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Jan 14, 2008 04:40 PM

Food Mysteries of San Francisco

Mystery #1: Why-- in a city with such a large and vibrant Chinese population, a food-crazy town that considers itself practically perched on the Pacific Rim-- is there NO truly good Chinese food available by delivery? Yum Yum House is really the best we can do? Really??

Mystery #2: Why is there no truly great food on the Castro? It's a neighborhood that's completely accessible by public transit...with a resident population that has scads of disposable income and loves to go out...and there's no true destination restaurant there. Eureka is pretty good. 2223 has its charms. Sumi is over-priced and underwhelming (though a longtime neighborhood fixture). And even on the cheap-and-tasty scale the pickings are slim. Bagdad Cafe is so bad, it actually makes me angry!

Mystery #3: Why in sam hill can't anyone in this town figure out how to make a real bagel? I left the East Coast decades ago. I adore SF and think New Yorkers who say their town has better food are delusional. But I'd sell my soul for a credible bagel. Katz's, Noah's, Posh...all just sandwich rolls with holes in them. Best I've found are Semifreddi's, and even those are just OK.

Anyone have answers? More mysteries to ponder?

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  1. I'm with you on food in the Castro. Marcello's makes an excellent, craveable slice of pizza, though. Yum.

    1. Chinese food is just not suited for delivery, it's to be eaten when it's carried from the kitchen and put on the table in front of you. There is no truly good Chinese food available for delivery anywhere in the world, I dare say, unless it's cooked in a truck in front of your house.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Xiao Yang

        "... unless it's cooked in a truck in front of your house."

        Now *that's* a fantastic idea!

        1. re: auntielola

          Reminds me of the fish and chips van that goes down my in-laws' street in the UK. Fish, chips, and mushy pea patties fried up, literally, in front of their house.

        2. re: Xiao Yang

          Indeed, if you're talking Canto food...if the veggies get soggy...that's it. Any way, few foods hold up well to delivery. Of course the ones that do -- like pizza -- do huge business. Really, what food holds up well to delivery besides pizza?

          Re: bagels -- try House of Bagels. A former co-worker, a nice Jewish girl from NYC, vouched for them. They're boiled and the full deal..and like NYC bagels, if you don't eat them the first day they become rocks.

          1. re: ML8000

            I agree on HOB. I din't mention it because I figured the OP would have tried them by now. I and the House of Bagel founders landed in SF in 1962, and when I stumbled across HOB in its original location their bagels were exactly like the New Yoirk bagels I remembered from just a few months earlier. I sure wish I had changed as little as have theHOB bagels in the ensuing years...

            1. re: ML8000

              Mozzarella di Buffalo delivers Brazilian food (fejoida, saffron chicken, and more) that holds up quite well -- and makes great left-overs. They bring the white rice, collard greens, and yucca in one container and the meaty entree in the other. You mix at your will. Highly recommend!

          2. Delivery presents particular costs that will limit what can be done with the food in ways different than in a restaurant.....and, great food doesn't travel well.

            No clue about the Castro, though my wife and I didn't like Eureka a bit.

            You could turn that 3rd question around on the East Coast and ask "why can't anyone make a decent sourdough?" No idea, but they can't do sourdough there and I've never seen a bagel in this town I wanted to eat.

            3 Replies
            1. re: ccbweb

              You are absolutely right about the sourdough. I could get into the whole pizza conundrum, but I consider burritos (which the east coast can't do worth a damn) to be adequate compensation for the lack of great pizza. And, Giorgio's is damned close to the real deal, when I'm feeling pizza-deprived.

              I agree, too, about great food not withstanding delivery well...though I've had some pretty fab Indian delivered.

              Will *definitely* try House of Bagels! Can't believe I missed it up to now! Thanks!!

              1. re: auntielola

                Make sure that you go to the House of Bagels on Geary in SF. IMHO the bagels from their stores on the Peninsula are inferior to the ones baked at the original store on Geary.

                1. re: Nancy Berry

                  I'm glad you mentioned that, Nancy. I was beginning to think that all the Hounds had gone nuts or, worse, lost their sense of taste, because I've had House of Bagel's bagels from the supermarket near me in San Mateo many times and they are definitely NOT NY bagels.

            2. The sourdough/bagel thing is not that hard to figure out: Both are based in part on air and water, and it just ain't the same here vs. there. As a former north-easterner, I crave good bagels and would trade the sourdough in a heartbeat. However, I disagree that there is no great pizza here. There is plenty of great pizza, it's just a different style in most cases. Sure, you can find plenty of fold-it-and-stroll slices in New York but you can't find an A16 or Delfina style pizza very easily back east.

              Now, don't get me started on pastrami. Or a good oven toasted meatball sub (a grinder, that is). Or...or...actually that's about it. I love it here.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Grubbjunkie

                The pastrami situation just might change. Fatted Calf plans on selling pastrami from their OxBow stall (scheduled to open within the next few weeks). Taylor's been perfecting his recipe for the last three years. If their other salted, smoked goods are an indication, this will be a pastrami to watch for.

              2. i'm a big fan of the bagelry at polk and broadway....really good bagels!