Led by executive chef Shawn Bayless, the culinary savants at at Michelin--recommended and _Zagat-praised Paul K modernize Mediterranean dishes in a warmly elegant setting. Servers whisk complimentary black-and-white hummus and cucumber-infused water to white-draped tables as guests scan the dinner menu. A diverse selection of small plates—ideal for sharing or sating a single Lilliputian—includes potato gnocchi, house fries with harissa ketchup, and pomegranate-braised lamb riblets with garlic yogurt. Entrees weave together Greek, Middle Eastern, and European flavors, as well as Armenian touches from owner Paul Kavoksorian's heritage. Meats are pan-seared, grilled, and wine-braised, and mezza platters feature the traditional tastes of kebabs and baba gannouj, as well as unique flourishes such as carrot-mint yogurt. Selections from an import-heavy wine list—with descriptive headings such as "Bottles Full of Bubbles" and "Rich, White Wines Showing Appropriate Restraint"—fill glasses as diners linger, admiring abstract artwork against a slate gray wall in a dining room with red and yellow accents.
On Saturday and Sunday mornings, the brunch menu proffers sophisticated takes on breakfast dishes—in the form of orange pancakes topped with toasted walnuts and a hash of confit duck and onion salsa— as well as lunch sandwiches, soups, and greens. Sipping a mimosa or maple-bacon-infused bloody mary awakens taste buds, and downing a latte made with espresso or green tea gives diners a morning jolt akin to mistaking the muzzle of a pet tiger for an alarm clock.
Located firmly within San Francisco's Castro district, 2362 Market Street is steeped in city history. Here, Catch makes its mark in a storefront registered as an official city landmark that originally housed the burgeoning NAMES Project, which famously organized the creation of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. The history remains with the building, but Catch aims to create a new legacy while honoring the spirit of creativity and expression rooted in its surroundings.
To foster this spirit, the chefs rotate their menus regularly, accommodating seasonal produce and fresh catches of local, sustainably sourced seafood. Each dish showcases these ingredients while incorporating Mediterranean influences and minimalist Californian sensibilities toward composition and presentation. A hearty bowl of mussels, clams, shrimp, scallops, crab, and fresh fish in a tomato broth evokes the flavors of portuguese stew, and the pizzas emerge with inspired toppings, such as smoked salmon and crème fraîche.
The air of refined simplicity also extends to the dining room's decor. Cherry-wood tables line the tiled floors and surround the small, circular fireplace that helps heat the enclosed patio section. Two works of vibrantly colored wall art originals add a taste of whimsy to the space, as does the balcony-like stage that sits suspended 10 feet above the ground, dominating an entire corner of the room. A full piano resides on the stage, beckoning the live jazz bands that perform on Fridays and Saturdays for diners and brave souls who would like to make their seafood meals feel at home by playing sea shanties of yore.
Noeteca‘s owners spent their lives looking forward to running their own restaurant, so it’s no surprise that the French-inspired tapas spot feels comfortable in its own skin from early morning meals until late into the night. During the day, Noeteca seems like a cafe, where patrons sip on international coffees from local roasters brewed by the cup or for personal-sized French presses. At brunch menu, familiar dishes share space with ambitious French-inspired offerings—the croque monsieur becomes a croque Napoleon with slices of bread pudding layered with black forest ham and emmantaler. When the weather is nice, guests can wander out to a patio colored by a flower and herb garden to learn the sun’s secret handshake.
As evening falls, candlelight fills the dining room and guests switch their focus to wine. The award-winning list includes more than 30 varieties, each available by the glass or half-glass. For dinner, patrons can build their own cheese plates or share a tarte flambèe, Alsatian flatbreads the San Francisco Bay Guardian said have “a lovely thin, blistered crust that was a bit softer and more luxurious than a typical pizza crust”.
Matthew Corrin was fashion designer Oscar de la Renta's marketing manager, which meant a lot of long hours and a lot of hurried lunches. After his umpteenth greasy sandwich, Corrin began wondering why there weren't more convenient, waistline-friendly lunch alternatives. This rumination—and a resignation letter to de la Renta—begot Freshii, a fast, casual eatery that serves healthy meals and has graced the pages of various publications, including the Chicago Tribune and Inc.’s 30 Under 30 list. Environmental awareness also plays a big part in the business model as the food packaging is made from eco-friendly vegetable starches.
Every Freshii kitchen is stocked with the base ingredients of brown rice, romaine lettuce, field greens, spinach, and rice noodles; toppings such as carrots, broccoli, grilled tofu, and candied walnuts; and an array of dressings and sauces. Using these ingredients, the chefs create bowls, wraps, salads, soups, and burritos for lunch and dinner. During morning hours when the sun is still busy curling its rays, they scramble eggs, serve housemade oatmeal, and top fat-free frozen yogurt with a choice of fruit. Customers can bring their own bowls, and the staff will wash and fill them with fresh ingredients hailing from environmentally responsible farms that fairly compensate their workers.
In 1947, owners Mel Weiss and Harold Dobbs assembled a staff of 14 carhops to serve passing motorists at the first Mel's Drive-In. For the next two decades, customers partial to automobile dining flocked to the chain’s 11 California locations, eager to wash down grass-fed half-pound burgers with thick milk shakes. As fast-food outlets outpaced the drive-in's once-speedy service, its popularity declined, and it was eventually scheduled for demolition. The building got a temporary reprieve, however, when filmmaker George Lucas decided to use the drive-in's original location on Lombard Street as the colorful backdrop for his film American Graffiti. As bulldozers destroyed the last remnants of the historic drive-in, American Graffiti opened in theaters.
A decade later, though, Mel's son Steven reopened Mel's Drive-In in an attempt to carry on his father's dream. Steven restored the drive-in's multiple locations to mirror their original motif by stocking each with midcentury must-haves such as illuminated marquees, jukeboxes, and Elvis-themed WiFi passwords. The drive-in’s menu, meanwhile, balances period-appropriate fare, such as hot dogs and burgers, with healthy options, such as the Haven’s Famous vegetarian sandwich, two slices of nine-grain bread topped with avocado, sprouts, and tomatoes.
Weekly samba performances complement authentic Brazilian fare at Canto Do Brasil Restaurant, one of San Francisco's longest-standing Brazilian restaurants and subject of two Check, Please! Bay Area features. To commence meals, chefs can sauté fresh calamari with red wine or grill up a sausage that intimidates foot-long hot dogs with its 16-inch length and muscular entourage of bread. For the main dish, forks can tap dance over the galinha na cerveja, a half chicken marinated in dark beer and Brazilian-style spices; or hide away inside the seafood tropical’s pineapple shell, in which a sauce made with orange, apple, and coconut festoons a medley of seafood. Finally, a selection of Portuguese beers or the signature caipirinha’s mix of sugar, lime, and rum's bad-boy cousin cachaça can wash down meals with authentic South American flavors.
Patrons can pluck their daily serving of fruit from piled-high headdresses on Friday and Saturday nights, when Canto Do Brasil hosts live Carnaval samba performances in a relaxed, festive, and romantic atmostphere. Dancers decked out in feathered plumes and sparkly costumes shimmy and shake their way between rustic wooden chairs and cerulean walls for a beach aesthetic, entertaining customers and competing to see whose headdress can attract the most parrots.