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Jan 17, 2007 07:19 AM

An odd combo: Breweries and Dessert

Will be in SF from LA for a long weekend - truly looking forward to several great options for dinners (Ame, Town Hall, Limon, Zuni Cafe) but want to know if SF still has great brew pubs or breweries? Any to be sure not to miss, for the beer and for the food? That's truly something LA has none of and in the past, SF excelled at. We'll be in the SOMA area without a car, but comfortable with cabs/public transport.

Also, any not to miss places for great sweets? Ice cream, bakeries, either during the day, or even better, a late night option? Thanks for all the advice I've already gleaned from the Board. Thanks ahead for responding to an odd request . . . .

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  1. they don't serve food, or not to my knowledge however they have perfected the art of mixology - bourbon & branch is a speakeasy on the corner of o'ferrell and jones. you need to go to to make an rsvp and they'll also give you a password. it is a bit gimmicky however it's worth the trouble. drinks average $15, and if you like scotch they have probably the best selection in the city

    tommy's joynt on van ness also comes to mind, a classic hauf brau with an incredible selection of beers. $10 is all you need here.

    as for desserts nothing has beaten tartine bakery in the mission, drop by after zuni.

    1. I think Magnolia Pub is the only brewpub with exceptional food. I don't know how the desserts are.

      Tartine's a must but it closes at 7 or 8pm. The other great bakeries are mostly in the East Bay. There are some great ones at the Saturday Ferry Building farmers market.

      Some ice cream topics:

      3 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        To offer an alternate opinion, I had one of the worst meals I've ever had in SF at Magnolia a couple of months ago--a crab gnocchi dish that was more or less inedible, and service that was beyond indifferent and edging towards rude. I'd like to think it was an anomaly, as other people seem to really enjoy it, but the previous time I'd eaten there the food, while edible, was nothing to write home about, and the service was only slightly better. Their beer, however, is really good (although not good enough for me to go back). I'd agree with the below assessment of the 21st amendment--decent food and fairly good beers--not necessarily something to go out of your way for, but maybe worth a trip since you're in the area. I've never tried the Thirsty Bear, but, since that's a tapas concept anyway, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that San Francisco has no brew pubs, per se, that have that magic combo of good food and great beer. Maybe better than LA, though...

        Since there is really good beer being brewed outside of the city (I especially love Lagunitas and Bear Republic), I might agree that the best beer experience can be found by doing something like going to Toronado and bringing in food.

        1. re: Emily Hope

          Eddie Blyden started at Magnolia in June, before that it was pretty standard brewpub fare. In September, he might have been devoting most of his attention to opening Alembic. Some reports:

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Thanks, Robert--I've seen those threads, and the meal was in early Nov., well after Blyden started and after Alembic opened. We went because I wanted to try the food again after hearing all the reports of improvement with the new chef, since I would really, really love to have a brewpub in the city to go to on a regular basis--it's one of the things I've missed most since moving here a few years ago. I don't know what to say--obviously others have had much better experiences, but the food was so bad that I would have sent it back to the kitchen had I not desparately just wanted to leave (we waited quite a while for the food to show up, although the place was almost empty at the time). I can't remember the last time I thought about sending food back. It would take a lot of convincing, and probably a lot of time, for me to go back.

      2. You specifically asked about breweries in SOMA, and three come to mind:

        Thirsty Bear (Folsom? at 3rd), which is nice enough if you're jonzing for that kind of thing, but I find their beer average and the food upscale unremarkable. They do have a full dinner seating, it's small plates, and I bet you can get desert. The bar's surprised me, though, my girlfriend had an excellent margarita there. The last time I went there was a party for business school graduates (Haas), if that sets the scene a little - it's just too clean and nice for my taste.

        21st Amendment is on 2nd nearby (look it up). It's a beer-and-burgers kind of place (with the obligatory calamari and such). Clean but casual. Their beer's a bit better than Thirsty Bear - more serious, more hooked into the beer community - and I'd actually choose going there [but never have]. It's still clean and pleasant, and I suspect it's not open as late.

        The real deal, however, is doing the Anchor Steam tour (Potrero Hill, but a short cab ride from SOMA). These typically have to be organized a bit in advance, and I think are weekday only. If you have an interest in beer, this is a MUST. I loved their hops room, with the enclosed aroma and smell, and the lectures about small beer and spruce beer, the evap tanks, and the like. That Maytag guy is a fanatic.

        But the reality is that the great beers are being brewed out of town, like Russian River and Lagunitas and Mendacino, so the best beer bars simply have a dozen or so well-chosen taps. For a very SF beer experience you'd want to head to Lucky 13 or Zeitgeist [both near Zuni], which are on the grungy punk-biker axis. Zeitgeist has decent burgers and a tamale lady, the lucky 13 has a popcorn machine. No desert. Zeitgeist focuses on northern California beers, Lucky 13 on Belgian. Doing Zuni and Zeitgeist for a nightcap in one evening requires, er, a certain flexibility of mind and wardrobe [answer: leather], but is 100% san francisco.

        As far as desert - one of my favorite after-dinner destinations is Jardinere. They have cafe tables set up near the entrance so you're not taking their standard dining tables, I think they'll seat until at least 11, very unrushed, just valet park, their dinner jazz is pretty damned good even though no one is listening, and they have a massive selection of alcohol tasting flights (port flight, tequila flight, scotch flight, eiswein flight, etc), but for me the real winner is always the cheese plate, the deserts per se don't rise above the run-of-the-mill excellence. [Boulevard has similar bistro tables and better deserts, but no jazz and less fancy alcohol]

        [The Jack's Taps / Elixer Bar concept, with 99 taps, has somewhat gone out of style because you simply end up with 99 stale kegs. Wouldn't you rather have the perfect pint of your favorite beer?]

        PS. I had a freeeeekin' great beer last night from the cask at Lanesplitter Telegraph. It was called Lagunitas Brown Sugah, and it was perfectly fitting to the weather. High but not overpowering residual sweetness, hops strong in the spicy hallertau direction, body was exceptionally rich - great for a cold evening. I was in a hurry (20 minutes for a quick pint seemed reasonable) and became peeved by their service, with 4 folks behind the bar and four in front, I didn't expect to wait 5 minutes for service. The pump took a while to settle, leaving me with only 5 minutes to drink my pint, but what a pint it was.

        4 Replies
        1. re: bbulkow

          Re 21st Amendment, if you read old posts, they used to have some great food. Eddie Dryden, the chef from those days, is now at Magnolia.

          1. re: bbulkow

            Also on the biker axis with an incredible selection of beers is Toronado on (lower) Haight. You can bring your own food: Some very good BBQ (per most reports, and I like it too) from across the street at Memphis Minnie's or sausages at Rosamunde's next door. If you go during an "event" (like the upcoming barley wine thing) or a big football game, it will be extremely loud and crowded, though.

            I like the desserts at Citizen Cake in the sit-down restaurant (not so much the takeout).

            1. re: Atomica

              Yeah, thumbs up on the Toronado. I think of it as very far from SOMA (the far side of market street! Gasp!), but in physical distance it's quite close. Especially if you're not parking.

              I have been by Citizen Cake several times, the small number of tables means I've revectored every time - often to Jardinere, which is always empty on the late side. CC is a local fav.

            2. re: bbulkow

              Had a pint of Brown Sugah yesterday also, it's on tap at Toronado.

            3. Someone was just talking about Tommy's Joynt, not a brewery but a great beer selection and old-timey "beer foord."

              2 Replies
              1. re: Maya

                What beers does Tommy's Joynt have?

                No info on their web site.

                Last time I was there, I didn't remember a "great selection". I remember an amusing choice of several german beers and anchor steam and sierra nevada - but nothing like Toronado, Lucky 13, etc. No cask conditioned, etc.

                Admittedly, that was several hundred pints ago.

                1. re: bbulkow

                  They've got an extensive selection, but I think it's mostly bottles. There's a list on the Web site:


              2. I second Anchor Steam...more of a field trip really but it's sort of the mother of all microbreweries. If you want food w/ your beer, Tommy's Joynt does have Anchor on tap and good hofbrau food.

                Sweets-wise, if you in SOMA, Beard Papas is right there. I know you have them in LA but no driving involved.