The Square Bar & Kitchen

9 11 2014

I would like to hereby welcome one of North Beach’s most recent additions to the restaurant scene: The Square Bar & Kitchen. Just across the street from Washington Square Park (see what they did there?), and taking the place of the former Bottle Cap (and even more former Washington Square Bar & Grill), The Square opened in March of this year serving upscale, creative takes on classic American dishes.

Delicious homemade bread starter at The Square

Delicious homemade bread starter at The Square


Artistic butter.

The Square is the latest creation of Teague Moriarty and Matt McNamara, owners of Sons & Daughters on Bush ($98 tasting menu, no a la carte options) and Sweet Woodruff on Sutter (20-seat casual counter service and take-out only). The food at The Square appears to fit squarely in the middle of their other two restaurants, offering upscale a la carte dining with a full bar and lounge.




Two awesome things about The Square:

  1. The Farm: The owners run an 83-acre farm in the Santa Cruz mountains — Dark Hill Farm — from which they source as much of their food as possible for all three of their restaurants. This farm is not open to the public, nor does it sell to any other restaurants or stores. Talk about local — I’m certainly impressed by their dedication.
  2. Open Late: If you’re not feeling so philosophical about where your food comes from, what it all means, and double rainbows, you might just be looking for a place to eat in North Beach around, say, 11pm. You’ll notice that your choices start to slim down rapidly as the moon shines on, but The Square offers food until midnight and bevs until 1am every night.
The Square dinner menu June 2014

The Square dinner menu June 2014

The Square dinner menu August 2014

The Square dinner menu August 2014

I’ve now been twice for dinner and both times the service was impeccable, the drinks were great, and the food was worth writing blogs about. It’s not cheap — the bill for two people was around $130 both times — but it’s definitely worth it. You could easily cut back on drinks and dessert to get the price down (we got an appetizer or two, two meals, dessert, and two drinks each… we weren’t exactly feeling thrifty).





Fried green beans with dill aioli ($6), sooo amazing


The menu appears to change often, with some classics staying on all the time. Also, the facility is relatively large for SF — a 90-seat dining room goes a long way on a busy night. AND, they now serve brunch on weekends (score!) and have a good happy hour from 3-6pm every day. So. There’s obviously something here for pretty much anyone, anytime, even all you squares out there.



complimentary lavendar cookies and dessert wine!

complimentary lavendar cookies and dessert wine!


The Square on Urbanspoon

Pier 23

6 10 2014

Let me tell you why I love Pier 23. The food is decent, the cocktails are mediocre, and the service can be sporadic. Ok, those are not reasons I love Pier 23, but I keep going because it’s such a cool place despite all these things.

The front of Pier 23, as shown on their website

The front of Pier 23, as shown on their website

Pier 23 is one of those places in a big city that feels like is has history. It’s got an old-fashioned, super casual vibe to it, but it’s popping with patrons young and old, so it still feels alive and fun. It’s small and oddly-placed along the vast waterfront full of cavernous, mysterious pier buildings – a welcoming oasis along this often inaccessible-seeming stretch.


Rear patio tent seating

Bay views to the north

Bay views to the north

The marquis out front, as shown on their website

The marquis out front, as shown on their website

A couple things that are a bit more tangible: outdoor bay-side seating, both in the open air and under a tent-like, clear-walled enclosure. I generally opt for the latter since it’s almost always breezy out there, but it’s nice to have both options. Another feature: live music. In the indoor bar area that I would generally describe as a dive bar, they often have musical guests that really round out the feel of the whole place. Last time I was there, they had a rad blues band with a rockin’ piano player. I was smiling and tapping my foot even before we walked in the door.

Shrimp and scallop ceviche -- $16

Shrimp and scallop ceviche — $16

Olives -- $7

Olives — $7

Baked oysters -- $10

Baked oysters — $10

The food is hit and miss, but as long as you’re not expecting gourmet, you’ll be fine. The baked parmesan oysters ($10 for 3) were actually pretty dang good, and I recall enjoying the tuna poke tostada ($12) quite a bit in the past. The pricing is a bit higher than I would expect, but this is primo territory, tourist and otherwise, so I wouldn’t really expect anything less. Plus, I’m actually happy to pay a bit more for seafood dishes… cheap shrimp always scares me.

If you’re heading down the Embarcadero and looking for a place to greet you with a smile, a cold beer, and amazing views of our beautiful bay, stop in to Pier 23 and soak up the San Francisco charm.


Haight Ashbury Food Tour — Avital Tours

14 07 2014

Avital Tours is a name I had heard before — but not until she contacted me about a media tour of The Haight had I considered actually joining a tour. But, since I know surprisingly little about the food scene in The Haight, and I wanted to experience one of these famed food tours, I happily accepted.

The tour took place on a bright, sunny day with eight or so other bloggers. Avital herself was there, but another local foodie and food writer, Virginia Miller, was the guide. The tour was three hours long and took us walking in a relatively small area while providing information about a variety of non-food-related historical facts as we made our way to five food and drink establishments.

Avital Tours Haight Ashbury Culinary Map

Avital Tours Haight Ashbury Culinary Map

A fun little map of the Haight provided by Avital is shown above (click to enlarge); the five stops we experienced are described below.


Stop 1: Bacon Bacon

This shop is actually really cool, even though I’m not a meat-eater. We got a bit of info from the owner, who was really laid back and knowledgeable, and tried a taco and a bit of Mexican hot chocolate, both graced with pork products. I had informed Avital beforehand that I don’t eat the piggies, and they seamlessly accommodated me without me having to ask again. Smooth.

hot chocolate

bacon Mexican hot chocolate


piggy taco


veggie taco


Stop 2: Alembic

Finally, I got to go to Alembic. This is always on the top SF lists for craft cocktails, and I just had not made it there yet. They have a small food menu, really intricate cocktails, and they’re expanding (maybe open now?) into the adjacent space to make a bit more room for tables (the bar essentially fills up the whole space right now). The Southern Exposure (a spin on the classic Southside cocktail) was extremely refreshing and expertly made. The tiny pickled quail eggs were my very very favorite (you know how much I love pickled things…) and were as yummy as they were adorable.



southern exposure cocktail


pickled quail eggs




Stop 3: Anda Piroshki at Second Act Marketplace

This space used to be the old Red Vic Movie House, and now is working as a community space housing five retail shops and an event space. One of the five shops is Anda Piroshki, where we were able to watch as these traditional Russian treats are made (and then eat them, of course).

piroshkis being made

piroshkis being made



finished piroshki


[Stop 3 1/2: The Gardens Behind The Alembic/Second Act Marketplace]

In a small space behind these joint buildings, a garden exists that houses a surprising amount of veggies and herbs used in the creation of the food and beverages served in both establishments. This isn’t open to the public, so we felt pretty special getting a sneak peek at this area along with some information from the building’s owner, Betsy. (I believe this stop isn’t on the regular tour, but thought I’d share.)



Stop 4: The Fizzery

Even for The Haight, this place is kooky. Offering hundreds of varieties of small-batch bottled sodas in all flavors and colors, along with enough candy and toffee to make a schoolkid’s head spin, the Fizzery sells a few of its own bottled creations from their facility in The Mission District. They even have a contraption to flash-cool a soda you just bought to be enjoyed on the spot. This place is a trip.





instant cooling machine!

instant soda-cooling machine!


Stop 5: The Ice Cream Bar Soda Fountain

Mimicking a soda-pop shop of yesteryear better than you could possibly imagine (seriously, some real research went into this place), this seemingly simple ice cream shop is really a haven for the funkiest “soda” creations since 1850. Creating their own “tinctures” and “lactarts”, you can not only enjoy a radical sweet treat, but you learn a whole new vocabulary of liquid libations to boot. They also have a wide variety of ice creams (people were even raving about the vegan choices), and they serve lunch as well.




The “soda” we tried (I use quotes because these are nothing like the carbonated canned drinks we’re familiar with) was a creation invented by the leader of our tour: Dill Lactart Soda. It was milky, but bubbly, and dill-y… I drank the whole thing without being able to place where this should go into my mental rolodex of flavors. It was sweet and tart and just really interesting. This particular flavor isn’t on the menu, but the menu items certainly leave enough interesting choices to last for many visits.

dill lactart soda

dill lactart soda

And that was it! If I wrote everything I learned on this tour, I could write for days. The whole thing was really well executed, the length was perfect (if it had gone on much longer, my dogs would have started barking*), and nothing about moving a group of eight or so from place to place was strained or difficult. And, I learned a heck of a lot more about The Haight than I knew before, which is fun even for a local. Not that she needs more endorsements with all her zillions of five-star Yelp reviews, but I’d definitely give a hearty thumbs up to this tour. Thanks Avital!

*That means my feet would have started hurting.


Comstock Saloon

16 04 2014

Comstock Saloon is a nice bar and restaurant on Columbus that’s kinda got a classy, old-timey feel to it. As in, it’s gussied up like an old fashioned saloon but with new, nice, and artistic fixtures. Dark wood bar, tables, and booths; dim chandeliers and lamps; bartenders who wear vests… you get the idea. Fine, I guess it’s kinda a hipster thing, but it’s cool and classy and fun and I like it. (Per their website, the historic space was a saloon dating back to 1907 — points for authenticity!)

pot pie

Mushroom Pot Pie from Comstock — $17


Comstock bar

Being a saloon (complete with fancy SF cocktails), I never really thought about it as a dinner place. Indeed, I was wrong. They have a small menu, but it’s really creative and very tasty. I went recently and was pretty excited about it. And they have a mushroom pot pie that’s made to order! Seriously, as good as it is unusual. Love.

Other dishes I tried:


Pickle Plate from Comstock — $5

I’ve never had pickled grapes, and I’m not entirely sure I liked them, but the rest of the pickled things were good, and I’ll at least give them an A for effort.


Little Gem Salad from Comstock — $9

Little gem salad with garlic anchovy dressing was simple but solid.

artichoke dip

Crab and Artichoke Dip from Comstock — $14 (appears to be seasonal)

I mean, what can I say. Crab and artichoke dip? Is it possible to go wrong? So good. Also, appears to be seasonal as it’s not on the menu on their website at the moment.

pot pie

And of course, the finale was the pot pie. Not to even mention that I still want to try so many other things on their small menu… squash fritters! Bucket of shrimp! Monterey Bay sardines! Marinated olives! Maybe I’ll even muster up the courage and go for the oysters…

Also, free lunch Fridays with purchase of two adult beverages? Intriguing…

Comstock Saloon on Urbanspoon

Wine Kitchen

9 06 2013

This is going to be a weird post.

Basically, these food photos turned out relatively amazing. So this place looks amazing. And the food was really good, but the decor and general ambiance of Wine Kitchen irked me in a weird way. And since I was with my architect friend, she easily told me Eight Things that Wine Kitchen Could Do to Improve Their Vibe. And, while I would not have noticed them myself, she was right.

But first, food:

Behold: Fried gnocchi

Behold: Fried gnocchi

We sat right next to the window; the light was great. These pictures are with my shitty Android phone. Yeah, everybody, Android. Decent pictures. It can happen.

Anyway, the menu was all nibbles, but was very creative. We ordered almost everything that didn’t include animals that have legs. All the dishes were about $12, except a few smaller nibbles (like the corn tempura) that were around $4. It was all really good.

Corn Tempura

Corn Tempura

Scallops a la Plancha

Scallops a la Plancha

Scallops a la Plancha

Scallops a la Plancha

Cheese Plate! Aged gouda in the middle was amazing.

Cheese Plate! Aged gouda in the middle was amazing.

Big Eye Tuna Crudo

Big Eye Tuna Crudo with quinoa

So back to the Big Eight… I’ll just do a list, like I like to do. Here are some unsolicited thoughts on how to make WK a bit more chic:


  1. The font. Not nearly chic enough. The bottle opener thing is superfluous. I hesitate to criticize this, since I know how hard it is to choose a logo. But still.
  2. The orange-ish paint on those first walls (pictured) is not ok.
  3. The wood wine holder wall displays are no good. Do something architectural with the wine display or get it out of there.
  4. The weird weed/plant decoration on the north wall (not pictured).
  5. The art on the south walls in the main space (also not pictured, and I didn’t even see it, but Architect said so).
  6. Table top color — dark red no good. Too dark. Lighter would be more inviting.
  7. Chairs — too traditional, go with something more modern. Though they were sturdy, which I appreciated.
  8. Get rid of the TV at the bar. I, personally, could take or leave this one. But, again, Architect has spoken.

So there you go, those are some thoughts on possible decor improvements.

Oh yeah, we drank this bubbly, and it was very nice. It is called wine kitchen, after all. End scene.




22 01 2012

Dude*. Commonwealth.

I keep hearing about this place. It’s at 29th and Telegraph in Oakland, and it’s a pub/cafe-type place that my friends like to go for Sunday brunch.  And it’s awesome. I finally went today and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

From the adorable pair at the bar speaking in their British accents (which I hope were real) to the decidedly British/Aussie (hence the name Commonwealth) fare and beverages (beans and toast, “cuppa” tea), this place was A) uber-cute, and B) good. We three ladies ordered three dishes and shared. And the light was fabulous so my photos look money. See?

french toast

French toast with “Golden” syrup. You know you want it.

beans and toast

“Bubble and Squeak” on the menu is really just vegetable mash, beans, and toast. Yum.

veggie pie

Veggie Pie. ‘Nuff said.

So, those are the things I ate. And I think the photos accurately depict the deliciousness contained in each dish. The place was cute, small, and cozy. The music was loud-ish, and we asked the waitress to turn it down, like the old folks that we are. I also got a cappuccino and an Odwalla OJ to make sure my personal bill wasn’t under $20. Fully worth your bruncherly** attention.

Also, we all shared this, though I wanted it all to myself:


Currant Scone of Doom. Ok, I named it that, but it was reminiscent of a dessert it was so good. Almost as good as a chocolate dessert, even.

*I have been recently alerted to the fact that I use the word “dude” a lot in my speech patterns. I’m not sure how I feel about this, but I think I’ll take it to mean that I’m really awesome. Which is how I take most comments.

**This is a word. I am using The Force on you right now.

Dark Horse Lounge

26 03 2011

Shameless plug for my baby sis’s new bar Dark Horse Lounge in Hayward, NOW OPEN!!

Formerly the Whiskey River Saloon at Hesperian and Winton, Jenny has transformed this old-west style bar to a more contemporary version of your local watering hole. With a new coat of paint, some new light fixtures and a hell of a lot of scrubbing, the Dark Horse Lounge is ready to serve you a drink starting today!

dark horse lounge

They’re not serving food other than small nibbles at the moment, but come by for a cold beer, a cocktail or just to say hi to the pretty lady behind the counter (unless my dad is bartending… he’s not quite as pretty as Jenny). I’ll be stopping by today and I’ll keep everyone posted about any Grand Opening events or upcoming specials!

Yeay for opening a business, see you at the Dark Horse Lounge!!!

Dark Horse Lounge on Urbanspoon


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