Andy's Excellent Chinese Cuisine has been preparing and serving Szechuan specialties like Kung Pao for decades. It's a familiar spot on the corner of Union and Polk.
It was my dinner guest who urged me to meet her there. I have been eager to try Andy's, especially since I know of its other location on 9th Avenue in the Sunset District between Judah and Irving Streets. Actor friend Tim Vigil who lives nearby, said he stopped going there when what he noticed that the staff were too busy attending to take out orders over the phone rather than order in customers. That was some time ago. Still, I wanted to try this Andy's location because of its reputation and the fact that each time I have passed by, the aroma of some sort of stir fry is enticing.
I do not consider myself a connoisseur of Chinese food by any stretch of the imagination because I have not traveled outside North America. So, I really am limited in my taste experience. But concerning local versions of flavors from afar, I know the basic difference between good food and not so good.
Simple dishes for me are usually an indication. If the restaurant does poorly on a simple staple dish, like pot stickers or egg rolls for example, then something is not right in the kitchen. Soup is another tell-tale sign that the food is not at its best. Yet to my delight at this Andy's on Polk Street, the pot sticker dumplings and wonton soup were delicious. The wonton dumplings were small and uniformly made. The broth had flavor and all tasted fresh.
The pot sticker dumplings to my delight, were not greasy. And, were slightly crispy, which I have been told by those I know who really know Chinese cooking, like SF Realtor Rose Dong, that "there's an art and technique" to making good pot stickers. Slightly crispy and not greasy is important, because the flavors of the filling must be enjoyed, savored and not drowned out in oil.
My dinner guest who requested that I not mention her name for this article, only her comments; mentioned that "greasy" was something she avoids. She had a craving for wonton. My usual favorite soup is the 'hot and sour" soup which can be oily. Yet to please my dinner guest I went along with the selection of wonton. I enjoyed it. She still craved something more spicy. "But not greasy," she reiterated.
"What about eggplant?" I was hoping she would agree as for me eggplant in Szechuan sauce is more delicious than any Italian version of an eggplant dish I think of. Yes, even more so than eggplant parmesan. "Oh, but some places I have been to do eggplant in Szechuan sauce and it for me it is very greasy," she said.
Andy's offers a vegetarian version of Kung Pao made with tofu.
Not to spoil the evening I encouraged her to order anything she wanted. She selected the Kung Pao made with Tofu. As a man, I cringed when she requested that the Kung Pao be made with tofu. Recently health reports have noted that soy protein is not the best choice for men. While I am open-minded to all sorts of foods, I have noticed that like high fructose corn syrup, soy ingredients of one form or another have been popping up in many of the foods we buy at the grocery store.
Despite my initial reservations I tried some of the Kung Pao Tofu, priced at $6.95. To my surprise it was delicious and it had the right balance of spicy favor in the sauce and some of the flavors had been grilled right into the large cubes of tofu. The serving also included full chill peppers along with nuts and some greens. This tofu dish is a triumph for vegetarians. And, speaking of vegetarian, Andy's offers a separate menu that has all the expected favorites like egg foo yong, sizzling rice soup and yes even pot stickers in vegetarian mode.
For me the unexpected highlight at Andy's on Polk that evening was the dessert. While cappuccino cake is not a Chinese food specialty, Andy's serves one of the best cappuccino cakes. And at $2.00 per slice, I think it is a real deal of a treat and a nice compliment to a delicious meal.
The Cappuccino cake was a nice surprise to compliment a delicious Chinese food dinner.
Prices are reasonable with pot stickers at $4.95, soup for two or more at $5.95. Most entrees are at $7.95 or less. And, while Andy's does cater most to delivery and take out, the location on Polk is a comfortable dive of a spot. Its cozy contemporary décor with high-back seating booths is relaxing. The staff is friendly and lets patrons take their time eating and chatting, no rush. Reviews on Yelp and on TripAdvisor are mixed. Yet the four and five star reviews outweigh the less than stellar comments.
I was pleased with my little culinary adventure out and my dinner guest was too.
Interior of Andy's Excellent Chinese Cuisine on Polk Street, San Francisco, CA
"The décor is kind of circa late 1960's a-go-go style," she said. And, she was happy that we were able to talk and linger without being rushed to pay the tab. Windows allow for views of the street to watch the busy and eclectic mix of people pass by. While as a dive Andy's is a bit worn, the accommodations are relatively clean, orderly and neat.
Andy's accepts all major credit cards, but requests that when using debit/credit cards that it be for purchases of over $10.00. Andy's does have a banquet menu and does not accept checks. Open Monday to Saturday 11 AM to 10 PM and Sundays 3 PM to 10 PM. Check out the web site for more info, Or call 415-922-5526. Andy's also receives orders on line.