Monday, December 10, 2018

Airport Dining: Takeout from Giants Clubhouse @ SFO

Airport dining.  Generally overpriced, low quality, captive audiences.  Generally something I avoid, but I've been traveling so much lately that doing more complicated dining is just more effort than I want to take sometimes.

So, airport dining it is.  And sometimes, I just want to see how much I agree with the Yelpers ... a fascinating hobby, right?

My destination: the Giants Clubhouse at SFO Terminal 3, adjacent to the gate I stepped off an airplane at.  Yelpers ... *hate* the place.  Really, even for airport dining, they hate it.  I was really curious to find out why, given that the photos all made it look decent, and I couldn't quite understand what it is that they don't like.

I'm glad I took the gamble. Yes, it was airport dining, and I got takeout, but, I found it dramatically higher quality than expected, fresh, decently tasty, and I'd go back to try more.
Setting.
This ... is a sports bar.  No question.

And I happened to be there during some dramatic game, that is all I know, as everyone on my fight was watching, making noises together as things happened, and couldn't believe they had to get off the flight during the bottom of the 8th.  They all rushed to the Giants Clubhouse, or other venues playing the game, to stand in the way, not order anything, and keep watching.

Anyway.  Yes, ball game, on all the screens, everywhere.  

Regular full service dining is available, check in at host stand, get seated at a real table, with dedicated wait staff.  Bar seating is available first-come first serve, and is also where you order take out, which is what I did.

The bar looked well stocked, yet reviewers all say the drinks are horrible.

I was able to easily place my takeout order, and the staff were friendly, but it did take a while, nearly 20 minutes, for just a salad and side.  That said, they were quite busy.
Lunch / Dinner Menu - October 2018.
The lunch and dinner menu attempt to really embrace the Giants theme.  This menu is not one you can quickly scan.  It requires reading all the words.

Soups are called "Who's on First" (clam chowder, chili, tomato).  Appetizers are "Get in Line" (chicken wings, garlic fries).  The next section is "Triples Alley", with sliders, tacos, and tostadas.  Then comes salads, just called, "Entree Salads".  I guess the creative energies got lost here?

Sandwiches and burgers too just get called "Sandwiches & Burgers", although each item has nondescriptive game inspired names (e.g. "It is outta here!" is the open faced turkey sandwich on cornbread with mashed potatoes, cranberry jam, mushroom sauce, and crispy onions).  Here you can find chicken, ahi, and veggie burgers, in addition to your classic beef options.

The menu is rounded out by a large collection of interesting sounding sides (jalapeno jicama slaw? turnip jalapeno kimchi?), hot dogs ("Grab Some Pine, Meat!"), and a lackluster "Home Run Desserts" menu with just cookies and ice cream (although, to be fair, it is Strauss).
Kale Ceasar. $10.95 + New Wave Foods Crispy Vegan Shrimp $7.
"Dinosaur kale, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, garlicky sourdough croutons, and radishes tossed in a creamy parmesan cheese Caesar dressing.  *contains anchovies."

I ordered this for three key reasons: first, fresh off a flight, I wanted salad, not something heavy and fried, and I knew I mostly wanted to grab it to bring home to eat in my more comfortable house.  second, I have a serious thing again "caesar" that doesn't have anchovies, so I was thrilled to see that they did it legit.  And third ... all salads had an option of adding on protein, such a steak, grilled chicken, seared ahi, or ... vegan crispy shrimp?  I was fascinated by this idea, and wanted to try it.

I made one error in my order though, forgetting to ask for the dressing on the side, always a move I do for several reasons: I can eat half then and save the rest without it getting soggy, it gives me protection if I don't like the dressing so I can just use something else instead, and, it prevents it from being over/under dressed.  I blame airplane head.

I had no choice but to eat it right away, right?  Plus, the box was warm, which I was not expecting, until I realized the crispy shrimp was freshly heated up.

This was actually a quality salad.  Fresh chunks of kale, torn into appropriate size pieces, I always like them a bit bigger like this.  I found the addition of cucumbers, tomatoes, and radishes a bit odd, but, all were fresh, sliced into just right (e.g. not too small, not too big) size pieces, and added color and additional freshness.  The ratio of cherry tomatoes (sliced in half) was a bit high though, you can't tell from the photo, but, there were really tons of them, and they weren't great, likely haven been refrigerated.  The radishes were pleasantly sharp.  Really, a better base than I was expecting.

Now, the dressing, a critical component.  The salad was dressed just right, plenty coating the veggies, adding creaminess, but not drowning anything.  And the flavor?  Decent.  You could taste plenty of parmesan, a bit of anchovy.  However, Yankee Pier, around the corner, has better Caesar dressing.

The croutons were ok, but I don't like sourdough, and I didn't find them that garlicky.  Another area Yankee Pier wins, theirs are nicely seasoned.

I was pretty pleased at this point, and moved on to the most interesting part: crispy vegan shrimp?!
New Wave Foods: Crispy Vegan Shrimp (close up).
The product is made by New Wave Foods, a small startup in SF, made from soy protein and algae.  Just go with it.

The shrimp, at least on the outside, did indeed look like regular crispy shrimp, the right size and shape.  The panko coating was crispy.  I almost wondered if they accidentally gave me the real crispy shrimp instead of the vegan ones I asked for (also on the menu, for the crispy shrimp tacos).
Where is my breading?! 
And then I found one where the breading had fallen off.  Oh yeah, that is not real shrimp!

Once I bit in I could tell the texture wasn't quite right.  In some ways ... it was better?  Often shrimp are not prepared well, and are chewy, not properly cleaned, etc.  None of those problems here.
New Wave Foods: Crispy Vegan Shrimp (interior).
So, decent texture, crispy exterior, but, not really much flavor, and clearly "fake meat".  I wanted a dipping sauce on the side for these.  But overall, a fascinating item, and I'm glad I tried.

Overall, I was shocked by the quality of this salad.  Every element was well prepared.  The $10.95 base price might be a little high for a small-ish salad, but, it was airport dining, and compared to the other salads available in the terminal for the same price, its clearly much, much higher quality.  The $7 add on for the generous portion of shrimp seemed entirely reasonable too.

I'd get this again.
Side: Toasted Corn Bread. $5.95.
To go with my salad, I also ordered a side of corn bread, the one item from the menu that Yelpers do seem to actually agree is good.

I appreciated that it was toasted, warmed all the way through, crispy on the outside.  I appreciated the grit inside, and the corn kernels.  But ... it didn't really do it for me.  The flavor wasn't there, and mostly, it was just dry, without any honey butter to slather on it.

I took it home, and added honey butter, but still didn't love it.  I had another piece with jam for breakfast, like a corn muffin, and still didn't really like it.  I'm still not sure what about it doesn't do it for me, but, something.

The order was large, 3 full size pieces for $5.95, but I'd prefer a cheaper option with fewer pieces.  I didn't need 3. 

I would not get this again.

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