Mission Bowling Club: Racking Up Strikes in San Francisco
3176 17th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
415 863 2695
View Web Site
Date of Visit: March 31, 2012
Steeeee-rike! Ring up another one at Mission Bowling Club, a new bowling-centric concept in a massive corrugated metal structure from Sommer Peterson and Molly Bradshaw. The owners could have settled for the kind of middling outcome you’d find at a Lucky Strike, but instead, they hired Mission Street Food founder Anthony Myint to elevate the food program. Myint also co-founded the charitable Mission Burger with Mission Chinese Food chef Danny Bowien, utilizing Fat Duck chef Heston Blumenthal’s granulation technique to produce a hamburger that had my previously vegetarian friend Tonx salivating. Mission Burger closed in May 2010, but as we learned, the Mission Burger returned to the neighborhood just prior to our most recent San Francisco trip (good timing). The burger was as good as advertised, and Chef Myint is clearly not one-note.
The owners really played up the bowling theme, with six mural’d lanes, bowling pin and ball chandeliers in the style of the DIY wooden skeleton animals, and pins as legs of lane-side tables. A covered patio hosts a massive pin-shaped support for shelves on the living wall and a “ball” forged from what looked like label-stripped tuna cans. They were smart enough to mix in some elements that aren’t bowling related, keeping the decor just short of kitschy, including a peaked roof with skylights, a full bar, and dining area with a brown cushioned booth and banquettes, and an upstairs mezzanine that looks down on the action.
We started with a warm Everything Pretzel ($5), a twisted play on the everything bagel, with pull-apart arms that we ran through the pork-rich lardo mostardo. This was a good pretzel, but it only sported poppy seeds, caraway and toasted black sesame. Technically, that’s not “everything.” We were missing onion, garlic and salt, but would I order it again? Hell yes.
The stick for the Sausage Corn Dog ($7) jutted out of the platter like a dish you’d find at Alinea, which was a pretty hilarious sight gag. Only at Mission Bowling Club, grease from the dog dripped down the stick. That probably wouldn’t happen at Alinea. Anyway, this dog was state of the art, containing a loosely packed pork and fennel sausage from New York Sausage Company that was super juicy. The coating combined cornmeal and ground hominy and was golden crisp outside, and supple near the thin sausage skin. The habanero crema dipping sauce had a hint of heat. It may have been a corndog, but it sure wasn’t fair food.
Home Fries ($4) reminded me a lot of the Short Order spuds in L.A., but the outcome was probably even better, with torn and fried Yukon gold potatoes that became crispy outside, but maintained plenty of give in the middle. The Spanish-influenced dipping sauces were fun and flavorful: spicy Romesco and punchy aioli.
The Mission Burger ($15, $10 during happy hour) definitely lived up to the hype. Myint grinds hanger steak, brisket and chuck, forms loosely packed patties, and he applied a winning sear, locking in the meat’s savory juices. Sheets of caramelized onion added sweetness and texture, Monterey jack delivered a sharp note, and tangy caper aioli rounded the toppings on a toasted Acme brioche style bun, which wasn’t very buttery. Basically, the secret to this burger’s success wasn’t over the top condiments; it was pretty much the ideal ratio and balance of ingredients, and I can’t think of a better California burger at the moment.
Since all of our food was so good, we decided to keep the meal rolling. For dessert, the Buttermilk Panna Cotta ($7) was probably the most refined dish from our meal, with tangy, rich consistency, razor thin chamomile brittle and spring herbs like parsley, plus dots of mint oil.
Yes we were eating in a bowling alley, but the ingredients were high-quality and prepared with skill and restraint, so we felt good after the meal. It was also nice to know that a dollar from several dishes goes to “local youth related causes.” That was the case with the Mission Burger, plus the panna cotta. Basically, Mission Bowling Club allows diners to eat great food in a fun atmosphere, and they benefit local charities. Steeeee-rike!