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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Proper Food Is Pricey Food for Extremely Busy People

Posted By on Tue, Apr 14, 2015 at 8:00 AM

click to enlarge Thai Papaya Noodle Salad with Black Cod - PETER LAWRENCE KANE
  • Peter Lawrence Kane
  • Thai Papaya Noodle Salad with Black Cod

The corner of Sutter and Montgomery is one of the most Manhattan-like intersections in San Francisco. Not just because the buildings are tall, or some of the men scurrying between them actually wear ties. It’s because there’s a diagonally oriented pedestrian sign that lets you cross both streets on the same green. It’s more New York than New York, almost.

So it’s not surprising that Proper Food would take up there. Heavily marketed towards important people who are so on the go that they can’t possibly wait another second behind someone who’s dithering over a choice of dressing. Everything is pre-made in a commercial kitchen and can’t be customized unless it’s for a catered event. The other downside of doing all the prep work elsewhere is that by 1:30 or 2 p.m., there’s a serious risk that the cases are going to start looking a little bare. And there aren’t even seats; it’s to-go only.

Proper Food is basically airport food — but not airplane food — that charges a lot and takes itself extremely seriously. Some items are “super-charging your metabolism and optimizing digestion” while others have so much protein that you’ll have “sturdy bones and super-healthy hair, skin and nails,” just from eating lunch. Yeah, well, seven out of ten customers are probably just desperate for something that isn’t Chipotle and inevitably going to raid the office fridge full of Coke Zero that very afternoon.

In my $12.95 Thai papaya salad with black cod, the cod was admittedly very fresh. But considering the long list of ingredients (papaya, pickled rainbow carrots, red leaf lettuce, gai lan [Chinese broccoli], son-in-law egg, cilantro, Thai basil, mint, toasted peanuts and a house-made coconut and peanut dressing), it had almost no discernible taste. So much for all that promiscuous optimizing. (I also bristle a little at the growing meaninglessness of the term “house-made” when something isn’t even prepared on-site.) If nothing else, it was big, and I’m going to make it all the way to dinner without hate-eating any kettle chips first. But can’t San Francisco just get a Pret a Manger already?

Proper Food, 116 Montgomery, 992-6781.
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About The Author

Peter Lawrence Kane

Peter Lawrence Kane is SF Weekly's Arts Editor. He has lived in San Francisco since 2008 and is two-thirds the way toward his goal of visiting all 59 national parks.


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