Appetite: Jerk-spiced duck hearts, kambocha squash spaetzle, mango curry -- the best of Upper Haight and Cole Valley
APPETITE I'm constantly asked what my favorite restaurant is. It's an impossible question. Inquire about my favorite taqueria, German spot, tea house, French bistro, and I'm ready to talk. There's a favorite for every style and mood in a metropolitan city such as ours. My current home is on the cusp of Haight-Ashbury and Cole Valley, which, like every neighborhood in our food-rich city, has its treasures. We'll breeze past the touristy swill and explore its best here. Find more of my picks in this neighborhood, from coffee to cocktails, here.
Thank God for The Alembic. The bar has been one of SF's best since it opened, thanks to bar manager Daniel Hyatt, whose expertise in American whiskeys equals an ahead-of-the-curve selection. Alembic claims many gifted bartenders, like Danny Louie and Janiece Gonzalez, and I'm never disappointed when asking for an off-menu cocktail creation. The food is destination-worthy in its own right — maybe the best in the Haight. Whether at the bar with jerk-spiced duck hearts and a bowl of shishito peppers, or dining on caramelized scallops and sweetbreads over kabocha squash spaetzle, I continue to be satisfied.
1725 Haight, SF. (415) 666-0822, www.alembicbar.com
MAGNOLIA PUB AND BREWERY
Owner and brewmaster Dave McLean opened Magnolia Brewery more than 14 years ago, brewing the best beers in SF (in my humble opinion). Magnolia's space has Old World, gastropub charm in black leather and wood booths and antique floor tiles. It serves the best brunch in the area — sorry, Zazie and Pork Store — which includes BBQ belly over Anson Mills cheddar grits, or quinoa hash and eggs if you want to cut down the fat quotient. For lunch and dinner, house sausages delight (rabbit currywurst!) as does savory mushroom bread pudding or a near-perfect Magnolia pub burger.
1398 Haight, SF. (415) 864-7468, www.magnoliapub.com
GIOVANNI'S PIZZA AT CLUB DELUXE
Upper Haight's best hidden gem is Giovanni's, a pizza kitchen in the back of Club Deluxe (eat in the bar or take-out). Giovanni's pies aren't so much Neapolitan perfection as a mix between Italian and East Coast styles, with a classic margherita and spicy Diavola, laden with pepperoncini, salami, Parmigiano, and a Belizean hot sauce. Save room for a West Coast rarity: a fresh cannoli, sweet ricotta stuffing brightened with orange blossom oil. Club Deluxe's drinks are of the mojito, greyhound kind. Not exactly a cocktailian destination. What makes Deluxe special? Nightly live jazz in a well-loved bar that thankfully hasn't changed decor for decades, with a 1950s, cozy bar feel. Bands rotate: trios, duos, quartets, even organ acts, providing some of the best jazz in the city, usually free. If only, like New Orleans, our neighborhoods were lined with such clubs.
1511 Haight, SF. (415) 552-6948, www.sfclubdeluxe.com
ICE CREAM BAR AND SODA FOUNTAIN
I wrote much of Ice Cream Bar back in February, so I'll send you to the review detailing my fascination with this one-of-a-kind, 1930s-era soda fountain. It's my top pick for dessert.
815 Cole, SF. (415) 742-4932, www.theicecreambarsf.com