Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Aug 11, 2010 08:55 PM

Darwin Cafe -- SOMA - San Francisco

Stopped by Darwin Cafe today -- it's on Ritch Street, a little alley between Bryant and Brannan and Zoe and Second. The woman who served me said they opened a week ago.

Had an Americano and a Ricotta and homemade apricot jam baguette sandwich. Both were great. The coffee was De La Paz and was done well -- wasn't bitter or too strong. I know coffee preferences can be hopelessly subjective, but this struck me as done well and on par with Four Barrel (the cafe) or Epicenter, which I like. (And yes, which others may not like...)

The apricot jam was yummy too -- more of a soft spread than sticky jam. I didn't ask where the ricotta or bread came from but everything tasted wonderful. They had a salad menu of around four items and a sandwich menu of around five items. Seating at the bar and possibly at tables (hazy memory at this point; I rushed in and out.) I'll definitely go back.

Darwin Cafe
212 Ritch St, San Francisco, CA 94107

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      I've been a number of times and taken food groups there. I've had fantastic food and service there compared to say Blue Barn Gourmet where one of the employees chewed me out for bringing in a food tour.

      I've described Darwin as a neighborhood or hidden gem. Easy to get in during the late afternoon but busy at night. I'm a fan of the Louie salad w fresh Dungeness and the kale salad.

      It fits the bill when I want a big salad, good wine, and a cheese plate.

      Also read the owner is taking over a place in North Beach.

      1. re: Candice

        mmmm, sounds good, glad I asked. I was curious because it popped up in this query about where to eat near the ballpark.

        Given how many rules there are on its website due to the small capacity, I'm glad to hear that you had no problems bringing a group there.

        I love hearing about places besides the old-time seafood houses to get crab louie. Hope it reappears on the menu soon.

        Here's the info the the North beach spot, Doc Rickett's.

      2. re: Melanie Wong

        Picked as one of the 21 best sandwich shops in USA by Thrillist.

      3. During the current heatwave, a salad for dinner is just what I wanted. I went there Tuesday and Wednesday and tried the Bay Shrimp, and Kale salads. Both were excellent.

        The Kale salad is described as: Kale, radicchio, lemon, garlic, parmesan, prosciutto, aged balsamic. The parmesan is grated like snow with a microplane, and the proscuitto is fried and crumbled. Yummy.

        The Bay Shrimp salad goes thusly: Bay Shrimp Louie: asparagus, hard boiled egg, avocado, radish, little gem lettuce. The dressing was creamy and light like a buttermilk ranch, which I am sure it was not. The ingredients are very fresh, and mesh well together into a wonderful light meal.

        I can't believe this place has been in the neighborhood for four years, and I didn't know about it until last week when Loretta Keller mentioned it in her Inside Scoop interview.

        1 Reply
        1. Despite being very interested in trying Darwin Cafe's food, the lunch time ordering rules on its website and reports of extremely busy dinner service managed to keep me away. However, a hungry weekend between Christmas and New Year's when the City clears out seemed like the perfect time. And it was. There was only one other patron when I arrived. My server said that weekend brunch is the easiest time to get a seat here.

          I'd had my heart set on Crab Louie, but it was not available this day. Instead, the crab special was an upgrade to the Poached Eggs Darwin. In addition to the creamed spinach, thinly sliced roast beef and grilled sourdough, the Bernaise was packed with crab meat. Sold!

          From my counter perch, I could observe my order being prepped. Supremes of ruby red grapefruit deftly sliced, Satsuma tangerine peeled and sectioned, a drizzle of tangy yogurt sauce, flashing knifework to chiffonade the fresh mint, then the garnish of pomegranate seeds. I enjoyed the side salad as much as the centerpiece.

          The eggs were perfect, and the voids of the coarse-grained toast collected the runny yolk. The roast beef was completely superfluous under the spinach and saucing. The luxuriously crabby Bernaise sauce on top of creamy spinach and runny yolk was more than decadent enough.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Oh no, please don't spread the word that tables are available for weekend brunch! (only slightly kidding -- we have a place nearby).

            I quite enjoyed a similar dish that you had, without the crab. The small skillet plates they have in the evenings can be quite good, as well.

            The worst time to go is 12 pm M-F --- the absolute worst. Go at 11 am. They limit the food for takeout because the place is so, so tiny.

            1. re: gooster

              Now that baseball season has started, I'll be giving the area a wide berth most weekends. ;)

              Here's a link to "the rules",

              Yes, it is understandable because the space is so small. It was a kick to watch the food prep behind the counter. Doing so much with so little. This spot reminded me of the dearly departed Cafe Fanny, both food and setting.

              ETA: I just found the receipt for this meal. The crab and egg dish was a $4 supplement charge above the menu price for Eggs Darwin. I also had a cappuccino which was better than most places that aren't dedicated coffee shops.