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Apr 19, 2009 09:41 PM

Mission impossible? Dynamo, La Torta Gorda, Humphry Slocombe all in 1.5 hours after Canteen brekky, SF

After we left Canteen we took a random bus from the edge of the Tenderloin which turned out to go within a block of our intended target, Dynamo Donuts in the Mission. I had read so many threads about Four Barrel coffee that this seemed a great chance to try both it and one of the funky flavours of DD. We ordered a latte ($3.50) and a Gibraltar (the only one I’ve had besides Blue Bottle’s; $2.50), and I took one for the team by going for the bacon apple maple doughnut ($3), bearing in mind the mega-brekky we’d just had at Canteen. Luckily, it appears DD offers the lighter, non-cake style ’nut so this wasn’t as onerous as it might have been : -). I couldn’t taste any apple at all but the maple and bacon (real bacon!) flavour was pleasing and quite breakfasty. The doughnut itself was very fresh and airy without being inconsequential, though the $3 price tag seems as has been mentioned elsewhere a bit high. The SO was not a great fan of the Four Barrel coffee (I forgot to check what roast they gave us) and I still prefer Blue Bottle by a large margin but it was fun to try this coffee that is getting a lot of buzz, pardon the pun. The most striking thing about my Gibraltar was the pronounced citrusy note. I though perhaps it was just me but we got chatting with a very nice fellow who frequents this coffee counter who volunteered the same impression without prompting. I should note that there is currently no seating associated with DD here, apart from a wee bench in the entryway to what will soon be a sit-down area, if all the permits go through as the staff hopes by the end of April.

I was keen to try out some of the offerings at La Torta Gorda a few blocks away on Mission, and as my stomach had somehow found a second wind, we proceeded to this great little spot. As you may be able to see from the photos, it looks very much like an old-style diner inside, complete with pedestal stools at the counter, but serves mostly Poblano-style Mexican food – a proper loncheria. Although the tortas looked great as they were being prepared, I was wary of spending my limited tummy space on a bun-based item, so instead went for a carnitas taco and a quesadilla con flor de calabaza (squash blossom) y epazote washed down with a more-than-competent agua fresca de pina (sorry, no tilde) or pineapple water. Both were fresh made, hot and delicious, served on exemplary corn tortillas, the first thin and small, the second large and thick. The carnitas were well seasoned and relatively dry, which is how I prefer them. The three items I had came to less than $10. Other bonuses: super friendly staff, quick service, really big serviettes, a nice clean bathroom and even a tiny patio out back. We will return to this busy spot to try their chiles rellenos, mole poblano and other goodies when the SO is not too full to participate.

Now officially pushing my luck as far as abdominal capacity is concerned, I couldn’t resist checking out Humphry Slocombe just a few blocks away. Apparently the owner has been involved in ice-cream production for many years and it shows in the creativity and quality of the offerings here. I tried tastes of a number of the well-reviewed favourites including secret breakfast, salt’n’pepa, government cheese (mimolette!) and Blue Bottle Giant Steps Vietnamese coffee. I settled on balsamic caramel in a kiddy-sized cone ($2.75) that was offered by the delightful staff members when I mentioned where I’d already been that morning. Even so I could not finish it and reluctantly consigned the last few bites to the trash. I had secured a tenth-row ticket to the play Wicked (really stellar BTW) for the matinee so I parted ways with the SO. Needless to say, no lunch required that day and other SF Bay Area ’Hounds have already written up the chowdown that they kindly arranged for me at Pagan that evening

If you're interested in what else we ate this trip, here's a list of related links:
Five days of fine foods in San Francisco March 2009
Dennis Leary-fest in SF: Canteen, Sentinel, Canteen, Sentinel
A maroon macaron in SF and two Gibraltars
To market, to market to buy some roast pig (SF Ferry Plaza
First day pizza al piatto at Bao Necci and Friday feed at Bund Shanghai. SF
Beef 7 ways at Pagolac, SF: a little meh; Murphy’s and Sharks at Johnny Foley’s. SF
Just another Manic Monday: going Dottie, then tamale, then Dol Ho-ey, then Cavalli, then Aziza-y in SF
Larkin Express (Deli) Burmese Kitchen: final lunch in SF

Dynamo Donuts and Coffee
2760 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream
2790 Harrison St, San Francisco, CA 94110

La Torta Gorda
2833 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

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    1. re: grayelf

      Much love for this - maximized foodie time, for sure. :-) So what if dessert comes before and after the meal.....and again after the first dessert.

      1. re: uhockey

        There was an excellent Gujerati restaurant in Vancouver, gone now alas, where the owner routinely served the heavenly yogurt-based dessert with dinner as it was done in his birth country. Obviously, I approved. The frustrating thing is always being able to try enough items to get a feel for a place's offerings when you only have one stomach. I was raised not to waste food which is normally a good thing but can be a problem on our jaunts to San Francisco :-).

    2. Awesome- we did a very similar trek last month. Some of our party enjoyed the Gibraltar at Dynamo, but they were raving above coffee at Philz down the street. I'm not a coffee drinker but the "regular" I tasted (a tiny amount of cream and sugar) had some flavors that exploded out of the sip that I've never had out of coffee before. So for a non-aficianado, Philz was a little bit of a revelation.

      I can't say enough about Humphry Slocombe- they are just phenomenal.

      We also had po boys at Yat's down the street- not overwhelming, but they hit the spot- the secret I think is to get the oyster if you like fried oysters, because it looked like the real deal. I like the fried shrimp but the key with that is to hit it with the crystal hot sauce.

      We also had tortas at Taqueria Vallarta (I think- it is hazy)- the pierna smoked pork leg was very good.

      Taqueria Vallarta
      3033 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

      Philz Coffee
      3101 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

      Yats New Orleans Original Po Boys
      1609 Powell St, San Francisco, CA 94110

      7 Replies
      1. re: P. Punko

        Thanks! The SO had coffee at Philz last year and enjoyed it but I restricted myself to chai there as my caffeine quotient had already been exceeded elsewhere. I think there is another Philz in town too?

        Here's my brief taco notes from TV last April: "We decided to do an al pastor taco taste off and started at Taqueria Vallarta (3033 24th St) where the tacos are $1.50 each and are served from what used to be an outdoor cart. Great to be able to add your own onions, cilantro, salsa and lime."

        I'm curious about Yat's and it nearly made the short list this time if for no other reason than I've never tried a po'boy (the only ones I could find here are made with oysters which I can't eat). Next trip??

        1. re: grayelf

          Phil is expanding his empire and a few more have opened including one due to open in Berkeley. However, for me Philz is a combo of coffee and atmosphere. None of the slick new cafes do it for me as much as the original Mission location.

          1. re: rworange

            I think he's opening in Palo Alto too.

          2. re: grayelf

            I wonder if you would be disappointed. I love the fried shrimp po boy, only because they are so lightly battered they aren't greasy at all- just a pile of shrimp on a sandwich, and once doused in Crystal, it has more of a buffalo shrimp kind of taste. What they really need is some sort of remoulade to give more of a Lousiana taste. The oysters (which I also don't eat) have a thicker cornmeal coating that looks delicious and more substantial than how they fry the shrimp. The debris Po Boy (slow roasted, fall apart roast beef in natural gravy) was OK the one time I had it, but just OK. The hot link they had on special was very good (with creole mustand and grilled onions). Po boys usually come on a super soft roll, and this is what gives them a little bit of difference. I love subs, and I love local variations, so I appreciate Yat's on kind of a different scale than an absolute one. The people at Yat's are really friendly, so I definitely like to support them- it is always nice to have something a little different.

            1. re: P. Punko

              "once doused in Crystal"

              P.Punko, please elucidate. I pictured shrimp in champagne for a second :-). Your description sounds very tempting as I love lightly battered anything and the SO is an oyster guy.

              1. re: grayelf

                That would by Crystal brand hot sauce!