Tower of Power


Having written about food in San Francisco for over 10 years, I live with a lot of restaurant guilt. I’ve eaten at plenty of places, but there are also plenty of to-dos on my list.

Cut to internal monologue: This city is only 49 square miles. Get on it, Sara. Look at Marcia from Tablehopper—she’s a machine, she’s killing you. Look at all the Yelpers. Look at Joe Blogger and your next-door neighbors, for god’s sake. Michael Bauer has eaten everywhere—three times. What kind of food editor are you, anyhow?!

(The web has really added to my angst, which is why I don’t have an RSS feed, lest I actually witness the amount of information on SF restaurants out there that I don't even know about yet and feel the need to quit my job in dismay.)

Not surprisingly, I'm often admitting I haven’t been somewhere. Which is exactly how I found myself in the Tenderloin, pulling up to the Vietnamese joint, Turtle Tower, with Charles Phan, owner and chef of the Slanted Door. I’d been hearing it was great for a while but had yet to go. Charles innocently asked: “You’ve been here, haven’t you?” Right in line, I (sheepishly) replied, “No, but I’ve meaning to. Heard great things.” Then, in my head, very defensively: But for the record, I’ve been to Pagolac, Bodega Bistro and Mangosteen. And have you  been to Brenda’s French Soul Food, down the way? I have. Her po’boys are amazing. You’re missing out. Did you know we have 400 San Francisco restaurants written up in our Dine listings at 7x7?” It can get ugly.

Charles digs into the chicken at Turtle Tower.

Charles, one of the nicer people in the restaurant industry, is a regular at Turtle Tower (apparently over 200 Yelpers are too), and we sat down and had the most delicious pho I’ve had in a long time. I ordered the beef with tripe and tendon and he ordered the chicken, his favorite, which he said is made Northern-style with dill. The broth was light and clean. We also had boiled chicken with ginger. It was the perfect antidote to a chilly day. I’ve been dreaming about that pho ever since.

Fighting off a cold, I could use a bowl of it now, but in my quest to serve our readers, my guilt will most likely drive me to go somewhere I haven’t been instead. And still I won’t catch up. The blessing and the curse of this city is that when it comes to restaurants, there are far too many good things to eat.

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