Ricky Bobby (formerly the crew at The Broken Record), San Francisco
Having been a huge fan of the food at Broken Record, I was eager to check out their new incarnation. I'm happy to say that I think the food is just as good as ever.
Both my dining partner and I had the lobster mac and cheese on our minds prior to arrival, and neither of us budged once we saw the full menu. For only $12, it had a generous portion of lobster, and was as creamy and decadent as I recalled. Really a great dish at a great price.
We also ordered a roasted beet salad with fried oysters that was really lovely. It had grapefruit, greens (arugula, I think) in a light vinaigrette, and a little bit of ranch dressing directly under the oysters. The oysters were an add-on option, and I'm glad we got them. They were lightly fried yet greaseless, and had been cooked perfectly.
Lastly, despite knowing it would be too much food, we ordered the sweet potato tots. These are perfectly crispy on the outside and meltingly soft and sweet on the inside. I love these things, and they should have a takeout window that just serves them and their bacon/beef burgers.
The set up of the restaurant pretty much guarantees that unless you are with a large group that you will be sitting with (and interacting with) fellow diners. In our case we got to know a family of three from the neighborhood, and we ended up sharing our all our dishes with them.
Right now they are waiting for their wine/beer license, so they encourage people to bring their own. Somehow that seemed to add to the friendly character of the place--people were sharing wine and beer with each other quite freely it seemed.
400 Haight St. at the corner of Webster.
re: Civil Bear
I think my portion was the same size as previously, but it seemed a little less cheesy (more bechamel, less cheese). My portion was a little light on lobster compared to before, but my husband's portion was quite full. Luck of the draw, rather than a decision about how they portion.
Lobster Mac had a crazy amount of lobster. One whole claw and lots of other bits. The lobster was tough and dried out, and the macaroni a bit overcooked, but I couldn't stop eating this.
Sweet potato tots were likewise difficult to stop eating. Outer crust was fantastic. These are way better than any of the gourmet regular potato tots I've had around town. Served with ketchup and a house ranch that has a nice dill taste.
For $3 each (they gave me two?), they have braised chicken legs. Good juicy meat. It might be brined. It's served with a housemade blue cheese dressing that I didn't like with the chicken. However, it's worth ordering a single chicken leg just for the dressing--- it goes better with the tots than their accompaniments.
Ate here last night (been eagerly awaiting the Lower Haight opening because I never made it out to Broken Record) and was thoroughly pleased. My friend and I split the crawshrimp grits (minus the pork belly because neither of us eats meat, just seafood), the lobster quesadilla (a special that night), the beet salad, and a piece of the pecan-walnut pie.
Started with the beet salad ($7): ranch dressing, sliced beets, mache, fennel, grapefruit segments. I love beets so you'd be hard-pressed to disappoint me with a beet salad, but this one surprised me with the grapefruit. I don't like grapefruit typically--too tart--but it was a perfect complement here.
Next up were the entrees: the grits ($11) and the quesadilla ($12). The grits were cheesy and resting in a spicy broth as promised, with bits of shrimp. Generous portion and very comforting, and filling! We both loved it. The quesadilla was also delicious, though in my opinion the best part was the salsa served with it. But just as I'm not a fan of grapefruit, I'm also not a lover of lobster. However it worked in the quesadilla, sharing space in the mix with corn, crab, and some other stuff I don't remember. I scarfed my half down, for what it's worth.
We finished off with the pecan-walnut pie ($8 for a whole mini-pie that we split). All I can say is: SAVE ROOM FOR THE PIE. It came with vanilla ice cream, pistachio crumble (heaven), and caramel. I was nearly in pain I was so full, but I ate all of that pie, it was that good.
I'll be going back for sure, to try the sweet potatertots, crab bisque dip, butternut squash soup, roasted pear salad, and brownie dessert. Our bill for two was $41 (we didn't order drinks), and we were stuffed to the gills. Service is fast--has to be because the place is full from the moment the door opens (we got there at 6 right when they open).
Only drawbacks for me are: It's a little noisy, and it's smoky from the kitchen, so you go home imbued with the aroma (or, IMO, stink) of the grill. But the food is tasty and the prices are right, and I can walk there, so I'll be a repeat customer for sure.
They changed their burger, which I thought was their signature dish at Broken Record, and it tasted completely different. The biggest difference was that it comes with two patties. I have no idea why. That bacony taste... not as defined, but it was still plenty salty. They also include two slices of cheese. For me, it was a bit too cheesy, especially when they don't include lettuce and tomatoes.
The crawfish grits was outstanding! Loved the spiciness of the shrimp broth. Crawfish was perfectly cooked. Pork belly put it over the top. Good hearty portion.
We also had the chicken drums. Nothing out of the norm, but still a well-made chicken drumstick.
They've since obtained a beer + wine license. I'd love to go back to try their desserts. And I've had their sweet potato tots before, and please be aware it is good for the entire table, like 3-4 people! Addicting!
Cons: Difficult parking, fairly noisy, crampt picnic table style seating.
We went last night and didn't have as good an experience as others. Not sure if we were just unlucky or this isn't my speed, but I found the food heavy and uneven, and the service barely available. We ordered the chicken drums and short rib lasagna. The noodles in the lasagna were unevenly cooked, leaving some dry or hard patches. Short rib flavor was good, with big hunks of meat, and I liked the chard addition.
Chicken drums are listed as $4 per drumstick on the menu; we were surprised to receive four giant drumsticks (we were expecting one each) but our server didn't return to help sort it out, so we just brought the other two home. The people at the end of our communal table confirmed that they had the same surprise when they dined there earlier, so I guess that's an ordering quirk that's made less clear by the menu listing the per-drumstick price. Flavor-wise, just OK, and ours seemed like they'd been kept under a heating lamp--they were lukewarm and dried out.
Service was bad. It looked like there was only one guy acting as waiter for every table, so I sympathize, but yeesh. I heard a couple of diners begging busboys to take their order, but no luck. It took more than half an hour to place our order, and with the crowded dining room, no windows that open and no fans, it was an uncomfortably hot wait--I felt bad for my more warm-blooded DC, who had sweat dripping off his face. I can't imagine what it was like for the guys in the kitchen.