The 16th Street Mall doesn't hide many culinary secrets; just about anything that's edible is visible on a quick shuttle trip or a tourist-clogged stroll. But that doesn't mean there are no surprises. A Mediterranean falafel-and-pita rig like WikiPita feels natural, but a classic Italian red-sauce joint in the form of a food stand? Lechuga's Italian Restaurant has an incongruous presence on the mall, but it makes more sense when you learn that this kiosk serves only the hand-held sausage rolls that are the north-side restaurant's most famous export.
From Lil Devils to the Supers, these sausage cannolis set Lechuga's apart from other old-school eateries. Spicy or mild links — or even meatballs — get enveloped in cheese and chewy dough for a portable treat. The rolls are already handed over in bunches at the counter at Lechuga's Highland location, so it's a sound idea to export them to a more urban setting. The kiosk opened this summer as a bookend to the mall's outdoor-dining experiment, Patio 16, in a spot previously occupied by Pretzel Street, between California and Stout streets. No actual cooking is done here; the cannoli and sauce are made fresh and trucked downtown in a sweet custom van, where they await hungry customers.
All the Lechuga's favorites are represented here — like the Little Devils ($4.95) to the Tuddy Toots ($2). The Devils are the most famous offering, spicy Italian sausage topped with slivers of green chile. The combo really cranks up the heat, leading you to drown the spice in the tangy marinara available by the ounce ($1 for 4 ounces) to the quart ($5.50). Mini hots and milds ($2 each) offer a similar pleasure in a smaller package, and the Tuddy Toot ($2) is a tasty and seriously filling meatball cannoli with plenty of room for sauce inside. Their prices and scarfability make it easy to pick up a whole sackful for a party or an office-wide snack. The super cannoli ($4.95) is a double-barreled hot pocket with two sausages nestled inside; it's almost too much dough and meat to handle in one sitting.
While these snacks aren't quite as fresh as you'd get at a table inside the mother restaurant, they're perfectly suited to be consumed on the go. Skip the outdoor seating area next to the kiosk and take your cannoli for a walk: No stained dress pants for you — just a gut-sticking Italian snack in the last place you'd think to look for it.
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