The time has come, my friends. It’s the glorious time of year when the days are long, hot (hey, a girl can dream), and the streets are flowing with food and drink. It’s the time when the San Francisco Street Food Festival graces us. Dozens of top-notch restaurants perch-up in booths and serve morsels like cart vendors… and it’s just as magical as it sounds.
The snacks are restaurant quality, but somehow eating them in the Mission on the side of the road makes you feel a little spicier- a little more street. Granted, most of the danger comes from you throwing ‘bows at some fools who tried to cut you in line. Boy, don’t you get in the way of my spicy chicken wings. Yes doll, I am waiting in this line for meatballs. And if you think I’m above Heismaning that 8 year old poaching my spot in the S’mores line, think again. Mama’s here, Mama means business, and you do not want to see me hangry (hungry+ angry)… or when Gemma and I get to the front of the funnel cake line and they yell, “WE’RE OUT OF FUNNEL CAKE.” True story. Tears were shed (the S’more kid, I swear). ‘Twas bad. But let’s get to the goods, shall we?
The Persian lamb tacos from Zaré at Flytrap were our first bite. The braised lamb was heartbreakingly tender, subtly scented with cumin. Generous sprigs of dill and parsley and sliced radish were perched on top- and brought a crisp and green freshness to the hearty lamb. Normally a huge fan of corn tortillas, with this dish their tough texture was a bit toothy for the delicate lamb and the strong corn flavor actually overpowered the slightly perfumed meat. A soft, mild pita would have been a good choice.
Just around the block, we plunged into the Kasa cauliflower Kati Rolland veggie samosa. To behonest, it was a little bland. I know, I didn’t know bland Indian food existed either. More heat and salt would have made the Kati Roll’s flavor pop so you could enjoy more than just the textures- creamy curry, al dente cauliflower, and soft chapati all rolled up. Whether from sitting out too long or being fried at too low a temperature, the outside of the samosa wasn’t as crispy as it should be, bordering on doughy. But the flavors were nice, and dipping anything in garlic sauce will kick it up a notch.
Are you ready for the BEST things I found that day? Here they are: the Nombe chicken wings. Stop. Stop… OK go on: these little nuggets were battered and fried to a crisp, topped with scallions and bathed in what tasted like rice wine vinegar and fish sauce that gave them a sweet and funky Asian tang. Go. Eat. Them. Don’t ask questions. Just go. (…and I’m not even a wing person).
Another bypassed option: Don Bugito’s, “The Prehistoric Snakeria.” “What is a ‘snakeria’?” you might ask. I see three possibilities: 1) a cafe serving snake, 2) an illiterate cafe serving snacks, or 3) hype. Wax moth larvae tacos, seemingly offal by some standards, apparently are crunchy and taste like nothing. Although chomping on freshly hatched infant insects sounded delectable, I had to save room for my one true love (and next post): dessert.
Slanted Door‘s pork belly bun: disappointing. That is all.
Bean and cheese pupusas from Estrellita’s Snacks rocked my socks off. Corn dough is stuffed with cheese and refried pinto beans, griddled flat and served with pickled cabbage and salsa. It was gooey, soft, tender, salty, savory, a hint of sweetness in the corn- basically anything I could ask for in a flat Salvadorian doughball.
The takeaway: NOMBE WINGS. PUPUSAS. Wash it down with a little Pepto.
I can’t wait to tell you about the desserts- but I’ll save that for next time.
What did you eat that’s worth repeating?
I’ll leave you with a nugget.