Anyone that’s spent time eating out with me knows that I get far more excited by a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant than I do a nine-course tasting menu. So for lunch, you’ll often find me at the Asian food court in the Financial District (set east of Kearny St on Bush St., right by Belden Lane). Located down a flight of stairs in a windowless, fluorescent-lit room—complete with a couple TVs and currently, a makeshift table set up with mechanical Christmas decorations that you can take as kitschy or ideal for a horror flick (particularly the “sweet” angel holding a candle)—this is the place that divides my workmates into the adventurous eaters and those that prefer the safety of a salad topped with chicken breast.
But I’m fond of it because it reminds me of traveling in Asia. The lunch crowd (which is unsurprisingly mostly Asian) has a choice of Vietnamese, Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican (the one south of the border menu) and most recently Burmese food—served by the newest vendor to set up shop. Jammie Lue (pictured below), a Burmese native who grew up in Macau, opened By the Bite (415-956-0876) in September. There, she serves all sorts of homey, long-cooked kind of dishes—not so pretty, but bold-flavored, delicious and perfectly wintery—including prawns with “rosette” leaves (I’m guessing that these are kind of sorell-tasting greens I’ve seen sold at the Alemany Farmers Market) and chicken curry noodle soup. And she’s always willing to give out samples of new things to try.
But I’ve noticed that even my coworkers who've deemed the food court “that sketchy basement place” eyeing the salads that I tote back to my desk. Jammie’s mango salad, for instance, is a composed plate of shredded cabbage, peanuts, fried garlic chips, crunchy little dried legumes, slices of jalapeno and of course slices of tart, semi-ripe mango, that you mix together with a delicious dressing. For $4.95, it’s a steal.