Ah, lunch in San Francisco, it is always a challenge. You want something good, sometimes healthy, but you don't want to spend a boat load of money on a midday meal that will probably make you sleepy in your cubicle by 2pm. Sadly the rise of the $10 sandwich in SF doesn't always make it that easy to find a place to go. On a recent sunny Tuesday I decided to eschew the basic lunch rules and just hit up Naked Lunch, a place that has garnered a following, and see what all the fuss was about.
It's a space in North Beach with a kind of bar atmosphere, but has some decent outdoor seating for those rare days in the City when you wanna eat outside. The name also fits with the stretch of Broadway it's on--the neighbors include Little Darlings, Roaring 20's, Penthouse and Hustler. During the day it's much calmer stretch with local office workers looking for lunch instead of drunk former frat guys looking for happy endings.
Naked Lunch feels like a pop-up inside a bar and for lunch they offer a handful of sandwiches and salads for the work a day crowd. The most popular of their offerings is the fried chicken sandwich and well, I'm always down for some fried chicken so let's see what it's all about.
Two relatively generous portions of chicken battered and deep fried served on a buttered and toasted pain-de-mie (that's a brioche bun), buttermilk cole slaw and green garlic aioli--all for $10--sigh. Okay, you do get a lot of chicken. It's served to order so it's hot, crispy, juicy and I did enjoy how they prepared the meat. The sandwich is definitely two-hands-full for eating. Plus, I'm always a fan of buttered and toasted bread that actually holds up to the contents. My qualms with this start with the green garlic aioli--that's just a fancy name for mayo mixed early harvest garlic so it still has a mild flavor. For me, I'd have liked a little more flavor and spread on here. My other major issues was the buttermilk cole slaw, it just was not good. It looked like they used what I'll call angel hair cabbage. It was cut really thin and didn't hold up well as it had become soft and mushy. The flavor was also tangy and sour. I'm guessing this was a product of the buttermilk, however, it just wasn't pleasant. I tried two bites and then a bit of the slaw by itself and just couldn't. I had to scrape it off the bun and chicken. Sadly, it still left some of it's residue on there, leaving me unable to fully appreciate what this sandwich could be. Buttermilk is great in donuts and pancakes, as a slaw additive it can go wrong fast. Pairing it with garlic mayo also doesn't do it many favors to my tastebuds. I'd have the sandwich again, just sans the slaw.
If I'm going fried, I'm going all the way, including a side of french fries with pimenton (that's a fancy name for paprika) and a side of ketchup and that green garlic aioli again for $4. You do get lots of fries and the presentation is cute. The fries were hot and crispy and the pimenton was a subtle flavor that was nice, could have used a little more salt, which was easy to fix. The aioli here still tasted like mayo, so that was lost on me. But good fries nonetheless.
What I'm looking at here is a sandwich and side for $14, had a gotten a drink it would have been more. Not exactly the cheapest lunch in town, and sadly, what seems to be going for average price for lunch in town right now. (Damn you techies!) I'm still not a fan of the $10 sandwich and as I stated above, I'd have this one again without cole slaw. Plus if you go here with co-workers you can always split the fries and drink water, making this a $12 lunch. Sharing, it's the new math. But, there are so many fried chicken sandwiches in this town that for right now, I'd probably want to try somewhere else till I find the one that's great from first bite to last.