No other San Francisco restaurant has so perfectly captured the zeitgeist of 2022 as the brand-spanking-new Mission spot Shuggie’s.
Brought to life by chef David Murphy and Kayla Abe, the duo that turn unattractive and excess veggies into briney pickles, spicy chimichurri and toothsome hummus at the award-winning Ugly PIckle Co., Shuggie’s is a food-waste-fighting phenom set to the tune of over-the-top, truck-driver-meets-drag-queen decor. It’s f-ing fantastic.
Owners David Murphy and Kayla Abe in the cheetah room at Shuggie's Trash Pies + Natural WIne.(Erin Ng)
Sustainability is at the core of Shuggie’s menu of “trash pies” and natural wines. Every item on the food menu includes upcycled ingredients such as blemished produce, infrequently used byproducts like stems and peels, farm surplus, meat off-cuts, and bycatch.
The approachable drinks menu revolves around low-intervention, organically or biodynamically farmed wines, plus a handful of local beers and a rotating slushie made of unsightly and surplus seasonal fruit. You can already get their bottles to go and soon they’ll offer a monthly wine club.
But don’t go thinking that Shuggie’s is just a gimmicky pizza joint riding the climate change wave. Far from it. Shuggie’s food is good. Really good.
The first challenge to eating at Shuggie’s is deciding on a starter and/or shareable dishes that bounce around the culinary spectrum from well-executed snacks to unexpectedly elevated eats. The addictive "soon-to-be-famous" garlic knots made from leftover pizza dough—which is made from byproducts of cheese and oat milk production and then smothered in whipped ricotta fluff and upcycled chimichurri—are a must.
After that, it’s player’s choice from options like the buffalo everything (chicken wings, livers, gizzards, and hearts coated with a peppery, vinegary sauce) or the fried pickle kakiage with scraps of squash, green onion roots, and Ugly Pickles served with a shiso ranch dip. We opted for the spicy 'n’ sticky fish collar, a huge plate of tender meat slathered in a sweet-and-savory Southeast Asian–inspired sauce and layered with herbs and tempura crispies. We ate the entire thing (and I have not one regret).
The 'Mater Pie with a side of Ugly Pickles and natural wine at Shuggie's.(Photo by Erin Ng)
Then there’s the trash pies to contend with, each its own quirky orchestra of flavors: the Dirty Daddy Dario, made with pistachio mortadella, parmesan, and walnut; the El Campeon with its ground beef, serrano chilis, red onions, and Takis chips; the Bobo’s The Pep, The Roni, made with pepperoni, honey, and chili. At our table, we went for the Dead Combo made with salt cod, potato, farm eggs, and white sauce—a truly delicious pie descended from the gooey, bubbly potatoes au gratin of my dreams—and the better-than-a-lox-bagel Pickle Lady, which combines salmon belly conserva with dilly double cream and Ugly Pickle relish. Add ricotta fluff, garlic fluff, or anchovies to any pizza for just a few extra bucks.
But perhaps the biggest challenge of all is deciding which of Shuggie’s two monochromatic, “Hollywood Regency meets roller disco” dining rooms will set the tone for your meal. The cheetah room is a sunny yellow space dominated by a mural painted by Abe and a clutch of disco balls hanging from the ceiling. Seating, including a yellow “lip” couch and bar chairs, are arranged around the zig-zag yellow-and-white floor and a counter facing the open kitchen.
The green room at Shuggie's.(Erin Ng)
In the green room, Shuggie’s blasts off with glittery glam with a hint of the Incredible Hulk. There are giant lime hands for seats, marbled green-and-white tables, and a sparkly counter that reflects in the mirrored wall behind the bar. In both spaces, the restaurant’s sustainability ethics took precedence. Each was designed with almost entirely thrifted, repurposed, and hand-built items, including the cheeky serving dishes (think lips, tits, and big round booties).
All things combined, Shuggie’s is a master class in sustainability made late-stage-pandemic fun. And that’s exactly the kind of outrageously silly celebration of food and design every one of us could use a big slice of right now.
// Shuggie's Trash Pie + Natural Wine is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday; 3349 23rd St (Mission), shuggiespizza.com.