GOURMET CHEAP EATS: From Piroshkis to Pizza
Photos & article by Virginia Miller
Trekking around the Bay for what is not at all elusive – excellent food – is ever a pleasure. Finding it on the cheap? Options are endless. Sandwiches stand as one of the easiest ways to fill up for less, making the continued glut of sandwich openings unsurprising (check out the Richmond’s new Chomp n’ Swig – hard to top their Bacon Butter Crunch sandwich: white cheddar, tomato, bits of bacon, and guacamole; or in the Mission, the Galley inside Clooney’s Pub serves a meaty French Onion Sandwich – yes, like the soup and oh, so good). Beyond merely sandwiches, these affordable new (and one not so new) bites delight.
MARKET & RYE, West Portal (68 West Portal Avenue, between Ulloa & Vicente, 415-564-5950)
Salted rye bread is made specifically for them by North Beach’s classic Italian French Baking Company (they also use IFBC’s sourdough and wheat breads).
Sandwiches ($8.50-$9) offer enough playful touches to keep them unique, like funyuns on roast beef or Cool Ranch Doritos adding crunch to chicken salad layered with avocado spread and Pepper Jack.
Messy and falling out all over the place, I nonetheless took to the Reuben chicken meatball sandwich on salted rye. It helps that I’m nuts about Reubens, overflowing with 1000 Island dressing, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and in this case, red cabbage caraway slaw and house chicken meatballs. I almost didn’t miss the corned beef.
Build-Your-Own-Salads offer healthy alternatives, while above average sides ($4 per scoop, $7.50 2 scoops, $10.50 3 scoops) are generous helpings of the likes of roasted zucchini tossed with cherry tomatoes, boccaccini (mini mozzarella balls), enlivened by mint vinaigrette.
The side that didn’t work for me was grilled broccoli. It appeared green and verdant, dotted with ricotta and walnuts in red wine dressing, but was so cold, flavor was stunted.
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House made root beer float twinkies ($3.50) are a fun finish, though twinkie-lovers be aware: these are dense, dark cakes filled with a dreamy root beer float cream, not fluffy sponge cakes. Kudos for full-on root beer flavor.
ALL GOOD PIZZA, Bayview (1605 Jerrold Ave. at 3rd, 415-846-6960)
A jaunt to Jerrold and 3rd Street leads to a food truck parked in a surprising Bayview oasis: a gated parking lot filled with picnic tables, potted cacti, and herbs used for cooking. All Good Pizza (open weekdays only: 10am-2pm) just launched this month from neighborhood locals desiring healthy food and “good, sincere pizza”, with a real commitment to the area (check out their community page).
The lot invites lingering over cracker-thin pizzas (a steal at $7), from a basic Margherita to a spicy pie dotted with peppers, fennel, mozzarella, and Louisiana hot links smoked on site. Their trailer houses a 650 degree gas-fired oven in which they cook pizzas. These aren’t game-changing pies but there’s nothing like it in the ‘hood – nor are there many healthy salads, like a kale, radicchio, sweet potato crisps, Parmesan, balsamic reserva combo. There’s panini sandwiches ($7) such as a pig-heavy, super salty Nola Muffaletta: Genoa salami, smoked ham, olive salad, fior di latte mozzarella and provolone cheese.
Italian sodas ($2.50) are all made on premises, like a candy sweet coconut soda evoking coconut oil, beaches and vacation. All this in a Bayview parking lot.
ANDA PIROSHKI, Bernal Heights (331 Cortland Ave. at Bennington, 415-271-9055)
A close childhood pal is Russian and her mother and grandmother often home-baked us unforgettable Russian treats as kids, from blintzes to piroshkis, those little baked buns stuffed with goodness. I still dream of them – a rarity in this town. Not even in Chicago or NY have I tasted piroshkis as fresh as Anda Piroshki, a stall in the tiny but idyllic 331 Cortland marketplace housing a few take-out food purveyors. I’ve eaten Anda at SF Street Food Fest, but the ideal is to arrive at 331 soon after it opens when piroshkis are pulled from the oven piping hot.
The dough is airy yet dense, ever-so-subtly sweet, like a glorified Hawaiian roll. They don’t skimp on fillings, in fact, one piroshki ($3.75-$4.50) fills me up. Sustainable meats and local ingredients make them relatively guilt-free. Try a button mushroom piroshki overflowing with fresh spinach, or one of ground beef, rice and Swiss, oozing comfort. My favorite is Atlantic smoked salmon and cream cheese accented by black pepper and dill. It makes a savory, creamy breakfast.
The one downside has been a straight-faced, disinterested server who could not be bothered as I asked a question about Russian sodas (like Kvass, a fermented rye soda – pleasing rye notes if too saccharine) and acted the same when I returned a second time… a stark contrast to the friendliness I encounter at every other 331 business. But momentary coldness is still worth those piroshkis.