Review: Em’s Place; Recommended

McAllister between Hyde and Leavenworth

Em’s Place is my all-purpose fall-back lunch spot. It’s extremely convenient to school, and they haven’t let me down yet. The decor may leave something to be desired, but hey, it’s the Tenderloin. And the food is good, which is what counts.

The menu includes breakfast, American food, and Chinese food. I haven’t explored their breakfast option much, but I can vouch for the #3 breakfast ($3.65) — grilled cheese sandwich, two eggs, and hashbrowns. It wasn’t a revelation in cuisine, but all three parts of the breakfast were well-made, and the hashbrowns were generously portioned.

The Chinese food is pretty good. Their great strength here is that they use good ingredients and don’t overcook them. So most of their dishes consist of good-quality meat and nicely tender vegetables, which gets you a long way in Chinese food. Their sauces tend to be a little syrupy for my tastes, alas. I recommend the black pepper chicken ($5.25), the teriyaki chicken ($4.75), or the broccoli chicken ($4.95) (I understand you can get beef or pork in any of these for 50 cents more, but I’m cheap and I like chicken). The pork fried rice ($4.95) is hit and miss; it’s been really good on some occasions, and sort of mushy on others. On the other hand, I have to respect a pork fried rice with actual slices of barbecue pork rather than rubbery cubes of extruded pork-like product. The curry chicken ($4.95) is mediocre; there are better places to go if you want curry.

The American food is also tasty. I highly recommend the grilled chicken sandwich with BBQ sauce ($4.50). The quality of their chicken helps here, and the syrupy quality of their sauces is actually a plus with BBQ. They make a perfectly serviceable burger ($3.75), a darn tasty turkey burger ($4.50), and as I mentioned, a pretty good grilled cheese sandwich ($2.95). I can’t endorse their breaded foods; the chicken club ($4.50) and chicken-fried steak ($5.50) are fine, but not great. There’s better stuff on the menu. Of the side orders, I recommend the potato salad. The fries, in my experience, are unexciting, and while the fruit cup is fresh, it’s basically a small cup of melon chunks.

Originally published on Tournedos

Impression: Larkin Express Deli: OK

Larkin between Golden Gate and Turk

I like this place, but I have to back off from a recommend because I think my soft spot for quirky little places with character is clouding my judgment. For me, the strategically placed sign concealing a hole in the window is cute; others might feel differently. I ordered a turkey sandwich on a sweet roll, which was $4.95. It was a good sandwich, if nothing to write home about. They use fresh roast turkey, though, which is definitely a standout; I could see getting a yen for that at some point. I must warn you, however, not to get a soda from the cooler. I think they don’t get much sell-through, and my soda tasted a bit…off. When bottled soda is past its prime, something ain’t right. On the other hand, they also have fresh cookies, which are good but a bit pricy at $1.65.

Originally published at Tournedos

Impression: Taqueria el Castillito: Recommended

370 Golden Gate Avenue (between Hyde and Larkin)

I like this place; it strikes that balance between asepticness and squalor that is the hallmark of a good Mexican joint. Their regular burrito has a nice heft to it, and they don’t put anything weird or messy in it — rice, beans, meat, and salsa. You can get cilantro and onions if you want. I had mine with grilled chicken and the spicy salsa. The grilled chicken is good, but pretty ordinary. The spicy salsa is nice; it’s got big chunks of jalapeno that put some body behind the heat. The regular burrito is also $4.40, which is pretty reasonable in my book.

UPDATE: Taqueria el Castillito has another location on McAllister between Leavenworth and Jones. It’s a little smaller; I like the Golden Gate one better. But for Tower folks, it might be more convenient.