It continues to be a tough time in the restaurant industry in San Francisco, with so many sad closures. But it also means that only the strong or beloved (or well-funded) may survive. Since restaurants need diners to keep coming back, let’s review some things they can do to keep us happy to return. (Plus a little something we need to do, too.) It’s a new decade—let’s shine.
- I’m done with all the goddamn steakhouses and A5 and wagyu. There are more than enough places peddling beef, really. It’s starting to get revolting. I thought we were moving toward a more plant-based way of doing things. Nope, instead, A5 is trying to edge out omakase as the latest expression of our city’s excessive wealth, but it’s a lot less interesting. Mooooot.
- Gold leaf adorning everything fits right along with all the wagyu, the latest ingredient in our gilded age. Because the quenelle of caviar just isn’t luxurious enough on its own.
- Since I’m complaining about luxury, I’d like to call for an end to pâtes de fruit as part of the mignardises service at the end of every single tasting menu. Who actually loves those sugary, gelatinous bites? They’re almost always too sweet, with cloying fruity flavors—not exactly the way I’d like to end my meal. (Thanks for the diabetes and cavities!) Based on all the leftover squares I see on tables, I know I’m not alone in my disaffection for the mouthful of sparkly jam.
- Now let’s flip the switch and bitch about something I’m seeing in fast-casual restaurants that only adds to the bleakness of the experience: serving an entrée on a silver metal tray. You know, the rectangular metal trays with a little lip around the edge, usually with a paper liner. For a burger and fries, fine, but for everything else, there are other serving options! This doesn’t need to feel like meal time at San Quentin. Pretty soon, I’m going to start banging them on the table and yelling, “Attica! Attica!”
- I was also ready to riot when a deli in North Beach served me an Italian combo with mustard and mayo. Madonn’. Bottled Italian dressing is disgusting enough (don’t try to sneak that Hidden Valley BS on me—I always ask if they use a housemade vinaigrette) but the yellow mustard and mayo was enough to almost make me call Frankie Carbonara to pay someone a little visit, pronto. There needs to be an Italian combo inspector in the city, issuing fix-it tickets for all the atrocities committed against this classic sub. Basta, or you get some cement shoes!
- With all the ramen we’re swimming in, I can’t believe how many shops get the ajitama tamago/marinated egg wrong. So often, it comes out totally cold in the middle. Oh yeah, nothing like an ice-cold yolk in my hot bowl of ramen. Chef, I know the city won’t let you keep the egg sitting out, but there has to be a better way to warm that fucker up before plunking that ice cube into my bowl of noodles. And then there are the shops that just do a boiled egg, and it comes out with the blue ring. COME ON, kitchen basics here. Strive for eggcellence.
- We gotta talk about the sandos. The Japanese-style ones on milk bread, with a cutlet inside, or egg salad, or cream and fruit (hmmm). When they’re good, they’re so good—we’re talking housemade milk bread and a perfect katsu—but there are a bunch of mediocre ones being made (primarily for the Insta) and I’m bored. Side note: hey grammers, if it doesn’t taste good, don’t post it.
- The straw shituation. Every restaurant should have a stash of plastic straws (or even better: bamboo, or straw, or metal) for patrons with disabilities. As for these paper straws that fall apart in two minutes, a hard no. Don’t even serve them, seriously. There are other options out there, please source them. As for me, I carry my own metal straw in my purse, problem solved.
- The delivery shituation. Delivery is fraught with issues and complicated. But what shouldn’t be so complicated is what to pack everything up in. I can’t believe the excessive packaging and non-compostable plastic forks (silverware should be by request only!) and those all-in-one, plastic divider trays with the snap lids should be banished forever. Chinese food containers that still have the metal handle—why? So much waste. It’s time for a citywide delivery inspector as well.
So, yeah, that delivery shituation. I get it, it’s an amazing thing to get a pepperoni pizza from The Pizza Shop delivered to your door when you’re hungover or sick or it’s raining out or you’re home from work late (or on deadline, which is what happens to me). Less people have cars, which is a good thing. And there are now businesses designed and optimized for delivery, which I have slightly less guilt about patronizing and ordering from (and promoting), but it’s not the only kind of restaurant we should have (although it’s quickly becoming what we deserve).
Delivery should be an occasional convenience, not a way of life. Here’s one change you can make: do you want the salad or burrito or burger that’s at a place a few blocks away from you? Just go get it. It’ll save the restaurant the hefty percentage they’re paying the delivery app, and just may save the restaurant. (Green Chile Kitchen, RIP.) We’re becoming a city of shut-ins. Go see the people who make your food. (Or try making your own dinner?) Meet your neighbors. We gotta focus less on convenience, and more on long-term sustainability. Especially for the month of January—it’s never a good time for restaurants. Go visit them in person. I hope to see you there.
If you want to see my past 12 years of kvetches about truffle oil and activated charcoal and eating for the Insta, you can read past issues of the bore here.
Thank you for not depending upon delivery and generating more plastic. Photo: © tablehopper.com.