The story: Saucy Asian is a corner fast-casual eatery in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood, opened by first-time restaurateur Andrew Shinn. The tiny shop features a Korean fusion menu that blends Korean flavors in popular formats like burritos, tacos, and poke bowls.

Why I went: I bumped into the new space when I was visiting my niece, who lives in the Castro, and we were headed somewhere that was booked full. Saucy Asian was nearby in a “soft opening,” so we dropped in. It’s now in full open mode, and I visited again just to try a few more items. While it’s open for dinner, both times I visited for lunch.

Decor for the hashtag generation.

Juice in a zippy bag, $4

The vibe: With colorful murals and neon signs catering to the Instagram crowd, Saucy Asian hits all the notes for a hipster crowd. There are a few shared seating inside along with sidewalk seating for the San Francisco summer.

The drinks: Kombucha and nitro coffee are available, but Saucy Asian’s unique offering is its “Zippies,” which are fresh juices served in bags and a straw, like adult versions of juice boxes. The flavors are seasonal and my niece and I both tried a lemonade special, and it leaned on the sweet side even though we both thought the packaging was cute. Saucy Asian also offers up popsicles, which are perfect for summer.

Saucy Asian style poke bowl with tuna and gochujang aioli, $13

“Island Style” poke bowl,$13, with seaweed salad, tobiko, fried shallots and miso aioli.

The menu: Saucy Asian offers up rice bowls, wraps and tacos that plays on Korean favorites like bibimbap and kim chi. But it also offers up specials like poke bowls and ramen. Because both times I was looking for something like, my niece and I tried the poke bowls (“Island Style” for me and “Saucy Asian” for my niece, both $13 each). You have the choice of tuna or salmon or a combo; I enjoyed my bowl with a nice mix of flavors but my niece felt her bowl had more greens than actual fish.

When I returned for a second visit, I was intrigued by the idea of ramen on the menu (which is served only for dining in). Turns out, though, the “ramen” ($9) made with spicy broth spiked by jalapeno slices resembled the kind of ramen you ate in college from a cup, with no real toppings except enoki mushrooms and carrots. It was a disappointment, especially since I was so thrilled by the presentation when it first arrived in a fun copper-colored covered pot.

Spicy ramen, $9, big on presentation but small in substance.

Saucy Asian has a fun, youthful vibe and is just a month old in the Castro.

The last bite: Saucy Asian brings sass to Korean food for the neighborhood, and while on paper it seems fun and exciting, the food can sometimes feel like it’s not enough. The flavors are there, but not every item seems fully developed quite yet (especially at these prices).

The rating: 2 out of 4 camera snaps




The deets: Saucy Asian, 3801 17th St., San Francisco. PH: 415.834.5555. Open daily 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. No reservations. Major credit cards accepted.

2 Responses to A Review of Fast Casual Korean Fusion Saucy Asian in San Francisco

  1. Carolyn Jung says:

    That’s disappointing about the ramen. But the other dishes sound fun. I’m hoping the drinks-in-a-bag are for to-go only, though? I just cringe about all that added plastic that may amount to when dining in, as opposed to using regular glasses that can be washed and reused.

    • Ben Ben says:

      The juice always comes in the bag. If not, then it’d be a plastic cup, which is just the same? I wonder if maybe they have those compostable bags? I didn’t think about it but you’re right it’s probably not the best idea for the environment.