Tu Lan Vietnamese San Francisco
8 6th Street (At Market St)
San Francisco, CA
It’s peak lunchtime on a Tuesday in mid October and I’m sitting at the bar counter at Tu Lan Vietnamese in San Francisco. As the 5th screaming police car rushes down 6th Street towards the Tenderloin, I begin to wonder whether after 10 years since I last lived in SF has Tu Lan stood the test of time? I was excited to see that the only thing that really changed was a slight price increase on the menu. Otherwise, same chef dude manning the fire breathing stove sporting the dirty towel around his neck to soak up his sweat, same dirty greasy cracking linoleum floors, same flickering dusty fluorescent lights, same peeling yellow wallpaper, and the SAME FUCKING AWESOME FOOD!
In my mind, Tu Lan is one of the best examples of a great hole in the wall restaurant that CAN stand the test of time. Tu Lan has such great food that no one cares about the cleanliness, location, or the decor. If you think about it, take any great successful restaurant and strip away all the décor, marketing and place it in a rat infested, dirty corner shared by junkies, the homeless. If people still flock to it during lunch hour then you know it’s got a great menu. Oh yeah, it doesn’t hurt that the legendary Julia Child did a review way back in the day and that the Bay Area Guardian has graced this restaurant with years upon years of consecutive ‘best of SF’ awards.
My mind however that day was in the wrong place and I ended up ordering #24 (Com Cha Gio Thit Nuong rice & imperial roll, pork kebab) instead of my favorite dish (#17 Bun Cha Gio Thit Nuong pork kebab/imperial roll & rice noodle) But I couldn’t complain. I also love the fried rice (huge portions) and Ca Chien Gung fried fish in ginger sauce. The Pho is OK.