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City Food Specialties; Grill Me Some Pizza

January 6, 2009

I have a theory that each city has the ability to do one or two high-volume convenience foods really well, where the average option is really quite good — but this specialization consumes so much karmik food preparation energy that the other quick food options are average at best, if not sad. (Note that I’m not talking about restaurants here, in which we have an embarrassing surplus of talent, but rather non-chain, walk-in, walk-out.)

City Food Done Well Food That Suffers
San Francisco burritos pizza
New York pizza, chinese mexican
Vancouver sushi pizza, mexican
Singapore street-vendor noodles ?
London kababs, fish and chips pizza

Obviously some cultural and geographic issues at work — I don’t expect Singapore to be good at mexican food. But god help you find a decent burrito in Vancouver (or mexican in general), and pizza is pretty useless there.  But you can’t shake a stick and not hit good sushi — Vancouver has sushi density like the Mission has burritos, and the good sushi is really, really good.

Anyway, as prior discussions on Mission Mission attest, I’m a thin crust guy (aka elitist pizza snob) and I’m not thrilled with the quality of pizza in the city (Delfina Pizza excepted), so I usually make my own.

Fun as it is to take pictures of other people’s food, here’s my specialty, grilled pizza:

Obligatory panorama (click to zoom):


Ready to be sliced:


oddly shaped slices taste better:


if Hockney made pizza…


It’s pretty straight-forward:

  1. pre-heat your grill, medium-high
  2. prep toppings
  3. roll dough very thin (I use whole foods, two pizzas to a bag of dough), maybe a foot in diameter
  4. brush olive oil on one side
  5. flip oily side on grill (this part is hard, takes practice, you will curse me – you may want a beer first)
  6. brush olive oil on the new top side
  7. may want to rotate (x-axis, yaw) after a couple of minutes to avoid hotspots if your bbq is wonky — peek underneath to see how it’s doing
  8. drink more beer
  9. wait for dough to start bubbling — should only have a few if any char marks underneath, decently crispy, but not too crispy
  10. flip, add ingredients, non-solids first (I like tomato + quatro fromagio, or pesto + asiago, or the above, tomato + mozz + dollops of pesto flung from a spoon at moderate distance)
  11. may want to lower heat a little so toppings don’t dry out
  12. peek underneath, rotate if necessary, wait for nice grill marks
  13. slice on random, radiating angles
  14. eat quickly as it will not retain heat for long
  15. make another one (don’t forget beer)
11 Comments leave one →
  1. plumpy permalink
    January 6, 2009 6:25 pm

    God, the pizza in Vancouver makes ours seem positively amazing. I almost moved there once and nothing scared me more than being confined to a life of downright nasty pizza.

  2. Frank permalink
    January 7, 2009 12:44 pm

    I am many others from SoCal – especially San Diego – would argue that San Francisco doesn’t get burritos right, either.

  3. burritojustice permalink*
    January 7, 2009 1:03 pm

    Oh dear, here we go.

    I guess it comes down to whether you like beans / rice (not hard to avoid), and steamed vs grilled.

    Though I think the real issue is the foil. I get the impression that SD burrito places don’t wrap burritos in foil?

    All I can say is god help those people who completely pull the foil off their burritos. Don’t they realize it is critical to their structural integrity? The big complaint I hear about SF burritos from outsiders is “they’re a mess”. Of COURSE it will be a mess if you remove the foil. DON’T PULL OFF THE FOIL — the foil is your friend, you peel it like a banana as you eat.

    And what’s with the places in SD that put french fries in their burritos? I like fries, trust me, but in a burrito? WTF? Carne asada fries though, that’s a different story.

  4. January 7, 2009 3:05 pm

    That’s really sad about Vancouver having crappy pizzas. My impression of the city on Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations was that it was a very food centric city. I assume pizza or just Italian food in general would be included. So what about the sushi? With all the competition, does that make it cheaper?

    I second that on the foil preserving the structural integrity (and therein the flavor). Yes, many if not most places in San Diego don’t use the foil. Some will use it if you get it to go but one thing I learned is that it must be foil rolled correctly, i.e,- tightly!
    oh yeah. That grilled pizza looks awesome by the way!

  5. burritojustice permalink*
    January 7, 2009 3:21 pm

    Yeah, it’s sad that pizzas and slices are so craptacular in Vancouver, given how good the food is in the rest of the city. I found the typical crust particularly annoying, and I don’t know what is up with the salami/pepperoni that is used.

    Keep in mind there are restaurants where you can get a decent pizza — I’m mainly focusing on street food or slices. But even the delivery pizza is sad, and for some reason this “two for one” pizza idea has stuck. Ugh, that drove me nuts.

    Yeah, it’s a sushi war up there, hope we don’t run out of fish. And dim sum everywhere, mmm. The indian is great too, especially Vij’s – no reservations + big line mean quality in my book.

    No indian pizza up there though. :)

  6. January 7, 2009 3:46 pm

    I’ve only been in SF for a couple months now, so excuse me if I haven’t found the right place, but I’ve found SF to be pretty lacking in the steak department.

    Oh, and of course, nobody makes plate lunch correctly on the mainaland.

  7. plebiscite permalink
    January 9, 2009 6:21 pm

    I grew up in southern California and got fat on machaca. I don’t think So- and Nor- Cal having good burritos is a mutually exclusive scenario. Grant them their burritos, as everything else they do, they do with awesome and terrifying mediocrity.

    That pizza looks like the bombjamma. Best blogpost of ’09!

  8. cbk permalink
    January 13, 2009 5:24 pm

    no, what san francisco can’t get right– or the west coast for that matter– are BAGELS. good sweet lord i’d pay a lot of money for a decent bagel.

  9. burritojustice permalink*
    January 13, 2009 5:52 pm

    Yeah, bagels are rather sad out past the Mississippi (or outside NY and Montreal for that matter).

    If Phat Philly can fly out bread, you’d think someone should be able to fly out bagels.

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  1. Pizza 3.14159 « Burrito Justice

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