When Erik Lowe and Aaron Toensing, who worked side by side as chefs at Bix—a San Francisco fine dining institution—for four-and-a-half years, started to think of opening their own restaurant, they had a single vision in mind: "We wanted a restaurant where we could cook from the heart."
Maybeck's, now entering its fourth year, has proved to be the successful realization of that dream.
Named for the architect Bernard Maybeck, who built the nearby Palace of Fine Arts, Maybeck's is kind of a choose-your-own-adventure dining experience. You can cozy up at the long bar for oysters and a martini, or snuggle into a booth for a multi-course dinner. The menu itself is similarly unpretentious, but don't let the seeming simplicity fool you.
Lowe, who brings the high standards of his experience at Michelin-starred Ame as well as strong relationships with local farmers and purveyors, describes the food as "classic dishes done really well." All of the pasta is made in house thanks to chef Toensing—the radiatore Bolognese with chile oil is a signature dish on the menu—while executive chef Micheal Pihl brings a little flair to the classic fare from his years spent at two-starred Cyrus, Rubicon, and Michael Mina. A whole grilled fish is dressed up with lemon tzatziki and harissa, while the smoky char of a perfectly cooked skirt steak compliments the cool and bitter flavors of market kale, cherry tomatoes, and green herb ranch.
First things first: wine. Humiston's list is easy to navigate, with sections devoted to zippy whites, robust reds, farmer wines, and lady vintners. There's a good chance you'll discover something new.
"It's everything I love about restaurants. It's comfortable, it's good food, it's nice people," says GM and wine director Courtney Humiston. The certified sommelier brings her broad range of experiences in wine and hospitality to the program at Maybeck's. She was the opening GM and wine director at Dominique Crenn's Petit Crenn, but has also worked multiple harvests in viticulture and winemaking. Most recently, she managed the beverage program for a top restaurant in Norway where natural wines were a focus.
"For me, being a good somm and a good wine director means bringing wines I really believe in to our guests," says Humiston. "You can use words like sustainable or natural, but unless you really know the people who are making them, how they're farming, and what their philosophy is, those are just words."
Expect to find some excellent natural wine offerings here, as well a section of wines made by women winemakers. The wine list features seasonally appropriate varietals, with light and fresh offerings playing well in summertime, and deeper and earthier flavors come winter.
The result of this teamwork is a menu that feels classically Northern Californian and a 100 percent chance of getting that just-right glass (or bottle) of wine.
// Maybeck's, 3212 Scott St. (Marina), maybecks.com