(San Francisco, CA) Last year, we heard about an unusual eatery in San Francisco, on Union Street, where boutique shops snuggle up next to dive bars and pet grooming establishments rub elbows with antique dealers. The place is called American Cupcake and they feature one particular item on the menu that drew us like moths to flame: Red Velvet Fried Chicken. We cabbed it from our hotel and met our friend Harry for a most unique lunch adventure...
I’m a little nervous, to be honest. Online, American Cupcake looks very cool but that could only be a promotional sheen. In reality, it might be a horrible concept in sheep’s clothing. We arrive early and walk around. The other places nearby seem popular. Maybe this will turn out well? Harry arrives and we go in.
The decor of the restaurant gleams white, from walls to floor to tables, seats, and stools. Glowing, multi-colored balls hang from the white ceiling, subtly changing hue. At first glance, it appears to be an ice cream or candy shop. Look closer, though, and you’ll see wine and beer bottles prominently displayed. Hooray, booze! I immediately order a Raging Bitch IPA (Flying Dog Brewery) for shock value, but also because I happen to enjoy Belgian-style beers.
Our initial plan to order the chicken is derailed. I want to sample everything because it all sounds so inventive, including warm nuts, tater tots, and Jack n’ Coke pulled pork sliders. We settle on the "Trio of Balls": Hush puppies and honey; potato fritters and cheese sauce; and beer beignets sprinkled with sugar alongside malt vinegar. We divvy them up and dig in. They are amazingly light and crispy, each sauce pairing nicely.
My companions opt for the Red Velvet Fried Chicken plate, but I order the Red Velvet Fried Chicken Po-Boy instead. A piece of the chicken, pounded out very thin and breaded with red velvet cake batter, nestles between a soft fresh-baked bun atop a mound of cocoa coleslaw. I try a bite. Sweet, savory, creamy and crunchy all at once! I am in heaven, devouring every last bit, washing it down with beer.
A side salad comes with, but I pretty much ignore it, instead attacking one of Juliet’s drumsticks. So good, especially when dipped into cream cheese mashed potatoes! I also lend a fork to the crunchy-topped Mac N’ Cheese. Slippery noodles baked in white cheddar and swiss...comforting and wonderful.
I have just enough room left for dessert: a beer pairing! I order a coconut cupcake matched perfectly with the Bison Brewery Chocolate Stout. It is sweet and deep and rich and sends me over the edge. When the check comes, I am very sad this experience has to end. It is only our second full day in San Francisco and already I only want to eat here! Our server is effervescent, graciously catering to our every whim. We bid her adieu with heavy hearts, but already I am trying to connive some way we can wend our way back to American Cupcake. If we keep adding “must-do” places like this, you won’t see many new reviews from us in future.
Last year Jeremy sent me an article on American Cupcake's "Red Velvet Fried Chicken". I was awed and star struck. Who the hell thinks up something so fun and innovative? How did they come up with the idea? More importantly, when the heck can I sink my teeth into some? Despite having three trips to San Fran in 2010, I never had time to stop at American Cupcake. So you better believe it was at the top of my list for this vacation. Best of all, dear friend Harry can join us for this one which makes it even more of a treat.
When we enter I am reminded a bit of my first trip to Flip!, Richard Blais' place in Atlanta. Alternative rock is blaring, white leather booths line one wall and white leather stools line the counter. The walls are lacquered white. It's all very cool and chic for a cupcake shop. Of course, we soon discover this is no ordinary cupcakery!
Our server is smack dab adorable and walks us through the menu. I order some kind of sparkling wine to start and glance over the menu already knowing what I'm going to order. We decide to start with the "Trio of Balls" which strikes me as hilarious and I can't help but make inappropriate jokes for the rest of the meal. It's actually three deep-fried fritters; a corn fritter, beer batter beignet and a mashed potato fritter. Each has a special dipping sauce and we declare all three to be incredibly tasty. In fact when we learn one of the dipping sauces is the cheese sauce used in the macaroni and cheese, we immediately place an order to share in addition to our lunches.
The red velvet fried chicken is magnificent, both to behold and to eat. The chicken has been generously coated in red velvet cake batter and it's bright red. Not only the breading, but also an outer layer of meat has absorbed the color, making each piece gloriously bright red/deep pink at the edges. The chicken is juicy and flavorful and the coating is lightly sweetened. I know folks down South who put honey on their fried chicken, so this really isn't so bizarre. The chicken is placed on a mound of tasty cream cheese mashed potatoes. I'm not a huge fan of the cocoa infused cole slaw, but in all honesty I'm fussy about slaw, preferring savory, oil-based varieties. This slaw is slightly creamy with a hint of cocoa and I'd rather eat some of the macaroni and cheese, with its fabulous cheese sauce and crunchy seasoned breadcrumbs.
Of course, we have to enjoy a cupcake while we're here. The problem is that we're stuffed and there's too many to choose from. I opt for the chocolate peanut butter version and can't finish it, only for fear of lapsing into a food coma. This is kitschy fun comfort food at its best and we'll be back next time we're in town.