The first day I got to San Francisco I wandered around Russian Hill where I am staying.  For those fans of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City books this is the neighborhood of the mythical 28 Barbary Lane.  When I booked my hotel here I did so under great apprehension.  I wanted to be near Market Street and the BART and MUNI, not way up the Hill in the middle of nowhere!  Well, am I ever glad I was cornered into staying here.  I love it.  Russian Hill is very posh, but the few blocks of Polk street that make up it’s “main street” is a very diverse and charming little village in the middle of the city.  One of the first places I went into was a design store where I struck up a conversation with an ex-New Yorker  named Meagan who used to manage restaurants.  She was very charming and fun to chat with and she was also very helpful giving me a list of cheap but good places to eat while I was here.

The first place I decide to go to on the list is a Burmese place in the Mission called Yamo.

I got there early and this tiny ex-lunch counter already had a line up.  Some of these people were just placing take away orders.   Normally I hate waiting in lines but the Lesbian couple in front of me and the nice gay guy behind me made it actually fun.  It also gives you time to figure out what to order.
All burners were on and every one of the four women were working in a constant frenzy of activity.

Once seated you are confronted with 4 Asian women all speaking Mandarin.  So much for Burmese authenticity.  Burmese food is very much a mix of South Asian, Chinese and South East Asian cuisine.  I ordered samosa (which had a funny name on the menu which I just put down to language issues).  It might seem like an odd choice until you remember that Burma shares a border with both India and Bangladesh.  For my entree I had a chicken and mango stir fry.

It was a tough decision and I think if I go back again for lunch I would order the tea leaf salad and a noodle dish.  The Mango Chicken was OK but overly filled with green peppers and kind of like bland Chinese food.  Luckily there was Sirichai hot sauce on the counter along with other 4 other condiments.  Oddly one of the condiments was pickled jalapeno – usually in Thailand it would have been Thai hot pepper in vinegar or fish sauce.  The Mission being so Latin I thought this was an interesting nod to the influence of the ‘hood.

It was amazing how hard these women worked.  The room has 20 foot ceilings and is very narrow with maybe 12 seats and a constant flow of people.

There were like 5 or 6 samosa on the plate; I was so hungry I snarfed down most of them before I remembered to take a picture.

My Chicken and Mango.

One of the beverage options is young coconut.

Leave it to the guy who owns a computer company in Silicon Valley to be on his iPhone while he eats his cold noodles.  He was very sweet and made me think I need to go back and order me some cold noodles – they look delicious and he raved about them.

These stencil/paintings are from the outside of Yamo.

I drank water, had an appetizer that was so large it could have been dinner and a generous stir fry with chicken and lots of veg and a plentiful scoop of rice:  the total bill was $8.50

I don’t think I made the best choices.  The samosa had an unusual spice I couldn’t identify; otherwise they were just wonton wrappers filled with mashed potatoes (I think the potatoes may be twice cooked, roasted first before being stuffed into the wrappers and deep fried).

Yamo has many things to recommend it.  Certainly it’s amazing to get such a large portion of freshly made food for only $8.50, but the buzz, crowd and space make this place special.  You really do feel the love and see the labor these women put in to making your meal.  They are have several veggie options.

About urbanfoodguy

I'm a self taught cook with a dedication to buying and eating food that is as humanely and sustainably raised as possible. Which is why in addition to recipes you will see a lot of environmental/political reporting here. I started cooking when I was about 6, it's something I always loved to do. Watching Graham Kerr - aka "The Galloping Gourmet" - was what got me started and I have never really looked back. Over the years I've been a private chef, a caterer, and a food stylist for magazines such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Oprah, Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and many more. I've also worked in the prep kitchen for the Food Network on the Bobby Flay and Paula Deen shows. Now I work at home in my kitchen sharing with you here recipes that I create or that other people have created that inspire me and I think you will like. I love my neighborhood (the Lower East Side of Manhattan) and I love to travel. Because NYC is such a big place I tend to focus mostly on my 'hood and the ones that are close by: The East Village, Bowery, Chinatown and Williamsburg. My love of travel has no limits really, I'm always ready to get on a plane. I was lucky enough to have a business for many years that allowed me to spend a lot of time in South East Asia. These days I've been spending time in Mexico, Germany, Canada and the West Coast of the U.S., but check back you never know where I might end up. I do consulting, cooking classes, and freelance lifestyle writing so if you are interested please send me a note: urbanfoodguy@gmail.com
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