Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Stick-ing It 

We were irritated with the clever punsters at Asqew Grill, until we tried the kebab

Wednesday, Jul 28 2004
I'm a sucker for a good pun. Actually, I'm a sucker for a bad pun, too. I once wrote an entire magazine article about clever imaginary pun names for coffeehouses, and to this day I can't figure out why no one has scooped up "Grounds for Divorce," "Brew-Ha-Ha," "The Bump and Grind," "Bean Counter," or "Caffiend."

And yet, for inexplicable reasons (read: envy), I found myself not amused by the folks in Clever-Clever Land who came up with Asqew Grill (1607 Haight, 701-9301; 3348 Steiner, 931-9201; The name, catchy and punny though it may be, conveyed to me a certain smugness that comes from being young, beautiful, smart, successful, and dazzled by your own brilliance.

My outlook wasn't helped by the fact that the YBSSDs behind this healthy quick-but-not-fast-food minichain (a group of friends from Cornell's Hotel and Restaurant School) come armed with a World Wrapps-style marketing concept (substitute kebab skewers for tortillas) and have brought a boatload of snappy catchphrases and a twentysomething hipster vibe to their endeavor. Pierced and tattooed servers and kitchen staff wear mechanics' jumpsuits and sport Real World names like Mad Dog, Bomber, and Bucky; the menus read like an Atkins checklist ("Skewers come with your choice of starch or salad"); and the attitude is upbeat with a side of insouciance -- witness the monosyllabic "Kew" with which staffers answer the phone.

Not being a card-carrying YBSSD, I went to Asqew in the Haight with an "if you can't join 'em, bash 'em" attitude. Figured I'd sit somewhere (appropriately) on the outskirts and wolf down what I presumed would be mediocre food, while wincing uncomfortably at the overly loud soundtrack provided by a band whose members weren't even born when I was in high school.

After sifting through the mix-and-match offerings, I debated between cilantro-lime chicken with roma tomatoes and red onions and east/west barbecue pork with apples, pears, and onions. I settled on the chicken with a side of couscous (the roasted-garlic mashers were my first choice, but I acquiesced to the management's suggested pairing). For an extra $3, I treated myself to a side of grilled asparagus.

After a short but not too short wait (which usually smacks of pre-made food), a sizzling-from-the-grill skewer arrived, jammed with chunks of succulent chicken and flanked on either side by sweet red onion and plum tomatoes. Underneath, a generous bed of couscous flecked with herbs gave off a citrus/garlic aroma that jump-started my salivary glands. Moments later, a bountiful dish of asparagus bathed in garlic butter and grilled to al dente perfection showed up, and poof -- my first two expected demerits, freshness and portion size, were off the table. The dish had spent no time under a heat lamp, and for $6.50, it almost constituted a bargain. As I dug into the kebab, my next weapon of mass deduction evaporated as well: The sauce -- nearly a dressing -- wasn't bland and didn't taste bottled. The tangy blend of champagne vinegar, cilantro, garlic, shallots, and lime juice was nicely piquant, just to the point of puckering.

I fumbled desperately for something that would trip the place up. Hormones in the poultry? A secret stash of PC-verboten Chilean sea bass? Then I spied the final nail in my bitter coffin: a postscript on the menu noting that Asqew uses only free-range chicken, organic greens, and Australian grass-fed beef and lamb. I picked the chip up from the floor (the one that had fallen off my shoulder) and headed straight for Higher Grounds.

About The Author

Bonnie Wach

Related Locations


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"