"Say what?" menu items that are weird in a good way
From the design world to the fashion world, there are things that go and things that don't go (yes, you — guy in the striped shirt and madras Bermuda shorts ensemble; and you too, street scrounger hauling off that hideous oversized floral-pattern couch). But the truth is, these principles remain fixed only until some genius comes along and voila! isn't everyone on the runway looking sharp in stripes and madras? And doesn't that flower-power couch look great with that Marimekko wallpaper?
This is precisely the case with some of the weirdest — and tastiest — food pairings in town, dishes in which two icky foods combine to make a better one, or one perfectly good food, paired with a "say what?" one, becomes the way you want it from that point on. As these dishes show, the difference between yuck and yum is a mere two letters.
Consider the Frito pie (or depending on where you're from, the Frito boat or walking taco), a concoction of disputed and dubious origins. Was it Frito-Lay queen mum Daisy Dean Doolin, or Woolworth lunch counter waitress Teresa Hernandez who invented it? Then again, who really cares who first took a bag of Frito corn chips, smothered them with chili or taco meat, and topped the whole mess with cheese, onions, and jalapenos? Green Chile Pies — SF's standard-bearers of New Mexican cuisine — may be the only place in town to score this Southwestern carnival midway classic. GCP also takes the pie to dare-devilish new heights, serving its version right out of the bag. And nothing says fresh like the sound and feel of your own crinkly bag.
601 Baker, SF. (415) 614-9411, www.greenchilekitchen.com/pies 
To most right-thinking Californians, what people in Pittsburgh eat is a mystery, if not an opportunity to ponder the eternal question: WTF? Noodle and cabbage halusky. Frizzle fry chipped ham sandwiches. Eat 'n Park smiley cookies. Or how about letting people have their french fries on their sandwich? Actually, on this one, we have back off. As served on one of the superlative and meaty sandwiches at Giordano Bros., this carb-on-carb combo means never having to pay extra for fries, or having to pause from your sandwich to grab some fries, or wondering if your last bite should be fries or sandwich. You can love the sandwich and save your Pittsburgh-hating for when the Pirates dare try to beat the Giants.
303 Columbus, SF. (415) 397-2767, www.giordanobros.com 
Mmmm, beer. But mmmm, cottage cheese? And mmmm, brussels sprouts? And mmmm cottage cheese and brussels sprouts in soup? Before you dub such a commingling "best gag me a spoon" contender, consider Cowgirl Creamery Sidekick's cheese soup with cottage cheese dumplings. Yes, the staff has to allay the fears of bug-eyed browsers with a taste. But once tasted, many times eaten. Despite its unappetizing name, the hearty, earthy soup starts with shitake and vegetable-based broth infused with cheese and finished with handmade cottage cheese dumplings and shavings of brussels sprouts. The cottage cheese, of course, is Cowgirl Creamery's hand-clabbered cottage cheese, which has prompted many a trek to the Ferry Building among people who care deeply about curds and whey.
One Ferry Building, SF. (415) 362-9354, www.cowgirlcreamery.com 
What focus group signed off on this one? What Italian fisherman stranded at sea with a puny catch told Barbacco Eno Trattoria that combining sardines and calamari was a good idea? After all, if there's one thing Americans abhor, it's sardines. And if there's one thing Americans adhor even more than sardines, it's squid. But when all is said and cooked, Barbacco was wise to listen to the fisherman, and to unite fish and mollusk in one tasty sandwich. Maybe it's the Acme torpedo roll, or the spicy arugula, or Barbacco's housemade "roasted tomatoe condimento." Whatever it is, two tentacles up. (Note: it's only available when sardines are swimming.)
220 California, SF. (415) 955-1919, www.barbaccosf.com 
Maybe you know some routinized drone who alternates every day between egg salad sandwiches and tuna salad sandwiches. Maybe you are that routinized drone. Maybe on the seventh day, you need to rest. But maybe you're afraid to rest, and the fear of the unfamiliar prevents you from publicly uttering the words "grilled cheese" or "hot dog today." Those are the days to head to M&L Market, where they will make you a tuna-and-egg salad sandwich (together). But — beware the ordering protocol. Select your bread first or suffer the wrath of the woman known to regulars as "the sandwich Nazi." Remember, this is everything you know and love in one sandwich: tradition, paired with tradition, in an entirely new context.
691 14th St., SF. (415) 431-7044