Port Deli, at the corner of 16th Street and Sanchez (next to Joseph Schmidt Chocolates), may be for sale, but co-owner Janet Shou is neither confirming nor denying it. She and her brother have owned the place “for about six or seven years,” she says, and other than an ill-fated foray into serving dinner (since ended), the deli has built a reputation as one of the better purveyors of food (sandwiches, baked goods, salads, and egg dishes) in the Castro. That's like being one of the tallest buildings in Podunk, but still.
The Shous also own the Tumbleweed Cafe, at Van Ness and Sutter. It serves food similar to Port Deli's, but in what Shou describes as “1950s decor.” The siblings have been involved in that enterprise for “three or four years,” according to Shou. (Surely she knows exactly how long she's owned these businesses; why the fuzziness?)
Questions from the benign and docile Dish about the potential transaction plainly leaves Shou uneasy.
“Do you want to buy it?” she blurts out at one point.
“I don't know,” Dish replies, quite unprepared for the question. Numbers are not discussed. Anyway there is at least one local restaurateur seriously interested in the property.
Will regular customers panic at the thought that Port Deli might change hands? Or will they hope and suspect, as Dish already does, that if the deal goes through, the new owner will make a good eatery even better? There's plenty of room for good food in the Castro — a desert very much in need of more oases.
Paella sin Plastic
The stretch of 16th Street from Mission to Guerrero shows signs of becoming the city's Little Spain. Joining Paella La Movida is (a block away) Picaro Cafe — a brightly lit, spacious, and informal spot that serves a variety of tapas and paellas, as well as bocadillos, little $2 sandwiches that resemble the panini of Italy.
Warning: Picaro takes only cash, no plastic. It's a retro and self-destructive policy, but at least the cafe is straightforward about it. The menu is festooned with reminders to fatten your wallet before ordering. Dish learned the hard way, so you won't have to.
The people at McCormick Spices are getting into the “easy meal” act. They're introducing what they call “Bag'n'Season” — which seems to be something like Shake 'n Bake, with the addition of a disposable roasting bag. On the plus side, you get to roast your own chicken. On the minus side, the first three ingredients in the seasoning mix are maltodextrin, salt, and potato starch. Bon appetit!
By Paul Reidinger