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Apr 20, 2010 11:07 PM

Naked Lunch - wished I lived near Northbeach

I am extremely grateful to BFF (Best Foodie Friend) Lisa for rescuing me today for lunch. Working from home, I tend to get lazy about my daytime meals and have exhausted every local Fillmore and Japantown eatery several dozen times over. I am ashamed to say that I don't think enough outside my local neighborhood and while debating between the $10 Bento Box and the La Boulange Niçoise salad, Lisa called and suggested a jaunt to North Beach to try the much-lauded Naked Lunch. With a menu that changes on a daily basis, Naked Lunch is the brainstorm of chef Ian Begg (SF Chron Rising Chef 2008), formerly of Café Majestic.

Both lunch and dinner menus are available but operating out of the adjacent Enrico's Sidewalk Café, dining in-house is only possible for lunch while dinner is take-out. While waiting for our order, we enjoyed a bag of 4505 Chicharonnes, a great balance of salt and sugar with a hint of chili powder. We also shared a Honey Tangerine Cooler.

The staff was really great; apologizing at the lateness of our ordered salad by offering an amuse of Roasted Tomato Soup with a chive garnish. This soup must have been half butter for its richness. We were so happy with the chicharonnes, it didn't matter that our salad was going to take a little time.

What I love about eating with Lisa is that we share everything we order and we have very consistent tastes; whenever I suggest a selection of courses it invariably is exactly what she would order and vice-versa. Two sandwiches which we decided to share was the Piquillo Pepper and Manchego Sandwich garnished with Spinach, Sweet Onion, Balsamic, and Herbs. Ripping open the paper and pulling apart the warm, crunchy bread displayed an almost erotic stringiness of melted manchego. This was one of those Perfect Sandwiches; just enough caramelized onions, not too much spinach to be bitter, and juicy bright peppers.

Regrettably, we arrived too late to order the Duck Prosciutto and Foie Gras sandwich with Black Truffle salt, but the Tuesday special of a Fulton Valley Farms Fried Chicken Sandwich with Green Garlic Aïoli, Buttermilk Coleslaw, on Pain de Mie was an ample condolence. Just the look of the bun itself was sufficient to know we had a treat before us; golden, warm, and spongy, this encompassed a supreme example of fried chicken. Here the meat was tender and intensely moist with a very light breading which provided a tender bite, complementing the creamy slaw. So many fried chicken sandwiches are so pervasive with breading, while this was far from the case here.

Our salad did arrive several bites into our sandwiches and while we were already getting full and knew we didn't need the extra food, were gratified at its simplistic elegance; a Spring Asparagus salad with Wild Arugula, Manchego, Preserved Lemon, and Chives. Any apologies that had been offered were entirely unnecessary and this simple preparation of clean ingredients were well worth the wait.

The best part about all of this? The price tab; at $28, we had a truly astonishing lunch with an incredible bargain to boot. The sandwiches were a mere $8.00 each, the salad was $6.00. $3.00 each for beverage and fried pork skins rounded out the tab and saddened me that I don't live closer or that going for the evening take-out menu is not more convenient.

Pics on Feast-Blog.

Enrico's Sidewalk Cafe
504 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

naked lunch
504 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

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  1. My understanding was that the Enrico's dinner crew is working in the kitchen during dinner, and that Naked Lunch only offers lunch - has this changed in the past month?

    4 Replies
      1. re: beerandpork

        So the evening to-go menu that is posted on the wall next the to lunch menu is Enrico's?

        1. re: CarrieWas218

          Correct - the Enrico's menu has stuff like pasta, pizza, meats, etc. All I've ever had from Naked Lunch were soups, sandwiches, salads, etc., and only during lunchtime.

      2. re: felice

        I'll also add that this is pretty close to a pop up shop situation, with Enrico's troubles, pretty well documented.

      3. About a week ago I had their softshell crab sandwich and it was amazing. I've already forgotten which condiments were used, but the crab was lightly battered, succulent, and full of flavor. I'm looking forward to seeing it again on the menu this season, as I think this is the best sandwich I've had there yet!

        1 Reply
        1. re: felice

          Just had it again today and it was as awesome as the first time. This time I made sure to note what was in it: chili aioli, thinly sliced cucumber, pickled daikon, arugula, and the crab was fried in sesame seed batter. Definitely dethroned my previous octopus/chorizo favorite sandwich. Too bad the season doesn't last forever...

        2. I love this place! It's become our regular lunch spot on Saturdays. My favorite sandwich is the octopus with chorizo, especially when the pimenton aioli is involved. The potato and green garlic soup and the grilled radicchio salad are also delicious. I agree that the guys who run the place are incredibly nice, too.

          1. I actually do live near North Beach, but it took me until last friday to check out Naked Lunch. The incentive? I was worried that Enrico's recent court date might be the end of this take-out pop-up. Apparently other customers felt the same as the crew said they'd had a surge of business since that news. But so far, Naked Lunch plans to keep humming along

            I had the Dungeness crab cake with lemongrass aioli, pickled red onions, butter lettuce, on an Acme bun, $14

            Usually I stay away from crab cakes made with Dungeness as too many turn out dry and stringy. But I put myself in their hands and was amply rewarded. Basically crab through and through coated with panko and fried to a golden, light and greaseless crispy crust. The sweet crab was oh so tender and delicate. The haunting flavor of the aioli was not readily identifiable and i looked back at the menu of the day to find its identity. I'd say that besides lemongrass there was something more spicy like young galangal as well.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              I'll have to add the crab cake to my list of sandwiches to try there. This summer I had their "pigs and peaches", which included pork tenderloin, bacon, peaches, aoli, greens, and it was phenomenal. I hope they stay open for at least another 7 months so I can have it again.

              1. re: felice

                Have we heard any more about the plans to open a permanent restaurant?

            2. This is such an SF gem!

              I will add my review for their pork belly sandwich! It was like pulled pork marbelized with rich creamy fat. It was topped with roasted apples, which I first took as carmelized onions until I saw the yellow slivers. The fruit wasn't overly sweet where it dominated the savoriness, but it lent that perfect tang and sugar pork often goes so well with.

              The pork was very well prepared. I've had dried pork belly believe it or not. Great texture and not stringy at all.

              I've also had their fried chicken sandwich which was shockingly delicious. Not at all greasy and had a nice crackling crunchiness to it. Cole slaw wasn't soggy as I often find. They suggest eating this with provided Crystal Hot Sauce they have at the Enrico's outdoor seating. And yes it was perfect for it. Though the aioli they serve with it really wasn't that pronounced.

              What I think makes this sandwich shop so great is the bread! Where DO they get their bread?

              2 Replies
              1. re: Keesey

                Those sound wonderful too, thanks for posting. I saw bags from ACME behind the counter, and the bun for my crab sandwich was definitely from Acme.

                Acme Bread Co
                2730 9th St, Berkeley, CA

                1. re: Keesey

                  They definitely get their bread from Acme. I saw Ryan at the Ferry Building with bread in hand.