The kitchen uses cheddar, jack, and Gruyère, hardly an unknown combination in today's world of mac-and-cheese connoisseurship, but the result is a creaminess and intense depth of flavor that leaves one longing for more, even though the serving crock is not small.
The Bistro 9 burger ($8, plus another buck for cheese) is made from Niman Ranch beef, which manages to remain tasty and juicy even when slightly overcooked. I'd ordered mine medium rare, which maybe is such a common expression that it no longer registers in the awareness of busy servers. Medium well isn't ruinous for a burger, just faintly disappointing. A nice pillowy bun helped soften the letdown, as did a stack of fresh french fries, some with bits of skin still attached.
A word on the soups: try them. (All right, two words.) The signature soup is a hearty lentil ($4.50 for a cup), semipureed and sweetened by a raft of caramelized onions. A sometime offering is red bean with vegetable (also $4.50 for a cup), a full puree the color of tomato soup, decorated with pipings of crème fraîche and summoning the spirits of both minestrone and chili. It's like a blind date for soup that works out.
For dessert, how about a shameless wallow in the brownie sundae ($6.50), several scoops of ice cream plopped over warm, chocolate chipstudded brownies, with a heavy lacquering of hot fudge sauce? It's plenty for two and then some. The only issue is likely to be in agreeing on what kind of ice cream you want, since you get a choice. I demurred in the selection and heard, from across the table, chocolate being chosen. Chocolate ice cream with chocolate chocolate-chip brownies and chocolate sauce? And how about a tube of Clearasil on the side?
Still, we left happy. We even waved at the Park Chow people before slipping off into the night. *
Daily, 11 a.m.10 p.m.
1224 Ninth Ave., SF
Beer and wine
Comfortable noise level