San Francisco has cornered the market on seasonal, market-driven sandwich shops. The Sentinel and Naked Lunch change their menus every day, and Kitchenette represents the micro-genre well in an upcoming neighborhood in southeast San Francisco called the Dogpatch.
Nearly two years ago, Kim Stevens (events) and Douglas Monsalud (chef) opened Kitchenette on an industrial loading dock, offering “spontaneous covert organic nourishment.” They co-own Living Room Events with Brian Leitner, catering for companies like Macy’s, Banana Republic and weddings, and Kitchenette gives them a more personal outlet on weekdays from 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM. Stevens and Monsalud were both in New York during my visit with Mattatouille, but Kyle the counterwoman and Fernando the chef were gracious hosts in their absence.
If you’re looking for comfort, Kitchenette doesn’t offer any. You’ll be lucky to find parking in the industrial area, and if you want a seat, you’d better like communal benches (or your car), but it’s worth the minor inconvenience.
The offerings are really luck-of-the-draw, depending on the day. Online, the house-made corned beef and “dogpatch millionaire” – an Indian-spiced fried chicken sandwich – both sounded amazing. Instead, we found a Kitchenette Tuna Conserva Sandwich ($8.50), which wasn’t nearly as tantalizing, but still tasted great. The tuna sandwich was unusually juicy and didn’t rely on a mayo crutch. Instead, the deluxe sandwich contained shaved fennel, olive relish and arugula on grilled Acme green onion bread, which is similar to focaccia.
The tuna sandwich was surprisingly good, but couldn’t compete with the other menu item we ordered, a Rancho Gordon Three Bean and Beef Chili ($8) with scallions, white cheddar and a complementary mini-loaf of cornbread. The grass-fed beef and heirloom beans contributed great flavor to the hearty, tomato-based stew.
Kitchenette normally prepares a citrus-forward lemonade or “refresher.” They’ve since listed orange limeade and grapefruit & lime refresher with sage syrup online, and during our visit, the aromatic lemonade involved verbena, which sounded a little bit better than it tasted. It was also impossible to resist a pull-apart Cookie of the Moment, Gingersnap ($1.75).
In a lot of ways, Kitchenette doesn’t make much sense, since the concept resides on the dark side of a building that faces muddy construction sites. Then again, since the “cafe” feeds the owners’ catering business and supports an otherwise underserved community, it’s hard to argue too much with their efforts, especially when the results are so satisfying. And to think, we visited on an “off” day.