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Emmy's Spaghetti Shack
18 Virginia Avenue/Mission St., SF
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Pretrial hearing at a nearby bar
10/25/03

Turner

OutsideAnd -- we're back! Miss us? Well it's great to be back. It's been, oh, nine months or so since we've rendered a verdict, and boy, are we hungry. Unfortunately, we're passing judgment on a nine-month old meal. But I remember it like it was only seven months ago. As to why we've been out of action, let's just say that a certain judge was impeached and did a stint in the hoosegow on falsified charges. But now we're all exonerated, reinstated, peckish, and ready to preside.

Which brings me to Emmy's Spaghetti Shack. I hope it's still in business. I imagine it is, because it seemed to be quite popular when we blew in there last fall. Here's a tip: GET THE SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS. About as good a plate of spaghetti and meatballs as I've ever had. Quite a sauce they have. Pretty sure that was marinara, not meat sauce. But it was quite spicy and somewhat sweet and full of complex herbs and all that. As were the meatballs, come to think of it. Maybe they weren't sweet. And as my culinary cohorts will mention, it's the best deal on the menu, at $8.50. Nice big shavings of parmesan cheese on there, too.

MenuThere were some other pretty expensive things on the menu, but they escape me now. Hey, it's been nine freaking months. Oh, wait, check out this giant version of the menu if you want to read it. You'll note that the gourmetness of these dishes belies the "spaghetti shack" moniker. And there you have it. We're talking about a high-brow/low-brow amalgam of total hipness. Seems like movies stars would hang out here, and they probably do.

Anyway, aside from the spag-n-balls, we had some real solid crusty artisan style garlic bread ($3.50) and some alright fried parsnips ($4.50). Fried = good. Oh and a fine Caesar salad, with little bread sticks, but I can't find that on the menu, so I don't know how much it cost. Probably $3.50 or something. And we had a very good burger with organic sharp cheddar. Cheddar tastes so much better without hormones, you know? Good burger and good fries for $9. Now, that's steep, but you do get fries and it was all big and good.

And, of course we made the mistake of ordering shrimp in a restaurant. Apparently these shrimp were hand raised, bottle fed, and massaged daily, because it cost $9.50 for like FOUR SHRIMP!!! Oh, I mean PRAWNS. Never again. I will never order shrimp in a restaurant again. Unless it's a shrimp poboy in Louisiana, where shrimp is priced properly.

So check out Emmy's, if you can find it, and as long as you get the spaghetti and meatballs, you'll be fine. Skip the prawns.

 

Vardigan

When I first ate at Emmy's a couple years ago, I feared that it might be too hidden in its weird little spot out there in the deep Mission where the streets go haywire and Valencia intersects Mission. Plus, Emmy's is on the little-known Virginia Street. That's some street madness out there. Of course, quirks like these are in line with Emmy's unique interior and food, which account for the restaurant's appeal in the first place. So, it all kind of works. And on this trip I was pleased to find the tiny place as jammed with diners as it was two years ago.

AppsWindow treatment is something out of your parents' house: Gauzy white curtains with hanging plants in front of them. Running the length of the ceiling are a series of odd aprons, strung up on clothesline. On the table, hand-drawn menus next to candles, marbles sliced in half and stuck to their holders. (Is there another name for candle holders besides...holders? Probably.) These menus list a concise yet eclectic offering, with prices running the gamut as well. (I'm sure Judge Turner's review mentions The Prawn Travesty.)

Spag-N-BallsAlways on the menu is Emmy's classic, spaghetti and meatballs. It's not only great, it's also the best value on the menu, at $8.50. It's worth comparing Emmy's version to Chow's. Emmy's seems a denser affair all-around, and I'm not sure why, but my guess is that they bake it for a spell. It's a little dark, and sticky, whereas Chow's is more soupy. Emmy is also going for it more, reaching in a good way, with more complicated spices. I like either, it's really a matter of preference, but I'd definitely call Emmy's more unique.

The burger, one of the finest I've had in this town, comes with some equally impressive "big" fries. Chunky half-moon wedges crisped expertly out while staying fluffy and steamy in. Dipped in the chunky homemade (?) ketchup, they're a real treat. The burger, like the spaghetti and meatballs, seemed to have some interesting spices, at least for a burger. Every bite burst, and the meat was very fresh.

We had a side of fried parsnips, a bit of a risky order, because none of us had ever tried such a thing. They turned out to be quite tasty (what isn't when fried?), almost sweet in the manner of plantains, and came with a nice little dipping sauce.

Andy Sez: Andy

I ate here once.
More>>

Other quirks: You can drink a 40. Yes, a 4-oh. Remember when Olde English released the shameless 64-ounce, with the handle? Well, they stop at 40 here, and it can be malt liquor (Mickey's) or not (Bud). Remember Mickey's "bullets" (also called grenades), those little stout six-pack versions? Designed to erase the lukewarm backwash issue of your 40's last few ounces without sacrificing the malt liquor kick, I think this product caught on much better than the handled 64. Anyway, the 40 at Emmy's is fun. And economical, at 5 bucks (although a drastic mark-up from your corner store), compared to 4 bucks a bottle for stuff like Speakeasy or Red Stripe. Finer beers, to be sure, but that's only one buck less -- for 28 fewer ounces of beer. It'd be a nice touch if they nestled the 40 on ice in one of those champagne ice buckets, but they don't. Plus, it's a lot easier to drink that crap very cold.

By the time we got outside, it was dark and the weather had turned wild with wind. McC hung on to his Hurricane Betty cap for its dear softball life. I drew up my hood but it was no match. So maybe this is fall, I thought. It would have to do, anyway. And hiding away eating dinner in a crowded Emmy's behind the family-like curtains, seated under the funny aprons, that will do as well as any fall evening activity I can think of.

 

BurgerMcClure

Emmy's Shotgun, Love, Suicide, no no no -- Spaghetti Shack is a place I've always enjoyed dining. Especially when I learned to go at "off" hours to avoid waiting. It's a tiny place, 10-12 tables, and I've never seen it with more than a few tables empty and usually not for long.

My favorite dish is, ha, the spaghetti and meatballs. It's a great meal and not a bad deal at $8.50 (sans the MB's it's only $6.00). You get a good-sized portion of pasta with a light red sauce that is pretty flavorful with herbs and spices and such, topped with some yummy shaved cheese and three good-sized meatballs (not fist size but big enough to fit the dish).

A surprising delight was the burger: great tasting meat with an organic sharp cheddar served on a focaccia roll, $9.00. I'm not a big fan of the focaccia being used as a bun but in this case it pretty much was a bun: nice, soft, and didn't get in the way of the meat. It came with some very good fries, big and thick-cut and I think the waitress said the ketchup was house-made.

I was disappointed in the penko breaded prawns, $9.50. They were fine, but as usual not enough shrimp for the price. When will we learn? It was served on a winter radish salad with soy tamarind dressing. The salad was the best part of the dish -- nice sesame flavor in that dressing, yum.

Fried parsnips, $4.50, were new to me and once again, if you fry it how bad can it be. They are bland, kinda like fried plantains, but the spicy aioli dippin' sauce flavored 'em right up.

Hey, let's not forget the beginning. The garlic bread, $3.50, was good: super crunchy slices. The meal came with free focaccia bread with oil, so if you're not a fan of the crunch, stick to the freebie. The Caesar salad, $7.50, is great: large Romain lettuce leaves with a creamy dressing and crispy/fried bits of cheese crumbled on top. For more crispy, they add some hard breadsticks.

It's not Radio Shack but that's alright 'cause you don't need electronics anyway. Emmy's is a hole in the street you won't mind falling into for a bite and I believe you can fall in late 'cause they serve past midnight (might call to check and make sure, 415-206-2086). Emmy deserves an Oscar or a Sam or a Fred.

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