Acme Chophouse is dead: Long live Public House and Mijita! Chef Traci Des Jardins proves that two restaurants are better than one.
At most baseball park restaurants, there’s a narrow view of what’s offered as “standard fare”: nachos and things that go well with ketchup. It’s a lesson Acme Chophouse learned the hard way when the steakhouse, owned by chef Traci Des Jardins, closed at the end of last year. The problem at Acme was never the food. Chef Thom Fox is both a great cook and a proponent of sustainability. But Acme’s higher price point, and the expectations of finer dining that goes along with it, made it a difficult fit. Now, just in time for the first Giants game of this season, the space reopened as two restaurants: Public House (with Fox staying on as chef) and a second Mijita, Des Jardins’ popular taqueria.
Strategically, Public House and Mijita are positioned to succeed. The menu at the former is classic bar food—burgers, wings, dogs, cheesesteak. It could be a recipe for mediocrity, but here’s where Fox’s and Des Jardins’ vision comes to play: The burger is from Marin Sun Farms, topped with butter lettuce, slices of tomato and avocado. It’s perfectly seasoned and expertly cooked, as are the lacy onion rings, coated in a batter flecked with thyme. What isn’t made in-house is outsourced to local artisans: Boccalone, 4505 Meats and Fatted Calf all have products on the menu. Similarly, the huge beer list features several locally-made examples.
Adjacent, Mijita has a similar menu to its first location, including irresistible Baja-style fish tacos and albondigas soup. There are some additions, clearly geared toward a ballpark crowd (nachos, jalapeño poppers), but even those dishes have integrity. You can order food from Mijita and eat it while watching the game on the big screens in Public House. Want to take a beer from the bar at Public House and drink it on Mijita’s patio? Go for it. Headed to the game and want your carnitas tacos to go? No problem. You can also duck into the restaurants midgame (even after the bars in the park stop serving at the seventh inning) and get drinks to take back in with you—drinks, it bears noting, that are more generously poured but no more expensive. It’s standard fare all right, except that there’s nothing standard about it.
Super Duper Burger 2304 Market St., 415-558-8213
Burgers—along with other iconic foods like pizza and burritos—inspire an almost rabid devotion among locals. The question is not, what do you do for a living? The question is, where do you get your favorite ground-beef patty? Among the things that we lord over our East Coast brethren are weather and In-N-Out—which, despite its SoCal roots—is our gastronomic talisman.
If I don’t eat pho twice a week I am a miserable human being. Seriously, I eat it two or three times a week, mostly for breakfast. There’s nothing better than going to Turtle Tower at 8:30 a.m. when they open and sucking down a big bowl of pho. It’s like you’re Mario and you hit the golden star: You are powered up and can go all day.
I typically get the number three, pho with flank steak. I sit at the communal table and watch the Vietnamese dudes and just copy what they do—adding lemon juice, herbs and varying amounts of Sriracha depending on how hungover I am. If I go at lunch, I get the No. 4 with rare beef, tripe, flank and brisket. But Jesus! It’s too much meat for breakfast. The thing I love most about the pho at Turtle Tower is the noodles. I don’t know if they make them, but they are so silky.
I also go to Out the Door on Bush Street, since it’s right around the corner from the pizzeria. I love the vermicelli noodle soup with chicken. The noodles are perfectly cooked so that you can get through the whole bowl before they’re overcooked, and the chicken is shredded finely enough that it sticks to the noodles. I always rock the Sriracha, lime and Thai basil in my pho there. But the best part about pho is the slurping. Italians don’t slurp their noodles.
Lafitte (embarcadero) “Dissident Chef” Russell Jackson brings a menu “subject to the chef’s insanity” to the waterfront. Dine at your own risk.
Georges (financial district) Seafood: from fish-and-chips to grilled branzino.
Pica-Pica (mission) This Venezuelan spot makes a mean chachapa filled with shredded beef, plantains, black beans and cheese.
Comstock Saloon (North Beach) SF barmen Jeff Hollinger and Jonny Raglin have restored a North Beach bar to its former glory.
Izakaya Sozai (Sunset) Way out in the Avenues is this gem of a Japanese spot serving hard-to-finds such as fried chicken cartiledge.