As a food writer in San Francisco, I've seen my fair share of stripped down restaurant interiors and farm-pimping menus. Hormone-free meats and sustainably sourced everything is great for our bodies and our environment, but it's gotten to the point where I need a keyboard shortcut for "local and organic," and if I see one more Edison bulb hanging over my classic cocktail and Neapolitan pizza (fired at 1,000 degrees!), I might gag.
A recent series of posts on Eater SF (where I serve as full-time editor) prompted me to take stock of the San Francisco restaurant trends that I wouldn't miss if they died tomorrow. Am I the only one who feels this way?
1) Exposed Everything: You get dressed up for dinner, so why is it okay for your restaurant to be naked? I agree, it's miraculous when a new restaurant owner unearths some gorgeous vintage brick or raw concrete behind the styrofoam walls of the Jamba Juice he took over. But please, layer it up with pillows, flowers and art to make us feel cozy as we dig into your coddled cow meat. San Francisco is always cold at night, and it's painful to feel like you're camping while dropping $50 on dinner and drinks.
2) Edison Bulbs: I think I wrote about my first Edison bulb when The Alembic opened in 2006. The trend has now trickled down to new, "trendy" Thai restaurants and seafood bars, and it continues to amaze me that restaurants are still bragging about the shade-less light blub dangling from the ceiling and a gangly wire. There are so many other ways to keep your eating spaces bright: table lamps, lattice pendants, plain old pendants, globes, porcelain chandeliers, it goes on and on. Enough already with the Edison bulbs.
3) Farm Pimping: Many great chefs in San Francisco have said it to me first: at this point, it is understood that your tomatoes come from Santa Cruz, your squash blossoms are not from Mexico, and that chicken is Mary's, air-chilled. As a chef in the Bay Area, if you're not using a good amount of vibrant, locally or sustainably harvested produce and meat, your restaurant will probably not last long. God bless the Bay Area for that. Save the printer ink, and leave the farms, ranches and chicken ranges out of every single description on your menu. Places like Nopa and Cotogna are listing the farms they use in tab on their websites, which is a great way to both give a nod to your purveyors and explain your philosophy.
4) Classic Cocktails: I love a good old fashioned, margarita, or sazerac—don't get me wrong. But any bar that knows what it is doing should be able to turn these classic drinks out no matter what. How about putting something one-of-a-kind on your cocktail menu—something that I can only get at your bar, so that I have to come back? Just a thought.
5) Bacon Desserts/Bacon Drinks: If you're going to put bacon somewhere I'm not used to seeing it—like on my ice cream—it still has to taste good and work into the balance of the overall dish. Just because you sprinkle bacon into your donut batter or steep it in your bourbon does not mean I'm going to instantly start raving about your restaurant. Do it right, and you're onto something. Or, you can stick to a well-executed, old-fashioned BLT and most people will love you no matter what.
Have certain "trends" started to rub you the wrong way too? Put your thoughts and conversation on this matter in the comments.