Friday, June 14, 2013

What to do, what to do...

  I'm officially out of a job, after nearly 24 years tending bar at Finnegans Wake. My doctor doesn't see me as being fit to work. So, this will cut into my dining out privileges for a bit until I can get disability insurance.
  In the meantime, I've started packaging my spice blends for sale. No fancy labels or anything, just plain old baggies. I have a Chicken Rub (2 oz.); a Beef and Pork Rub (2 oz.); A Chili Seasoning with instructions on how to make almost a gallon of chili; and a Spicy Curry Blend (3 oz.). They're all $3 apiece. If you're interested, drop me a line at chilibill2@sbcglobal.net or call me at 415-948-3777.
  I'm also available to do all your grill work at your BBQ, whether at home, in the park or at Finnegans.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Hi Lo BBQ - 3416 19th St. near Mission, SFCA

    Finally caught this place when it was open; their hours have changed and they're now open daily from 12 to 10pm.
    BBQ has been on the rise, as most of you know, with new places owned by young, white restauranteurs, often as an adjunct to another business. Most of these are not pit BBQ's, relying on industrial smokers instead. And most of them haven't bothered to use hickory wood, without which I can't get that true KC flavor. Be that as it may, I've still had some edible Q here and there, and Hi Lo ain't bad.
   We opted to get the BBQ Sampler (45) with brisket, hot links and St. Louis style ribs. The disappointment here, which isn't uncommon among a lot of these places, is dry brisket. Nor do they offer you a choice of lean or fatty meat. The flavor was good, but you needed the sauce, which was more than passable. The links were good and spicy and served with a little whole seed mustard. These are made locally for Hi Lo and are the tastiest I've had in a while, but Everett & Jones still rules when it comes to links. The ribs were cooked perfectly, tender and falling off the bone, with a nice 'bark' and plenty of moistness. I wouldn't hesitate to order these again.
   Two sides come with the platter and we chose Beans with Burnt Ends and Mac 'n' Cheese. I asked what kind of beans we were having and the server could only say that they were 'large white beans' from Iacoppi Farms. They were quite good, flavored with burnt ends from brisket and cooked in a light tomatoey broth with seasoning.
   Johnny Davis didn't care much for the mac 'n' cheese, saying it was a little 'hoity-toity' and preferring to stick with Velveeta. Well, harrumph! I thought it was great, using smoked cheddar and topped with garlic bread crumbs. Definitely a hit! We would have tried the slaw but it has pineapple in it.
   Prices here are comparable with Southpaw and Cedar Hill, two other spots that I like and I suggest you give them a try. You can stop at Hog and Rocks across the street and have oysters to start things off.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Swamp - 5423 Geary near 18th Ave., SFCA

   Along with the explosion in BBQ sites, we have a rising number of Vietnamese style Cajun restos popping up. Red Crawfish, Rockin' Crawfish, Craw Station and now Swamp, brought to you by the folks from PPQ and Dungeness Island. I was caught by surprise when Johnny Davis offered to buy lunch and I had no camera, so visualize, please.
   We started with some Grilled Alligator Sausage (6) halved and grilled. Nice spicy flavor akin to hot Italian sausage; nice sized portion as well. Johnny has to have his Hush Puppies (6), eight to an order. These were made with scallion and whole kernel corn, crispy on the outside and soft in the middle; pretty decent, but I'm still spoiled from the hush puppies we had in North Carolina.
   A side of Cole Slaw (5) comes in a julienne cut that can be a bit unwieldy, even with a fork. Red and white cabbage in a mild vinegar based dressing. Again a nice sized portion.
   Johnny always has to try the Gumbo (8) which comes with optional rice. I thought the roux was way too thick, and Mr. D. said that the gumbo at Red Crawfish is much better.
   As with the other crawfish joints, you have a choice of boils; here they have Original Cajun, which comes with no sauce, Garlic Butter, Lemon Pepper and Hurricane. For spiciness you can have None, Mild, Medium and Spicy Habanero. We ordered a pound of Shrimp (12) in the lemon/pepper broth. These were nice big shell-on puppies in the 12-15/pound range. While the shrimp were perfectly cooked the sauce we found to be uninspiring.
   Though a bit hit and miss, I want to go back and try the crawfish in the Hurricane sauce.
To see the menu, go to: www.swampsf.com

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Where The Hell Is He?

   Did you miss me? Sorry for going off without an explanation. I've just spent three nightmarish weeks in St. Mary's Hospital after having some mild surgery on my legs. If you have to spend time in a hospital, try to avoid that one. They joke about the food being bad; well there it's atrocious unless you stick to packaged things like yogurt and fresh fruit. Any cooked food is just abysmal. One trick I use to make the oatmeal edible is to ask for sugar free cocoa mix, sugar packets, butter and a fresh banana. Stir it all up and add a little milk if you like et voila!
   I don't know how soon I'm going to be able to resume work and thus enjoy eating out again, but let's hope it's soon! Let me hear from ya...

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Wild Hare - 2801 California at Divisadero, SFCA

   Brought to you by the same folks who own Bullitt, Tonic, Dr. Teeth and other establishments in SF, Wild Hare occupies the former Solstice space. They don't have the forties of Old English 800 like Bullitt, but they do have Jameson and Fernet on tap.
   We started with a Sampler Plate (15) which included mac 'n' cheese, corn dogs and crab jalapeno poppers. We had ordered the reuben egg rolls but somehow got corn dogs. Oh well, we also got the Showdogs Fried Bacon (9). I wasn't in a corn dog mood, so I skipped those. Everything else was easy on the palate, especially the mac 'n' cheese, nothing fancy just plenty of creamy goodness. The poppers could have used a bit more crab meat and the sauces need a little more zing and less salt. Dipping the bacon in the mac 'n' cheese hit the spot.
   I'm always a sucker for Cobb Salad (11) but in this case it was a mistake. The salad came last, after we'd eaten almost everything else, and I saw food coming out of the kitchen for people who ordered after we did. Someone in the kitchen needs to get their priorities straight. It was pretty average and needed more dressing.
   I forgot my camera again, so Melissa was kind enough to take these pics with Instagram. Unfortunately, the pic of Jared's Crab Melt (12) didn't come out well. It came with a tomato bisque, which Jared said was so-so, but the melt itself was very good.
   Melissa opted for the 4pc Fried Chicken Bucket (8) and she said the crust was nice and crispy and the meat was tender and not dry. It came with a hefty bowl of cole slaw, fixed with sparse seasoning and vinegar.
   The beer is served in pint Mason jars, except for the Guiness of course, and a Shiner Wild Hare Pale Ale and a Firestone IPA were both $6. The back bar has a number of Hangar One vodkas and three Cortaleza tequilas if you want to step up in class.
   I'd like to go back when I'm in the mood for a tempura style bacon dog and some truffle Tater Tots, just a couple more items that make the menu here interesting. At 1:20 on a Sunday afternoon it wasn't jammed with hipsters, but then again it's a ways from the Mission.




Saturday, April 20, 2013

Villa Romano - 731 Irving near 8th Ave., SFCA

   People told me not to go and of course, being the stubborn and fair-minded dude that I am, I went anyway. I didn't have the camera with me, but you all know what ravioli and meatballs looks like, don't you? I gotta say, the people were right. The meatballs were dry and over-salted and the cheese ravioli tasted like the ones you buy frozen in large bags. The bolognese sauce was light on meat and also salty. The server brought me bread right away, but no butter, no knife and no plate! With a glass of house red, which was actually decent, this came to $31 plus tip. So much for some of the old SF institutions...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Burmese Kitchen - 452 Larkin near Turk, SFCA

    I was intending to eat at a place called Larkin Express because I'd heard they had curried goat stew. When I got there I discovered it was now Burmese Kitchen, but I didn't care. I said, good, now I don't have to go to the Richmond or Top of the Hill. I found out it's still the same owners, they just changed the name. But the curried goat isn't available anymore.
   I made do with the Ginger Salad (6.5), a healthy combo of shredded cabbage, ginger, peanuts and various dried peas with sesame seeds on top. This was a perfect foil for the Spicy Fish (7.95), two nice batter-fried filets smothered in a potent sauce of shallots, garlic and pepper. This baby had kick to it!
   The whole menu here is very reasonably priced and has plenty of vegetarian options. They're open daily except Sunday from 10:30 to 8:15. If you'd like to order online, go to:
burmesekitchen.eat24hour.com