Pissed Off Pete’s ups ante with adventurous bar fare 

San Francisco’s neighborhood bars are dying a slow death, either being spruced up or completely revamped by new owners eager to go after the fancy-pants drink crowd. So kudos to Pete Whitcomb, owner of the eponymously named Pissed Off Pete’s in the Excelsior, for not succumbing to regional trends. Rather than going the way of the cocktail program, Pete’s is upping its food game.

Whitcomb rented out his tiny, back-of-the-bar kitchen space to Aaron Buhrz, longtime owner of Beauty Bar in the Mission, and Buhrz brought in young guns Noah Bustos and Nathaniel Loya, who most recently worked together at the German restaurant Schmidt’s, to do the cooking.

Though much of the menu reads like upscale bar fare, the level of prep and execution being put into certain dishes is astonishing, particularly considering the reasonable prices and no-frills surroundings.

Take the humbly titled pasta, for example. Bustos puts his experience working under former Quince pasta guru Chanan Kamen to good use in hand-making bigoli, a thick spaghetti-like noodle, and then blanketing it with a cinnamon-scented meat sauce. The dish was inspired by visits to Skyline Chili in Bustos’ girlfriend’s home state of Ohio.

A juicy, semi-thick pork chop tasted of smoke and a nice kick of alcohol, the result of a beer brine. Alongside were a lump of mayonnaise-y potato salad and slivers of cinnamon apples I would have happily eaten on their own as a dessert.

I’d order all of the cutely titled sandwiches that I tried again in a heartbeat. For the Beefeater, Pinky’s Bakery’s exemplary rye envelops a mound of pastrami, properly stippled with fat, that’s given a 10-day brine, then smoked, then braised in chicken stock.

The Hasselhoff, a pile of tender roast beef drenched in melted Velveeta on a soft sesame bun, was a manly mess that brought to mind college road trips to Arby’s, and I mean that as a high compliment.

And then there’s The Excelsior, which has me reconsidering my boredom with fried chicken sandwiches. Here, a hyper-crispy buttermilk fried chicken breast is topped with crispy bacon and jammed between two thin, crispy waffles. See the theme? There’s quite the shattering sound effect when you chomp into this beast.

Bustos and Loya dress The Excelsior with Chinese five-spice pickled onions and Tapatio-brand hot sauce. On paper, the whole thing sounds a bit ludicrous — but the blend of Asian and Latino flavors atop a soul-food classic triumphed and seemed downright rational considering the diversity of the neighborhood.

From a miniature Bakers Pride oven comes the Butterbutt pizza, with the seemingly zany combination of butternut squash, maple-braised pork butt, melted feta and a balsamic reduction. I only ordered it because I thought it would be a gloppy, gimmicky train wreck — but I was totally wrong. Somehow, the crust stood up to its toppings and the play of the tang of the feta off of the sweetness of the squash was downright rousing.

Bustos and Loya just might be the next James Moisey and Shane LaValley, former chefs at nearby dive bar Broken Record who left to open the wildly successful RickyBobby. For locals in the Excelsior, let’s hope they stick around for a while.

Pissed Off Pete’s

Location: 4528 Mission St. (at Excelsior Avenue), S.F.

Contact: (415) 584-5122, www.facebook.com/pages/Pissed-Off-Petes/107356512633325

Hours: 5 to 11 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays, 5 p.m. to midnight Saturdays

Price range: $4 to $12

Recommended dishes: Pork chop ($12), Cincinnati-style pasta ($12), Butterbutt pizza ($10), beefeater sandwich ($10), cannibal-style fries ($6)

Credit cards: All major

Reservations: Not accepted

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Alex Hochman

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