Ah, another year of delicious food come and gone and we’re back at San Francisco’s culinary mecca, where proud local chefs strut their stuff with portable deep fryers and super-sized tubs of spices, and success is measured in the length of the queue willing to wait for your showstopper. It’s the perfect venue to sample a restaurant that would otherwise gobble up a month’s rent [and require a reservation two months in advance – here’s to you, State Bird Provisions] or necessitate a trek across the bay [Oakland? what?]. Sure, you might pay $8 for a single pork belly slider, but goddamnit it’ll be some tasty pork!
The runaway success of the day was from Oakland’s Hawker Fare, sweeping the competition with the variety of flavors squeezed into a tiny rice bowl, including an Asian-ish sausage patty, sesame-dressed cabbage, and pickled jalapeño, daikon, and carrot slices. Even the hot sauce offered was NOT Sriracha — the same old Thai import? so ho-hum — so props for that innovation.
Claiming the spot for the most primally soul-satisfying item, undoubtedly condemning under charges of gluttony, was the fried garlic bread smothered in burrata from State Bird Provisions. A warm blanket of oil, cream, salt, and garlic . . . take a crunchy bite, let the cheese ooze into the crevices of your mouth, sink deep into the velvet armchair beside a crackling fire that is conjured in your mind, and sigh with contentedness.
I’m probably supposed to be all fired up and indignant about the invasion of a certain food stand from Portland, Oregon, but can I really complain if they serve up good eats? Check out this crawfish boudin ball from Swamp Shack and swear you wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole, and then go ahead and order two. They were like Italian arancini, but packed with jambalaya and bits of crawfish and dredged in a flour coating for a classic Roy Rogers fried chicken crunch [R.I.P. Roy Rogers of Long Island – you were the only fast food I liked as a kid, probably because you were the only one my parents frequented so I thought you were a normal restaurant]. A touch more Creole seasoning in the rice and these would have been an outright homerun.
Also: Beijing Restaurant’s Chinese hamburger, Lali’s Georgian chicken blintzes, Hella Vegan Eat’s fry bread tacos, and luring out the fat man within [I had a serious hankering for the fried and the meaty – thankfully most selections were only one of those].