microdosing KIVA’s confections offers a smooth and subtle high, perfect to experience over the course of a day. Interactive stations included mazes, a gumball machine, mystery drawers and a life-sized chocolate fountain, which unfortunately, I did not have the pleasure of swimming in.

Photo courtesy of KIVA Confections

KIVA Confections elevates cannabis culture through its aesthetic and focus on quality. The care they take can not only be tasted, but felt through the clean product design, informative packaging, and potency. With a blind taste test, it’d be hard to know that cannabis is in the product. But, you can certainly feel it. Like the cannabis taste, the microdosing effects are subtle as well — the perfect amount for first time cannabis edible users. Coincidentally, this aligns with the recent resurgence of “hippie ideals” in the last few years. In a time where legal medical and recreational cannabis use is prevalent, getting high doesn’t overshadow the actual benefits of cannabis use like it once did. By making more artisanal and thoughtful products, KIVA’s approach is helping to de-stigmatize the “lazy stoner” image. 

The confectionary booth attracted a wide range of festival-goers of various age groups and backgrounds, displaying how the culture is evolving into something the average consumer can enjoy.  It’s only a matter of time before cannabis-infused products are a norm at your local grocery store.

Photo courtesy of KIVA Confections
#foodbeast FOODBEAST Packaged Food Products Restaurants SPONSORED Video

Chef’s Creative Take On Sweet & Sour Fried Chicken Uses Deep-Fried Salami

San Francisco’s Comstock Saloon may contain over a hundred years of history within its walls, but the dishes its chef cranks out are anything but ancient.

With items like lo mein cacio e pepe and unicorn tuna tartare on the menu, chef de cuisine Jason Raffin has proven already he’s willing to push the boundaries of what’s possible with food. His latest dish, a take on sweet and sour chicken, does just that, fusing together a wide diversity of ingredients that unite in an orchestra of flavor.

The sweet and sour fried chicken uses half a pound of cubed chicken meat, but also features Columbus Craft Meats Italian Dry Salame, epazote (also known as Vietnamese sawtooth), jalapenos, and fermented pineapples. All of those are dredged in a 15-spice corn starch and rice flour blend, deep fried, and tossed with a house sweet and sour sauce. For garnish, Raffin adds more cubes of the salame, fried shallots, toasted white sesame seeds, and micro red shiso.

Since Comstock Saloon is located on Columbus Avenue, at the intersection of SF’s Little Italy and Chinatown, it makes sense that Raffin would draw from both food worlds in this dish. It’s also a quick shout-out to the salame itself, which started in SF just over 100 years ago on the same street.

The Columbus salame, which is locally made, does for the dish what Chinese dried sausage might do, but with an Italian twist. Its fermented, salty flavors intermingle with all of the other aromas and tastes each individual ingredient combines for an experience that’ll take your tastebuds on a wild adventure.

Comstock Saloon, which is a short distance away from Winter Walk SF (a holiday-themed event sponsored by Columbus Craft Meats) in Union Square, will be selling this creative dish for the entire month of December.

Created in partnership with Columbus Craft Meats.

#foodbeast Adventures Art Culture Design FOODBEAST News Sweets

The Museum of Ice Cream Continues On To San Francisco With Even Sweeter Installations

Folks in the Bay Area now have their chance to scream for the Museum of Ice Cream. Following wildly successful runs in New York and Los Angeles, “the Hamilton of museums” as dubbed by Jimmy Kimmel, has made its way to the Bay Area to spread its sweetness to more fans.

The equally visual and flavorful phenomenon has taken social media by storm with eye-popping installations like playful swings, giant gummy bears, scratch & sniff wallpaper, and other whimsically themed rooms. Each of these aspects within the whole exhibit are highly interactive and provide prime content for your social media platforms.

For the SF iteration of the MOIC, Founder and Creative Director Maryellis Bunn has kicked up the level of excitement with vibrant and fun installations like a Rainbow room with secret access to a disco room celebrating the history of San Francisco, a Pop Rocks room with a rock climbing wall, and of course the iconic and Insta-famous Sprinkle Pool. With cotton candy, Unicorn Milk ice cream, My/Mo Mochi, and tons of tastings throughout you will also get to enjoy the launch of Bunn’s own ice cream.

You can grab tickets at the Museum of Ice Cream website, with an extended run up until February 2018.

News Restaurants Video

Dumpling Time Is San Francisco’s Newest Must-Try Dim Sum Spot

San Francisco is definitely a Mecca for some of the best dumplings you can find in the entire country. Many families have built impressive culinary temples that pay homage to the humble street food, like Koi Palace’s authentic take on traditional xiao long bao and Yank Sing’s mastery of crafting har gow, or shrimp dumplings.

For a newcomer to enter SF’s dim sum scene and challenge some of those time-honored establishments is going to require a lot of authenticity, some brash modern influences, and an assurance that the dumplings are just as, if not more, delicious as the best spots in the city.

Amongst locals in the area, Dumpling Time has already started to earn that recognition. Even though the restaurant has only been open a few months, it’s already gained acclaim from local news establishments for its fresh, modern take on traditional Xi’an dim sum. A variety of the dumplings you can find are in the video above, and they’re mainly the ones you’d typically expect to headline a top-notch San Francisco dim sum joint with the occasional twist.

Dumpling Time’s traditional har gow have been compared to Yank Sing’s, and their authentic Xi’an dumplings come from an unchanged family recipe. To appeal to more millennial crowds, tri-color dessert bao also grace the menu to get amazing Instagram shots. But what Dumpling Time boasts that nobody else in San Francisco offers yet is a spin on the famous giant xiao long bao, inspired by New York’s Drunken Dumpling that requires a straw to consume. Dumpling Time’s version is more refined, with more meat and less mess, showcasing a superiority to the original and a unique draw for the local dim sum crowds.

Between that massive dumpling of deliciousness and the many scrumptious traditional and modern delights on the menu, it’s clear that Dumpling Time is already beginning to cement itself as a San Francisco dim sum institution.

#foodbeast Adventures Brand FOODBEAST Now Trending Restaurants SPONSORED Sweets What's New

This Bay Area Donut Shop Makes The World’s First Glow-In-The-Dark Pastry

If there’s one place in California that could be considered the Mecca of innovation and cutting-edge entrepreneurship, Silicon Valley would be the leading candidate. So it seems fitting that one of the most mind-boggling and innovative donuts ever created would be be found in the center of the South Bay region.

Thanks to the experimental minds at Psycho Donuts, a Campbell, California-based, mental ward-themed artisan donut and art shop, Bay Area donut connoisseurs have seen the light of what true culinary innovation looks like.

Part donuts, part light show, these tasty treats are deliciously fascinating. By adding pulverized vitamin B pills into the dough, Psycho Donuts created a treat that actually glows under an ultraviolet blacklight. Yes, they actually glow in the dark.

These fruit-flavored, glowing goodies are made with Hansen’s Natural Soda and lime juice. Currently, lime and pomegranate are making the rounds around the world’s first donut asylum.

By delivering a sensory experience, Psycho Donuts has built an iconic reputation for itself and it’s easy to see why. So, if you’re crazy about donuts, stop by Psycho Donuts to see and taste what all the hype is about.


Created in partnership with Hansen’s Soda