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Food & Drink

Oddest Anomaly in the San Francisco Dining Scene 

King Jamaican Restaurant

"Is this even a restaurant?" the curious and hungry wonder upon entering the nondescript storefront with yellowed photographs pasted over the windows. Inside, there are glass display cases overflowing with Rastafarian and Afrocentric items, incense, T-shirts, and reggae tapes. On the walls hang posters of dreadlocked icons. A suspended television blares reggae concert footage. There's a pair of perpetually empty tables. There are apparently no shoppers, and no staff. Finally, after five or 10 minutes, somebody shows up from the back. The menu lists some pretty interesting things, but the restaurant is often out of some of them. Once you've settled on what's in stock and ordered, you're told it'll be 20 or 30 minutes. Go down the street and get a drink. Go across town and get a drink; you've got time. After an hour or so, cook and proprietor Prince Neville appears with your order in hand, plastic-bagged and mummified in saran wrap. He'll smile and ask if you'd like some of his homemade ginger beer -- a deliciously potent but nonalcoholic brew. Get yourself home and dig in. Entrees come with a heartwarming bean soup, rice 'n' peas (or kidney beans, as they're known outside Jamaica), spiced vegetables, and a slab or two of fried plantain. The fish is wonderful -- particularly the crab-stuffed salmon, if it's ever in -- but standouts run the gamut: jerk chicken, curried goat, even the curried tofu with vegetables. While the prices can seem a bit steep for such salt-of-the-earth fare, the portions are rib-poppingly generous. Be forewarned: Spicy here means heated by Jamaica's own Scotch bonnet peppers -- the world's hottest -- so order accordingly. Delivery is available if you live in the immediate neighborhood; somebody'll walk it over in an hour or so, give or take an hour.


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