Adam's Favorite Lower Haight Dishes, Part One

Today, in the first part of a series, contributor Adam Lampert details some of his favorite dishes in the neighborhood.Accolades aside, this neck of the woods serves up some of the best chow that SF has to offer. And unlike that of some neighboring hoods, our grub is often served with a generous portion of local history and culture to boot. The following is a smattering of our favorite local dishes and meals, and is by no means exhaustive or ordered. Dig in!

Plantain Burrito - Cuco's
You can get a burrito almost anywhere. But you can only get the universe's best plantain burrito at Cuco's, a family-owned and operated Mexican/Salvadoran establishment back from the brink of eviction last year thanks to a roundly-supported neighborhood petition. Regarded the city's best vegetarian burrito by countless observers, this unique Lower Haight staple is destined to please vegans and carnivores alike for generations, assuming they can keep their landlord off their back. Often imitated but never duplicated, it must be experienced to be believed.
Merguez Sausage & Pliny the Elder - Rosamunde and Toronado
If you haven't tasted the full force of San Francisco's neighboring food and beverage power couple, you must be new around here. Still, just because the secret's out doesn't mean it's not worth mentioning. Get your magical serving of spicy lamb topped with sweet peppers and sauerkraut, and take it next door to Toronado to wash it down with a pint of Pliny the Elder, a bountiful imperial-style double IPA brewed to excellence and served with an attitude. But don't be surprised if either location is running low or out entirely of these destination offerings - they go together as well as, well, Rosamunde and Toronado.
Pizza Margherita - Ragazza
Foodies nationwide have tasted greatness at our local pizza slinger, so you should too. And although it's pedestrian to recommend the original pizza blueprint over anything with fresh chantarelles, there's a reason that the recipe has lasted a hundred years. Try adding a farm-fresh egg and Calabrian Chiles to your margherita to spice up your evening — and flirt with your server for an espresso gratis.
Salmon Sashimi - Sushi 509
A fortunate hallmark of San Francisco's sushi offerings is high-quality, fresh fish. Which is precisely why Sushi 509's Salmon Sashimi made this list over more elaborate constructions found at competitors' establishments. Perfectly carved polyhedrons of translucent pink give way to your bite's slightest suggestion for the very worthy expense of $17 for 9 pieces of heaven.
Metro Cheesesteak - Metro Caffe
If you're looking for an authentic Philly-style cheesesteak, stop. You won't find it in a zip code not starting with a 1. But for a great San Francisco twist on the timeless American collision of sliced meat and melted cheese, start at Metro. Get it with a large order of their tater tots — yes, we said large — because they are somehow the best we've ever had.
Chicken Parmesan - Rickybobby
Coming from the only neighborhood newcomer on this list, Rickybobby's Chicken Parmesan sandwich is a classic twist on an already classic classic. Is that classic enough for you? Frequently overshadowed by its equally fantastic big brother, the Bacon Burger, this dish gets our nod because of its singular flavor and flawless execution. Chicken breast breaded and fried with a delicate touch normally reserved for Okinawa tempura houses, topped with mellow Mozzarella and tomato sauce and served on a hot bun, this sandwich gives new meaning to the phrase "more than the sum of its parts".
Breakfast Burrito - El Castillito
Masterful burrito technicians engineer the impossible with every order at the wonder that is El Castillito. For a profoundly savory hangover cure try the Chorizo Breakfast Burrito constructed of scrambled eggs, traditional burrito fixings and an absurd amount of chorizo muy authentico. It's so good that your mouth will demand you keep eating it even as your stomach begs you to stop.
Beef Pho - Jasmine Garden
What's that? You've never walked into that dingy, yellow-awninged Vietnamese joint tucked covertly into the shady alley across from Safeway? Well friend, let us help you out. Jasmine Garden's menu is far more ambitious than either the dirty sidewalks of 14th Street or its modest yet pleasant interior let on. The Roast Quail and Beef Carpaccio come to mind, but the true standout is their Beef Pho, the best of its kind not found in the Sunset or Richmond.
Guinness - Nickies
You're right. Guinness is not a meal. Unless you have five of them. Erected from the ground up like a barn made of alcoholic chocolate, a well-poured Guinness is a thing of beauty. And while all the bartenders at Nickies (and probably Danny Coyle's and Mad Dog as well) are capable of getting you your fix, our barmaid of choice is Gill, a Dublin native and Nickies mainstay for five years and counting. Along with your Guinness you may receive a well-deserved ribbing in an Irish accent so charming you can barely understand what she's saying. But if you’re charming back, you may just get one on the house.
What's that you say? Your favorite Lavender-Infused Honey Wheatgrass Bison Burger didn't make this list? Well then, take it to the comments, and maybe we'll see you in part two.

Never miss a story.

Subscribe today to get Hoodline delivered straight to your inbox.

Adams favorite lower haight dishes part one