Sometimes, no matter how sophisticated or discerning you consider yourself, some of the most pedestrian things have a way of knocking you right off your high horse. In this case, it was a sandwich – a Frosted Flakes sandwich, actually.
Smacked between a thick smear of peanut butter and sliced ripe banana and drizzled in store-bought chocolate sauce and honey, Frosted Flakes are the heart of a sandwich Mission Picnic dubbed “The King.” It's a sweet monster, the cereal adding a delicate bit of crunch. Bookended by two big pillows of toasted brioche, it offers the same brand of comfort as Goober, the marshmallow fluff I used to eat straight from the jar when I was a kid (using not a spoon, but Oreos).
Sadly, for reasons unknown, The KIng – delicious because it would be not be possible to make something not delicious from those ingredients – has disappeared from the menu. Its novely alone kept Mission Picnic on my rainy day radar, especially considering the thought of soulless quinoa for lunch.
After The King disappeared, I went back to Mission Picnic, searching for some something comparable, a sweet redemption. What I found was a mixed bag. Strategically close to Dolores Park, Mission Picnic’s menu offers a good spread of packable sandwiches and snacks. Oddly, the best ones are hot and meat-heavy, best eaten on the spot.
The San Franciscan layers pastrami and turkey with provolone and pepperoncini, as well as all the usuals (lettuce, tomato, red onion, mayo, mustard and vinegar).
Ribbons of fat ripple from the pastrami's edge, and the tomato's mild acid cuts through the smoke and grease in the loveliest way. Can we call fat ribbons lovely? We can. The less thoughtful Southerner is an appetizing but hasty blend of bacon and fire-roasted pork with pimento cheese. Yet the bread was dry and it felt a bit bland and anemic for a sandwich made of pig parts.
The MozzaPesto was not more exciting, but it wasn’t bad, either. It's a garden party sandwich, with all the fixings of Caprese salad on focaccia. No more and no less, but every picnic needs a staple. Right?
Salads are seemingly beside the point here, although the chopped Italian variety deserves a mention purely for the amount of salami it holds.
My perennial favorite, which seems to flit on and off the menu, is the Nuevo Cubano. The sandwich is an addictive and surprising mash of pork, Black Forest ham and pepperjack, but pineapple, with its sparkling acidity, is what gives it effervescence and character. Livened up with jalapeno aioli and pickled onions, the sandwich is best warm, but still decent cold.
Although it feels paradoxical to recommend dining in at a place offering takeaway picnic fare, melted cheese demands some urgency. At Mission Picnic, the best thing to do is order something with pastrami, eat it at one of the three tables wedged inside the tiny corridor, and grab a fresh chocolate chip cookie and watermelon juice on your way out.
And while you're waiting, say a tiny prayer for the resurrection of The King.
Location: 3275 22nd St.,S.F.
Contact: (415) 735-3080, www.missionpicnic.com
Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays
Suggested dishes: San Franciscan ($9.50), Nuevo Cubano ($9.50)
Reservations: Not accepted
Credit cards: All major