Occupation: Event Planner and Floral Designer
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Pork Store Café
Reviewed Pork Store Café: Sunday, July 24, 2011
The Pork Store, in the colorful neighborhood known as The Haight, has gone from being a butcher shop to a hair salon. Now the Pork Store, separate from its Mission location, has established itself as a consistent breakfast/lunch stop for those that know about its charm or can smell the greasy garlic from the street.
It was a Sunday afternoon, and my friends and I planned -- the night before while out on the town -- to meet for breakfast at the Pork Store. A typical Sunday at the Pork Store includes a short line of hungry guests waiting to get inside. We waited about 10 minutes and were happy to see that we got one of the two window tables. Eating at the counter is fun with just one other guest, so the four of us were glad we got the “spacious” window table.
The Pork Store décor is modest, full of character and hot pink. Yes, there is a pig on the front window to welcome guests! Vintage Haight Street posters line the walls, and its main attraction is the mesmerizing open kitchen. Hot stoves, focused cooks, and servers that have been there for years, move in this 10 x 2 kitchen that never stops.
The service is fast, friendly in an understated manner, and my coffee cup was never empty. I typically get one of two dishes, Eggs in a Tasty Nest or the Corned Beef Hash Special. That day, the Tasty Nest was what I craved: crisp hash browns covered with cheesy garlic, peppers, and onions with just a touch of bacon, and you can’t go wrong. Top it with two perfectly cooked over easy eggs and you’ve made my day! A side of veggie gravy is a strong recommendation for the biscuits. A perfect blend of pesto and garlic make this gravy one splurge my friends and I always agree on. The portions at the Pork Store are large, and the flavors always make me crave them from week to week.
A close friend of mine, named Becky, recently moved to Ecuador. Friends that live with her in the busy capital of Quito hear week after week about the mouth-watering novelties of the Pork Store. On a recent trip home, I asked her where she would like to go while back in San Francisco for a few days. Needless to say, we went for Eggs in a Tasty Nest!
The Pork Store Café is definitely worth its weight in bacon. It’s the type of place you want to find in every town while on a road trip, and every town would be lucky to have a diner like it. One meal out of this kitchen and you, along with your appetite, are set for the day. The Pork Store is a fun place to take a few friends or to dine solo. It is a comfortable place where large portions of quality, tasty food are always a guarantee. I leave satisfied, smelling like the kitchen with a smile on my face.
Location: Daly City
Favorite Restaurant: Pizzaiolo
Reviewed Pork Store Café: Saturday, July 23, 2011
Cue a Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Santana music mix. Add 1968 Summer of Love hippie, flower children frolicking in a Golden Gate Park montage. The restaurant is located at a historic location (at Haight and Ashbury) with amazing retro stained glass (one of -- if not San Francisco’s -- best stained glass retro signage). That being said, the restaurant interior is a bit faded and badly in need of a freshening up.
The café itself is a small, busy, retro, time warp kind of place. It is serving old fashioned, neighborhood, diner fare cooked on old time flat grill. They have a small fire grill station for grilling pork chops or steaks.
I arrived on a Saturday before 9 am and grabbed the last counter seat right in front of the grill, so I watched several patrons' meals and my own being prepared by two cooks. My waitress was cool and helpful, explaining that the biscuits and gravy were all homemade. She also offered up your standard diner cuppa joe in mugs.
The place feels like a neighborhood hangout with several of the patrons on a first name basis with wait staff. I felt immediately comfortable since I usually hunt for places like tiny retro spots exactly like this.
I started with biscuit and gravy. The biscuit was flavorful and had a good texture, but it disintegrated entirely, rather than breaking into bite size chunks like they do in the Midwest and the South. The gravy was top notch. It was thick and creamy with tiny pieces of bacon and sausage crumbs. I ordered a side of gravy, which was the perfect amount.
My eggs were cooked the way I like, but NOT at all buttery. I liked my sausage and hash browns well, but both had a little too much burn on them, so I would not order anything well done there again.
The sausage patty was generous, mildly spiced and tasted homemade. If you go there, the bacon will disappoint, Baconites. Sorry vegans, this is not a good place for you, since veggie scrambles are cooked on the same grill where meats are prepared. Toast was buttered, but below average (they would do well to upgrade their bread supplier). The pancake was excellent and huge, filling an entire plate. The batter texture is fluffy and tasty. The syrup, however, was of a low quality and a bit thin.
All in all, this place is a terrific local option for the meat and potatoes crowd seeking old time standard fare. In the Midwest, we call this a truck stop breakfast, meaning: heavy carbs that stick to your ribs, so that you won’t feel the need to eat again until dinnertime (some people may find the interior a bit shabby).
When I walked out around 9:20, there was a line of 12 people outside. I was not hungry again until I ate dinner that night around 6:30 pm or so. I would go back IF I were taking a local day hike or road trip and needed a BIG heavy truck stop breakfast to start my day.
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Zarsuela
Reviewed Pork Store Café: Saturday, August 6, 2011
With no host to greet us at the door, we were a little confused, but quickly figured out there was no sign-in sheet, and that we were expected to wait in the quickly moving line out the door. Despite the long line, our wait was short. Without salutations our hostess pointed to our table, which was our only cue to come in and sit.
As we squeezed into our space, we noticed the torn fabric on the chairs and the uneven table. But our true experience started after being seated. I wasn’t sure if the wobble of the chair would hold my moderately framed body, but was quickly distracted by the transfer of stickiness from the dirty table to my hands. The décor was classic Haight, grungy and dirty, with hot pink-painted cracking walls, faux marble, and gold laced large mirrors. As I looked around I noticed a dead bug on the windowsill, and a butter wrapper stuck to the wall, and I thought, "This is interesting," and I felt like I was dining on the lowest level of a well-lit subway station.
The ordering was quick and seamless, probably too rushed for most, but we were eager to get this experience on a fast pace. The server brought our drinks with straws/ Unfortunately for us, the straw dropped out of the cup onto the sticky table, and without apologies, it was simply placed it back into the cup. My lunch guest was shocked and disgusted.
I was happy to see the food come out incredibly quick.
Breakfast Quesadillas: These were amazing, packed with goodness. It was scrambled eggs, spicy chorizo, avocados, and the blends of salsa, which tasted fresh and filling. The portions size were ridiculously large.
Pork Chops and Eggs: The eggs were perfectly cooked, unfortunately the pork chops were flavorless, dry, and tough. Sadly, its namesake Pork Store special was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen on a plate, which made this experience all the more comical.
Mushroom Cheeseburger: Tasted like a microwaved burger you get at the gas station. The meat was like the Pork Store special only worse, and the toppings and bun were as ordinary as they get.
Banana Pancakes: Surprisingly good, fluffy, and light, even the short order was enormous and topped with bananas. The banana bits inside the pancakes were scarce, but did not detract from the overall dish.
The Sides: Among the best I’ve ever had at a diner, the biscuits were light and fluffy with great texture and flavor, and the old fashioned hash browns, the true star of the meal, tasted fresh and crispy, and truly memorable. The orange juice was refreshing and sweet as well.
Despite the heaviness of the food, I left feeling unsatisfied and in need of a quick shower.
For me, having grown up on dirty spoon diners, I don’t mind sacrificing service with a smile and some cleanliness for great food. Unfortunately, the Pork Store Café does not deliver. Come here if you want to feel like an inconvenience to the wait staff, and have a pretty ordinary food experience. The highlights were the biscuits and hash browns, which were certainly memorable. The portion sizes were generous, but did not make up for the awful pork chops and inedible burger.