B44 44 Belden Pl./Bush St., Financial District. The best way to enjoy the Catalan menu at this engaging bistro is to pick several appetizers per person--the piquillo peppers stuffed with crab meat and the fresh white shrimp sautéed with crispy garlic and served in a little iron frying pan are both superb--and share a moist paella or entree. A sherry or Catalan wine is the perfect accompaniment. A refined chocolate banana pie or rice-and-cinnamon ice cream provide a not-too-sweet ending. Seating is in an open dining room with industrial-style decor and a full bar, or, in good weather, outside European-style in an alley closed to traffic. A restroom visit is enhanced by a video display depicting the annual “human tower” festival that dates back to the 14th century in owner-chef Daniel Olivella’s Spanish hometown of Vilafranca del Penedes, located near Barcelona.
The Barrel Room 415 Sansome St./Sacramento St., Financial District.
image courtesy of venue
Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant 1000 Great Highway/Ocean Beach, in Golden Gate Park. Designed in 1925 by San Francisco architect Willis Polk, this historic colonnaded Spanish stucco building with terra-cotta roof tiles is at the western end of Golden Gate Park, across the street from the Pacific Ocean. In the past it has served as a tea house and as an Army signal station, but now the upstairs is a wildly popular brewpub bistro with ocean views from every table. Target a visit for breakfast or lunch, when the menu is less pricey and the views can be enjoyed uninterrupted by sun-shielding shades. Don’t miss the sampler of house-brewed, English-style ales or the full-flavored, though essentially fizz-less, housemade root beer. Two standouts on the eclectic, bistro-style menu are a hamburger made with flavorful Niman Ranch ground chuck and an herb-crusted rotisserie-roasted chicken with garlic mashed potatoes. Sausage dishes are usually available, and the kitchen is famous for its achiote-spiced chicken wings. Desserts include the ultimate vertical dessert--the pastry chef’s signature Chocolate Sandcastle, whimsically composed of a flourless chocolate truffle cake placed vertically between two chocolate castle-shaped cookies. A nickel from each beer sold goes to charity, and live music is scheduled Tuesday through Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons.
The more informal Park Chalet cafe operates downstairs in the back and has a large outside area dotted with comfy oversize Adirondack chairs.
Downstairs in the front is the Beach Chalet visitor center.
Bill’s Place 2315 Clement St./25th Ave., Outer Richmond District. A variety of hamburgers named after celebrities star on the menu here along with hot dogs and sandwiches, and breakfast is available until 1 p.m. Choice shoulder chuck is ground in the kitchen daily for the tasty burgers. Sides include perfect french fries hand cut from fresh potatoes and made-from-scratch soup, potato salad, and coleslaw. Milkshakes are served in old-fashioned metal canisters. Seating is at tables or at a long counter with swivel stools, and a collection of Presidential china decorates the walls. In mild weather, a pleasant outdoor patio landscaped with a waterfall, koi pond, and Japanese garden is inviting.
Blowfish Sushi To Die For 2170 Bryant St./19th St., Mission Disctrict. A row of chefs is always busy here rolling out the sushi menu. The Ritsu, with two kinds of raw tuna, and the flash-fried Crunchy California are among the most popular versions. Tempura shrimp is exquisite, and sake is the best way to wash it all down. For dessert, try wasabe ice cream.
Boulevard 1 Mission St./Steuart St., The Embarcadero. Co-owned by chef Nancy Oakes and acclaimed local restaurant designer Pat Kuleto, this sumptuous restaurant offers a feast for both the palate and the eyes and has long been one of the most popular restaurants in town. Diners enter the gorgeous 1889 French-style building via a revolving door. The belle époque-style interior features stunning mosaic tiled floors as well as sensuous blown-glass light fixtures and pressed tin and ironwork accents. Some tables have three-landmark views--of the Ferry Building, Embarcadero Center, and the Bay Bridge. Large, serious forks foreshadow the exciting, full-flavored dishes to follow. One flawless meal here began with a Chinese-seasoned appetizer of two perfect prawns intertwined over a plump rock shrimp dumpling. The entree was a thick, honey-cured pork loin served with roasted potatoes and baby spinach. A pear tart with caramel sauce and vanilla bean ice cream provided a delightful finish.
Bun Mee 650 Market St./Montgomery St., Financial District.