In West Africa, a "chop bar" is a roadside gathering place serving food and drink, over which community members exchange news and ideas and compare findings on the validity of the axiom set theory of mathematics. Oakland's Chop Bar fosters the same sort of fellowship, right down to its neighborly use of items from local vendors in its dishes. Breakfasteers can opt for a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich ($6) or oatmeal ($3), among other offerings. The taste buds of brunch-goers are invited to trot the globe with the Italian omelette known as the frittata ($7) or an order of chilaquiles ($9), a Mexican dish tossing crispy tortilla strips in salsa, cheese, and scrambled eggs.
Meridian's seasonal menu draws inspiration from global bar bites made from all-natural and locally grown ingredients. Start with an order of bacon mac ‘n’ cheese with buttered panko ($8) or the almond-breaded cod fingers served with jalapeño tartar sauce ($12). For a refreshing post-triathlon meal, opt for the togarashi ahi-tuna niçoise salad with capers, tomatoes, Humboldt fog, and sesame-orange vinaigrette ($14) or quell carnivorous cravings with an all-natural beef burger served with cheddar or blue cheese ($9). The grilled bangers and mash ($13) will evoke sweet childhood memories of playing hopscotch outside the smoky pubs of Bangladesh and also will serve as a delicious stomach stretcher for a third course of sticky toffee pudding ($6) or a house-made ice-cream sandwich with mocha sauce ($6).
After Trademark trademarked the name Trademark for its Trademark restaurant, the restaurant traded in its trademarker, Marcus, for Executive Chef and oyster master Jerry Mendoza. Mendoza's work with The Elite Cafe, The Meetinghouse, and Moose's Restaurant has made him a reputable American-style culinary artist with a dinner menu fit for salivating mouths. Trademark specializes in Pacific oysters like the Kumamoto oyster, originally native to Japan and perfect for a pleasing amuse bouche ($3.50).
Having proven his skill at inventing and handcrafting cocktails, mixologist Kevin Diedrich decided to tackle a second challenge: scale. He measured Campari, sweet vermouth, and gin into a keg, connected the keg to a line, and attached the line to the tap at Jasper's Corner Tap & Kitchen. Now, his clients have negroni on tap alongside 18 kinds of beer. Kevin's knack for blurring the boundary between beer and liquor hardly ends here—in 2012, he earned the restaurant an award in SF Weekly for Best Place to Mix Beer and Booze thanks to such alcoholic hybrids as the Wiessen Sour, a white beer, bourbon, and orange marmalade combo. He's since added a second cocktail to the tap lineup, and still crafts individual specialty cocktails to complement a long list of artisanal wines and bottled beers. This emphasis on quality libations speaks to Jasper's function as a classy yet convivial place. It takes its name from Jasper O'Farrell, who planned San Francisco's Market Street as a social thoroughfare during the Gold Rush. The restaurant strives to capture his neighborly vision by broadcasting sports games, serving locally sourced pub dishes, and borrowing cups of sugar from businesses next door. The menu handily upstages traditional bar food with its entrees, all of which are designed to pair well with the bar's excess of 60 beers. House-made sausage and the J burger, layered with blue cheese and bacon onion marmalade, are served long into the night. Even the fries dress to impress, permitting diners to choose from thin, thick, or sweet potato fries adorned with different seasonings and poutine toppings.
Long relegated to the bottle and glass, wine finds a new home at Fat Angel: the tap. Fat Angel has six wines on draft at all times, allowing guests to select pours not only by the standard glass or bottle, but also by the half-bottle. And that’s just wine; Fat Angel is also a beer-lover’s heaven, where more than 150 beers by the bottle, pint, and smaller pour suit every type of taste bud. There’s sour smoked wheat ale from Germany, dark Double Chocolate English Stout by Wells & Young’s, and crisp Rising Sun Baird Brewing Co.’s Pale Ale from Japan. And one can’t forget to mention the signature cocktails that headline the drink menu, including a chic and classic champagne cocktail with house-made bitters.
The San Francisco Chronicle can’t seem to pick a favorite aspect of Fat Angel. From its handy location—near Yoshi’s, the Fillmore, and Sundance Kabuki Cinema—to its whimsical décor, which includes organ pipes above the bar and a lavish chandelier. Then, of course, there are the killer small plates perfect for soaking up all those libations. Salty fried capers put everyday bar peanuts to shame, and crusty loaves of sourdough or French bread may be elegantly dressed with cheese and meat plates or a selection of butters in flavors such as maple bacon and garlic chili. Larger plates including a chicken pot pie help appease heartier appetites, while Irish cheddar-topped sliders arrive three to a plate, making them ideal for sharing or juggling between rounds.
Most of The Republic’s food doesn't come from beyond 150 miles away. As hinted at by the name and grizzly bear logo, the restaurant uses local ingredients to support its mission of promoting the food, drink, and spirit of California. The menu was created by consulting chef Erik Hopfinger, a Top Chef contestant who has tweaked classic dishes by introducing new flavors—queso fresco and piquillo peppers crown carnitas sliders, and charred tomato salsa colors pan-seared Scottish salmon. At brunch, chantilly cream sweetens thick honey-wheat french toast, and avocado adds 25% more alphabet to a BLTA made with applewood-smoked bacon.
The spirits selection is equally conscientious. Sixty-one craft beers, 20 of which are on tap, hail from down the street (Speakeasy’s Prohibition Ale) and across the country (Portland, Maine’s Allagash White). Boutique wines handpicked from around the United States add depth, and a list of specialty cocktails includes the Republic margarita with silver tequila, pineapple juice, fresh lime, agave nectar, and a salted cayenne rim. At game time, 13 high-definition TVs appear from concealed locations, a trick that charmed the Huffington Post into naming The Republic one of the city’s best bars for watching football.