SF’s funniest new restaurant isn’t perfect. But that’s part of the point.

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Shuggie’s Trash Pie + Natural Wine arrived in San Francisco’s Mission District looking like a glamorous drag queen, ripping wigs left and right with her distinctive glitter bomb aesthetic and chic furniture and tableware. anatomical inspiration.

Early writings made room to address the sculpture of Elvis, the hand-shaped chairs that lovingly hug your back, and the very unminimalist monochromatic green and yellow bedrooms. It is a place whose aesthetic choices are so striking that they take up a lot of space in the conversation.

But Shuggie’s, opened in April by the couple behind the successful Ugly Pickle Co., is two things: a visually stimulating restaurant and a hands-on demonstration of creative ways to deal with food waste. The first may seem detached from the second, but I see it as a key to understanding the restaurant’s modus operandi. Shuggie’s indulges in the art of distraction, using both visual and culinary spectacle as sugar coating the very bitter pill of food waste.

The Green Goddess Salad at Shuggie in SF is presented as a couple of green skewers sticking out of a headless female bust.

Santiago Mejia/The Chronicle

The one-page menu includes a small blurb on the effects of food waste on climate change, although that’s not enough space to spell out what exactly that relationship is. But sometimes a waiter will tell you about the mission of the restaurant when you sit down. And if you pay attention, each dish reminds you of its unglamorous provenance. Most of the pizzas are topped with new combinations of ingredients that nod to their non-premium nature: sunburnt squash, green onion topping, ugly mushrooms. Some, like “abandoned chard”, even look pitiful.

From the pizza to the painting, everything is unique, put together like the catchiest brainworm in a pop song. That is to say, the brand image is very relevant.

We don’t usually associate food waste with the Emerald City of Oz. Coupled with the fact that nearly a quarter of American households have experienced food insecurity during the pandemic, food waste is a difficult thing to manage in a country as wealthy as ours. A month into the pandemic, The New York Times reported that farmers at the nation’s largest dairy cooperative were dumping nearly 3.7 million gallons of unsold milk every day. When you think of food waste, you might think of grocery bins full of packaged meals and ingredients that have just expired, but locked away with chains so no one can take them. Or you think of the thousands of people lining up for blocks in pantries to receive boxes full of donated beans and produce.

Did your eyes glaze over reading that last paragraph? Well, that’s justification enough for Shuggie to exist.

The fried pickle kakiage includes green onion roots, leftover squash and Ugly Pickle Co. pickles. It comes with shiso ranch at Shuggies, a new restaurant focused on food waste in the Mission District F's

The fried pickle kakiage includes green onion roots, leftover squash and Ugly Pickle Co. pickles. It comes with shiso ranch at Shuggies, a new restaurant focused on food waste in the Mission District F’s

Yalonda M. James/The Chronicle

The restaurant turns food waste into a party, with dishes to match. The menu leans retro and snacky, like the kind of stuff you’d eat while hanging out in a conversation pit and smoking joints. Fried kakiage ($13), a tempura blend of pickles and shredded vegetables, is paired with shiso ranch served in a porcelain dish shaped like a gaping mouth. The umami-packed cucumber pickles, which almost fizz on the tongue, are the highlight of this tangle of deep-fried bits. To eat it, you dangle the tempura shards from your fingers and dip them as if feeding the disembodied maw.

The refreshing green goddess salad ($13), tossed in a thickened avocado vinaigrette, is presented as a couple of green skewers, emerging from a headless bust of a woman who likely had a previous life in as a flower vase.

The Buffalo Everything at Shuggie in SF is basically a sushi boat with fried chicken giblets and wings surrounded by dots of Buffalo hot sauce and sour cream.

The Buffalo Everything at Shuggie in SF is basically a sushi boat with fried chicken giblets and wings surrounded by dots of Buffalo hot sauce and sour cream.

Santiago Mejia/The Chronicle

A dish called Buffalo Everything is a sushi boat with fried chicken giblets and wings ($18) as passengers; around the fried organs are plump dots of tangy Buffalo-style hot sauce and sour cream. These are all foods made for you to point out and tell your friends about.

When you dine here you will see a rectangular pizza on each table. All will feature an ultra-thin crust made from leftovers from other baking processes. These aren’t the leopard-spotted pies you’ll find at the city’s many California-Italian pizzerias, and Shuggie chef Dave Murphy doesn’t bother cooking up homages to regional styles. More flatbread than pizza, really, the flat, somewhat burnt edges of the pizzas curl along the edges of their sheet metal trays, with crater-like centers reminiscent of baby Dutch pancakes.

The best pizza on the menu is rich and salty Bobo’s The Pep, The Roni ($19), named after the classic clown-themed steak house in Russian Hill. An otherwise conventional pepperoni pizza is drizzled with honey and the chili peppers underline the spicy salami. Pepperoni doesn’t have a food waste angle, but at least the hot sauce is made from bruised tomatoes. For $4 you can add a dollop of ricotta fluff, but my advice is to set it aside and apply it yourself: on hot pizza, the fluff quickly melts into a puddle of cream, saturating the crust and making it soggy.

It's possible to add ricotta fluff, spooned onto the pie above, to the rich and salty Bobo's The Pep, Roni pizza at Shuggie's in SF's Mission District.

It’s possible to add ricotta fluff, spooned onto the pie above, to the rich and salty Bobo’s The Pep, Roni pizza at Shuggie’s in SF’s Mission District.

Yalonda M. James/The Chronicle

There’s also the Hawt Squash ($21), an extravagant vegetarian pie presented with the intimate spectacle of a green bean casserole. It’s topped with thick fried onion slices, the moist kind you’d see piled on top of a steak at a supper club with its batter coming off. Halved tomatillos and drizzles of Honduran cream (saltier and more cultured than Mexican cream, in my opinion) add a nice layer of acidity, while the sunburnt squash mostly comes across as equally run-of-the-mill.

Some of the other pies are cool ideas that need more time to develop, like the bagel-adjacent Pickle Lady ($21), layered with chewy pieces of canned salmon belly, capers, cream dill and pickle relish. It channels the pleasures of the iconic bagel lox, but with a disconcerting side: when you take a slice, you see a constant drip of oil on your plate. And not the reasonable amount of oil you’d get from eating a slice of pepperoni, but enough to fill a dip and serve with a chopstick. Then there’s the Campeon ($20), a spicy ground beef pizza that I watch the cooks top with a quarter cup of Takis that they pour into tiny bags of individually wrapped chips: the kind you might slip into a child’s lunch bag. How many of these discarded wrappers would this dish produce in one night? How long would it take for these to decompose in a landfill?

Execution was also an issue with some non-pizza dishes. Buffalo chicken pieces were covered and fried until dry. The worst bit was the chicken foot. Done right and simmered long to break down collagen, as they do at many Bay Area dim sum parlors, chicken feet can be a gelatinous delight; but at Shuggie’s the feet were hard and gnarled, and I suspect they were mostly there for decoration.

The Pickle Lady Pizza Pie at Shuggie in SF is made with chewy pieces of canned salmon belly, capers, dill cream and a pickle relish.

The Pickle Lady Pizza Pie at Shuggie in SF is made with chewy pieces of canned salmon belly, capers, dill cream and a pickle relish.

Santiago Mejia/The Chronicle

In this restaurant, the cuisine takes the historically proven approach of transforming scraps and cosmetically contested ingredients into dishes that obscure their origins. What else are things like baby carrots, shaved into cute ugly carrot chunks, and head cheese for? The same way the glitter in bar tops catches the eye, the amounts of salt and fat on the menu use prime appeal to capture the attention of your taste buds. This approach works great with Bobo’s pizza and kakiage, with its delicate tempura batter crunch. But in others, like fried chicken and salmon pizza, that heaviness can be unpleasantly overwhelming. Reducing the oiliness of food would help a lot.

But overall, Shuggie’s is a success as a branding exercise. He put the issue of food waste in the headlines of several publications, which is unfortunately rare in lifestyle media. And he brings the issues of climate change and food waste to the consumer level in the minds of his clientele: people who, in general, probably do not face the food insecurity aspect of the problem, but who could mobilize more resources and more attention to this. . I wouldn’t be surprised if it was already inspiring copycat concepts across the United States as well.

Shuggie’s is a flawed restaurant – but considering it deals mostly in leftover onions and stained bananas, I guess that’s more of a compliment than anything.


3349 23rd St. (at Bartlett Street), San Francisco. www.shuggiespizza.com

Hours: 5 p.m.-10 p.m. from Tuesday to Thursday; 5pm-midnight Friday-Saturday

Accessibility: Flat ground and good access to the tables. Physical menus.

Noise level: Very noisy, with difficult conversation at peak times

Meal for two, excluding drinks: $60-$85

What to order: Pizza Bobo, kakiage, Hawt Squash pizza, garlic knots

Meatless options: About half the menu, with vegan swaps available for whey pizza crusts.

Drinks: Wine and beer.

Transportation: Near the 24th Street station and the 14-Mission, 27-Bryant, 48-Quintara/24th Street, 49-Van Ness/Mission and 67-Bernal Heights Muni lines. Street parking.

Best Practices: Half of the tables are reserved for walk-in customers, but reservations are strongly recommended for peak times. There are a few outdoor tables which are ideal for quieter meals.


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