Frugal feasts - Page 4

Our resident budget gourmet picks the best of the Bay's thrifty dishes
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Penny of Penny's Carribean Cafe
Photo by Charles Russo

It's got juice to it, even pinkness, sometimes even redness, and you know how I feel about all that.

Also: lemon, mint, and hot pepper, hoorah, but the distinctive flavor is roasted ground rice. And I think maybe most places overroast the rice or overrice the roast, just to mess with me. The bastards! If you haven't tried larb, don't — not until you can try it at Manora's.

And if you know of another place that uses grilled, not ground, meat in this dish — take me there.

1600 Folsom, SF. (415) 861-6224, www.manorathai.com

LONGANISA AT JUST FOR YOU

My favorite favorite breakfast place is still Just for You. I love the beignets. I love the cornmeal pancakes. I love the chili scramble over corn bread. I love, love, love the Hangtown fry (oysters and bacon together — I rest my case).... But the thing that I dream about and wake up craving, of course, is longanisa.

That's those Filipino sausages I affectionately (and foolishly) refer to as sausage donuts. They have nothing to do with dough. They're just meat. They're sausages, only absurdly and sweetly and greasily delicious. Like donuts.

Because they are sweet and pork and therefore good for you, they make a perfect, perfectly healthy breakfast sausage. Why don't more places have them on the menu? I blame the chicken and apple industries. Not even all Filipino restaurants serve longanisa.

Just for You is not a Filipino restaurant. It's a New Orleans–y, Southern-style joint with some Mexican touches. For going above and beyond the call of duty to bring me longanisa, Just for You will always be for me.

732 22nd St., SF. (415) 647-3033, www.justforyoucafe.com

CARNE ASADA BURRITO AT PAPALOTE

Everyone, no matter where they live, has to have a favorite breakfast place. If you live in San Francisco, you have to have a favorite burrito place too. This is a burden. For years, for me, it was easy: Taqueria Can-Cún. Then I finally tired of its on-again, off-again carne asada, its stale chips ...

For the next few years I didn't have a favorite taquería and was so embarrassed that I moved to Sonoma County.

Well, I'm back in the city, for now, and so I had to have a favorite taquería again. Right? No-brainer: Papalote! I resisted it for a long time, because it looked so fancy-pants and hipsterish. But then I got over all my snobby prejudices and gave the place half a chance.

Holy shit, the salsa! Last time I tasted such an earth-shaking, mind-blowing, eye-watering condiment, it was the green bread-dip Peruvian potion at Rincon Peruano in 1996. Papalote's salsa, served with actually warm, fresh tortilla chips, is roasted Roma–based, flourished by cilantro and hot, hot peppers, and the secret ingredient is pumpkin seeds.

You can bring a jar and fill it up to bring home, but what the hell, you may as well suck down a carne asada burrito ($5.49) while you're there. I'm not sure I can forgive Papalote for not having lard in its beans, but the meat is grilled to order, not sitting in a bin, and that makes a huge difference.

Then too, they could be rolling up dog food with leftover fried rice and hospital cafeteria beans in a stale, store-bought tortilla, and, drenched in my favorite favorite salsa in the history of the whole wide world, ever, it would still be the best burrito in town. I swear.

3409 24th St., SF. (415) 970-8815

DUCK NOODLE SOUP AT CHINA LIGHT RESTAURANT

Sorry to take you out of town for this one, but get in the car. We're going to Santa Rosa. And I'm not shuttling you to no wine country froufrou, chichi chateau either.

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