Today’s tip: Sunflower Restaurant
Sunflower is a tiny hole-in-the-wall Vietmaese restaurant in San Francisco. They actually have two locations, one in the Mission and one in Potreto Hill.
You could easily pass this place by, writing off the shabby storefronts as any other run-of-the-mill place.
There isn’t much ambiance- when I brought my mom here, I thought I’d be polite and offer her a seat facing out into the restaurant rather than facing the wall, but as it turned out I had given her a perfect view of a guy peeing on a tree out front.
The interior is actually pretty shabby too, there are just a few tables, and an ancient looking open kitchen with three chefs rushing around in paper hats.
But the service is usually reliable and fast, and if the constant stream of people coming in to pick up take out orders or pull up a seat at one of the old tables is any indication of how good the food is, it’s clear that I am not the only one who craves it.
If you did walk by though, you would be missing out on one of the most unusual and delicious culinary experiences you might hope to have in San Francisco: a little thing called the Vietnamese crepe.
The Sunflower crepe comes with chicken and shrimp, or with tofu. I have only sampled the veggie option, but I don’t think you can go wrong with either.
What makes the dish so scrumptious is the combination of the warm crispy crepe shell, the tasty tofu and bean sprouts inside and the star of the show: a big plate full of bright, crunchy lettuce, shredded carrots, sliced cucumbers, and fresh mint which you tear up and stuff in the shell before topping it off with a warm, sweet, salty, slightly spicy sauce.
My friend Samantha introduced me to this specialty last year, and I have been back many times since, and haven’t even thought of looking at a menu.
They serve lots of other dishes too, I usually see other tables full of big steaming bowls of noodle soup, but I have never been able to veer from the crepe. Its just so good. And for about $9 it’s a bargain too.
The one in the Mission, which I frequent, has two entrances less than a block from each other, one on 16th Street and one on Valencia Street.