San Francisco's Mission District is a curious mix of new and old. Nestled among Mexican mom-and-pop grocery stores are some of the city's most upscale and trendiest restaurants. The Bay Area's long history of liberal thinking has made it a hotbed of socially-conscious eating, but the Mission's newest standout, Shuggie's Trash Pie + Natural Wine, takes sustainability to a new level.
It's not owners Kayla Abe and David Murphy's first foray into an environmentally-responsible food business. Since 2018, they've been running Ugly Pickle Co, utilizing irregular produce to make pickles, spreads, and sauces that can be found in Northern California Whole Foods, Gus's Community Markets, and many more local grocers.
Shuggie's is their first restaurant. It opened its doors in April of 2022, taking over a space that formerly housed Velvet Cantina. The pizzeria quickly garnered attention for its unusual name, sustainable Mission, and flashy décor that looks more like a psychedelic cartoon funhouse than an eatery that's likely to make the shortlist of Bon Appetit's best new restaurants. The two rooms of the restaurant are painted in vibrant green and yellow, with playful furniture, including chairs shaped like open hands and off-color sculptures lining the wall (be sure to drop a coin in a particularly vulgar fountain).
Nearly everything you order at Shuggie's is sure to lower your carbon footprint. As the name suggests, Shuggie's turns trash into savory treasures, utilizing blemished produce and ingredients that are typically discarded. The pizza dough itself is made with whey, a byproduct from cheesemaking, and milled oat flour that's leftover after oat milk production. Even the odds and ends of the dough get reused in the form of their Already Famous Garlic Knots, served with ricotta fluff, wilty green chimi, herbs, and leaves.
Other notable ingredients include fried underripe tomatoes in the Mama Donna's Polenta-rama, the Stems, Leaves & Buds appetizer (cauli stalk chimi, walnut aji Amarillo romesco, cotija, Jimmy Nardelo peppers) and their Spicy 'N' Sticky Fish Head. Uniquely sustainable pizza toppings include ugly mushrooms, sunburned squash, abandoned chard, and salmon belly conserva. Even the dessert menu takes a creative approach to conservation, using fried banana peels in a chocolate sundae.
And since this is 2022, the drink menu at Shuggie's is heavy on natural wines, with five low-intervention wines available by the glass ranging from a local savory orange wine grown in the Sierra Foothills (Everwild Verdelho) to their "pizza red" (Simon Busser Printemps, Cot 2020 Cahors, France). Those looking for just a taste can order a wine shot for $4, and if you're feeling like frozen refreshment, their Froze slushi uses blemished stonefruit.
Given the wacky décor, it's hard to walk into Shuggie's without smiling. The staff has a come-as-you-are and inclusive vibe, a hip-looking mix of industry veterans and servers who might be taking an order for the first time. If you're looking for a dark and somber place for a meal out alone, this isn't it. Expect a trendy cross-section of San Franciscans, but also the occasional family, given the atmosphere feels more like a playground than a fine dining establishment.
The pizza itself is described as grandma slices, but it's not quite what a native New Yorker might expect from the term. The six-slice pies are square with a thin crust that's akin to Chicago bar-style pizza. At prices ranging from $19 for a pepperoni, honey, and chili pie, to $23 for the Dead Combo (salt cod, potato, farm eggs, white sauce, onion, herbs), they're relatively affordable, and one pie should be plenty for two diners with the addition of a couple appetizers.
To start, I tried the Fried Pickle Kakiage, essentially Ugly Pickles that are tempura-fried alongside overgrown sweet potatoes with a playful mouth-shaped bowl full of shiso ranch. Although the dish was more batter than pickles, the pile of fried shreds made for an excellent light snack. The sharable Stems, Leaves & Buds plate was a unique mix of flavors, with the walnut aji Amarillo adding a colorful burst to the cauliflower stalks, but overall had a slightly soggy texture.
As one might expect, the pizzas was the standout. Served in a speckled ceramic cooking tray, the slices had a subtle char around the edges, with chopped pieces of pepperoni in every bite. The honey and chili added a richness that was amplified with dollops of ricotta fluff, a $4 add-on that lent the slice a creamy texture. Like everything at Shuggie's, there's something nostalgic and childlike about the slice, evoking post-soccer game celebrations but with adult culinary touches.
Shuggie's has received plenty of fanfare in local food publications, so make a reservation in advance to avoid a wait. They're closed on Mondays and Sundays but keep later hours than the average SF restaurant (closing at 10 p.m. on Tues/Wed, 11 p.m. on Thurs, and 12 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays). Metered street parking isn't too hard to find. It makes for an excellent date night and is also a surprisingly fun, family-friendly spot for young parents.
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