Neighborhood boundaries in San Francisco can be a little confusing at times, I'll lay blame on realtors trying to sell outlier places in some "less desirable hoods" as they say. Also can be confusing when doing a walkabout round town like I am want to do. Edges keep changing it seems and sometimes I'm not sure exactly where I'm out. Such was the case when I came across Atlas Cafe in an area I think most folks will agree is mostly a quieter part of the Mission, that borders right on the edge of Potrero.
It's not a new place by any means. It is one of those neighborhood corner spots I've mentioned before that seems to fill the need of an area of several blocks with the basics when you don't want to travel too far from home. It has more of a funky casual coffee shop vibe as evidenced by the wide cross section of folks who made their way through the place while I was there. It's got what I'll call a standard chalk board menu--some salads, some sandwiches, some small pizza things and few breakfast items. This was like a late Saturday afternoon, not quite brunch time anymore, but the place was still hopping.
After perusing the menu I decide to get one of their sandwiches, though all the choices border on one of my pet peeves of pricey sandwiches--WITH NO SIDES! Most run around $9, none over that and they do have a grilled cheese for like $7, but still. Never one to pass up pork, I order the roast pork that comes with prosciutto, emmentaler cheese, dijon mustard, pickled fennel on a pressed filone roll--kind of like a Cubano. I took one bite of this and the overwhelming flavor that came through was the pickled fennel and it wasn't pleasant. In fact, it was sour and extremely bitter, it was all I could taste. I took another bite and still the same. While I'm not the biggest fennel fan, I wasn't expecting such harshness. I then decided to take them off but the juice from them had pervaded most parts of the sandwich and that rough flavor still remained. Ugh, there was just no way I was going to be able to finish this. Thus my dilemma, this is a locally owned mom and pop place, what would they do when I said I didn't like this? Well, not one to be shy about food I don't like (I mean I've got a blog about it ya'll!) I took the sandwich back to the counter and said it wasn't good and tasted bitter. The guy took it from my hand and tossed in the trash and asked what else I would like. So to their credit they gave me something else, but it was in sort of a New York, "sure no problem bub" kind way. Overly friendly, not exactly, but still, they gave me something else no charge, which I appreciated, gruffness aside.
Not wanting to spoil the opportunity, I decided to go with what was going to be my original choice till I was blinded by pork love. The prosciutto pizza (wait that's still pork!), pesto sauce, mozzarella, goat cheese, red onion, arugula and a red wine vinaigrette drizzle. Menu price was $9.75 and it's actually bigger and a better value than the sandwiches. While this isn't like completely handmade dough or anything, you it was still decent. It sort of falls into my theme from last weeks food news of bad pizza still being pretty good. Though this wasn't bad pizza it fell more into the halfway good, not so bad range. Toppings were plentiful and plus you get that greenery on top giving some crunch and freshness. Kind of like getting a salad so you don't feel so guilty about eating pizza. This time around I was happy with the choice and for a light quick bite at just under $10, it's worth getting.
Bitter fennel aside, Atlas Cafe is exactly what you think it is, a neighborhood spot with some decent food, hearty coffee and wifi--San Francisco staples for the laptop smartphone generation. While I would make a journey to eat here, if you are in the hood it's worth a look. Bonus, they also have an outdoor patio in the back so for those into it, you can enjoy the sunshine without all the noise of sitting at a sidewalk table, which they also have. So now you know where to get your bitter sour pickled fennel on, if that's your kind of thing, no (real) judgement.