mission street food

there’s a really cool food event happening in my neighborhood these days called mission street food. as far as i know, it’s a local chef who used to cook at a nearby restaurant called bar tartine (irene, as you can probably tell it’s owned by the same people who make the best-ever ham and cheese croissants and so-good-it-hurts banana cream pie at tartine bakery) who started serving food out of a rented taco truck sometime last fall. due to the crazy internet/blog/twitter word-of-mouth of the san francisco food community, the truck blew up (not literally) and the lines were down the block. with all the people wanting food and in search of more space, they decided to expand from the taco truck to a sit-down location.

apparently the dude went around and asked a few different restaurants if he could use their space after hours and ended up in a chinese restaurant about 2 blocks from my apartment. i’m not exactly sure how the deal works, but basically they take over lung shan restaurant on mission street from about 6pm onwards every thursday.  they’ve been inviting guest chefs from around the city to submit menus to cook, and just started donating proceeds from the dinners to nonprofits, which is such an awesome idea. we went last thursday (money went to food not bombs) and ordered one of everything on the menu. highlights were a slow egg cooked in truffled mashed potatoes (i was impressed by the preparation, since the yolk was just perfectly cooked to be poked as it arrived at the table and ooze its yellowy goodness all over the mashed potatoes), the bucatini with cavolo nero (crazy enough, two ingredients i just learned about in italy last week – bucatini is a thin hollow spaghetti, and cavolo nero is a black cabbage), and a really fucking awesome homemade flatbread served like a mission-style taco filled with king trumpet mushrooms, triple fried potatoes, some awesome garlicky sauce, and charred scallion sour cream. i could line up 6 of those and take them all to the face. as gina pointed out, it’s kind of cheating – there’s no way triple-fried anything isn’t going to be delicious – but i thought that overall the food was awesome and i love the whole idea.

sure, the wait was about an hour and a half – the crowd outside was about thirty deep the whole time – but we went down the street to a new italian restaurant called specchio (new and sort of randomly swanky and overdecorated for the area, which probably explains the utter lack of diners) and grabbed glasses of wine.  sure, the service was predictably fast and harried and things were slightly disorganized. but both of those points are really the point. by forgoing typical restaurant amenities like reservations and clean bathrooms, you get a really cool community vibe where people meet each other standing around outside and end up sharing a table to get in faster. you get talented chefs from around the city who would never have the massive amounts of cash needed to start a restaurant, and give them a chance to design a menu and show off their skills to a wider audience.  you get creative, often locally sourced (tartine bread and humphery slocombe ice cream),  well-priced ($6-9), and generally quite delicious small dishes with a prime people-watching atmosphere and a hilariously random space. the decor centered around what seem to be weird chinese communist propaganda posters (think free calendars from your local asian market but in large poster size featuring crowds of uniformed men marching through pastel landscapes) would probably be painfully bizarre under midday flourescent lighting, but is enjoyably kitschy under dimmed overheads and christmas lights.  i really appreciate the entrepreneurial spirit and the community feel and the good cause and the cans of tecate and the dinner-as-pop-up-local-social-event.  well done MSF.  i’m excited to go back next week, even if i did have that taco truck idea first..


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