A lot of my job entails waiting: on Caltrain as I head to spots in the Peninsula, with bated breath at my computer as restaurant reservations are released en masse, and in so many lines at hot new restaurants. I’m an American, through and through, so I find waiting really hard. For instance, when I heard that Tsuta, a new ramen shop in San Francisco, had a wait of an hour or more when it opened, I was more than happy to sit that one out for a few months. (The lines did eventually abate, but not for great reasons, as I outline in this week’s review.)
So for that reason, I’ve made a habit of keeping a book in my bag especially for those restaurant lines. The best thing about doing this? That book has actually made those waits feel much more memorable. Here are the one’s that have kept me going.
“They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us,” by Hanif Abdurraqib
I showed up at Swan Oyster Depot with a hankering for seafood at 11 a.m., which is a chump time to do so. But this book took me out of it entirely. Abdurraqib, a poet and music critic who came up as a black punk in middle America, zips from culture to counterculture in this collection of snackable essays. He’s got the chops to write about anybody, from Carly Rae Jepson to The Boss to Chance the Rapper.
“Delicious in Dungeon,” by Ryoko Kui
It’s funny how Gracias Madre, a vegan Mexican restaurant, generates some of the longest wait times out of all the restaurants in the Mission. It goes to show how hungry (sorry) folks are for excellent vegan food, which the restaurant has plenty of. (Go for the torta with chorizo.) Ironically, my wait was made way better by this extremely un-vegan book. It’s a Japanese fantasy comic wherein a team of adventurers traveling through a dungeon full of monsters must survive by eating them. That means dragons, cockatrices, slimes and more gross stuff.
“Thick: And Other Essays,” by Tressie McMillan Cottom
If you love witnessing other people be really freaking smart and do intellectual cartwheels all day, Thick is the perfect book for you. Cottom’s collection of essays on race and womanhood is thrilling and incisive; she’s a thinker with few equals. In that way, reading her while waiting in line at Tartine, a bakery that also has few equals, felt really right. Not that watching the Sunday morning Valencia Street crowd isn’t its own kind of excitement.
Best song I heard in a restaurant
Living Space by John Coltrane at Utzutzu
In this low-key sushi bar in Alameda, where beautiful pieces of nigiri are presented by chef Joji Nonaka with very little fanfare, the soundtrack represents a vibrant contrast in tone. Coltrane’s stream-of-consciousness style is scattered and surprising, almost trippy in the way the instruments meet and diverge in turns.
What I’m eating
I always get excited for mushrooms, especially the wild ones. So at Cotogna in Jackson Square, I jumped on the chance to have pizza with chanterelles, Walla Walla onions and pecorino romano cheese. The sweetness of the onions, not caramelized but just softened up, was a lovely contrast to the chanterelles’ earthy qualities.
Another awesome mushroom dish is the empanada at Prubechu, the new Guamanian restaurant in the Mission. The masa pastry was so flaky and delicious! Sharing it was difficult, emotionally.
• I’ve been wondering what was going on with all the wagyu beef in this town, and Justin Phillips has the story. Turns out, it’s tariffs! I honestly love food reporting that breaks down the unsexy side of trends.
• The idea that coffee shops can be party to gentrification isn’t a new one, but Los Angeles public radio station KCRW lays out how three LA shops’ aesthetics signal whom they’re meant to serve. I love these examples, which include commentary by barista and coffee business consultant Michelle Johnson, AKA the Chocolate Barista.
• Maybe it’s because I have a big bag of russet potatoes in my pantry, but I feel like this Polish potato dumpling recipe by Allison Robicelli came along at just the perfect time. Included are some very funny and honest thoughts about size terminology in recipes. What is a “medium” onion these days, anyway? Has anyone else noticed that they seem to be getting bigger?
Bite Curious is a weekly newsletter from The Chronicle’s restaurant critic, Soleil Ho, delivered to inboxes on Monday mornings. Follow along on Twitter: @Hooleil
Source: Thanks https://www.sfchronicle.com/restaurants/article/Wait-in-line-at-that-new-restaurant-Bring-these-14984803.php