Sammy's Aloha Pops Up on the Embarcadero

San Francisco's cool bayside breezes may be far from the sunny shores of the Big Island, but that doesn't stop lines from forming outside Sammy's Aloha. Occupying a curbside corner of the takeout window at Butterfly on Pier 33, this casual Hawaiian-style pop-up serves a unique take on the usual Hawaiian suspects like kalua pork and loco moco.

It's no surprise the venue's namesake, Sammy Kong Kee, holds contest-winning titles for his poke recipes. The ahi poke rice bowl ($9) is a favorite, served with either Thai black sticky rice or Yomegokochi white rice. Similar to a chopped salad, the avocado, radish, and cucumber in the poke bowl bring a freshness to complement both the ahi and the briny flavors of a salmon roe garnish. Wasabi coulis adds a dash of heat. Top it with a poached egg, a rich addition to an otherwise light tuna dish.

The Ono BBQ chicken sandwich ($8) is a solid lunchtime option if you'd like to err on the side of turf over surf. This sandwich features house-baked milk buns stacked with a sweet Hawaiian-style BBQ chicken and fixings familiar to a banh mi, including pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro, and (the near cult-favorite status) Kewpie mayo. One fixing that might be unfamiliar: sweet shishito peppers.

Sammy's Aloha also offers “Bao” stuffed buns ($4) with some options: mushroom (with bacon, brie, and white truffle), kalua pig (with spicy gochujang), and one sweet option of haupia and banana. The kalua pig bao's airy, sweet milk bun is dense with pulled pork stuffing and dripping with a mildly spiced red sauce.

Whatever you get, supplement it with a side of Spammy Fries ($4). Squares of sushi rice are fried and crisped, then topped with shavings of — you guessed it — Hormel's finest. Salmon roe and sweet and spicy sauces complete the dish.

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