Out of the square-pizza trend that swept through San Francisco over the last few years, there have been a number of delicious examples of the form. But one of the latest to arrive is Sunset Squares, purveyors of the not-quite-Detroit-style sourdough pizzas created during the pandemic by chef Dennis Lee, and now boasting both a restaurant and a slice shop.
After having to close his Namu Stonepot restaurants and switch to takeout only, Lee found himself, like many of us, holed up at home and playing around with bread- and pizza-making in the kitchen. Starting with just making pizzas for friends, Lee perfected his long-fermented dough recipe, and soon launched Sunset Squares as an underground business with sales done over Instagram — and only later revealed himself as the chef behind it.
Flash-forward a few months, and Lee and his business-partner brothers decided to pivot more fully into the pizza game. The 18th and Dolores space that had been home to Namu Gaji for a decade was abandoned, and the former Perennial space off of mid-Market, which they had planned as a new and bigger location of Namu Gaji, transformed into Sunset Squares Pizza & Craft Beer (59 9th Street) — a.k.a. SSP Beer Hall & NFT Gallery, with the latter displayed on some monitors around what was formerly the Perennial's bar/lounge area.
The beer hall/restaurant serves two other menus, food hall-style, besides the pizza menu — the Filipino pop-up Uncle Tito, and Namu Stonepot, all of which food is prepared in the former Perennial dining room, now turned into a large kitchen and delivery operation.
But the sourdough pizza is something special, and besides the cheese-crusted square pies, Lee is also doing more traditional round pies, as well as thin-crust, 10-inch "Chicago pub-style" pizzas.
The square pepperoni pizza is, itself, a best-in-class example, dotted with a parmesan cheese sauce and topped with pepperoni cups and Zoe's organic artisan pepperoni.
But the Bulldog pizza is the star of the menu, and may be in its own genre of stoner-friendly pizza creations.
It's an okonomiyaki-inspired mashup, topped with Korean-style, grass-fed bulgogi beef, kimchee, Kewpie mayo, Bull-dog tonkatsu sauce (traditionally served in Japan with pork katsu), scallions, and bonito flakes. And it is a decadent, gooey, glorious mess of a pizza that hits your palate on all sides, pummeling you with sweet-salty-umami richness with every bite.
Why hasn't anyone else been doing okonomiyaki as a pizza?
There are a bunch of multicultural pizza experiments going on on Lee's menu, much as there were such experiments on the Namu Gaji and Namu Stonepot menus. And the General Mapo (mapo tofu and turnip) pizza deserves a try, along with the occasionally featured pork belly pizza with kimchee, and one called the Phil's, topped with Italian sausage and hot giardiniera.
But damn, that Bulldog pizza... it will sneak into your dreams and keep you coming back.
The Bulldog pizza is available at both the 59 9th Street location and the Sunset Squares Slice Shop at 553 Divisadero, and both locations offer delivery on the apps.
Top image: Jay Barmann/SFist