Power Breakfast: Joe's Special
Like cioppino and sourdough bread and Hangtown Fry, the Joe's Special is one of Northern California's great homegrown comfort foods. The story goes that the dish was invented late one night back in the Prohibition era at New Joe's in North Beach out of whatever was left in the larder. Today this simple, hearty, richly satisfying dish is embraced by hangover sufferers, anti-carb fanatics and the ravenously hungry alike for its toxin-absorbing health benefits and its earthy, elemental gustatory charms.
You can find this fabled protein bonanza at any of the Bay Area's numerous Joe's restaurants (identifiable by an open kitchen, red meat and savvy, tuxedo'd waitstaff), but Polkers (2226 Polk between Green and Vallejo, 885-1000) serves up an especially tasty rendition. A bushel of lush, deep-green spinach is sauteed in olive oil with lots of coarsely ground beef, thickly sliced mushrooms and chopped onions, then a couple of eggs are stirred in and cooked until perfectly moist and tender. The result: a big, beautiful platter-full of breakfast that will keep you powered up throughout the day or all through the night. —Matthew Stafford