Ordinarily, I am no fan of gimmicky when it comes to eating and drinking. I do not like waiting in line, passwords, secret phone numbers or bars with unmarked phone numbers. So when I heard that a group of chefs and front-of-the-house people, led by chefs Chris Kronner and Danny Bowien (formerly of Serpentine and Farina, respectively) were opening a pop-up Thursday-nights-only supper club in the private room of Bruno's (the unfortunately named "Pussycat Lounge") I feared for the worst. (Full Disclosure: I worked at Chez Panisse with several of the people involved in this project).
And now I am eating crow. Because somehow, improbably, the one night restaurant, Good Evening Thursday, has managed to retain what's best about spontaneous expressions of food—a casual, fun atmosphere and a market responsive, delicious menu—while ditching the hipper-than-thou attitude, the crushing waits (they take reservations) and the other annoyances you might experience at, say, Mission Street Food, such as dining elbow-to-elbow with strangers, scarfing down oddball food in the dark off of paper plates, and then having to pay with cash only.
I suppose what I'm most impressed by is that this one-night-only restaurant eats and feels like a "real" restaurant. The quality isn't sacrificed because Kronner is only cooking one day a week, and they're not trying to pawn off subpar food and drinks to unwitting customers who would come no matter what was on the menu—if only to say they'd been. Instead, the short list of dishes reads like a 1940s greatest hits menu, from wedge salads and martinis to oysters Rockefeller and fish stew Royale. This is the food your parents or grandparents ate when they went out to dinner—and the bow-tied, solicitious service only adds to the old-fashioned feel. Perhaps my favorite part of the evening came when, after having finished the pork rillettes, extraordinary brandade topped toasts, those oysters, half a hamburger and a salad (and declining dessert) we asked for the check. We'd been at our table for nearly two hours, and I had a sense that other diners would soon be swooping in to take our place. "Oh," said our server, "you know you can stay if you want." We didn't stay, but I'll definitely be back. To make reservations, email firstname.lastname@example.org