“Chronicle’s Pick of Square 22″
Square 22: Pho Phu Quoc tops a standout stretch in Sunset
For an overview of the 49 Square Mile project, where we pick one culinary attraction in each square mile of San Francisco, go to sfg.ly/49miles. Now we’re delving a little farther into each neighborhood, 1 square mile each week.
We knew there was good pho. We’d tried the killer tacos. But among the best apple fritters in the city? Now, that was a revelation.
At first glance, Square 22 – otherwise known as the central Sunset – wouldn’t be considered a must-visit destination. In the 2- or 3-block stretch that houses most of the square’s commercial business, you’ll find subpar pizza, passable Mediterranean and more average Asian restaurants than you can count.
But spend a little time tasting your way through the neighborhood, and you’ll find that it includes quite a few culinary gems.
Just by a hair, our winner in this square mile is Pho Phu Quoc, a Vietnamese spot serving what some consider the best pho in the city. Owned by Sam Chung, the 17-year-old spot – referred to as PPQ by the regulars – is known for its rich beef noodle soup that’s good for whatever ails you.
Down the street, shoppers will find a vast array of fresh produce and other grocery items at the 22nd and Irving market, which has been catering to neighborhood cooks for over 40 years. Greek owner Tom Karas and his brother turned what was originally a butcher shop, produce market and grocery store into a single store that sells everything from guavas and kaffir lime to Mediterranean specialties.
Diners can span the globe on Irving Street, from falafel at Sunrise Deli to tom yum soup at Marnee Thai. If it’s a Mexican fix you’re after, jet over to the Taco Shop at Underdogs, with Nick Fasanella’s crispy tacos, burritos and other Mexican snacks served in a bustling sports bar setting.
Though it certainly has the legs to stick around, the Taco Shop has been a neighborhood resident for just a few years. There are other relative newbies, too. Izakaya Sozai, which has managed to thrive a few blocks outside of the dense 19th and Irving area, is 2 years old. Owned by Ritsu Osuka, the tiny Japanese restaurant boasts a substantial menu, though it has become best known for its steamy tonkatsu ramen.
Oh, and those apple fritters? You can find them at Uncle Benny’s, a doughnut shop and cafe that sits on the corner of Irving and 22nd. At this 3-year-old spot, owner Che Ho and his brother Ty – the resident baker – churn out sugary, addictive doughnuts that put most others to shame.
Pho Phu Quoc, 1816 Irving St. (near 19th Avenue); (415) 661-8869 or ppqsf.com.