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.
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).
Urban Tavern’s mission is as simple as its food is inventive: to incorporate fresh, seasonal ingredients—most of which come from sources within 100 miles of the kitchen—into its menu of reimagined American classics. The result: breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus with familiar dishes imbued with new twists and distinct flavors. The sausage-and-pretzel appetizer, for instance, promises a spicy grilled Caggiano beer sausage with sauerkraut and a housemade soft pretzel. The fish and chips dish features Pacific cod that’s battered in Anchor Steam, and is served with Yukon chips or cucumber-fennel slaw. The theme carries over into breakfast classics—in addition to a breakfast buffet, chefs prepare a rum-raisin french toast and frittatas with Laura Chenel goat cheese and red bliss potatoes.
The Lounge at Urban Tavern is like the main restaurant’s laid-back little brother. The Lounge shares many of the same dishes as the main restaurant, plus pub snacks like eggplant sliders and spiced nuts, and features a bar stocked with Bay Area–brewers like Mad River and Pyramid Brewing. Mixologist Gerard Miller and his team, meanwhile, kick out specialty cocktails for the post-work or pre-theater crowd: there’s the Spanish Manhattan with Bulliet Bourbon, and the Pisco Fug Cutter, a blend of Meyers’s dark rum, orgeat liquor, and Harvey’s Bristol Cream spiced with muddled jalapeño. The Lounge also features California wines and desserts like the Valrhona chocolate pot de creme, which is made with toffee caramel, graham streusel, and toasted marshmallow.
The first thing that will likely catch your eye is artist Doug Owen’s horse statue, a life-sized rendering constructed from welded tractor, motorcycle, and car parts. But a second glance around Urban Tavern’s dining room reveals the smaller details, which are equally as deliberate and artful. Donna Scala and Gensler Design channeled Urban Tavern’s green missive by using salvaged and reclaimed materials for the interior. The best example is the communal dining table, which was crafted from a fallen tree. But there’s also the reclaimed wooden ceiling beams, the exposed concrete, and the maple-topped bar, all of which echo the chefs’ abilities to re-imagine familiar cuisine as something new.
When to Go
Belgian red ale: Different from an irish red ale, the belgian version has a distinctly sour taste produced by fermentation with lactobacilli and long aging periods in oak barrels, which also give it a wine-like character.
Sisig: Filipino for “sour snack,” the most common form of this dish consists of pork marinated in vinegar or citrus, and then flavored with savory seasonings.
While You’re in the Neighborhood
Before: Marvel at the thousands of novelty pins in every imaginable shape and slogan at Oriental Art Gallery (1340 9th Avenue).
After: Head to Urban Bazaar (1371 9th Avenue) for an evening class in crafts such as crochet and printmaking, or bring a growler to the monthly Stitch ‘n’ Bitch gathering.
If You Can’t Make It, Try This: Longtime Social chef Christopher Wong created the menu at Blueprint Tap Room (680 8th Street)—the concept’s similar, although the beers aren’t made in-house.
What to Eat
What to Drink
Where to Sit: Cozy up to the dark mahogany bar and marvel at the impressive collection of whiskey and rye, or head to the quieter, more fancy rear dining room.
When to Go: For discounted cocktails and snacks, such as beer battered onion rings or pulled pork quesadillas, head in during happy hour, which occurs Monday–Friday from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m..
Inside Tip: The kitchen stays open to 1 a.m. every night, so feel free to head in for a snack after a second shift or late-night jewelry heist.
While You’re Waiting: Scan the very top shelf of the bar for Guinness-related memorabilia, including vintage posters and an actual antique harp.
While You’re in the Neighborhood
Before: Feed your cultural appetite while working up an actual food-related one during a trip to Little Tree Gallery (3412 22nd Street), where contemporary artists of all mediums show off their stuff.
After: Check out a theatrical one-man show at The Marsh (1062 Valencia Street)
Who’s in the Kitchen? Robin Song, a young chef who defines his cooking as "refined rustic." In 2013, SF Chronicle chose Chef Song as one of its Rising Star chefs.
What to Drink: Whiskey is a specialty here, if not an obsession. Try a concoction from the bar's curated Pimp My Old Fashioned menu, with new takes like the Bruleèd Old Fashioned with High West double rye, caramel, orange bitters, and lavender.
Ham and Oyster Origins: Self-proclaimed as “San Francisco’s first ham and oyster bar,” Hog & Rocks takes its namesake items seriously. Read on to learn where each originates:
If You Can’t Make It, Try This: Keep an eye out for Youk's Hot Sauce at locations around the Bay. It's a joint effort between Hog & Rocks owner Scott Youkilis and his brother, Kevin, a former big league All-Star. "It can go on anything," so they claim on their website.