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Wayfare Tavern - Tyler Florence's new San Francisco Restaurant

Wayfare Tavern is a new restaurant from celebrity chef Tyler Florence that opened this week. It is located in Rubicon’s old Financial District location. He is also opening Rotisserie & Wine in Napa and El Paseo in Mill Valley. Michael Thiemann is the chef de cuisine by way of Merriman’s in Hawaii and the Hapuku Lodge in New Zealand. They focus on local and sustainable ingredients for their American cuisine.

Decor, Vibe – They retain Rubicon’s multi level layout with dining areas on two floors. Wayfare Tavern has decor out of the Barbary Coast era with dark wood floors, old school lightbulbs, lots of hunting trophies, counter seating, rustic booth seating, billards room upstairs, and old-fashioned decor. Place was loud and packed with foodies and Food Network fans eager to try this new restaurant.

The American Comfort food and service was surprisingly very good for a brand new place.

Dishes we liked included:
Grilled Calamari, Baked Avocado with crab, Pickled Anchovies, Organic Fried Chicken, Salmon, Halibut, Smoked Sonoma Pork Ribs, Peach Pie

Bunch of pics over at:

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  1. Thanks for the review and pictures. I checked out the foodnut link and it looks like the salmon and halibut pics are swapped.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Scott M

      The pictures are now correct, thanks.

    2. The food looks beautiful. I'm wondering if the $22 fried chicken arrived with any sides?

      16 Replies
      1. re: sugartoof

        Asked and answered.
        "ORGANIC FRIED CHICKEN ($22) buttermilk brine, roasted garlic, crispy woody herbs and lemon was excellent. Not overly battered, cooked perfectly, and featuring strong herbs flavors. The dish could have included some side items though."

        1. re: wolfe

          I still keep reading that expecting the woody herbs and roaster garlic, or even the lemon to turn into a side dish.

          1. re: sugartoof

            "A garnish is an item or substance used as a decoration or embellishment on a prepared food dish... In some cases, it may give added or contrasting flavor, but a typical garnish is selected first to augment the visual impact of the plate, not necessarily to affect the flavor."

            1. re: sugartoof

              SFGate's First Look mentions that entrees come without sides (meaning that entree prices are closer to $30 than to $20 when you include a side dish).


              1. re: sugartoof

                It is amusing how stingy upscale restaurants are with their fried chicken accompaniments. Like a scoop of collard greens or a yam would break the bank. It must be an organic lemon.

                1. re: Windy

                  I agree. Nothing ticks me off like being nickeled and dimed by "upscale" restaurants. Once in Phoenix we were charged $1.50 a piece for blue cheese dressing. It won't break the bank to serve some mashed spuds and a green veggie with the fried chicken...maybe even some onion gravy. As a matter of principle, I will not go to Tyler's new place.

                  1. re: OldTimer

                    I am with you OldTimer and Windy. I can't believe he is opening all of these restaurants at the same time! And then, to charge these ridiculous prices??? With so many unemployed, I really don't think that this spells success.

                    1. re: sosdiaz

                      An earlier post on this board lists abalone steak on Saturdays. LOOK OUT! And not even a side dish. It will be interesting to see how he makes out with that one. The only saving grace is that so few younger diners have ever eaten abalone.

                      1. re: OldTimer

                        The daily "blue plate" specials appear to have some sides:

                        ABALONE STEAK ~ sweet corn puree, succotash, lemon brown butter and arugula /29

                        Full list below:

                        Daily Blue Plate Specials
                        SMOKED PORK CHOP ~ marcona almond butter, roasted peaches and fennel /26

                        CRISP DUNGENESS CRAB CAKES ~ sweet pea puree, summer truffles and mache /27

                        T-BONE STEAK ~ 21 day dry aged, Sonoma grass fed, maitre d' butter creamed spinach, roasted potatoes and onion soubise /36

                        SMOKED SONOMA PORK RIBS ~ roasted corn on the cob, pot of beans, potato salad and coleslaw /24

                        FISH & CHIPS ~ ale battered Alaskan halibut, buttered peas and French fried potatoes /25

                        ABALONE STEAK ~ sweet corn puree, succotash, lemon brown butter and arugula /29

                        CHICKEN POT PIE ~ organic chicken, peas, pearl onions, carrots and buttermilk crust /24

                        1. re: Scott M

                          The blue plates sound like the way to go.

                          I get it though. Free range chickens aren't cheap these days, which means these fancied up versions of fried chicken are ridiculously priced even before they add in their $8 sides they want you to buy. Adding 1 or 2 sides would make it a $30-38 plate of friend chicken, which is beyond steep. I don't understand the log. Wayfare has a roasted chicken dish *including* friend potatoes for $22. Sure it's less work but the profit margin should be the same. Mash up some potatoes, toss in a piece of corn. Include sweet potatoes and broccoli rabe, like Ad Hoc does.

                          I hate to pick of Wayfare, since this has actually been a silly trend with fried chicken for a while now.

                          Ad Hoc
                          6476 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599

                          1. re: sugartoof

                            I thought the same thing as OldTimer re: the cost of the abalone, particularly if the Tbone was $36 and the chicken pot pie $24(!)...but I am wondering if the cost of abalone is coming down (possibly more farms and/or the number of mature abalone increasing as farms come of age?)...of course, it could be a very small piece of abalone...indeed, did a little research, and some of the abalone farms will sell a pound (which one site says is enough for up to four people) for $75, retail....so yeah, $29 for one is possible if it is a small serving and Wayfare is making lots of money on its regular dishes and all those sides....

                          2. re: Scott M

                            This is either a misprint or fraud. Nobody...nobody is selling abalone steaks at $29.00.

                            1. re: OldTimer

                              It does seem strange, and the website does not have the menu so I can only go by what can be found on the web.

                              At first I thought it was misprint and was supposed to be albacore steak and not abalone

                    2. re: Windy

                      Yams and coleslaw won't exactly break the bank and they don't take much effort to prepare.

                      1. re: myst

                        Cole slaw especially. It cheap, and it would allow a chef some room to play.

                  2. re: wolfe

                    I have had Chicken at KFC which I enjoyed more.

                2. I went last week and the place is packed! Lots of diners and people at the bar. The layout is neat downstairs with the open kitchen and Tyler Florence was working that night.

                  My friend and I got the grilled calamari and I loved the texture and freshness. They also have a raw bar with fresh oysters.

                  I had the leg of lamb. I thought the pieces of the lamb seemed inconsistent, some medium some medium rare and fatty. But the flavor of the jus around the plate was very rich and tasty. My friend had the halibut that was piled on with broccoli rabe and clams and he loved the mix of flavors including lemon preserves in the sauce.

                  We had the pineapple upside down cake and it was like a crumb cake, not super sweet, but very nice salt caramel ice cream on top.

                  Overall, I liked it and wasn't expecting to. But some friends asked if the prices were high. I felt it was comparable to most high-end places, like maybe a smidge below Quince. I didn't think it was outrageous or anything.

                  Here's more description and photos: http://singleguychef.blogspot.com/201...

                  1. A friend and I sat at the bar last week and ordered a couple of appetizers with our drinks.

                    Cocktails were well made--I looked for violette to make an Aviation, but when that didn't appear to be available, I had a Corpse Reviver #2 instead. We shared the avocado and hearts of palm salad as well as fries with parsley and sea salt. Both were good, but the perfectly ripe avocado sparkled under the dust of sea salt and squeeze of lime. The bar also offers fresh potato chips as bar snacks (though we didn't have them.).

                    Scene-wise, it was calmer than I expected for a financial district bar/restaurant directly post-work, and other than the lady with unlikely blonde extensions who kept jamming her statement bag into my ribcage, it was a remarkably pleasant place to enjoy a cocktail. There are perhaps 10 stools at the bar, some standing room space and a few low tables if you arrive early enough to nab one.

                    I looked over the menu and, as others in this thread have echoed, the prices seemed expense account oriented ($34 strip steak with no sides? no thanks) and not interesting enough for me to want to commit to a $100+ dinner with drinks for two. I would return for a post work cocktail and snack though.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: pane

                      "the prices seemed expense account oriented"

                      It's a bit of a shame. Pictures look intriguing, but doesn't match the pricing.

                      That's steakhouse pricing, with the sides extra, which I don't have a problem for on strip steak, but most of the menu is old San Francisco California cuisine comfort food.

                    2. I've only had two dinners there, but let me chime in on the discussion about sides. The french fries must be one of the most over-priced dishes I've ever had in my life. How can you charge $8 for something that size? Seemed about the size of an order of large fries at McDonalds and I've had fries at McDonalds that were at least as good for significantly less than $8. The mac and cheese at $8 probably has an enormous profit margin as well. However, that dish was delicious and that takes some of the sting out of the ridiculous price.

                      Other than the $8 sides and general pricing issues, this place has a lot going for it. Both the kitchen and the front of the house have been impressive from day one. Probably the second most solid opening (after Prospect) in recent months. And it's a cool location and space, although not that great for bar dining. (The bar upstairs only has four seats or so and the bar downstairs is a total zoo.)

                      Should be a well-deserved hit without necessarily providing great value or cutting-edge cooking.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: nocharge

                        Went to Wayfare Tavern for lunch yesterday and it was outstanding! From service, décor to food, it was all a treat.

                        The two of us had:

                        Fig and burrata salad – I didn’t try this but my friend loved it
                        Mac and Cheese – Gooey with lots of flavor. May even be better than Pican’s, which was my previous favorite.
                        Peppers – well season and fresh
                        Burger – hands down my favorite burger ever. It’s $18, not cheap, but it came with Mt. Tam cheese, bacon and caramelized onions. (If you order a burger for like $12 at other restaurants and add all the toppings, it’s probably close.) I ordered it medium rare and it was cooked perfectly. The meat had a well-aged beefy taste. Plus the brioche but was the perfect size. Burger was served with fries that were nice and crispy with a hint of garlic.
                        Pineapple Upside Down cake – sweet but well balanced with the salty caramel.

                        I was pleasantly surprised at how good the food was since usually these celebrity chef restaurants don’t live up to the hype. Half way through our meal Ty Flo made the rounds to greet us. He had actually been cooking in the kitchen, which is something you never see with celebrity chefs. I hope he stays hands on because this restaurant is a real treat, and a new favorite. Can’t wait to go back.

                        Pican Restaurant
                        2295 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

                        Wayfare Tavern
                        558 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, CA 94111

                      2. I had dinner at Wayfare Tavern last night, and while yes, it's more expensive than it should be, the food and experience were both great. I had the fried chicken, which was the best fried chicken that I've had in San Francisco, and maybe better than the fried chicken at Pican in Oakland (I -- still! -- haven't had the fried chicken at Ad Hoc, so I can't compare it to that). It was a large serving, with a thigh, a drumstick, a wing, and two breast pieces -- I had two pieces leftover, and that was with being pretty hungry and our only starter the butter lettuce salad (and one and a half of the fantastic popovers that they bring you to start the meal). My dining companions had, respectively, the burger and the steak, and I had tastes of both and they were both great and cooked perfectly. We ordered as sides the fries and the peppers; both were great, but my only issue with the service is that our waitress didn't tell us that the burger came with fries (that was not noted on the menu), so we ended up with a ton of fries and came nowhere near finishing. For dessert we shared the chocolate layered pudding/chocolate cookie concoction and the peach pie; both were good, but that peach pie was fantastic. Dinner for three was $200 before tip, but it was a celebration dinner, and that included a cocktail, a glass of champagne, and two glasses of wine. I'd definitely go back, especially for the cocktails and starters. It's a really nice space; we sat in a both with a good view of the open kitchen, but the bar area and the counter area around the open kitchen both seemed like great spots to meet a friend after work, and it would be a good place for a business lunch or a celebration meal.

                        Ad Hoc
                        6476 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599

                        Pican Restaurant
                        2295 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

                        Wayfare Tavern
                        558 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, CA 94111

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: JasmineG

                          How do you get a booth with a view of the open kitchen? Did you specifically request it or they just happened to place you there?

                          1. re: singleguychef

                            I asked for a booth, and we happened to get one right across from the open kitchen. They were intending to place us elsewhere until I asked for the booth, and they graciously changed us around, so I imagine that if you asked for one with a view of the kitchen they'd be happy to accommodate if they had those available. There were probably two or three in that row with a good view.

                          2. re: JasmineG

                            I loved this restaurant, espcially the fried chicken, mac & cheese and the desserts. It's very noisy, but I had a great time and plan to return soon.

                            1. re: JasmineG

                              We also thought the fried chicken and peach pie (if that's still on the menu) were phenomenal. The popovers in the beginning were great, too. This is definitely one of the hottest restaurants in SF right now.

                              1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                                fried chicken still on fall menu, peach pie out but fried apple pie in.

                                Also still on menu that seems pretty popular is the deviled eggs.

                                couple of new items on fall menu is short ribs and tri tip steak.

                            2. We were here for lunch on a Wednesday. We had reservations for 11:30 (when it opened) and arrived a few minutes before that. We were told to have seat because they weren't quite open yet. While we sat in the window seat directly across from the hostess, she sent 2 couples to seats in the bar, and took another gentleman with reservations for 11:45 upstairs. We saw the people without reservations who were given the seats in the bar get waited on while we were still sitting in the window. We were finally seated in the back, with a view of the deer head over the fireplace. I was not enchanted. My husband, with his back to the fireplace, had a view of the kitchen. It got a little noisy as the lunch crowd filtered in.

                              There were no small booths downstairs, it seems that all the booths were for 6. They might put 4 in them, but I"m sure not 2. The tables for 2 were in the back and in the bar.

                              Service after that was OK, I wouldn't call it great.

                              Appetizers - deviled eggs - these were wonderful!! They had capers that had been roasted so they were crispy, and added a wonderful texture and flavor to the eggs. Mac & Cheese was perfect - the pasta was al dente, and the cheese was flavorful and gooey, with some crunch crumbs on top. A perfect dish.
                              Entree - hamburgers and french fries - we asked for medium rare and they actually were!! (I didn't think you could get anything but well done burgers.) They were good but nothing memorable.
                              Dessert - pineapple upside down cake. This is my husband's favorite dessert, and one of the reasons that we tried this restaurant. It was wonderful!!! The cake was light and the flavors perfect. It was served warm and very fresh. Perfect.

                              Beer - they didn't have a Hiefenweiser - which is surprising considering the popularity of wheat beers these days.

                              Generally, aside from the attitude of the hostess and not being seated even though we had a reservation, I would say that we really enjoyed it. We will probably go back.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: PamsterLA

                                I went here again for dinner last night with my sister and brother in law who were visiting from out of town. I made a point to ask for a booth in front of the open kitchen and like you found out the booths (there were two) mainly seats parties of six. There were two smaller booths facing the bar. But the hostess was nice enough to seat the three of us at the counter, so we were right in front of the action. It doesn't make for great conversation for three, but since we're family it was fine. (We speak to each other often enough.)

                                Last night was the first night of the fall menu. So lots of changes. My sister wanted to try the uni but they nixed it from the menu because it wasn't right. So nice to see that they have high standards for their ingredients. She ended up getting some oysters. I had the calamari starter and it was charred a bit, but still nice and tender. They were a bit pink tinged. Served plainly with olive oil and lemon and breadcrumbs, similar to how he prepared the squid in his opening menu.

                                My brother in law had the burger, which he liked but thought the Mt. Tam cheese was mild. My sister got the pork belly, which looked beautiful. It was really soft and tender and more on the fatty side, so pretty rich. I had the duck which was served two ways with the breast nicely cooked with some pink and the leg kind of confit because it was tender and fell off the bone easily. I liked it although nothing really spectacular.

                                The dessert menu also had a major overhaul and that means the pineapple upside down cake is not on the menu! That was a bit disappointing. Now they had a carrot cake, fried apple pie, sticky toffee pudding, and pumpking pudding cake.

                                I got the sticky toffee pudding, which I thought would be more like a creme de pot but it was actually a pudding cake served with a poached pear. The cake was just as light and tasty as the pineapple cake, but I felt there was too much candied items like the toffee which really made the dessert a bit too sweet for me. But if you like sticky buns or toffee, then you might like this. My brother in law got the carrot cake and the cake was moist but there wasn't anything special about it. It was done very traditional with cream cheese frosting.

                                BTW, Chef Tyler Florence was there at about 6 p.m. and was working all night. His family came in and his cute little son was helping out a bit in the kitchen delivering orders to the table. He was so cute going around restaurant. Florence was really gracious when people would stop by to say hi or take pictures with him (including us).

                                Tyler Florence Shop
                                59 Throckmorton Ave, Mill Valley, CA

                              2. Any feedback on the lunch menu here? On the website it just says that there are chalkboard specials at lunch which isn't that helpful. (There's also the regular menu, but I mean the sandwiches and salads that they mention that they have at lunch).

                                1. A little bit of LA attitude in San Francisco!
                                  Its a shame, because I wanted to like this restaurant. I like Tyler Florence; I think he keeps it real with inventive and striving-for-delicious food. I also wanted to take a personal/professional friend to a place he hadn't been.
                                  Maybe it was just a bad night, but reading the comments it sounds more systemic.
                                  Night started bad - arrived appropriate early (6:30p) for our 7:15p reservation so we could sit at the bar and have a drink. Soak up a little of SF, since my dining companion was from the mid-west. (Ironically, we had asked for 7:30p, but they insisted the best they could do what 7:15p)
                                  WT finally seated us at 7:45p - after being promised: 'it will just be a couple of minutes more' four times. In that interim, they seated at least 2 parties of 2 that came in without reservations. Only reason we know this is because Tony, the manager that night, conducted his "take care of VIP business" in front of us at the bar.
                                  The polite but somewhat 'deer-in-headlights' hostesses however promised that 'we'll take care of you' upstairs. Although a glass of wine or a beer while we were losing our excitement for the dining experieince at the bar would have been better. Especially once they knew they were seating walk-ins-in front of us. Maybe with another drink, we wouldn't have noticed they were seating people ahead us, or at least we wouldn't have cared.
                                  Nonetheless, Tony, the ever scampering manager did come by, apoligized without ever making eye contact, as he straightened the wine glasses on our table.
                                  OK so much for first part of the evening, we were hungry.
                                  We should have left.
                                  We ordered the Caesar, the ricotta dumplings, chicken paillard, mac & cheese. The Caesar was good, but not special for $12; the ricotta dumplings were under seasoned, the mac & cheese with smoked gouda was interesting, and as my dinner mate said: 'if I can find the chicken, I'll share some with you. For $20, he should have gotten close to a whole chicken, similar to the portions of frie chicken being served next to us. But I guess, nothing like a lot of fried food to make people happy right?
                                  Too full for dessert, we paid our bill ($137) and realizing that restaurant never did 'take care of us upstairs', I mentioned it to the still overwhelmed hostesses on our way out. They just said they were sorry.
                                  I guess I am too.
                                  When I left the LA practice of 'preferential-treatment' and 'making-people-wait' attitude 15 years ago, it was so refreshing to be in a city where the focus was on food, creativity and hospitality.
                                  Not sure if I'll go back, there are so many other good places in town that honor their reservations. My dining companion probably will have to, he works for an industry magazine. I'll wait to see if he has a better experience.

                                  Tyler Florence Shop
                                  59 Throckmorton Ave, Mill Valley, CA

                                  Wayfare Tavern
                                  558 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                  1. tried it last night for a Sunday dinner. It was packed.

                                    Our favorite was an appetizer with burrata over mustard greens. It had a smoky flavor and it was served over some pickled onions. Very interesting and delicious way to serve it. Dessert was also very good (apple cider ice cream/apple cobbler.) Other things were ok and I'm sure have been written about (fried chicken and pot roast). Lots of truffle slices over the pot roast. Overall, it was ok, solid enough. We probably wouldn't make the effort to go back except for a drink at the bar and dessert.

                                    1. Tried Wayfare on a Friday night, was able to do an early walk-in (very surprising, since this place requires semi-early reservation for Friday/Saturday and is ALWAYS packed after work hours). I just want to note that I thought the service was excellent. Delicious rendition of poutine - great with wine or one of the house cocktails.

                                      I love the space and the price point is excellent when you factor in the really generous portion size.

                                      1. At 9:45 on a Monday, the place was not entirely full, and it looked like they could have handled walk-ins, but after showing up once at 6:00 and being told they could seat a party of two at 9:30, I was glad to have a reservation. Anyway, we were seated immediately.

                                        The daily specials have apparently been discontinued. They had an off-menu $32 special veal chop with white anchovies.

                                        The popovers are fun and very well executed. The burrata with mustard greens ($11) was two big crostini heaped with cheese, very good combination. Steak tartare ($16) was excellent, though popovers don't work as well as toast. Crab Louis ($23) was a great version of this SF classic, slightly updated with tart julienned apples, way better than Tadich's. Fried chicken ($22, half a large chicken cut in five pieces) was a relatively light, Italian-ish version, nicely seasoned, I prefer Hibiscus's and BarbersQ's, but that's a matter of style rather than execution. Side of roasted mushrooms ($8) seemed completely unseasoned, was very good once we added salt and a little lemon.

                                        This was definitely too much food for two, even though we tried to order on the lighter side. The steak tartare was definitely plenty for four and the crostini could easily have been cut in two. I think if you want to try a bunch of things a party of four might be the best way to go.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          Thanks for your report. It's now on the stack.