I don’t know why I hadn’t visited Cocobang until this past week.  I’d been intrigued by it for some time because I really like Korean food and it has such an exciting name.  How could it be bad?  I was sure it was probably the most awesome restaurant ever.  I finally got a chance to find out last Tuesday, the first day last week with the crazy rains.  I had plans for dinner with Sarah that night.  I was in a pretty bad mood from getting stuck in the rain that morning and, though it wasn’t raining when I got home that evening, I didn’t want to get wet again.  I suggested we go to Cocobang because it’s not too far down the hill into the Tenderloin so if it did start raining we wouldn’t be too far from home.    I cheered up considerably on the walk over; it was dry and I was going to Cocobang!  Things were looking up. 

Sorry for this crappy shot of the interior of Cocobang, but the reason I didn’t want to take another is kind of the point of posting it; it’s super small inside!  Like, small enough that I was kind of embarrassed to be taking pictures.  It was not really what I expected at all, I had been anticipating a big, bustling space, maybe with a bar or even a dance floor.  I’m not sure why…the Yelp reviews give the impression of a party-atmosphere, but maybe that’s because Cocobang is open late, so it’s on a lot of people’s radars as a post-bar spot.  Also, we were there at about 6 on a Tuesday evening…not exactly prime time.  For whatever reason, I didn’t expect Cocobang to be a tiny, dark, almost rustic feeling (what with the brick walls and all) place, but it was.  It was rather hapharzardly yet charmingly decorated with Soju ads and neon light displays, as well as a large screen playing K-pop music videos.  And these placemats:

Also a soju ad I think. 

And speaking of soju; we ordered some!  There was a list of flavored sojus that I’m guessing come in a carafe, and then there was another list of special sojus.  We ordered the raspberry soju from the special list, and it came in this fancy looking plastic bottle (which I took home with me and was promptly thrown away by Steve)

Sarah and I were both pretty impressed by the presentation, but the actual product turned out to be just ok.  The soju was a dark purply-red, like kool-aid, and the flavor profile was similar to that of a children’s cough syrup, but sweeter.  Definitely not undrinkable, especially when you get to use cute little shot glasses, but still, next time I would probably go with beer instead.  They have the giant bottles of Hite and OB that I love that you see in lots of Korean restaurants.

The menu was pretty extensive, and everything sounded really good.  It was definitely hard to choose what to order, and I was kind of wishing that we were there with a larger group so I could check out more of their offerings.  We made our choices and then our banchan came.

Sorry for the lousy picture quality, but like I said, it was dark in there.  Anyway, from bottom to top:  bean sprouts with crunchy little beans on the ends weren’t my favorite, but they were ok.  Next, the cabbage, which was my favorite.  I am totally obsessed with kimchi these days, I can’t get enough.  Then last is what I thought was bean curd sheets but actually turned out to be a sort of fish cake, and unfortunately fish cake doesn’t do it for me so much anymore.  I can’t complain too much about free snacks though, you know?

Our main dishes came out pretty fast.  Sarah got the bibimbap

It looked pretty tasty to me, and she said she liked it.  I think bibimbap sounds like the nearly perfect meal, but for some reason I’ve never tried it.  Sarah added lots of hot sauce to hers, something I forgot to do to my kimchi fried rice

I didn’t miss it though.  I liked that there was a fried egg on top, but honestly I’m not sure if it added anything to the dish.  But I love an egg on top of almost anything so it doesn’t matter.  The rice was soft and salty and sweet and the kimchi was cruncy and juicy with just the right amount of heat.  A nice surprise were the half moon slices of hot dog interspersed throughout (watch out vegetarians!).  I really appreciate the completely earnest use of hot dogs, totally unironic without any sort of nod to our suburban culture or whatever.  At Cocobang, they just like hot dogs in their kimchi fried rice.  Which is awesome. 

The restaurant had been empty for most of the time we were there, but a few tables started to fill up while we were waiting for our check.  I gotta say, it took a while for us to get the attention of the guy working there to ask for it, but it was just him and I think one person in the kitchen.  So I am forgiving.  I was pleasantly surprised that Sarah and I ate pretty cheaply at Cocobang, I generally think of Korean as a more expensive cuisine, and you certainly could spend a lot of money here if you wanted to.  Or, like me and Sarah, you could eat for less than 20 bucks each, including soju.  I’m excited to go back to Cocobang, and when I do I want to go later in the evening and with more people.  I think that’s probably the way to go.  But really, if you were to call me up and say “hey Mel, let’s get dinner at Cocobang, just the two of us,”  I wouldn’t say no.



Their Yelp page

550 Taylor

El Castillito

Steve and I decided one sunny Saturday to take our bikes out to Angel Island.  I’d read that there’s a nice flat-ish bike trail out there that picturesquely circles the island.  It was the first time that I was really excited about something bike related and, I dunno, it felt pretty good.  It felt good to get up early on a Saturday morning and bike through nearly deserted city streets to the Ferry Building and drink delicious Four Barrel coffee from Out the Door while looking out on the lovely bay.  This experience was only slightly marred by the LoveFest (or LovEvolution or whatever the hell it is) revellers arriving by ferry from across the water and by the fact that Steve has something of a panic attack whenever he encounters too much moneyed douchebaggery. 

So what does this have to do with the Tenderloin?  Well, we also decided on this fine day that it might be nice to mix it up and have a scenic backdrop against which to take photos for this blog, and that we should pick up lunch in the Tenderloin and take it with us to the island.  I hemmed and hawed a little trying to decide what to take (I considered Vietnamese sandwiches and dim sum) before agreeing with Steve’s decision, which was made quickly and decisively: he was getting a burrito from El Castillito.

El Castillito is a block away from Galaxcy Pizza, and I’ve already expounded on the virtues of the area in that post.  Suffice it to say, it is much more pleasant down there in the morning, before all the smells have had time to bake to ripeness in the sunshine and many of the nearby inhabitants are still sleeping.  Still El Castillito is a pleasant enough place to eat in, the people running the joint are pleasant and the tables are reasonably clean.  It is a standard taqueria, you order at a counter in front of the grill where you can watch your meal being prepared.

They ask you what you want, probably throw your meat on the grill, ask what beans you’d like, spicy or mild salsa

Here’s Steve’s grilled Chicken burrito getting ready to be rolled up and passed over to the cashier, who rings you up, asks if you want any drinks or chips and sends you on your merry way.

Prices are pretty San Francisco standard, maybe a little low even; about 5 bucks for a regular no guac no cheese burrito, 6 and a half for a super.  The torta, which is what I ordered, is crazy cheap at just under 5 dollars, that’s for a sandwich that could easily feed two people on a regular day.  They have a fairly good meat selection, all the standards plus cabeza and lengua, which you won’t always find.  No tripas and sesos, sorry.  I’m not quite sure that those are available at any Tenderloin taquerias, but I guess I’ll soon find out.

We packed up our grub and set out to the sea.  We had heard rumors that the weekend would be windy and cold, but the first half of that Saturday was as nice as any I’ve ever seen.  When we got to Angel Island we found out we’d (actually I’d) been duped: while the bike trail was paved and was a mostly easy ride, it was not very near the shore, in fact to get to the trail you had to climb a pretty steep stretch of unpaved switchbacks.  After that though, it was smooth sailing (except for one particularly intense hill rivalling many in San Francisco.  You’ve been warned.)  After our first jaunt around the island we decided to break for lunch.  We sat at a picnic bench under the shade of some eucalyptus trees and got out the spread.

As you can see, they’re a little worse for the wear.  I ended up with a torta partly because I really like tortas, and partly because I believed for some reason that it would hold up better in Steve’s messenger bag than a burrito would.  Turns out that is not the case.

Ugh, all squished.  All the lovely toastiness from the grill was lost.  The torta contains meat, cheese, tomato, lettuce and avocado; none of those items sounded too wet to me, but maybe it was just the steam that was caught in the foil wrap that did it.  The carne asada was still tasty, the avocado still creamy, but in whole it was a little less than fully satisfying.

Doesn’t Steve’s burrito look dry?  It’s still retaining some grill crispness, and the perfectly cooked rice still has some bite to it, distracting from any other mushiness that might be happening.  And it tastes good, even though I am not a huge fan of the grilled chicken at this El Castillito location.  It reminds me of Chinese food chicken, smooth little nuggets of meat, as opposed to the shredded or rough chopped chicken I’m accustomed to in Mexican dishes. 

So, lessons learned.  Next time I’m planning a picnic I’ll pack burritos instead of tortas.  And your lesson learned?  If you’re at City Hall or the Court House, or otherwise in the area and you have a hankering for quality taqueria fare, El Castillito Taqueria is your best bet.  Also, be careful because there are two El Castillitos on Golden Gate, the one this post is about is between Larkin and Hyde.  The other one is between Hyde and Leavenworth.  There seems to be a good Yelp debate going on about which is better, though at this time they both have four star ratings.  A good way to remember which is which is this is the Castillito next to the Wells Fargo ATM, the other one is near to a Bank of America ATM.  Confusing, right?  There are quite a few El Castillitos in San Francisco, I’m not sure of the exact number, but this one is my second favorite.  My first favorite is the one on Church between Market and Duboce. 

El Castillito Taqueria

370 Golden Gate

Their Yelp page

Blogroll Update

Hi y’all; no, no real update yet, though I’m giving you a little tease with the above photo.  I just wanted to alert you that I have updated by blogroll over there with some of my favorite food and SF-centric blogs.  They are sites that I read nearly every day and really enjoy, so I think/hope you might enjoy them as well.  I also wanted to ask for help; I’m always on the lookout for new reading material, so if anyone has any suggestions on good San Francisco material blogs I’d love it if you’d share!  Thanks in advance. 

I’m hoping to get some new restaurant posts up this week, I’ve really been lagging.  I’ve got a couple that are nearly ready to go, and I’m going to try to go out to some new places this week, because I’ll be out of town the last week of this month.  I’ll be in San Diego, and I know that’s pretty far from the Tenderloin, but I will be posting pictures of my eating adventures from the trip to banana hamburger.   banana hamburger is my new tumblr blog where I’m posting photos and thoughts from dining escapades outside the TL.  Probably a good place to go when this blog gets neglected for a while.  There’s a hot tip for ya.

Galaxcy Pizza

I used to be really scared of Galaxcy Pizza.  I have an irrational fear of a lot of pizza places I’ve never been to.  I think it stems mostly from the creeps who hang out at Napoli Pizza on Polk and the pizza places I’ve visited on Haight Street.  That old saying that pizza is like sex, even when it’s bad it’s pretty good; I’ve never believed either side of that equation.  Bad sex and bad pizza: both can be really REALLY bad.  Like scary bad.  I used to walk by Galaxcy Pizza pretty often while on my way to the (now tragically shuttered) Central YMCA.  The whole block of Golden Gate between Hyde and Leavenworth is pretty unpleasant.  One of my favorite stories that I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at is when I walked past a young lady pushing a stroller and a young man asked her if she wanted to smoke out with him.  She stopped and very seriously and sternly said Hell no, she was with her baby!  There was a dramatic pause before she burst and laughing and said “I’m just kidding!  Let’s go!”  It’s sad to see all the kids on the sidewalk throwing footballs and riding scooters around old guys passed out on the ground.  So yeah, I had some negative associations with Galaxcy pizza.  Also, they have a “c” in their name, how weird is that?

One day when I was searching GrubHub for some lunch I decided to check out Galaxcy’s menu and was surprised when it had my mouth-watering and my stomach growling.  All of their special pizzas sounded really good to me, and I liked the naming conventions (they’re all named after a celestial body in our milky way galaxy), it made me think that someone pretty clever was running the joint.  I didn’t end up ordering from Galaxcy that day, but I mentioned to Steve that I was really interested in trying it.  He was down too, saying that he’d heard they had a good happy hour.  We had tickets to see David Byrne at City Arts and Lectures at the Herbst Theater, and we figured that Galaxcy Pizza would be a good pre-show dinner spot.  I met Steve there after work on Tuesday.

The happy hour deal turned out to be $5 dollar pitchers.  Not too shabby, huh?  We started off with a pitcher of Fat Tire.  Check it out, a pitcher of Fat Tire for just 5 bucks!  It’s practically too good to be true!

Oops, that’s because it is.  It’s a teeny tiny pitcher!  We had a good laugh over that, but it still turned out to be a pretty good deal, because we got 2 pints and change out of it. 

Before we go any further, I guess I should talk about my impressions of Galaxcy, especially since I’ve already spent such a long time talking about my “judge a book by its cover” impressions.  Wow.  I was pretty surprised; Galaxcy is really nice inside.  It looks modern and clean, totally not what I expected.  Their trashcan says “Mahalo” for some reason;

I thought that was pretty cute.  They have some cheesy sample home sort of decorations, but for some reason they seemed sweet instead of weird and “trying too hard.”  Also, for the vast majority of our meal we were the only people there.  There were a couple people who came in to pick up take out orders and this cracked out lady:

Who ordered a slice to go, but then I think left and didn’t come back.  So yeah, I was totally off base about this place.  I was completely charmed and we hadn’t even ordered yet.

So let’s get back to the food.  Here’s the list of specials that, as I mentioned before, are named after space stuff:

They all sounded pretty delicious to me, except the sun.  I just can’t get down with pineapple on pizza; Steve thinks I’ll learn to appreciate it when I’m older.  Anyway, the pizzas I was most interested in were the Neptune, the Uranus and the Venus.  We ended up ordering the Venus,  I think because Steve loves pesto.  We were a little surprised that they didn’t have Caesar salad on the menu;

but we shrugged it off and went with the Chicken Salad.

I was again pleasantly surprised by this salad.  All the produce was fresh and tasty and I liked that the dressing came on the side.  I really liked the chicken, but Steve didn’t, which is odd because, if you’ll recall, we had opposite reactions to the chicken at Hank’s Eats.  I found this chicken to be pretty much the same as the chicken at Hank’s with a few important distinctions: this chicken was served warm instead of bizarrely freezing cold, it was moist and flavorful instead of dry and bland, and it was edible.  It was similar in flavor to a McNugget, which is fine by me. 

The pizza arrived

and we both thought it was pretty big for a small.  The blackened bits on the crust were promising, as was the aroma wafting from the pie. 

Yum.  This is definitely one of the best pizzas I’ve had in the Tenderloin, and one of the best from a place that seems to focus mainly on delivery and take out.  The crust was really crispy, not soggy at all and not chewy either, and the pesto and cheese both tasted real.  The combination of toppings worked nearly perfectly, and it was pretty surprising that with the heavy load of veggies the crust stayed so dry.  That was impressive.  The only negative I have is that I would occasionally get a hint of a chlorine-y flavor.  It was something I’ve experienced before and I’m pretty sure the origin was the crust.  I can forgive it though because it was faint and not in every bite. 

So, who knew?  Galaxcy Pizza, despite an oddly placed extra letter and a kind of scary/dirty exterior is a pretty solid place to get a pizza pie.  And check out these delivery deals:

A two topping large pizza for $11.99?  We’re practically getting into Pizza Hut territory here.  I’m looking forward to trying more of Galaxcy’s combos in the future.

Galaxcy Pizza

288 Golden Gate

Lers Ros Thai

I was pretty excited when my dad came to visit.  He had been reading about the new street food explosion going on here and was intrigued by both the food and the way the vendors were using the internet to reach their customer base.  Two things my dad really likes are food and “million dollar ideas.”  Unfortunately for him, twitter was pretty quiet the day he rolled into town; I couldn’t find anything about the carts being out that evening.  So, our main event being derailed, we had to come up with new dinner plans.  Steve and I have a running mental list of places that would be good to take my dad when he’s in town.  I started rattling some off, Magnolia, Laiola, Hard Knox…but without much enthusiasm because I knew if we were going to go too far from my house that my dad would want to drive, and I wasn’t really in the mood for all that hassle.  Dad gets a little aggro driving here, and parking is such a pain most of the time.  Then I had a flash of brilliance.  Lers Ros!  I don’t know why I hadn’t thought before to put Lers Ros on the list because my dad is really into Thai food.  One of his favorite places in Sacramento, where I grew up, is a super tiny hole in the wall Thai place.  I have a vivid memory of going there one summer in my late teens with my dad and a couple of his friends.  It was one of the hottest summers I’d ever lived and the restaurant had no air conditioning.  The guys ordered a bunch of super spicy food and proceeded to eat and sweat and sweat and sweat and sweat…it was pretty gross, but the food was awesome, better than most of the Thai you find in San Francisco. 

So I told dad about how I really liked Lers Ros (Steve and I had eaten there a couple times before) and how it was supposed to be the most authentic Thai food in San Francisco, and how you could get some real spicy stuff there.  He was excited.  He was also excited that our visit would count towards this blog, because he is very supportive of my endeavors (Thanks dad!).  Especially if he thinks there could be a way to monetize them, which is what most of our dinnertime discussion was about.

We kicked it off with a couple of Singhas.  Check out my dad’s gold bracelet, what a baller huh?  We looked over the extensive menu and my dad decided we should order more than the two of us could eat so we could try more dishes.  This is why it kind of sucks to go to a family style restaurant with only two people, unless you are dying for a bunch of leftovers you will probably be filled with regret over what you didn’t order.  I was still kind of regretful that we didn’t get anything off the specials menu:

No venison or alligator for us this time.  One day I’ll have to try it.  Still we ended up with some exciting dishes.  First was the #10, Garlic Quail ($7.95)

Crunchy, bone-filled and garlicky.  SOOOOOOO garlicky.  My favorite part of this dish was actually the deep fried garlic that was left after we devoured all of the quail.  The quail itself was delish too, and I really liked the dipping sauce, it was thick, kind of similar to ketchup, and very salty with a hint of heat, it tasted like it had been made from some sort of preserved vegetable.  I want to eat this as much as possible. 

Our soup came out next, the Tom Yum Koong, #28 ($7.95)

I thought I captured it in this picture but I guess I didn’t, but there was fire coming out of the top of this soup pot!  Very dramatic.  I wanted to order Tom Yum soup instead of the Tom Kha because I like the Tom Kha, but find the richness of the coconut milk based broth to be a little too much for me.  The thin broth of the Tom Yum suits me better.  I was a little surprised then to see the obvious milkiness of this Tom Yum, but though I could see it the flavor and texture of the broth didn’t reflect what I saw.  There was a hint of creaminess, but just a hint.

The flavor of the soup also ignored the presence of whole dried chiles, this soup was more sweet than spicy.  Though it did heat up later, I ate some of the leftover soup when I got home that night and I had to gargle with milk; I thought my lips were going to burn off.  But at the restaurant everything was mild.  The soup was populated with sweet fresh prawns and pale meaty mushrooms of a variety that I am unfamiliar with, but that I’d like to get to know better. 

When the #36, Kang Keaw Wan (green curry with Thai eggplant that we ordered with pork) arrived

I was wondering what the green seeded wedges were.  I thought they might be green tomatoes, the color and crunchiness were similar to that veggie, but the flavor not so much.  I was munching away when my dad mentioned that the eggplant were interesting.  Duh, those green wedges were the Thai eggplant!  I was expecting the purple skinned eggplant you usually see in curries in San Francisco, slimy and slick with oil.  That was why this was the dish we’d ordered that I was least looking forward to, I’m usually not a fan of Thai curries because they tend to be overpoweringly hot bowls of mush.  That was not the case here, there was a slight heat (for some reason nothing we got this trip was very spicy, though in past visits everything has been hot) but the flavor of the curry could still shine through, and, like the eggplant, all of the veggies retained a bit of their fresh bite. 

Our last dish was #79, Rad Nah

My dad had tried to order this dish super Thai hot, but I was pretty sure he wouldn’t get it that way.  I tried to explain to him that the menu description mentioned gravy sauce, and that didn’t, in my experience, mean spicy.  When the dish came out it was even more evident that we wouldn’t be burning our mouths on it.  The appearance of the dish was disconcerting to both of us, it looked like just a big plate of gloop.  I think it turned out being the favorite dish of the meal.  The gravy was rich and not too thick.  The pork was soft and sweet, almost melting in the mouth.  The gui long, or Chinese broccoli, a favorite vegetable of my dad’s, was crunchy and earthy and sweet.  The noodles were perfectly cooked, a little chewy, slippery and with a charred, smoky flavor.  A pretty perfect plate all in all. 

We left Lers Ros totally stuffed and completely content.  I have hardly been able to stop thinking about going back.  I like everything about it, I like the food, I like the space, I like the music they play,  I like the friendly waitresses, I like the young people who eat there.  Lers Ros is one of my favorite restaurants in the Tenderloin, and definitely my favorite Thai restaurant in San Francisco. 

Lers Ros

730 Larkin

They totally deliver!  How awesome is that?

Pearl’s Deluxe Burgers

Is Pearl’s burger the best in San Francisco?  Plenty of people on yelp think so, and I believe it was recently awarded that title at the Great American Food Festival.  I wouldn’t go so far (I am a Bill’s girl through and through) but best burger in the general Tenderloin area?  That is a pretty safe bet. 

Pearl’s Deluxe Burgers is one of my go to spots on a Tuesday or Sunday night, those being the two nights I most often find myself dining alone.  I’m a big fan of the buffalo burgers there, I find the buffalo meat to be so intensely MEATY and juicy and I love the texture of a medium rare buffalo burger.  It’s kind of a bummer that Pearl’s only offers the buffalo meat option for their larger burgers (the one-third pound patties), because often that is too much food for me and after consuming one I find myself groaning that I’ll never eat again.  Still, because I love the buffalo so much and because it’s supposed to be healthier, I keep ordering the larger burgers.

Well, the visit I’m writing about today was different.  Instead of heading to Pearl’s for dinner, I was  looking for something more like an afternoon snack.  I’d been TCB all day and kind of forgot to do lunch when suddenly it’s 4pm and I was supposed to go out and paint the town in a few hours.  I was hungry, but I didn’t want to go too crazy because I knew I’d be eating dinner soon.  So I decided to keep it simple at Pearl’s and try the mini deluxe burger with cheese with a small order of fries on the side.  Sorry I don’t have any pictures of the interior of Pearl’s, I wasn’t planning on field research so I didn’t have my camera.  I can tell you that Pearl’s is really really tiny, maybe six tables in a space that would better fit four.  I’d suggest ordering take out.  The people who work at Pearl’s are so sweet, I almost always end up talking to them about something totally random while I’m waiting for my food.  This visit the cashier was nice, but we didn’t end up chatting, so I got to listen to a couple hipster dudes talk about jerking off at The Lusty Lady.  Nice!  My order came up, I put a bunch of pickle spears in one of the provided wax paper bags (unlimited free pickles, so awesome) and headed home with my loot.

I was pretty surprised by how cheaply I got out of Pearl’s, because usually my tab is more like 15 bucks, but that’s with the regular size burger and the buffalo upgrade (omigod, how bored are you yet of reading buffalo?  sorry!), and this time  I made it out of there under seven dollars, which is pretty good anywhere.  I was pumped and anxious to chow down.

Ooh baby you lookin’ good.  What a color on those fries!  When I say golden that’s what I’m talkin’ about.

I was totally taken with this mini burger.  Isn’t it adorable?  I was like “Squee!  This is the cutest burger I’ve ever seen!!!!” and then I took about a million pictures of it.  Look how tiny it is, like a gourmet McDonalds burger!

So tiny! 

There were two really amazing things about this burger, beyond how adorable it was.  1) It had amazing beefy flavor, and did that thing where you get a bite in your mouth and before any food even touches your tongue a moist, beefy aroma hits the back of the roof of your mouth.  I know it sounds gross, but it is so rare and amazing.  2) This burger was put together perfectly.  The patty fit precisely inside the bun, no overhang and everything stayed together to the last bite.  No dripping condiments, no sliding tomatoes, no onions dangling.  It was shocking to be honest.  I can’t remember the last time I ate a burger and didn’t end up with food all over myself. 

THESE FRIES ARE THE SHIT.  Can I just say that?  Totally yummy fries.  Crispy, velvety, salty…a perfect storm of carbohydrates and oil.  Way to go Pearl’s.   I’ve also had Pearl’s garlic fries in the past and those do not disappoint, though I’m not super keen on their sweet potato fries.  I want to try their onion rings again, I think they were good but it’s been a while…

If you want a hamburger in the Tenderloin, especially if you don’t want to go out but you don’t feel like cooking I recommend Pearl’s wholeheartedly.  I think you’ll like it too. 

Pearl’s Deluxe Burgers

708 Post

(I think it’s pretty cute that their website has nothing but a link to their latest reviews, which are newspaper reviews from 2004.  Also, the reviews are all for their location in Mill Valley.  But also, get a real website dudes!)