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Good Dining at a Bar?

  • c

My question is--where besides Zuni and Hawthorne Lane can you go in this city to graze and water while at a comfortable bar--not a scene type of place.

Last night, "Mr. Gina" and I decided to have a Thanksgiving drink and light fare at Hawthorne Lane. When we arrived they annouced that there was liquor only but no food as they stopped serving at 7:30 (it was 7:45). They were going to be shampooing their rugs.

I just share this as I thought it was odd that a restaurant could close their books for the night during these times. Wouldn't it be better to do it early Sunday morning?

We were calmed by the more than smooth Chopin martinis and sailed down Market to Zuni for some late eats of oysters, salad and shoestrings, and another 'tini.

Any recommendations would be welcome--we're somewhat habitual at 2223 but we think it would be good to broaden our horizons in '04.


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  1. I have been gathering a list of favorite places to eat at the bar ... it's fun, and it allows us to get into places where normally there would be a wait. Here are some that come to mind:

    * Hayes Street Grille. The woman bartender who is usually there is a great server. It's fun to watch the hustle and bustle of the restaurant from behind a martini and fries at the bar. We have full meals sitting here, and prefer it to sitting at a table.

    * Chez Nous. They have a teeny tiny bar area in the back which is fun to sit at. Much more fun to choose what you're eating by checking out what they're cooking. They only serve beer and wine, though.

    * Timo's. I am a Timo's fan, and I think that eating at the bar there is a perfect thing to do for the tapas. Esp. good to do when you are just having a few bites. I think that some of the other tapas places in the mission allow bar dining as well.

    That whole Hawthorne Lane incident is just bizarre -- makes you wonder if something happened to make it necessary to shampoo the rugs *right then* :)

    1. Postrio has good bar space and food.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Peter

        But Postrio doesn't serve the full menu at the bar. Not recommded.

      2. I had lunch yesterday at the bar at Tadich. I do not know if they serve dinner at the bar/counter, but it is a great spot for lunch.

        1. I dropped in to Solstice on California/Divisadero Monday night to meet some friends for a drink. It's the space that used to be Rasela's (sp?). The atmosphere is very nice inside, and the food that I had was pretty good and reasonably priced: chicken pot pie was yummy, and a fruit & cheese plate was also quite nice. Both priced around $6 or $7, and smallish so you could certainly order several items as appetizers and not have too much food.

          It's more of an upscale bar/lounge than a restaurant, which is an attraction for me.

          1. I've been meaning to go for drinks and snacks after work at Piperade. They have about 8 seats at the bar. The quality of the food doesn't hurt, either. Yum.

            1. Chenery Park seats 6 at the bar with full menu. Definitely not a scene.

              1 Reply
              1. re: SF-Glen

                I second this. John is a great personality behind the bar and the Gaines the Chef comes out and chats as well.

              2. For something a bit different, I like the bar at Ravenous in Healdsburg. Excellent food, and there are always interesting people sitting next to you. The barman is great to watch too as he crushes ice for the mojitos, pours and tastes wine and offers his opinions on anything under the sun (especially jazz), all at the same time!

                1. In order of declining preference:

                  Fifth Floor -- Large bar area. Also tables where one can dine without a reservation (when one enters the restaurant; different from lounge). Seating in bar/adjacent table area is usually not difficult to get.

                  Gary Danko -- A very competitive bar area, with respect to getting seating. Prob between 8 and 12 seats (?). Always occupied when I've seen it.

                  Masa's -- Same menu as restaurant; 4 plush ivory-colored stools next to a bar area that is pacman-shaped. A bit busy, as there is a lot of traffic before the diners walk past the long white drapes into the main dining room.

                  1. try the Eos wine bar. same menu as the restaurant.

                    1. Although they can be a scene depending on when you go, my BF and I eat fairly frequently at the bar of Last Supper Club and Luna Park. Can save long waits for seats...

                      Blue Plate is also a great place to eat at the bar, since you get a front-row seat into the tiny kitchen area and can watch the cooks in action.

                      1. j
                        Jeff Anderson

                        Jardiniere is a great place to eat at the bar, although it's a competitive seat.

                        1. Izzy's in Corte Madera, Frantoio and Piazza d'Angelo in Mill Valley, but there are many many more in Marin.

                          1. Hello,

                            First you say you don't want a "scene" but then you go to Hawthorne lane and Zuni...are these not "scenes"???? In my book they are definitely scenes...but then my idea of a "watering hole" is a clean doggy dish. Any way, if you are truly serious about a nice place to graze and water without Willie Brown or Gavin Newsom sitting next to you, you should try The Phoenix, and Irish pub on Valencia at 19th or 20th. Happy Hour daily, full bar, an occasional artsy type group from the many galleries in the area but otherwise non-scene material. The food is on an uptrend, so catch it while you can...I must say stay away from the obvious choices (i.e. Irish Stew, Irish Nachos...) but many of the menu items are quite good.

                            If you try it, hope you like it...if you don't say hi to Willie for me...hope this is helpful.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Mike Mcq

                              i second Phoenix... good pub food and despite the darkish ambiance, they do good brunch!

                              1. re: Mike Mcq

                                I hardly think of restaurants as weathered (or should I say, that have stood the test of time) as Zuni and Hawthorne Lane as 'scenes'.

                                To places already mentioned I would add Hayes Street B & G although frankly, I have never had fish there that wasn't too dry.

                              2. g
                                George Gervin

                                I had dinner at the bar at Town Hall. I was able to secure a seat as it wasn't that busy. Perhaps not too many people know about this place yet. Food was good, but the wine list is very short. The bar isn't a "scene" type place (yet).

                                  1. A lot of my favorites have already been mentioned, but here's my (unordered) list:

                                    Town Hall
                                    Boulevard (a special food bar around the open kitchen)
                                    Bizou (great bar tender - say hello to Stacey)
                                    Fifth Floor
                                    Tadich Grill

                                    1. Does Stars still exist? The single best dish I have ever had was at the bar at Stars.* I know it's supposed to be a scene, but I always had great food and lots of help and advice from the bartender.

                                      *Warm duck salad with ginger viniagrette -- anyone have the recipe????

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Kim Cooper

                                        Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus but alas Kim; there is no longer a Star's. It closed this year due to a rent dispute (what else is new?????). The partners that operated it are still seeking a new venue; however, the space has been optioned by Trader Vic's in an attempt to bring "Island Cuisine" and umbrella drinks back to S.F. Since we are a bit short on Tiki Rooms at the moment, this may not be a bad idea...

                                        1. re: Mike Mcq

                                          Stars did not close because of a rent dispute. It closed because it had very few customers and very poor sales. The two partners left behind a trail of broken promises and stiffed vendors. The whole rent dispute matter was crafty PR to blame someone other than themselves. The two partners would be challenged to make money in any restaurant. We will not see them in a new venue in this town anytime soon.

                                          Stars had falling sales every year for the past 10 years. In its heyday, the restaurant was awesome. Perhaps Trader Vics can restore the energy to that real estate. Here's hoping.

                                      2. The location that used to be Infusion, now a new bar called Nova, has a great young head chef who specializes in "contemporary comfort food". Both of my trips have been great. Plus they still have a few of the infused vodka's. The Mac and Cheese is his specialty, don't knock it till you try it. They have a rotating menu, they always have a steak, a pasta, good bar appetizers.

                                          1. RNM is wonderful- small bar, great dishes and a wonderful Manhattan.

                                            1. Note that some of the >2-year-old posts above are out of date due to chef changes or general downhill slides.

                                              1. I dined at the bar last Sunday evening at Front Porch and it was very nice.