The Plant Cafe: Outdoor Dining at Its Most Organic


I'm a person that never feels like they can get enough of summer. Knowing that the season is fleeting makes me greedily eat as many peaches as possible. The same goes with the Indian summer in SF; I have this urge to dine outside every minute I can—all the while, looking, in a slight panic, towards the horizon to see if I can see the fog threatening to spill over. I feel it's important not to waste a moment of blue sky. (Except when you're at your desk writing a blog.)

I ate al fresco—with not even the heat of a heat lamp—at the new Plant Cafe Organic on Pier 3 recently, on one of those rare, glorious SF nights when the temperature dosen't dip into coat-wearing territory and everyone imagines what it would be like here if the weather was like that all the time (and then exclaims, with mock horror, that it would be even more unaffordable here, and then, disingenuously, thanks god for the fog).

The Plant Cafe on the Embarcadero is the second of three Plant Cafes (the third is due Fi-Di soon). Unlike the original Marina location, which serves a lot of health-conscious, Bugaboo-strolling moms, the dinner menu at this one is more upscale, including cocktails. The appealing interior, designed in part by Cass Calder Smith, is lovely, but it's the waterfront patio that brings out the best of the haute hippie food.

The menu at The Plant feels more LA than SF to me; it's less concerned with farm-name dropping than noting whether or not a dish is gluten-free or vegan. Chef Sascha Weiss's pedigree includes Millineum and Roxanne's, rather than the places we usually revere, like Delfina and A16. Sometimes it's refreshing to eat like this—a little foodie escape. (Let's just say no one at the Plant Cafe is trying to out-SF you by ordering the humanely-raised beef tripe, if you know what I mean.) For dinner I had a simple, refreshing crab timbale, an argula salad with avocado and a creamy nut dressing, as well as salmon with quinoa, all while sipping a brisk Grüner Veltliner. I could hear the groan of the robes that tied a boat to the dock and the sound of gentle waves lapping the pier; the Bay Bridge twinkled in the distance. It all made me feel like I was somewhere other than San Francisco, yet in some ways, it was just a night of San Francisco at its finest. (Go ahead—thank God it's not normally like that!)

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