Palio (photo: Kristen Loken)

Eat This Town: San Francisco

By Trevor Felch

Trick Dog’s 13th Menu has arrived
Is 13 always unlucky? San Francisco’s ever-popular creative cocktails darling, Trick Dog, recently unveiled the “Lucky Number 13” menu, their libations roster which will run through early July. It’s a collaboration with the Lower Haight’s Idle Hand Tattoo—the 13 cocktails are each paired with and named after a tattoo. And the drinks are as clever as you’d imagine. The “Mr. Lucky” sports Honey Nut Cheerio orgeat along with crème de banane, Bourbon, whiskey, amontillado sherry, Campari, and mole bitters. Meanwhile, the “Immaculate Heart” features ghee-washed gin, brandy, Cointreau, thandai (a sweet, fragrant cold milk drink from India), and mango Ceylon tea. Regulars are already curious what the 14th menu will be in July.
Neighborhood: Mission MAP

Brunch at Tank18 (photo: Molly DeCoudreau)

Tank18 starts Sunday brunch
One of the city’s prime event spaces and few urban wineries, SoMa’s Tank18 opened 2019 by starting a Sunday brunch service. Executive chef Brandon Cavazo's philosophy of “Japanese technique, Italian heart, American pantry” means diners are in for an unexpectedly fun ride. Dishes include a version of shakshuka with nopales and cotija cheese; seared polenta cake with grilled okra and white beans; a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with cured egg and kimchi; and a DIY tacos platter of seared pork al pastor. Of course there is Tank18 wine and Tank18 brewed onsite beer to go with the brunch, along with three types of Bloody Marys. And don’t forget the house-made doughnuts.
Neighborhood: SoMa MAP

Verjus makes its big debut
The highly anticipated (and long delayed) third concept from Michael and Lindsey Tusk (Quince, Cotogna) has arrived at the base of the Transamerica Pyramid, two blocks from its Italian-leaning older siblings. It’s called Verjus, and as the grape-themed name suggests, wine plays a prominent role in the “cave à manger” establishment. Part wine bar and part wine shop/conserva bar, it was inspired by models in Venice (cicchetterias) and San Sebastián (pintxo bars). Natural wines and small wineries will be showcased on the wine side, while David Meyer’s (The French Laundry, The Progress) menu is rustic, classic French with local farm inspirations. Expect the likes of boudin blanc, duck confit, omelettes with daily-changing produce, and all kinds of charcuterie and terrines, with prices in the $8 to $22 range. The conserva bar/wine shop will have around 30 (!) types of tinned seafood from around the world, plus pre-prepared foods and homemade pastries to be enjoyed at a standing communal table or to-go.
Neighborhood: Jackson Square MAP

Palio reopens after seven-month hiatus
After a 28-year run as Palio d’Asti, the popular FiDi Italian restaurant shed half of its name and completely revamped the menu and 200-seat bar and dining room after a brief closure last spring. The new menu offers a contemporary Italian-meets-seasonal California focus. Diners can start with scallops and Santa Barbara uni sauce before moving on to gnocchi paired with broccoli rabe pesto, chicken grilled under a brick, and poached tuna-roasted tomato pizza. Some Palio d’Asti classics are still here, too, like the white corn and arugula pizza and the cocoa pappardelle with wild boar ragu. Longtime SF drinks scene followers will be excited to hear that Matt Grippo (Blackbird) and Shirley Brooks (Madrone Art Bar) who are partners both in business and life, created the compelling cocktails menu and compiled a strong amari collection. Matt was just named one of San Francisco Chronicles's 2018 Bar Stars and Shirley was named SF Weekly's 2018 Best Established Bartender.
Neighborhood: FiDi MAP

KAIYŌ

Union Street Brunch Time at KAIYŌ
One of 2018’s marquee openings has jumped into San Francisco’s extensive brunch roster to welcome the New Year. The Nikkei (Japanese-Peruvian) themed KAIYŌ now serves a weekend brunch with a concise menu of tempting dishes like Wagyu Empanadas with huacatay chimichurri; a housemade spam patty burger; Passionfruit Soaked French Toast; and Karaage Chicken and sesame-scallion waffles with miso maple butter. Like in the evening, cocktails are an important part of the KAIYŌ experience. Daytime libations are led by the “Blood-C” (a roasted tomato-bell pepper-leche de tigre Bloody Mary riff) and the “Spice & Wolf” that is a howling wake-up of rum, cold brew coffee, vermouth, chai, and cardamom-scotch whipped cream.
Neighborhood: Cow Hollow MAP

Restaurant Week is heading to the bay
This time of year is always a great one for bargain-seeking avid Bay Area dining fans. The San Francisco Restaurant Week is coming up from January 23 to 31, with many noteworthy restaurants serving discounted prix-fixe menus. A condensed curated map of the participating restaurants can be found here. A similar type of concept is being held across the Napa Valley from January 20 to 27. Berkeley Restaurant Week is January 17 to 27. Bay Area stalwarts like Locanda (SF) and The Charter Oak (Napa) have tempting menus for the occasion, along with more under-the-radar spots that more diners should know about, like 3rd Cousin (SF) and Gaumenkitzel (Berkeley).
Neighborhood: Berkeley, Napa, and San Francisco

Gibson

Changes and a new direction at Gibson
Boasting one of the city’s most glamorous art deco settings, the year-old Gibson could just settle for being “another hotel restaurant” thanks to the atmosphere. Luckily, the director of operations Adam Chapman and the team-led kitchen (that’s right, multiple chefs!), headed by Prospect alum Ian Kannry and Charlie Guyard (Perbacco), are giving the place an exciting jolt. Live-fire hearth cooking continues to be the focus, with dishes like large-format smoked duck with plums and buckwheat crepes, and Wagyu tongue with sauerkraut cream, along with some of the city’s most intriguing cocktails. It’s undoubtedly still one of the city’s best mid-to-upscale dining choices, and if you’re looking for a splurge that’s still a relative “deal,” there’s the newly launched $180 chef’s table menu, with a host of intricate dishes paired with up to 14 (!) cocktails that promises to be quite a grand night on the town.
Neighborhood: Tenderloin MAP

Saison’s less stratospheric-priced bar menu
With a prix-fixe menu that runs $298 per person, Saison—undoubtedly one of the country’s great temples of gastronomy—is the kind of place that makes “bargain” take on a dramatically different meaning. That said, Michelin three-starred chef-owner Joshua Skenes and newly arrived, highly acclaimed executive chef Laurent Gras just launched a “slightly” more approachable five-course bar menu for $148. Diners can debate all year long whether it’s a “deal” but here’s the main gist: Cooking at Saison’s impeccable level of ingredients and technique isn’t cheap, so having a menu at half the price that showcases dishes either on or similar to the regular menu is worthy of a huge celebration. It opens with live-fire staples like Millbrook Farms venison and the much-Instagrammed sea urchin on grilled bread, plus red sea bream, king salmon cured over sake lees, and a pear and yuzu sweet finish. Wine pairings are available for $98, and bar director Brandyn Tepper’s cocktails are stellar, too. Guests can also add pricier à la carte food items like the outrageously fantastic Saison Private Batch caviar. Reservations are taken online for seatings at 5:45 or 6 p.m. and 8:45 or 9 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.
Neighborhood: SoMa MAP

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