The rise of the food scene in San Francisco has led many folks to try and get their foothold into its ever burgeoning popularity. Along with the wealth of options around town, purveyors and property owners have gotten creative in finding new ways to offer a variety of up and coming chefs and cooks to the populists appetite. One new way to serve up different foods is what I'll call a re-invention of the food court. They've come out of the shadows of malls and are stand alone entities on their own. Places like Cortland Marketplace, The Hall, the soon to open Market Hall and Second Act Marketplace to name a few. It was on a recent trip to Amoeba Music in the Haight that I stumbled across Second Act, a tiny space with a handful of food stalls.
A raw juice bar--no, don't need a cleanse. An ice cream place--you folks know how I feel about that. A French crepe place--not feeling it. California barbecue meets Burmese food? I don't even know what that means and they seem to give too much rice. That whole process of elimination left me with Anda Piroshki--Russian versions of handheld pies, turnovers, empanadas, hot pockets, whatever you wanna call them. Run by Anna Tvelova, she is hand making her piroshkis based on her mother and grandmother's recipes using "familiar ingredients" to make these Russian classics. There are only 6 to choose from so it didn't take me long to make a selection. I decided to go one traditional and one not so much. By that I mean I thought I'd go a little healthy and start with a kale and mushroom.
It was a half oval shape that fits the palm of your hand--slightly bigger than an empanada but smaller than a calzone. These are actually baked as opposed to deep fried so the outside crust is more flaky bread like. The are not made to order as there were already batches made up and sitting in the warmer so you do get a hot one. It was chock full of kale and mushrooms and you could taste the green earthiness of each one. The bread had a nice crust on the outside without suffering any kind of soggy bottom due to the filling. Overall I will say it was pleasant enough and you get exactly what is advertised. However, it didn't really have any flavor above and beyond what you get. No spices, no real seasoning, nothing. I thought it could have used some salt and pepper or something to make it more exciting. Some cheese? Maybe ratchet up the garlic that was supposed to be in there but I couldn't taste? A dipping sauce? If this is what eating vegetarian is, then it's kind of boring. At $4.25 a pop, I just wanted something a bit more taste bud thrilling. Bring on the meat!
Angus beef with Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese. I will say I liked it better than the veggie one. A nice outer crust, though this one had some cheddar melted on top. The other cheese was a layer on the bottom inside of the piroshki. The beef was like hamburger with little bits of potato mixed in. I guess you do that to make it Russian or more possibly make the meat stretch further. The meat and cheese do make this one a little greasier, but the bottom still held together, so props for that. Tasty enough with these basics--meat, cheese, bread--though again, nothing really above and beyond that which will make you say, wow this tastes really great! More like, well this is at least filling me up, but I'm not gonna remember too much about it beyond that tomorrow. It's $4.75 for the meat and like the veggie, I really wanted to say something more upbeat about it than it filled me up. I guess in the grand scheme of things some folks would be happy with that for a quick lunch. For me, eh, I need a bit more.
Oh Anda, you tempt me in with the smell of baked bread, but the pretty packaging doesn't quite have the filling to meet expectations. At least not mine. If you are looking for a serviceable, filling (slightly expensive) lunch snack then these piroshki's will be fine. In a foodie obsessed town like San Francisco sometimes you want more than just fine, even if it is just a little more. If these had just even a tad more interesting flavor they could be worth searching out. As is, I'm not sure I'd spend the dough to get the bread again.