Back in 2010, I moved to San Francisco a few months after graduating from college. I was beyond excited -- my first real job with a salary and benefits, and I was going to be living in one of the world's most beloved cities. What could go wrong?
Well, it turns out a lot of things. Especially with a paltry entry-level salary barely above $35K and a steep rent of $1,395 for the only apartment I could get (which of course, happened to be in a sketchy, gang-ridden part of town). Every day was a meticulous game of counting pennies to make sure I could make next month's rent. So while the rest of the city boomed from the high-tech gold rush, I was quickly left out and became one of those struggling Lena Dunham-type characters slaving to make their way in a city that didn't even really want them.
So what was it like to be a such a big eater and live in San Francisco, a bastion of foodie culture and one of the leaders of the country's burgeoning Food Revolution? Quite frankly, I can't tell you because all the great places were so laughably out of my meager budget. For a long time, I couldn't even bear to look at these restaurants' menus. It seemed like everything I loved and was interested in was right there happening around the city -- but it was all just so completely inaccessible to me.
But then I discovered Mission Chinese Food. Cheap, dirty, and delicious with generous servings, Mission Chinese was a pop-up that operated for a few days a week inside another restaurant. I quickly made it a weekly routine to eat at the restaurant, with friends or even without them. Danny, the hipster chef with the badly-dyed bleached hair, quickly took notice of my
As the months went by and article after article got written about the place, I began to see my beloved hole-in-the-wall grow. My favorite items on the menu -- the three-spice garlic eggplant, the Szechuan beef cheek -- were rotated out. I began to feel uncomfortable eating there on my own, as tables began to fill up and lines began to grow out the door. Soon, I considered myself lucky if I only waited 45 minutes for a table. Kind of insane, considering it was a restaurant with bars on the windows and a paper dragon with PBR cans in its mouth for decoration.
I did go back to Mission Chinese one last time before I left San Francisco though. Although it had been months since I'd last been able to get a table within a reasonable time frame, Danny instantly recognized me, waved, and zoomed over to the table with some free Szechuan pickles and peanuts. He gave me a grin and winked, bustling away to the kitchen without another word. That was the last time I saw him in person. The next time I saw him, he was on The Martha Stewart Show.
I'm incredibly happy to see that Mission Chinese is killing it in New York, and even happier to see that Danny and his crew are doing well. Mission Chinese is a lot of things -- delicious, original, creative, generous, hearty, comforting -- and these brownies really represent that:
First of all, they're HUGE -- like two brownies stacked on top of each other. That's why I've fondly dubbed them as "bricks". The sour cream (originally creme fraiche, but I swapped it out with sour cream to make it more accessible) gives a surprising, but entirely welcome "pizzaz" to the classic brownie flavor. Appropriate, since almost all of Mission Chinese's dishes could be described that way -- Americanized Chinese food with an unexpected, yet delicious twist.