There are countless ways to describe “comfort food,” but we define it using what we call the Wet Socks Test™. That is to say, if you accidentally stepped into a puddle on a rainy, foggy day, and water soaked through your canvas sneakers, would eating this food make you feel better faster than a warm towel? The fantastic Eastern European dishes at Dear Inga in the Mission pass this test with ease, and are exactly what you’d want if you got drenched or dumped via text message.
At Dear Inga, you get the kinds of dishes that register deep in your soul as comfort food. The stuffed cabbage will make you feel like you’re sitting by an old wood-burning stove, and the kasha and potato dumplings would be a near-perfect addition to an après-ski meal in Tahoe. The best things here are the sausages (there are usually three on the menu to choose from), like a smoky kielbasa with pickled vegetables or a rich blood sausage with lentils. After you try one, you’ll want to bring it with you for emotional support on your next flight.
But not everything at Dear Inga is as comforting as the food. If you come here with a group, you should be prepared to spend around $100 a person. The dishes are meant to be shared, but the portions are small and you’ll probably end up needing to order two of some things. Sadly, there’s nothing warm and fuzzy about spending $28 on just two sausages - even as good as they are.
That’s not the only thing that trips us up about Dear Inga. Much like a lot of other trendy, high-end restaurants around San Francisco, Dear Inga has tall ceilings and sleek light fixtures that look like they were stolen from an exhibit at SFMOMA. It’s pretty, but it doesn’t feel like the right environment to be eating this type of food. Between bites of the lamb neck that could break a Guinness World Record for tenderness, you look around the room at the minimalist stools and concrete floors, and briefly worry about getting locked in this museum overnight.
Even though the restaurant itself won’t give you the new-pair-of-socks feeling, the food is more than enough reason to come to Dear Inga with friends to catch up over small plates and interesting wines. Just make sure you don’t step in a puddle on your way.
Much like adding an AUX input to your car, or shelling out extra money for Comfort+, you’ll want to upgrade to this puffy fried bread with any dip you order.
We wish we could put this light and mild dip on a bagel, but the housemade bread it comes with works well too.
This is smoky and thick and a good way to start the meal. Like the liptauer dip, it comes with housemade bread, but we’ll say it again - make sure to order the langos with it. (As you can tell, we really love the langos.)
Every flavor and sensation is packed into this. It’s bitter, acidic, buttery, nutty, and the list goes on. It’s a phenomenal salad that needs to be at your table.
This is a very good plate of smoked fish you can split with one or two people - and a $28 plate at that. Do what you will.
The pickled vegetables are a nice touch and cuts through the smokiness of the sausage.
The silky sweetbreads go well with the mild chicken, and the apple butter the sausage sits on takes this dish over the top.
This is some of the best stuffed cabbage we’ve ever had. The tomato sauce doesn’t overwhelm the pork and rice filling, and the cabbage doesn’t taste overcooked. Our only issue with this is that you only get one per order.
There are multiple meatballs here, which, thankfully, make this easier to split than the stuffed cabbage. They’re good, but the cabbage is still better.
Odds are, you’ve never seen meat fall apart like this tender, fatty lamb neck. The merguez is one of the best we’ve ever had, and the leg is perfectly grilled. If you’re here with a few people, get this, and make sure you get the most of the neck.
The sweet clams go well with the mildly spicy broth. If you’re looking for a lighter main, this is it.
The cocktails are our least favorite thing at Dear Inga. A lot of them are syrupy and almost medicinal - the kind of drinks you have to keep telling yourself you’re enjoying. Go for their Eastern European wines instead - you’ll be much better off.