Wexler's: excellent service, unique tastes [San Francisco]
Last week, as I was frantically looking to book something for Sat evening at a reasonable hour (a night I usually avoid for this very reason), I came across Wexler's with easy availability on OpenTable but nothing on this board except a few stray comments. Yet I was tempted bc I had heard that they smoke much of their food even if they don’t offer BBQ per se.
We had a very enjoyable evening, memorable for Wexler’s exceptional service and unique tastes, which included:
- Smoked manhattan: They smoke the vermouth! Excellent pairing with bourbon.
-BBQ scotch eggs: This is the dish everyone orders. The menu says there are burnt ends surrounding the egg, but I couldn’t actually discern this. Nonetheless, the egg is done to soft perfection and there is a subtle, lovely smokiness that permeates.
- Chicken liver mousse: I can’t remember the last time I had such generous portion (~3 x 4 x .75 in) of the lightest mousse with a thin veneer of orange marmalade and served with hot brioche toast. Heavenly (but not smoky)!
- Short ribs: Easily memorable. Four tender, slightly smoky meaty rectangles draped over silken pool of mashed potatoes contrasted nicely with a subtle crunch of the housemade kraut. Kleinman says he smokes this 6h over applewood, allowing the meat to shine.
- BBQ king trumpet mushrooms: I didn’t taste much smokiness on the shrooms but the portion was generous and the mushrooms nicely done with little crispy edges.
- The smoked pork plate changes daily and it was a pork chop that day. It's not a mixed plate as I thought it might be.
- I had a smoky Mendo red to pair with short ribs and it worked well.
- Desserts were decent but not as memorable. We had the banana cream pie (good) and a chocolate pie (better).
We were glad that the menu was inventive without being gimmicky. Chef Kleinman came out at the end of our meal and chatted with us sharing some of his technique. He showed us a restrained hand with the smoking, allowing the key ingredients to shine. I believe the guy wearing the hat behind the bar is Wexler, and he brought cocktails to our table. We had an informed and engaging server who steered us well and really added to our enjoyment. I appreciate this kind of owner involvement now that so many places are run by restaurant groups. It creates an intimacy that makes me want to return.
We were surprised at how small the place is, probably no more than 10 tables and half the room is taken up by the bar (would be good for a solo diner). The room feels warm and is visually dominated by a vertebral sculpture extending across the entire ceiling. At 8p the room was half full, and we easily held our conversation.
The bill was ~$200 for 6 drinks, 3 apps, 3 mains, 2 desserts, a veritable bargain in this part of town considering the portion size and technique. (And especially when I consider a recent dinner @ nearby Plouf was $100 for a bowl of mussels, fish and chips, a dessert and 2 drinks!)
I’d be curious about other Wexler experiences, especially at lunch time. Anyone else have one?
One of my friends loved it, so it was the place we'd meet for lunch. I thought their sandwiches were good and soup was fantastic. Considering the quality of the service and ingredients, the prices seemed reasonable to me for a weekly "event" lunch, but not something I could swing every day.
re: Robert Lauriston
So sorry to see it go. I always enjoyed the food and had a chance to get acquainted with the owner. The place was fairly quiet the last few times we've been there on a Saturday night, but I always hoped the weekdays made the restaurant worthwhile. I'll definitely miss Wexler's!