San Francisco may be known for its five star restaurants and great food scene, but it’s also home to many hole-in-the-wall restaurants that offer unique combinations of food. There are also a few places that offer challenges for the few who want to test their skills at consuming ridiculous amounts of food. This past weekend, I decided to check out a mom and pop shop that offers amazing chicken wings as well as an assortment of hot sauces, and a Vietnamese restaurant that challenges heavyweights in a pho challenge.
Hot Sauce and Panko
I was first recommended this restaurant by a colleague of mine and was enamored by the idea of an entire place dedicated to hot sauce and chicken wings. It is pretty easy to miss this small shop that is nestled between 16th and 17th on Clement Street. Luckily, the bright lights that illuminate the shop as well as the entire wall filled with different hot sauces helped me find the restaurant during a heavy rain. As soon as I stepped into the warm shop, I was greeted by the owner, Terrence Luk.
Luk opened up the shop about three months ago with his wife, Roxanne, and wanted a similar feeling of a taco truck. The restaurant is small and cozy and diners can watch everything being prepared after they order. I ordered the Belgian waffle with butter ($2.49) and the signature “KFC” (Korean Fried Chicken) vegetarian wings ($4.99/ 5 pieces)- every order of chicken wings can be made vegetarian! The “KFC” wing sauce is made with garlic, sesame oil, agave, and chili paste and are absolutely delicious. The combination of sweet and savory complimented the crunchy, hot outside of the wing perfectly. The waffle was perfectly cooked and airy and, although there were traditional syrup options, I opted for the bacon flavored syrup!
While I was enjoying my wings and waffle, Luk took me through each hot sauce that was on the shelf and described where each one was made, how spicy it was, and what foods paired well with it. He told me that if it doesn’t taste good and if he hasn’t personally tested it, it doesn’t go on the shelf. Customers can also recommend hot sauces for the store to carry and if you want something special, he can order it for you.
Overall, this place was an unpretentious, friendly and unique shop that offers up tasty food at reasonable prices. The owners are warm and take the time to spend with each customer. If you like spicy food and unique condiments, this is the place for you!
Other options: Po’ Boy sandwiches ($5.99), Bread Bowl with Chili ($3.99), French Fries ($1.99)
1545 Clement St. (Between 16th and 17th)
Open: Mon, Wed-Sat 11:30 am – 8 pm, Sun 11:30 am – 6 pm
Pho Garden (Clement St. between 22nd and 23rd)
I have to admit, I was a bit terrified of trying the famous challenge that the Pho Garden had to offer. In comparison to how many people try to complete the challenge, very few are actually able to finish the entire amount. Simply put, the goal is to finish two pounds of noodles and two pounds of combination beef in one hour; you don’t have to finish the broth.
I walked in to the restaurant with a very empty stomach hoping to at least finish a good majority of the food. After sitting down and signing a waiver, I was brought the absolutely enormous bowl of pho. Since I only had one hour to finish, I started eating as soon as my server brought me the bowl. After about 10 minutes of eating, I was beyond full and waved my white flag. Although I felt completely defeated (and a little bit sad that I didn’t get to take home the bowl it came in), at least I’m able to say that I tried the pho challenge and completely failed.
The moral of this challenge is, either come after you haven’t eaten in a few days or be prepared to feel like a water balloon after barely making a dent in the food!
2109 Clement Street (between 22nd and 23rd)
Open: 7 days a week 10AM- 10PM
The City hosts many restaurants and small venues that offer a variety of delicious cuisine and great things to try! Whether or not you actually want to attempt the pho challenge is up to you but don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone wen trying out a restaurant. You may just find out that your stomach is capable of holding four pounds of food or that you have a taste for