Restaurant Review

Magnolia

Mixing brewpub standards with the occasional Louisiana twist in the Upper Haight
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paulr@sfbg.com

Imagine a casting call for a beer commercial — a beer, I should add, marketed toward cool young people and not geezers or swollen couch slugs — and you'll have some idea of the scene at Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery on any given night. Loose halter tops, soccer butts, and headsful of tousled hair dot the Rathskeller-scape, while the human noise (let's call it the roar of youth) is so loud and steady as to achieve a transcendence. The noise is beyond noise; it warps reality and becomes another dimension. Read more »

Balompie Cafe

Mixing Salvadorean food with plenty of televised soccer matches

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paulr@sfbg.com

Balompié Café looks like many another modest restaurants in the Mission, but it does make a convincing claim to uniqueness, in three parts. The first is the striking name — basically "ball foot" in Spanish. Football by any other name — including "balompié" and "fútbol" — is still ... soccer. Somehow soccer's claim to being the true football is more convincing than our own. In American football, the combination of ball and foot is seldom a presence or factor.Read more »

Jannah

The younger, more casual sibling of Yaya gracefully merges Iraqi and Californian influence
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paulr@sfbg.com

DINE The brightness of Yahya Salih's new restaurant, Jannah, belies — or redeems — what went before. Jannah's immediate predecessor was a place called Gabin, a Korean-inflected karaoke bar that drew some spicy Yelp commentary. Before that, it was Café Daebul, also Korean-influenced, maybe a bit less commentable. Both places were, apparently, on the gloomy, claustrophobic side.

Jannah, by contrast, is all about openness. Read more »

Metro Cafe

After a foray to Kathmandu, Metro Cafe returns to its French roots
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paulr@sfbg.com

A half-score (or so) years ago, there came to the border country between the upper and lower Haight a restaurant called Metro Café. The place was an offshoot of Baker Street Bistro, and, like its progenitor, it was rather wonderful and quite affordable. In the mid-aughts the restaurant morphed into Metro Kathmandu, which served a Nepalese-Indian menu. The change was improbable, but the food was just as good in its way. Now, after a too-short run, Metro Kathmandu has disappeared, only to become ... Read more »

Red Crawfish

As the sun sets, this quasi pan-Asian Tenderloin spot dons a delicious Cajun guise
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paulr@sfbg.com

The color of cooked crawfish isn't red, exactly — more a garnet. If it were a wine, it would be a medium-bodied pinot noir. Certainly it would never be mistaken for cooked lobster, which (pace Red Lobster) isn't red at all, but more of an inflamed orange. Read more »

Liberty Cafe

Liberty Cafe's bountiful dishes and dependable pleasantries still entice, despite recent changes
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paulr@sfbg.com

Not all restaurants have authors — central figures that breathe their essence into a place — but the ones that do tend to be special. They are also uniquely vulnerable, for if that central figure disappears, a restaurant can be left adrift without its animating force, like a fully-rigged sailing ship on a breezeless sea.

In January, Cathie Guntli, the founder and guiding light of the Liberty Café, died. Read more »

Baby Blues BBQ

Hungry hipsterdom and splendid barbecue, mingling to pleasant effect
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paulr@sfbg.com

Who needs the fleshpots of Sodom — or for that matter SoMa — when we can find all the flesh we can handle at barbecue restaurants? All right, it's not quite the same thing, but close. The real issue pertains to the restaurants. San Francisco isn't much of a barbecue town; we are a village of pastels, and barbecue is a primary color.

We are also a realm of hipsters, and where there are hipsters, it follows that there might also be hipster barbecue. Read more »

The Corner

Reflecting the local "Mission hipster California cuisine" ethos without showing off
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paulr@sfbg.com

For the evolution-minded, the past is a living presence, and such all-American phrases as "start from scratch" or "clean-sheet design" cause anxiety. In our culture of disposability and revolution, the past is about as attractive as a worn-out razor blade — and we know what happens to them. So to find a new restaurant that simultaneously manages to be contemporary yet respectful of the past gives quiet delight. Read more »

The Moss Room

Hidden beneath the new Academy of Sciences building, this California culinary oasis offers simplicity and sophistication
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paulr@sfbg.com

The basement restaurant is an odd duck — odder still if the basement is in a museum in a relatively remote park. Yes, my 16-ton hints do pertain to the Moss Room, the venture orchestrated by Loretta Keller and Charles Phan that opened last fall in a subterranean sector of the new Academy of Sciences building in Golden Gate Park.

A word, if I may, about that building, which faces its nemesis, the DeYoung Museum, across the concourse the way Minas Tirith faced Minas Morgul in The Lord of the Rings: one fair, the other sordid. Read more »

Bistro St. Germain

The Lower Haight gets first French bistro, featuring well-executed classics
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paulr@sfbg.com

Few neighborhoods in Paris are more full of cultural flavor than the Faubourg St.-Germain, the Right Bank district whose main thoroughfare, the Boulevard St. Germain, is the home of the Café Flore (the original!) and the Deux Magots. Picture Sartre thoughtfully smoking a clove cigarette, with a demitasse emptied of espresso sitting on the table in front of him.

Although the Faubourg St.-Germain is very near the Sorbonne, its bohemian life is mostly a relic. These days the area is expensively residential, and its shops and restaurants reflect this affluence. Read more »