Sunday, March 15, 2009

Nooooo Reservations: What Would Tony Eat?

Word on the street says Tony is coming to the city next weekend to begin filming the long overdue SF episode for the current season. Both Mikey and I are committed fans of the show (Mikey more so than me), much like the rest of the world. After the wealth of episodes I've watched I think we kind of understand the evolution of his tastes and what he seeks. Of course, it's all speculation, because it's not like we know the guy (I wish). With that said, where will Tony eat when he's here, considering that there has never been an SF episode? What restaurants/food-related places define this city? For someone who has traveled all over the world, where can he go that will be unique to the rest of the globe?

Some unsurprising destinations would be...
- Incanto, possibly for a head to tail dinner with fellow pig-lover Chris Cosentino
- the Ferry Building/Farmer's Market
- a taco truck in the mission
- Chinatown, maybe even a stop at Golden Gate Bakery
- some Californian cuisine establishment, like Zuni or Chez Panisse to verbally combat Alice Waters

Here are two less obvious places where I think he should definitely go to, and why:

1. San Tung

Sure, this restaurant isn't necessarily mind-blowing (although some people are completely in love with their wings), but I feel like the food and its patrons reflect the city well. Tony likes establishments with history and rich stories, meaning and value in their off-the-beaten-path glory. San Tung is a purely local restaurant, filled with families, yuppies, grad students, food-lovers, and even a few non-Asians that may or may not call the plate of kimchi an "amuse bouche." The bay area is largely Asian and Asian American, and the northern Chinese/Korean-influenced cuisine of the shandong province (close to South Korea) is also something Tony hasn't tasted in his five seasons. The food is simple, humble, but so good and so satisfying. Honestly, who doesn't like it?? Here's the story behind the restaurant:

Behind this restaurant are Mrs. Chu and her son, Frank. Mrs. Chu, who immigrated to San Francisco from Korea as an ambitious Chinese entrepreneur, runs the business side. Frank’s father had a serious medical condition 10 years ago that forced Frank to leave school at Skyline Community College, where he was studying to be an auto mechanic. Although Frank sacrificed his dream to own a mechanic shop, he is enjoying the success of the family restaurant. Amazingly, San Tung amassed great popularity without advertisement; Frank credits fresh food and loyal customers, who in return have generated business from rave word-of-mouth reviews. (source)
2. Mission Street Food
If you keep up with the SF food scene, there's pretty much no way you haven't heard of this. I've been a few times, and see no reason to discontinue my occasional visits, depending on the menus. Although this is the more likely of my two suggestions to make it onto the show, I still wouldn't necessarily add it to the "unsurprising destinations" list, even if it has been getting a lot of press lately. This is no ordinary "underground food movement," and is very much unlike your other roaming restaurants or pop-ups. What makes MSF special is not just the stripped-down food-focused [un]intentional hipster irony of being in a slightly run-down Chinese restaurant... but it's really about community. MSF is about collaboration, and bringing community together through good food, and perhaps more importantly, through the process behind that food. The menus are developed and executed by people from all around the city, using ingredients sometimes from backyards (like herbs). The community aspect also extends to where the money goes - all profits to charity. Why would Tony go here? Because MSF is as much, if not more, about San Francisco and its people as it is about the food it serves.

Hm I pretty much just wrote two voluntary endorsements, but these two "restaurants" really make me proud to be a San Franciscan. THAT is why Tony should go there!

1 comment:

Margaret said...

I watched the US/Mexico border episode and it was boring. I think I just like watching people MAKE food. Watching people EAT food is not that interesting.