Seven Casual Spinoffs of Fancier Restaurants
The last few years have ushered in a host of mini-empires in the San Francisco food scene, even if some of those are just empires of two. Restaurants like Acquerello, Quince, and AQ have all opened sister restaurants, sometimes next door, where the food is a little less fussy and the service is often top notch if a little more laid back, but still with the pedigree and quality of their fine-dining sibling. Below, our guide to the more recent crop of these spots, in case you didn't already know they were there.
The wine program at this new, bustling neighborhood spot in Polk Gulch/Russian Hill belies the fact that owner Giancarlo Paterlini and son/sommelier Gianpaolo Paterlini know what they're doing and have a deep cellar to draw from at 25-year-old Acquerello. But what sets 1760 apart is the excellent and eclectic food menu from chef Adam Tortosa that blends influences from Asia, Latin America, and Europe.
Four-year-old Barbacco made a splash in the FiDi when it opened next door to the more formal but equally delicious Perbacco back in early 2010. The menu leans more toward small plates and trattoria-style dishes, like their excellent meatballs and seasonal bruschette, and the pastas are essentially on par with the top-notch ones you'll find next door. At Barbacco, though, you'll find iPad wine lists, sports on the TV, and a more boisterous, after-work vibe.
Chef-owner James Syhabout and exec chef Benjamin Coe wanted to create a restaurant around the creative, often indulgents kinds of food that the staff at the Michelin-starred Commis prepared for each other at family meal. The result is an inviting and fun Rockridge pub that's already won over a bunch of fans with menu items like fried chicken with oyster mayonnaise, and blood pudding poutine, as well as a cool cocktail program from bar manager Christ Aivaliotis.
The stellar pastas at Cotogna come out of the same kitchen as the ethereal, delicate, more intricately plated ones you'll find on the menu at Michelin two-starred Quince. But you'll also find wood-fired pizzas, excellent farm-fresh salads, and wood-oven-roasted meats that are generally to die for in any season. This casual sister spot remains a hot ticket and tough table to get at the last minute three years after it opened.
Owners of the ever-popular Sardinian spot La Ciccia, Massimiliano Conti and Lorella Degan, opened this enoteca and prosciutto bar just last year right down the street, offering a casual alternative to their cozy, always packed, white-tablecloth spot. The menu is simple, with just cheeses, cured meats, lasagna, meatballs, and pizza, and plenty of wines by the glass.
Co-chefs and owners Teague Moriarty and Matt McNamara have just taken over the former Washington Square Bar & Grill space in North Beach, most recently known as Bottle Cap, right across the park from Park Tavern. They just opened on Saturday, and the menu features a bevy of cocktail-friendly snacks and small plates as well as bigger share plates like a whole roasted Dungeness crab. The kitchen boasts a number of staffers who helped open Sons & Daughters on Nob Hill four years ago, and that restaurant now boasts a Michelin star.
The fire-driven sister restaurant to the more ambitious AQ has been wafting smoke from its impressive wood grills since last fall, and features an easy-going menu that's divided into sections by price, with dishes ranging from $6 (for things like molasses baked beans with duck confit), to $24 (for beef with smashed turnips and housemade steak sauce). The drink menu is beer, wine, and sherry only, however there is a list of "loopholes" -- cocktails made with sherry, vermouth, bitters, or low-ABV liqueurs.