As I told the bartender on our first night at Emmy’s, we lived in Bernal for a while but never made it here. What a waste! After 13 years in its old spot, it moved in 2014 into the Mission – well, just barely; they’re still holding on to their Bernal cred – and far be it for me to take away anyone’s right to self-identify. Blue Plate, however, two doors down, calls itself a Mission District restaurant. So, ok, let’s call it OUTER Mission. Or, just do like we did and say hell with it – it’s food, let’s eat.
Much beloved in the neighborhood, it’s a family friendly spot in the early evening (with an unbelievable Kids-eat-free Monday and Tuesday nights from 5-7pm policy on their menu!) But there’s a punk feel to Emmy’s, from the servers with their chopped off bangs and tats to the Pixies playing in the background. The décor is biker bar/whimsical, with menus that look like they were designed by 3rd graders, and a back play room featuring a pinball machine, a Centipede video game, and a photo both. There’s also a sweet little patio out back. So homey. And its “new” digs are bigger, so it’s easier to get into. Emmy’s is hip without the hipsters.
Our first night was on a Saturday and the place was jam-packed, but we were soon seated at the bar, where you can watch the kitchen goings-on and order a full dinner off the menu.
Interestingly, there’s a TV inside the kitchen, that only the kitchen staff can see, but they were so busy I never saw anyone even so much as glance up to check the fùtbol score. These people were machines!
I was curious about their cocktails….
They have beer and wine, but also something I’d never heard of before – a half-proof vodka, Soboloff – apparently not available for retail. It’s fermented rather than distilled, with a lower alcohol content. The bartender made me a “martini” with it, and pomegranate and hibiscus juices. Tasty, nice and light, with just a tad of a bite. They also make margaritas with an agave wine-type thing. I get that it’s a way to offer your customers a “cocktail” without having to buy a liquor license, and it was rather nice to be able to have three drinks (2 refills in the shaker) AND a glass of wine, and not feel totally blotto (although, please, not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
Then, our salad:
Emmy’s Caesar salad is long crispy spears of romaine with a creamy dressing. A sprinkle of shredded parm and a few grinds of black pepper – not fancy, just cool and crunchy and garlicky and all that you need in a Caesar (ok, anchovies wouldn’t hurt.)
Thank god we didn’t order the garlic bread because everyone gets a plate of focaccia with a little bowl of olive oil and balsamic. But I did have to try their signature dish – Spaghetti and Meatballs!
Holy Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Luigi! Red sauce and three giant meatballs – a family of four could easily live in- I mean-feast on -this mountain. With the BF’s help, I made it through two of the meatballs but made only a dent in this mass of carby goodness.
The BF ordered steak – that’s who he is, that’s what he does.
Flatiron – slightly overcooked, slightly tough, but good flavor, accompanied by a sage compound butter, sautéed greens, mashed potatoes. It was too bad about the overcooking, but the meat tasted beefy, lemony, and nicely rich with the butter. Really, not too shabby for a $20 steak .
Desserts appear to be premade, just tarted up at the restaurant – they don’t have a pastry chef, so sue them. We were too full for dessert, as always, anyway.
On our second visit, we sat at a table, and I ordered a beautiful little rosé, like a lady.
But here at Emmy’s, it’s gotta have a little punk feel to it – so it was a dry, unfiltered rosé by Deux Punx from Lake County. Went perfectly with my meal.
We thought we’d over-ordered again, but the plates this time weren’t as massive as my spag and meatballs. We split a salad of grilled pear, goat cheese, pepitas, pomegranate seeds, endive and arugula…
Lots of crunchy things going on, delish with the creamy goat cheese. Even better than the Caesar.
Next came Bocconcini balls – fried mozzarella, basically, but really light instead of heavy and dense as I’ve usually found that appetizer in other places. These were served with a homemade ranch dressing and their own marinara on the side.
Only five to an order, so you really can’t overindulge too much. Really tasty, and I’d get them again.
For his main, the BF got the pulled pork pappardelle. It looked great, but it turned out to be pretty bland, unfortunately. Poor guy, he always seems to get the wrong thing!
It’s a shame to waste good pulled pork that way, and I hope it was just an off-night for this dish.
For my dinner, I queried our server: “Linguine with mussels & clams, or the Mayan shrimp risotto?” Without hesitation, she responded “The linguine.”
It had just come back on the menu, she said, so I was in luck. It came in a white wine garlic sauce with slices of smoky Spanish chorizo, and was out of his world! Garlicky but not overly so, the dish smelled heavenly when they sat it in front of me, and I kept stirring the pasta into the smoky oils and juices at the bottom of the plate to envelope it in all the goodness. I’m not really a huge pasta person, but I could eat this dish happily once a week. And I did end up having enough pasta leftover for lunch the next day.
The menu also boasts a veggie/gluten friendly zoodles dish (that’s “pasta” made of spiralized zucchini), as well as baked portabella mushrooms, prawn ceviche, a meatball sandwich, mashed potatoes, orecchieti with pancetta and asparagus, and that Mayan risotto that still has me wondering…. A real neighborhood place, friendly, with kick-ass servers (not a man-bun in sight!) and a Latino kitchen. If that isn’t the (old-school) Mission, I don’t know what is.
Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack
3230 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA 94110