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Nov 20, 2008 08:24 AM

Sometimes a classic is what you want: Tadich Grill in San Francisco

When you’ve just BARTed your way in from SFO, even if it was a smooth flight and you landed early and caught the train in right away and got into your hotel room with no hassle, what you really need is an old-fashioned cocktail and a platter of perfectly grilled fish.

So you head down California Street on the cable car (just to complete the picture) and you arrive at the doors of this venerable establishment. You walk in, give your name to one of the white jacketed bartenders and grab a seat at the sweeping bar. Before long you are sipping on a well-executed Tom Collins complete with swizzle stick in the shape of the California cable car, which you fervently hope no one will notice you slipping into your pocket as a kitschy fun keepsake when the drink is gone. Your partner opts for a Sierra Pale Ale, after noting with a bit of glee that they have Molson’s on tap too.

Though we arrive at 8 pm and the joint is jumping, it is a mere 10 minutes before we are escorted to a cozy two top – the annoying guy who elbowed ahead of me to put his name on the list draggles by 40 minutes later with his two chastened-looking dining companions (evil grin). After nibbling on some very serviceable (and better than Sam’s last time) sourdough bread and enjoying our surroundings which are really worth the visit, we placed our orders.

Our excellent waiter whose name was Janis nixed my request for the sand dabs – “no good, on ice two days” but beamed approvingly when we ordered the grilled and pan fried petrale respectively ($22.25). The pan fried fish was served with a frothy lemon butter that was heart cloggingly perfect, while the grilled version was nude with tartare sauce on the side. Both were cooked to a turn and equally delicious though I give a slight edge to the pan fried. The mixed veggies were admittedly overcooked but for some weird reason I not only didn’t mind but enjoyed them. The accompanying roasted spuds were lovely. We were much too full for dessert and rolled out $55 before tax and tip poorer but much happier. There really is nothing like Tadich in Vancouver and that is entirely meant as a compliment. We would return.

See also the following links for all our other food-centric ramblings this trip if you're interested:

Blue Bottle
Lime Tree
Canteen dinner
Farmers Markets
Bar Tartine
Canteen and Café de la presse breakfasts
Bodega Bistro
La Ciccia
BonBon Patisserie
Anchor Steam SFO

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  1. That was a stroll down Memory Lane :) In the 70s I worked at 425 California which is up and across the Tadich's. We could look out our windows at 11:15 a.m. and see the line of people waiting for them to open. It's the first place I ever had abalone and the first place I had cooked fresh spinach. With the price of abalone, I'm glad I can at least remember eating it. And, yes, the atmosphere, at least then, was old SF. Thanks for sharing.

    1 Reply
    1. re: c oliver

      Atmosphere has not changed. That's a large part of its charm.

    2. Thanks for the report. I didn't know the petrale sole could be pan fried, looks good, slightly crispy on the outside. Will have to keep it in mind for our next visit.

      1 Reply
      1. re: curiousgeo

        You're welcome. We'd been warned to stick to the simple fish preps and were very happy.

      2. I know you said you liked Bar Tartine's sourdough, but Tadich's version is what sourdough once was. It is my favorite restaurant sourdough in the city.

        Tadich Grill
        240 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

        14 Replies
        1. re: rworange

          I have to say I thought the sourdough at Tadich seemed more "authentic" (whatever that means) than the one at Tartine. The trouble is, I'm not a fan of the sour taste that gives this bread its name. I think that is one of the reasons I preferred the Tartine version. IIRC, the SO preferred the Tadich offering and he is a sourdough eater. So chalk it up to a personal dislike -- I should have been clearer in my report.

          1. re: grayelf

            Tadich's sourdough is authentic San Franciso sourer-than-thou bread. I don't know if I've tried Tartine's, but I'm guessing it would be along the lines of a French sourdough.

          2. re: rworange

            >Tadich's version is what sourdough once was. It is my favorite restaurant sourdough in the city.<

            For sure. Does anyone know where they get their sourdough? I like all the newer great breads we have here, but miss the really good sourdough that's now difficult to find.

            1. re: Mick Ruthven

              Supposedly it is custom-baked for Tadich to their specs and not available retail.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                My understanding is that a few of the old-time SF restaurants (Sam's and Tadich, and possibly others) have their own sourdough starters "on file" at the bakery.

                1. re: Steve Green

                  >heir own sourdough starters "on file" at the bakery.<

                  Do you know what bakery?

                  1. re: Mick Ruthven

                    Boudin has been making it since Parisian closed down a couple of years ago.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      Thanks. Parisian was my favorite, along with Larabareau(sp?) for which I can find nothing at all on Google. I'll have to re-try Boudin which seems to have been the original one in San Francisco.

                        1. re: wolfe

                          Thanks for that Larraburu link. Boy, has it been that long since they closed (late 1970's)?

                        2. re: Mick Ruthven

                          Just a reminder that the bread served at Tadich is not the same bread that Boudin sells at their stores. In addition to the starter, Tadich has its own recipe; From my understanding. Boudin bakes the bread to restaurant specs.

                          Have you tried the sourdough from Raymond or Thorough Bread and Pastry?

                          1. re: rworange

                            >Have you tried the sourdough from Raymond or Thorough Bread and Pastry?<

                            Nope. I have that pleasure ahead of me.

                            1. re: rworange

                              The bread served at Swan is great, too. They will sell you that bread if you want to buy it.

                            2. re: Mick Ruthven

                              Larraburu. Venetian was my favorite because it was in my neighborhood and open all night. You could stagger in after the bars closed and get a fresh-from-the-oven loaf sourdough loaf to munch on. Heaven, that was.

                  1. re: Paul H

                    Great story, Paul, and the recipe for the lemon butter sauce is a bonus. I won't feel so sheepish about taking out my purloined swizzle stick and sighing nostalgically now and then :-).

                    1. re: grayelf

                      And while we are strolling down nostalgia lane, here is MW's classic Tadich post from 2002...


                      1. re: Paul H

                        What a terrific post. Captured the restaurant I remember so well. And, wow, dice cups. Don't see those around much anymore, do ya?