Six Restaurants You Need To Go Back To Right Now
Michael Bauer's update review of St. Vincent last week got us thinking about all the other restaurants that either got their due in the past and continue to have a solid fan base — if not a wealth of ongoing buzz — or never got the adoration that they deserve.
Below, six of those places that are not new, but which for various reasons may have fallen off your fickle radars. Go back to them. Now. You won't be disappointed.
Chef Mourad Lahlou's modern twists on Moroccan flavors have won him raves, a Michelin star, and a consistent spot on the Chron's Top 100. Still, this seven-year-old restaurant is way out in the Outer Richmond and therefore may not always be the first thing to spring to mind for a weeknight dinner. Within a few months, Lahlou will be relocating downtown and winning over a fresh audience, we imagine, but before he changes things up at this decidedly romantic space (it's unclear what its future will be), make the trek out there and see what the fuss is about. 5800 Geary Boulevard
We can't count the number of times we've recommended this place to someone in the last two years and they've said, "Oh yeah, I've been there. It was just okay." Inevitably, when pressed to say how long ago they were there, they say three or four years ago, meaning they were there under the tenure of one of the first two chefs during the restaurant's earlier incarnations. Since 2011, chef Nick Balla has been absolutely killing it at this Mission mainstay, and even though every food writer in town knows this, not every foodinista has caught wind of it, and that is a crying shame. Bar Tartine is, hands down, the most interesting restaurant in town, not to mention one of the most ambitious, with an in-house charcuterie program, spice mixtures that are dried and blended on premises, and a boldly flavored and inventive menu that combines Eastern and Central European influences with Japanese ingredients and an esoteric, Californian point of view. Balla's food, for which some credit should also go to his sous chef and girlfriend Courtney Burns — from the creamed beet pickles, to the beef tartare on koji toast with bottarga, to the brightly green and spicy fisherman's stew — defies easy ethnic categorizations at this point, and deserves attention. Also, the well-curated beer program pairs excellently with the sometimes sour, often fermented, and well spiced food. 561 Valencia Street
This three-year-old North Beach spot has had plenty of love from the after-work crowds in the Financial District and from in-the-know cocktail lovers, but not nearly enough attention has been given to chef Carlo Espinas's clever and delicious, Barbary Coast-inspired dishes. Check out his Hangtown toast (pickled egg, bacon, oyster dressing), his roasted duck pot pie, or his chicken under a brick if you don't believe us. And every Friday you can score a free lunch if you order two cocktails. 155 Columbus Avenue
We've never disagreed more with a Bauer review than we did after this spot opened in Oakland and Bauer found so little to like about it. He's since gone back and been a bit kinder, but Daniel Patterson's casual outpost in Jack London Square, is (trust us) still better than he says it is. The kitchen is headed up by talented executive chef Kim Alter, and we think the place deserves a first or second look by anyone who may have ignored it over the last year and a half. Alter's food remains ballsy, noteworthy, and beautifully plated, and you shouldn't miss her signature smoked pasta, inventive seasonal salads, and anything she does with chicken. 44 Webster Street, Oakland
Park Tavern, which was opened in 2011 by the Marlowe team of Anna Weinberg and chef Jennifer Puccio, has won a ton of attention and a consistent fan base over in North Beach, and their brand new project, The Cavalier, is destined to be one of the more buzzed-about spots of the second half of this year. But it's probably about time you swung back to Marlowe, where one of Puccio's greatest hits, her poulet vert (roast chicken in an addictive, well seasoned, herb-heavy gravy) remains one of our favorite chicken dishes in town. Also, this is the birthplace of the Marlowe burger, which found its way onto Park Tavern's menu as well, and the concise menu and interesting wine selection never disappoint. 330 Townsend Street
And, last but not least, is St. Vincent. In case you missed Bauer's update, it's a big promotion to three stars for food, largely because young chef Bill Niles' food has steadily matured and improved over the restaurant's first year in business. Like Alter and Balla, he's another fan of brash combinations and bold flavors (he actually came out of the kitchen at Bar Tartine), like vinegar-braised pork with radicchio, and bone marrow with chiles and onions. No matter how rich or vibrant the dish, owner and sommelier David Lynch has the perfect wine to complement it, and the wine program in general is one of the best in the Bay Area. Lynch is a nationally recognized star among wine professionals, and he has a special affinity (not to mention great connections) when it comes to unusual, small-production Italian, German, and Spanish wines. And as a bonus, in case you hadn't heard, any wine on the list can be ordered as a half bottle — the staff will just pour half the bottle out and cork it, so you can try something else if you wish. 1270 Valencia Street