Posted in Food, San Francisco

Bad Bay Area Barbeque

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Foodies all over the Bay Area have complained frequently that you can’t get several seemingly simple dishes around here. They would include:

A good, authentic pastrami/corned beef sandwich

A great thin crust, New York-style pizza (many say it’s the water)

Pinkberry (though I’m not sure it’s worth the hype since I’ve never tried it)

Good BBQ (Memphis, Texas, South Carolina, OR Kansas City style)

Sure there are BBQ joints in the Bay Area, but not many are worth returning to or authentic. My husband has tried a few around here (he’s from Kansas City and lived in Memphis for many years), some foodie friends have tried a few, and I’ve only tried a couple.  But none of us have been impressed with any of them.

I have to add Memphis Minnie’s in San Francisco to that unfortunate list.

My husband and I took some friends of ours who moved here from Texas. Needless to say, they were dying for some good southern BBQ. And…we didn’t find it here.

We ordered an array of ribs, pulled pork, and brisket to try, along with a big basket of fries. When we were debating what to order, we had some enthusiastic regulars suggest several items highly. It seemed promising at first…but things went south from there.

There were three different kinds of sauces at the table. We tried all three before getting our food and we should have ran after that. One was way too sweet, the other too watery, and another that just tasted strange. We weren’t impressed.

And things didn’t change after we got our food. Though the quality of meat was good all around, the flavor was all wrong. My husband commented that he didn’t understand why one of the sauces was supposedly “South Carolina” based, the ribs were “Texas-style,” but the joint was called “Memphis Minnie’s.” And that basically summed up our experience. It was a mess of flavors and strange, unusual taste combinations.  Overall, it was very poorly executed.  And parking in the Haight was no picnic either.

But the worst part was having that awful MSG dry mouth for the rest of the night after our meal. The only highlight was the surprisingly friendly service. At least they have that going for them.

Avoid this place at all costs. If you’re really desperate for something, try the local chain Armadillo Willy’s. Even their BBQ is more authentic than Minnie’s.

Memphis Minnie’s – 576 Haight St., S.F. – 415.864.PORK

Memphis Minnie's on Urbanspoon

Posted in Food, San Francisco

A Hometown Favorite

chow1.jpg Courtesy of www.chowrestaurant.com

It was good to return to one of my favorite restaurants, Park Chow in San Francisco. I used to go there all the time, but since moving out of that area, I haven’t been in a while.

The best time to visit this place is definitely during the colder months. The wood floors, casual decor and service, and roaring fireplace always makes for a mountain lodge kind of feel. And the menu with Spaghetti and Meatballs, Fusilli Pasta w/Chicken, Roasted Chicken & Mashed Potatoes, and Pot Roast always makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. They’re so yummy.

The biggest pain, though, is the battle for street parking in this area. That and the wait during peak times. But I digress…

I love how affordable this place is. Especially for the quality of food they serve. I’ve always loved all the dishes I mentioned, but this time, I decided to try the Petrale Sole Fish Sandwich (the sandwich of the day). It was seasoned very well and dressed with some mango salsa and fresh guacamole on a soft toasted bun. It was fresh and delicious. The fish was cooked perfectly moist and wasn’t breaded, which was a nice change.

It came with a wonderful hearty minestrone. But in place of the pasta they used croutons, which I wasn’t crazy about. Regardless, the soup had depth from a stock/soup base that had some good meaty flavor.

I had a spiced apple cider with my meal, which only added to the homey feeling of the place. And I usually end with a slice of their organic apple pie (which is truly my favorite apple pie in SF), but there was no room left in this tummy. It was lunch, afterall. A little restraint was in order. 🙂

Park Chow – 1240 9th Ave (btwn. Irving & Lincoln) – SF – 415.665-9912

Park Chow on Urbanspoon

Posted in San Francisco

Pretty, yes. Pampered, no.

pamp1.gif Courtesy of www.thepamperedgirl.com

I’ve been so stressed out lately.  Work is making me crazy.  So when J. and I made plans for dinner, she made us both reservations for manicures in the city.  Thank God!

Our favorite mani/pedi spot will always be Polished Lounge in SOMA in the city, but we like to try new spots too.  This time we went to The Pampered Girl, a spot in Hayes Valley that’s been open for less than a year.

You can easily make a day of it in this neighborhood.  There are lovely boutiques around here and you could even have a great meal at Paul K just down the block.

The first thing you notice when you step into the place is the amount of pink and white.  The decor is very retro kitchy glamour, and very Marilyn Monroe.  Unfortunately, the space is also very small.  It’s basically one narrow room that has six plush white treatment chairs.  But there’s not much width to the place so astheticians literally bump into each other while performing clients’ services. 

To compound the small space, things seemed a bit unorganized.  When J. and I were there they were running about 15 minutes behind, and that left people waiting and the owner running around to help out.  It made for a harried experience that was the least bit relaxing.  They also had nail drying machines lying around on the floor and magazines haphazardly stacked on top of trash cans that were doubling as end tables.  It was all a bit messy.

But this place does have its pluses.  First, the prices are very affordable.  Just $12 for its cheapest mani and $23 for its pedi.  For the atmosphere and quality, it’s a good deal. 

And secondly, I’m terribly picky about how manicurists shape my nails.  I’ve been known to start shaping them myself in the middle of a mani because I get so peeved with carelessly shaped nails that are filed crookedly and left rough.  But they did a FABULOUS job with my “Jolene” manicure, as well as with J’s “Amelie” mani.  The scrub that came with my manicure was a little stingy, and I would’ve loved a slightly longer massage, but they made up for it with the great job they did on my nails.

It’s a nice little affordable spot to hang out with girlfriends and enjoy an afternoon.  But if you’re looking for a relaxing experience, head elsewhere.

The Pampered Girl – 225 Gough – San Francisco – 415.431.GIRL

Posted in Food, San Francisco

It was a pleasure, Jack (NOW CLOSED)

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J. and I have passed Jack Falstaff restaurant on numerous occasions after leaving nearby Jeremy’s Department Store in San Francisco (a favorite of ours for obvious bargain shopping reasons). But I’ve never felt compelled to eat there because from the outside, the space looks so large and cavernous, which can be too industrial and intimidating. No warmth.

So imagine my surprise when we walked in and were greeted with low ceilings, soft lighting, luxurious suede mint green walls, rich redwood accents and clean crisp white linens. The space was at once clean, warm, and modern. I loved it already. And the genuinely friendly host was a big plus as well.

We took advantage of the prix fixe lunch and started with a Potato and Leek Soup. We inquired about whether is was a cream based soup or mostly thickened with pureed potato and the waiter confirmed it was the latter. Good thing because that’s what we were hoping for.

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The soup was amazingly light, smooth, and flavorful with the brightness of the leeks coming through. And the light drizzle of quality olive oil and chives gave it character, acting not just as garnish. For such a common soup, the flavors really came alive and impressed us.

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Next up was the Fried Chicken Breast with Braised Cabbage and Barley. What an interesting combo! Now, you know my love of all things fried, and J. and I have had fried chicken at Town Hall and 900 Grayson, which we love. But this version at Jack Falstaff’s was totally different and another delightful surprise. The batter on the chicken was crispy and flavorful and the breast meat was cooked nicely. And the drizzle of gravy over the dish was the perfect complement, with its sweet soy sauce flavor. It was the perfect light complement to what can be a heavy dish. And the braised cabbage and barley rounded everything out, making the dish feel wholesome and earthy. It was delicious and balanced.

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Dessert was the weakest part of the meal, though it wasn’t by any means terrible. Our Cinnamon Sugar Donuts with Creme Anglaise and Raspberries had spent just a touch too long in the fryer. The outside was browner than I’d like, giving them a slightly burnt flavor. But the cinnamon sugar was lovely and at least the donuts weren’t dried out.

The portions are perfect here: not too small, not too large. We were comfortably full and satisfied, especially since all our plates were so well orchestrated. Service was surprisingly unpretentious, warm, and friendly. They refilled our water regularly but took a little time to clear our plates. No matter. It was the perfect afternoon for us to chat and linger over a long and delicious lunch in the city.

Jack Falstaff – 598 Second St. @ Brannan – San Francisco – 415.836.9239