By Kim Fortson

Brunch may be the headlining act at Olea, the comfortably elegant Nob Hill restaurant stationed at California and Larkin, but dinner is the rising star. Evening meals in this cozy space match the jazz playing lightly in the background—the soft, percussive clatter of dishes from the kitchen laying down a beat for the warm notes of smooth red wines and the cool harmonies of crisp, dry whites. The menu riffs on American classics with inventive combinations—think grilled quail with root puree and a crunchy, accoutrement-rich quinoa done right—and improvisation. Though the farmers’ market–based menu changes every three days, it’s anchored in familiarity: a couple of salads, one to two white meat dishes, one to two fresh fish dishes, a red meat plate, and a vegetarian plate. The mini petit four ends things on a sweet note, with the house-made lemon bar and citrusy Italian sorbet shining particularly bright.

... on the side

at your service
Waiters present wines before the first pour, so you’ll know where your vino comes from when you sip. It’s little details like these—along with the vase of fresh purple flowers at the long table, the dried chili peppers hung in the kitchen, a piece of art from owner Phillip Thoman’s home adorning the wall—that simultaneously draw you in and invite you to linger.

a good, fine wine
Phillip curates a small but robust wine list, stocking each varietal with wines that cover both ends of the flavor spectrum. Take the Merlot, for instance. On one end, there’s a dry, red fruit–favoring Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve, at the other a jammy, boysenberry-tinged Happy Canyon Vineyards you shouldn’t miss.

beans to spill
Keep an eye out for small but significant design updates coming soon. Polished floors, new curtains, vintage photographs, and blueprints of modern structures (a nod to the restaurant’s twist on classic American cuisine) are among the proposed changes.


lunch: Thu 11:30 AM–2:30 PM
dinner: Tue–Sat 6 PM–9:30 PM
brunch: Fri–Sun 9:30 AM–2:30 PM
Closed Monday

price range

$13.50 (quinoa bowl) to $21 (New Zealand rack of lamb)