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Devouring Dogpatch: A Historic Neighborhood Comes Into its Own

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dogpatch neighborhood in san franciscoMen's Journal recently dubbed it one of America's best neighborhoods. The San Francisco Chapter of the Hells Angels is still there, and it may not be in your tourist guidebook. Nonetheless, the Dogpatch neighborhood is getting a lot of buzz lately. Where the heavy industry used to be, a burgeoning arts district and dining scene has popped up--particularly around the intersection of 22nd and 3rd. In 2003, the neighborhood was voted an official historic district of San Francisco--helped by the fact that it was relatively untouched by the 1906 earthquake and fire.

The Dogpatch is a nine square-block area below and to the East of Potrero Hill. More specifically, it's bounded by Mariposa Street to the North, Tubbs Street (23rd) to the South, Highway 280 to the West, and Illinois Street to the East. Part of its growth and popularity can certainly be attributed to its proximity to Potrero Hill, SOMA and downtown--and to the lightrail constructed a few years ago. Currently there is a lively debate regarding land-use issues, and worker's cottages and historic homes are being overshadowed by loft-style condos and the looming biotech industry. But never fear: its gritty, urban veneer is alive and well. So before you try to predict what will become of one of the last authentic neighborhoods in San Francisco, cruise around the Dogpatch for a handcrafted latte, a quaint Sunday brunch, or a sandwich at a pop-up lunch venue.

piccino coffee bar

Piccino Coffee Bar: My favorite city is Paris. And on the rare San Francisco afternoon, strolling along a quiet side street, discovering a sweet little bakery or street-side flower shop, I’ll have a "Paris" moment. I had such a moment recently while aimlessly walking around the Dogpatch listening to the new "Where the Wild Things Are" soundtrack (amazing) and marveling at the unusually hot temperature (like close neighbor Potrero Hill, the Dogpatch is often the sunniest, warmest spot in the city). The first thing to notice about Piccino Coffee Bar is its minimalism: it's essentially a coffee counter with a small but lovely selection of crumbly scones, biscotti, muffins, housemade yogurt, hardboiled farm-fresh eggs, and grab-and-go sandwiches. And of course, coffee--and Blue Bottle coffee, at that. There isn't any seating and they have a big front window that opens in the afternoons, releasing wafts of richly roasted coffee.

It's always really nice when you fall in love with a spot only to learn later that they're committed to using sustainable products and sourcing from local artisans whenever possible--and that they deeply care about their impact on the community. Such is the case with Piccino Coffee Bar. A few of the local vendors they use include Fatted Calf, Andante Diary, Prather Ranch, and Star Route Farms. The standout beverage? The mocha. And let me just say I'm really not a mocha kind of girl. As I enter my (gasp) 30's, I need the strong punch of black coffee in the morning--or sometimes I'll opt for the occasional Americano or latte. But a mocha always seems more like dessert, more frivolous than utilitarian. However, Piccino's isn't cloyingly sweet and still tastes of strong, bold espresso. So many other coffeehouses rely on chocolate made with added sugars and thickeners, but Piccino Coffee Bar uses a special Recchiuti chocolate blend specially designed for them. They actually hand melt it in your cup. Last time I checked, Starbucks wasn't providing that service. And I love that they're not messing around with the caffeine: a small 8 oz. latte automatically comes with two shots. That's what I’m talking about first thing Monday morning.

To remember what a neighborhood coffee shop is really like, stroll into Piccino Coffee Bar. It's not fast, the whole ordering process is a little disorganized, you may wonder why they don’t have more than one person making drinks. But quaint, legitimate neighborhood coffee shops that focus on the quality and the craft of the drink are a dying breed. Do yourself a favor: remind yourself what they're like.


Piccino Coffee Bar
801 22nd St., SF
(415) 824-4224
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 7am-5pm; Sat.-Sun. 8am-5pm

kitchenette SF

Kitchenette SF
Lunch is having its day in the sun right now. Whether you prefer the carts, counters, bike delivery salumi dudes--it's all out there. But you also get the sense that, while unique and undeniably cool, many of these trends are fleeting. However, Douglas Monsalud and crew at Kitchenette SF serve beautifully constructed sandwiches, a few side salads, a "cookie of the moment," and a housemade beverage from a menu that changes daily--and I can guarantee you, they're here to stay. While the location is unassuming (a loading dock in an industrial strip in the Dogpatch), the food is anything but.

I invited my dad to come along and get a bite to eat recently. He appreciates new neighborhoods, thoughtful food, and innovative design--and I'd heard that Kitchenette SF had all three. Now, first things first: it's tucked away and not easy to find. But sometimes the things you have to really search for taste all the sweeter. We ended up parking before we spotted it, opting to find it on foot rather than driving around the block...again. You'll know you're getting warmer when you see a chalkboard sign out on the sidewalk. Cruise into the loading dock where smells of warm cookies commingle with the noises of businesses unloading goods and trucks backing in to make a delivery. There are some stairs leading into Kitchenette SF's loading dock and a little counter displaying the daily specials. After you order, linger and wait for your name to be called or head down the steps to snag a coveted bench, scattered haphazardly amongst the concrete below. It's all very urban. It's a little hipster. If the food weren’t good, I might think it was a little too cool for school.

I ordered the Marin Sun Farms' pork schnitzel sandwich with braised cabbage and pink lady apples, a peanut butter/butterscotch cookie, and organic strawberry soda with local seltzer. We shared a bag of 4505 chicharrones (ah, after being a vegetarian for twelve years, nothing makes up for lost time like a bag of salty pig skin). The sandwich had a perfect balance of flavors: a crunch and sweetness from the apple, a little kick from the braised cabbage, a light and chewy Acme roll. Although I write about food often, I can't say that sandwiches often bowl me over. That being said, I talked about this sandwich for days afterwards.

More recently, I snuck away from work and ordered the "Warehouse Picnic," consisting of fried Rocky Jr. chicken, a deviled egg, potato salad, corn-jalapeno salad, pasta salad with tomato vinaigrette, farmstead cheese, and Acme bread. Summer perfectly encapsulated in a box. Kitchenette SF has seriously redefined fast food. It's all organic, and most of the ingredients are sourced from local farms--Monsalud says he actually hits up the farms on his days off and, in addition to knowing where the food comes from, he often even knows which row! There's a very deep connection to the origin and meaning of the food they serve--and it shows. Check their website or twitter feed to get information on the daily menu.

Kitchenette SF
958 Illinois, SF.
Twitter: @kitchenettesf
Hours: Mon.-Fri., 11:30am-1:30pm

serpentine interior

My friend Anthony was visiting from New York about a month ago, and I was trying to show him a very authentic San Francisco beyond the obvious tourist attractions. Anthony's a little hipster. You know the type: tight jeans, spectacles, deliberately messy hair, and a faux-leather satchel bag. So I was trying to introduce him to spots that were a little edgy, a little grungy, a little off the radar. Enter: the Dogpatch and Serpentine.

Owned by Erin Rooney (of Slow Club fame), Serpentine is located in the former warehouse of a tin-can factory boiler's room. Because of its high ceilings, large windows, and sea glass fixtures, it almost feels more like a large artist's loft rather than a bustling place of business. Adding to that whimsical feeling: much of the normal din of a restaurant is missing. Mid-day on a sunny Sunday and it was crowded but strangely quiet. It's got to have something to do with the acoustics of the building--regardless, I have to say, with constant refills of coffee and good conversation, we could've sat there all day enjoying the peaceful morning.

Now, for the food. I am often prone to hyperbole. I'm not sure where I got this trait, but for those that know me, it's a very real fact. But believe me when I tell you that the dish I had at Serpentine was the most perfect brunch dish I've ever had. Although their menu is seasonal, the "Red Flannel Hash" seems to be a staple. It consists of chunks of beautifully roasted beets, potatoes, Prather Ranch beef brisket, two poached eggs, and spinach. It's filling but not in a 'stack of pancakes' kind of way. More in a fresh, balanced, satiated kind of way.

Serpentine red flannel hash

We also tried the Alaskan sockeye salmon benedict with fried green tomatoes, pickled red onion, and lemon cucumber. We were definitely bummed that the fried green tomatoes were noticeably absent, but the salmon was cooked perfectly and the hollandaise sauce was surprisingly light and creamy. We also tried the buckwheat strawberry pancakes. Now I'm one of those people that doesn't like to order something at a restaurants that I can make well at home. Pancakes fall into that category. But something is different about Serpentine's flapjacks: they actually have large pieces of strawberry cooked into them, and are served with lots of butter and incredibly rich syrup.

All in all, the food was seasonal, conscious, and well executed. This may be my new favorite brunch spot as it seems the usual see-and-be-seen weekend crowd hasn't yet descended, so there isn't an obscenely long wait and you don't feel guilty lingering over numerous cups of coffee. Which is exactly what we did. Anthony went back to Brooklyn satiated--and hungry to return.

2495 3rd St., SF.
(415) 252-2000
Brunch: Sat and Sun: 10:00am-2:30pm
Lunch: Mon - Fri: 11:30am-2:30pm
Dinner: Tues - Sat: 6:00pm-10:00pm

Just For You exterior

Just For You Cafe
I've been on a bit of a beignet binge lately. Blame it on the cooler mornings and evenings, the fact I'm training for a marathon and feel entitled to eat whatever (and whenever I'd like), or the depressing economy--whatever the reason, I've been turning to little fried pillows of dough for comfort.

And Just For You Cafe is coming through for me. This neighborhood spot used to be located on 18th St. in Potrero Hill, but in 2002 they moved to their current location in the Dogpatch. Their tagline: "We served slow food before it was popular." And they're not kidding: they use local charcuterie and Zoe's all natural meats, eggs from Petaluma farms, the bread they don't make on-site they buy from Acme, and the seafood and produce is mostly all local. Their emphasis is on Southern and American style cooking, with specialties like Hatch green chili huevos rancheros, creamy grits, and Creole crab cakes.

A few weeks ago, I was over that way visiting a friend and we decided to pop in after seeing the prominent "Beignets" sign in the window. It was pretty darn crowded--people bring their dogs, toddlers, the Sunday paper, out-of-town parents...and all gather waiting for a table indoors. Thankfully they provide a free coffee cart outside so you can fill up a cup and hang out on the curb. Life could be much worse.

Just For You beignets

We waited about a half hour, and were eventually seated at this little booth table all the way to the back of the restaurant. Right by the kitchen--on an unusually hot day. Nothing like a little sweat on the brow to inspire heavy beignet consumption. But we managed. Just For You Cafe serves a plate of three beignets, self-proclaimed "fresh, fluffy pillows of perfection." I would have to agree. While their beignets definitely have a little more heft than others served throughout the city, they are worth the trip. After years and years in business, they've perfected the perfect dusting of powdered sugar and the light brown, buttery exterior. Eat them right when they arrive warm: our table noticed once they cooled down, they became a bit chewy (not really what you want in your "fluffy pillow of perfection").

In addition to our little pockets of fried dough, we tried the "Crabby Bennie," Louisiana sausage, and biscuits. The Creole crabcake atop the traditional eggs benedict rocked. I love a good crabcake--and they're surprisingly tough to find. But here it's all about the crab (versus all about the breadcrumbs, leaving you wondering if there's even any crab present). And the biscuits, while we both felt they could've been lighter and flakier, had a nice crumb and traditional baking soda flavor. So while it looks like a typical greasy spoon from the outside (and inside, really), this little diner's got class. Owner Arienne Landry's proving that, with quality ingredients and local products, Southern comfort food can be mastered right here in the Bay Area.

Just For You Cafe
732 22nd, SF.
(415) 647-3033
Hours: Mon.-Tue. 7:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
Wed.-Fri. 7:30 a.m.-9:00 p.m. (now serving dinner)
Sat.-Sun. 8:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
Cash only

Featured Recipe:

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies w/Butterscotch Chips
From Kitchenette SF
7.5 oz butter
6 7/8 oz organic sugar
6 7/8 oz brown sugar
6 2/3 oz. peanut butter
2/3 oz. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
4 2/3 oz. oats
10 oz. organic flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp salt
10 oz butterscotch chips

Cream together the butter, sugars, peanut butter, and vanilla extract. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in the remaining ingredients, mixing completely. Use an ice cream scoop to make portion cookies onto a lined cookie sheet.

Small Cookies: Bake in a still oven (375 degrees) for 6-8 minutes, rotating the pan for even cooking.
Larger Cookies: bake at 350 degrees for 9-12 minutes.

Other Spots to Pop Into:
Hard Knox Cafe: 2526 3rd St., SF. (415) 648-3770
Sundance Coffee: 2293 3rd St., SF. (415) 503-1446
The New Spot: 632 20th St., SF. (415) 558-0556
Yield Wine Bar: 2490 3rd St., SF. (415) 401-8984


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