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Restaurants & Bars

Chowing near St. Mary’s Med: Panhandle Pizza and Sacred Grounds

Melanie Wong | Apr 27, 200504:34 AM     1

During my dad’s stint at St. Mary’s Medical Center we found two inexpensive spots within an easy walk. They’re not special enough to make a detour, but good enough to pass on to the next folks eager to escape the hospital cafeteria.

Sacred Grounds Café (http://www.sacredgroundscafe.com) recently changed hands and the enthusiastic new owners have been expanding and experimenting with the food menu. It offers free wi-fi and also has a PC and an iMac for customers to use.

An order of ravioli comes with a side salad for a pretty substantial lunch for only $5. The sauce came straight out of a jar, but it wasn’t bad. I picked the orange and almond salad made with chopped-to-order crisp romaine hearts, canned mandarin orange segments, toasted almonds, and tarragon vinaigrette, and it was worth the tariff alone. Another time I tried the Mihaly sandwich, named after a long-time customer. Despite the Slavic name, it’s based on a Somali chicken recipe with aromatic yellow spices and sweet onions sautéed to order and served hot, also delicious. Full size garden salad was rather plain and uninspired. For dessert, there's a nice variety of pastries selected from many bakeries.

The drinks menu lists Thai ice tea, horchata, and mango lassi. I commented to the owner that those were my favored quenchers when eating spicy foods. He said that they were his absolute favorite drinks on this earth and he’d been experimenting with different blends. I tried the horchata and the Thai ice tea, and both are unlike any I’ve tasted anywhere. That’s not to say that they were the best, just different. For example, he’s managed to find a Thai tea that isn’t dyed red. The horchata had some lime juice in it. But he’s still fiddling with the recipes, definitely a work in progress.

Panhandle Pizza (http://www.sfpizza.com) fed us twice. There’s some weirdness with the staff here. My first attempt to get a slice, I tried to call in my order before walking over. After a constant busy signal after 6pm, I headed over there in the rain to find the place dark and locked up during the open hours listed on the website. I stopped by a couple days later, ordered a slice of veggie pizza, and mentioned to the scruffy and sullen guy on duty that it had been closed earlier. He denied it and said that he had been open that day. The slice of veggie pizza he sold me might have been good if it had been heated through and not cold in the middle. The next time I had a pleasant pizza man. I asked him to make sure that my pizza was hot all the way through, resulting in him burning the first slice, which he gave me for free. The second attempt tasted okay, but the thick cornmeal crust on the meat combo was leaden and heavier than from my previous visit. My brother had a taste and said it reminded him of underdone corn bread. Not sure what to think about these except that at the kind of prices charged, there should be more consistency.

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