Review: The Square Bar & Kitchen

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

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Artistic butter.

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Review: Pier 23

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…. 

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Short Review: Padrecito

I had dinner at Padrecito last weekend — a newer, stylish Mexican restaurant in Cole Valley. My experience was so-so. While the decor, atmosphere, and menu are well done, I simply wasn’t terribly impressed with what I ordered, nor with the service. As this was my first time in the restaurant, I’ll give the latter the benefit of the doubt, but my lack of enthusiasm probably won’t have me returning terribly soon.

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Services: Avital Tours — Haight Ashbury Food Tour

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.

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Review: Comstock Saloon

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

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Wine Kitchen

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:

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  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.

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Commonwealth

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:

scone

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

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!

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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!!!

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