Fry Me a River

Grub

It seems to me that every human being I know lives in, on, or around the Duboce Triangle, the pivotal San Francisco neighborhood of the new millennium. In fact, the Triangle and its environs are so densely populated with my friends and acquaintances that I'm always a bit startled to see actual living people in North Beach, the Mission, and other outlying areas. The chief landmark is the sprawling Safeway at Market and Church, but the surrounding neighborhood boasts other points of interest. The U.S. Mint creaks and hums and spits out collectible coins. Another Mint, this one a karaoke bar, showcases wannabe Streisands of unvarying egomania. Dining options just beyond the Triangle are especially varied, among them the low-maintenance, down-home offerings of Chow; the hip Asian noshes at Tin Pan; Zao Noodle Bar's cheap, carb-rich fare; and now, at 16th and Sanchez, Grub.

Grub ("Eat," "Dine," "Spoon," "Fork," and "Chow" were already taken, and "Vittles" has too many syllables) opened this past fall in the one-time quarters of the Port Cafe, a popular Cuban/breakfast joint, and the physical transformation is impressive. The long, low-slung room is simple and funky, with stylish postmodern accents. Bare wooden tables, linoleum floors, and cranberry walls contrast with a concrete wine bar backed in luminous red and black. Tall tabletop planters act as topiary dividers between groups of diners; globelike bundles of white lights wrapped in wire provide illumination; and a small area near the entrance offers a triangular coffee table and sectional sofa for lounging. Broad windows look out on the Sanchez foot traffic, and colorful examples of optical-illusion art hang here and there. Between the layout and the trendy moniker and the menu -- sake martinis, asiago-stuffed olive poppers, blue corn-flake fried chicken, mango cobbler -- you might conclude that Grub is the sort of place where hip young innovators gather to reinvent, or at least redefine, American hash house cuisine. Well ...

One of the earliest examples of this fusion-diner genre was Mill Valley's late, lamented Avenue Grill, which served up excellent burgers, martinis, and Caesar salads until it closed earlier this month. At the Avenue you might've found sashimi, braised fennel, mango mustard, and other cutting-edge ingredients alongside your oysters on the half shell, meatloaf, or chocolate cake, but the professionalism of the kitchen was never in doubt and the basic mandate of California cuisine -- lots of fresh local produce presented with wit and balance -- was seldom disregarded. This isn't presently the case at Grub. One rarely encounters any member of the vegetable kingdom; the place doesn't appear to have a unifying culinary theme (except, perhaps, the deep fryer); and although there are several good ideas expressed on the menu, most of them are indifferently executed.

Looks Are Deceiving: The transformation of the stylish Grub is impressive, but its food sounds better than it tastes.
Anthony Pidgeon
Looks Are Deceiving: The transformation of the stylish Grub is impressive, but its food sounds better than it tastes.

Details

Open for lunch Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; for brunch Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; and for dinner Tuesday through Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m.

Reservations accepted

Wheelchair accessible

Parking: possible

Muni: F, J, K, L, M

Noise level: high

Olive poppers -- $5.50
Mushroom wontons -- $7
Smothered pork chop -- $12.20
Teriyaki steak -- $13
Funnel cake sundae -- $6
Purple Haze -- $5.50
Poppy Jasper ale -- $4.40/bottle

3499 16th St. (at Sanchez), 552-7645

Related Stories

More About

As indicated above, the folks at Grub like their Fry Daddy -- man alive, do they like their Fry Daddy. I haven't eaten so much fried food since a two-day artery-blocker of a trip to Nashville back in 1995. You don't expect to find a whole lot of fried food in health-conscious California, but fully half of Grub's dinner items get the ol' Colonel Sanders treatment. A good example is the Grubin' Dough, a hot, puffy sopaipilla served with Gorgonzola butter for added fatty goodness. Despite the delectable potential, it's all crunch, oil, and air pockets without much flavor or depth. The asiago-stuffed olive poppers are a better bet at hors d'oeuvre time: hot, crusty spheres of deep-fried cheese and briny black olives with plenty of zip and no oily aftertaste. Equally hefty are the wontons, mushrooms stuffed with Parmesan and chorizo, then wrapped in dough, fried 'til crisp, and served with sour cream. You could also start your meal with the garlic-chive french fries, OK shoestrings with an occasional snap. If you'd like to avoid the whole burbling-oil concept, there's the garlic-garbanzo dip, a pleasant enough hummus with a chunky texture. None of the starters is feathery enough to cleanse and stimulate the palate, however. The Caesar salad, for example, is glopped up with an overly creamy, Parmesan-heavy dressing, and the house bruschetta adds a thick slice of rubbery brie to doughy bread and soft tomatoes, rendering the whole thing spongy and sodden.

Further density is available at entree time. The Mika Rolls sound edgy and terrific: garlic shrimp spring rolls with coconut white rice, accompanied by avocado and asparagus tempura to dip in wasabi mayo and teriyaki ginger sauce. As it turns out, the rolls are practically flavorless as well as heavily rendered and the rice is sweet rather than coconutty. In addition, deep-frying an avocado, already the richest fruit imaginable, is overkill. Another missed opportunity is the blue corn-flake fried chicken breast. The chicken is flattened until absolutely skinny, breaded to no discernible culinary effect, and fried until dry and dull. The mushroom gravy makes for a nice moist counterpoint, but the mashed potatoes are unexciting and the stuffing thick and listless. The only hint of vegetation is an occasional shard of zucchini. The pork chop is somewhat better: tender, pleasantly fatty, and served with grilled slices of Granny Smith apple. But the meatloaf is a big slab of fried hamburger with no onion, herb, or spice to recommend it, and the two pasta dishes -- a goopy chicken scampi (sans prawns) and a standard-issue vegetarian penne (sans a whole lot of vegetables) -- are unmemorable. The teriyaki steak, on the other hand, is quite tasty despite its half-inch bulk. It's juicy, served medium-rare as requested, and accompanied by a smoky, sweet, fire-roasted green chili pepper.

1
 
2
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 
©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.
Loading...