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Jan 4, 2010 08:12 PM

two welcome additions to north beach

My choices in the neighborhood were dwindling, so I've been ecstatic about the recent quality additions to the North Beach restaurant scene. Tony's, which has been discussed heavily, is definitely a positive addition. But the two more recent additions that I thought I'd mention are Naked Lunch (lunch only) and Don Pistos (dinner/late nite only).

I've tried three sandwiches at Naked Lunch and they have all been delicious. Overall, the quality of ingredients is extremely high, and the flavors are bold and work well in combination. Their refreshers are also consistently good. I am looking forward to a week when I can drop by for fried chicken sandwich Tuesdays. Having tried both Kitchenette and Pal's at least 3 times each, I would say that Naked Lunch is in the same league, but their sandwiches are made in a different style. And the great thing (for me) is that there is FINALLY a place like this in North Beach. North Beach is still way behind the Mission in terms of gourmet eats though...

Don Pistos is the Mexican restaurant that recently replaced El Raigon. The amazing thing is that the grill from El Raigon stayed, and as a result the pork chop al pastor with charred pineapple was full of smoky goodness. The hamburger with bacon (mixed in the patty) and guac was also a good rendition. The carne asada tacos were made from quality beef, cooked medium rare and served with a red salsa. The tomatillo salsa, chips, and pickled jalapenos were all clearly housemade as well. The scallop ceviche was the only dish I thought was just average, because it was too raw and the flavors didn't quite meld. Don Pistos is not as inexpensive as a taco truck or the mission burrito places, but their ingredients are higher quality and the menu more refined yet affordable.

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  1. Thanks for sharing Don Pisto’s with me and posting, felice. Overall, the food was quite good with the exception of the ceviche. Even more impressive was how together the service and coursing of the food seemed to be, since we were there within the first week it was open to the public. We had a chance to chat with the owner/mgr who said he'd spent most of his career at Asian restos (worked for David Chang and Betelnut) and that sort of take on traditional foods re-engineered for a hipper crowd is evident here. Chips are housemade from corn tortillas from La Palma, loved the Serrano chile-heated green salsa alongside.

    Some impressions and photos:

    Ceviche of the day: day-boat scallops from Oregon, $10. We should have asked, "which day?" as the bivalves were less than fresh. Out-of-balance seasonings, bitter lime, overpowering black pepper, not enough savoriness to counteract the sweetness of the scallops. Also not cured long enough, we needed to let ours sit longer to get firmer and less translucent.

    Rib chop al pastor: I liked this very much even though the name is weird for a chop that never sees a spit or rotisserie. A Niman Ranch pork loin chop is marinated with achiote paste from the Yucatan and other spices and was so, so juicy. It had great smokiness from grilling over mesquite. Served sliced off the bone alongside grilled pineapple, red salsa, creamy whole pinto beans, and pickled shaved onions. $16

    Yet my favorite dish was the awesome Hamburguesa: house-ground Niman Ranch chuck mixed with bacon and onions, handformed into patties, then grilled to medium. I’d asked my Latin American food consultant about this style. While he said he’d never had a hamburger in Mexico, other countries south of the border grind garlic, onions and other seasonings along with the meat and let it marinate like this. Americans should take a lesson, as the resulting meat becomes so flavorful. Served on a grilled Acme hamburger bun with guacamole and house-pickled jalapeño peppers, this is a deal at $8.

    And a sweet finale of fried-to-order Churros with melted chocolate: eggy and light batter closer to a French-style beignet, rolled in cinnamon sugar. Delectable!

    naked lunch
    504 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

    Don Pisto's
    510 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94133

    1 Reply
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      I thought the scallops were fresh. About half the raw scallops I've tasted from top sushi and non-sushi restaurants in the past few years have tasted similar. I thought it was regional/seasonal variation, especially since there was no smell.