Stumble home too quickly out of the Tempest and you might miss Box Kitchen. I work across the street and have long discovered that the Tempest is the perfect SOMA dive bar to arrive to after a long day: the crowd is unpretentious, the drinks are cheap, the music usually takes me back to middle school, and the food actually tastes good even before I'm tipsy.
Box Kitchen serves bites ranging from $4 to $9 and is operated by the Tempest, so order inside the bar during lunch or walk over to the order window next door in the evenings.
My usual order, the chicken-in-waffle, has been on a hiatus due to a waffle iron malfunction for some months. True to its name, the chicken is pressed inside the waffle with a maple sriracha dip on the side. According to the last cook I talked to, a new waffle machine has arrived but it's so fancy and requires so much power they haven't figured out exactly where to put it in the kitchen yet.
The most popular thing on the menu is the box burger, mainly because it's an $8 burger at a dive bar, but also because it's a good burger. Ground Schmitz Ranch chuck is topped with a bacon shallot grastique, white cheddar, lettuce, tomato and crispy shallots on a potato pepper bun. The potato skins with crispy pork belly, charred green onions, gouda cheese and a quail egg will easily soak up those $5 beer and shot specials. Tacos rotate and this week the cochinita pibil came out fiery with a bit of sweetness from the purple pickled onions, but the cabbage and tortillas were too dry to make them worth ordering again. Look out for weekly specials like the fried chicken and biscuit on Thursdays.
For a lighter bite check out a new menu addition, the elote. Grilled corn is cut in half and covered in a chipotle rub, creamy queso fresco, and a subtle lime butter. It's a simple Mexican street food but without the excessive amount of mayonnaise and cheese found at most places. Note that it requires floss or looking like a mom and cutting the corn kernels off with a plastic knife.
Box is open 4:20 p.m. to 1 a.m. every day, order at the window and pick it up in ten to fifteen minutes. Lunch is served inside the Tempest from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.