Skip to Navigation Skip to Content

Getting to the Heart of the Artichoke

Cotogna's Sformato, photo courtesy of The Chronicle's Craig Lee

An artichoke is a mystical and enchanting thing. So captivating that it appears in Greek mythology in the story of a beautiful woman named Cynara who was transformed into an artichoke. And its no wonder the artichoke gets so much acclaim and attention: it’s delicious, exotic, and even a little sexy. Sure, we all love a rich and creamy artichoke dip, but a good artichoke doesn’t need to be masked by cheese and cream. An artichoke is a unique and subtle vegetable that needs little manipulation. Try these tasty dishes for a glimpse into the sultry world of artichokes.    

Cotogna

This rustic Italian menu changes daily, so it’s hard to keep up (meaning, if you find something you like one day, good luck ever tasting it again).  They offer a constantly rotating sformato (a savory soufflé) in flavors such as spring onion and zucchini.  But the real star is their artichoke sformato with parmigiano reggiano.  Eggs, cream, and cheese make this a rich dish, but Chef Michael Tusk makes sure to showcase this seasonal bounty by not masking its intense artichoke flavor. 490 Pacific Ave.   

Locanda

Locanda has long been known for their Jewish style artichoke: an artfully presented dish of poached, fried, and seasoned artichoke.  While this eternal Roman dish will never be replaced, at the moment Locanda is presenting the artichoke in a new guise: a salad of shaved artichokes, grilled ricotta, wild arugula, and avocado.  This dish is a perfect combination of smooth and crunchy, salty and buttery. 557 Valencia St. 

Lolinda

Lolinda’s meaty menu of everything from lengua and sweetbreads to skirt steak and short ribs is not for the weak of heart (or stomach).  On the other hand, it’s not everyday you can go to an Argentine steakhouse and find some of the most delectable vegetable dishes around.  Think outside the box and try their alcachofa (charred artichoke with lemon aioli), or simple dishes like pumpkin soup, hearts of palm salad, and Tuscan kale. 2518 Mission St.

Chambers Eat + Drink

One of the best ways to showcase an ingredient is in soup.  While it may sound simple, soups can actually be rich, complex, and more unique than many more complicated dishes.  Chambers Eat + Drink gets it just right with their Jerusalem artichoke soup.  The smooth, creamy soup is complimented by sautéed squid, crunchy garlic and sunchoke chips, basil, and savory gojuchang (a fermented Korean condiment).  The combinations of flavors and textures makes this soup a must try. 601 Eddy St. 

Picaro

When it comes to Spanish tapas, Picaro is the place to go.  The first tapas restaurant in San Francisco, they offer a large menu of meats and cheeses, vegetarian options, fish and shellfish, and larger platters and paellas.  Grab a pitcher of sangria and enjoy their alcachofas a la plancha, or grilled artichokes. 3120 16th St.