The epicurean alchemists at Medallion Steakhouse start with organic produce, and grass- and corn-fed beef and chicken raised on local farms and transform them into fine, innovative dishes. Specialists tend the raw oyster bar, where guests sidle up to string necklaces of pearls from varieties such as Fanny Bay, Marin Miyagi, and Kumamoto oysters. With their appetites roused, diners then settle down into oversize booths padded with plush pillows to dig into farm-fresh entrees. Smells of sizzling 14-ounce grass-fed steaks and roasted chicken breasts from Petaluma Farms swirl through the air between the restaurant’s exposed-brick wall hung with red-and-white-framed mirrors. A wall of white birch tree trunks and soft sounds of a waterfall's trickle keep diners comforted as they linger for a forkful of hazelnut dark-chocolate mousse and sips of spirits such as a 20-year-old tawny port and Godiva white-chocolate liqueur.
At La Costanera, Peruvian-born Chef Carlos Altamirano adds contemporary twists to traditional South American dishes that earned the restaurant a 2012 Michelin Star. A variety of ceviches whet appetites amidst a dining room that the San Francisco Chronicle called "breathtaking by day and almost mystical at night," filled with the soft sound of the surf. Free-range chicken and slow-cooked pork shoulder thrive beneath what a reviewer for the Pacifica Tribune applauds as "dramatic presentation.” Imported Peruvian beers and pisco cocktails clink to toast potatoes reclaiming exoticness by arriving in shades of purple and green, and even simple favorites take on the gleeful elegance of a solid-teak waterslide with the aid of truffle oil or saffron. La Costanera’s 10,000-square-foot space opens onto an open-air patio and glass-enclosed rooms. Windowpanes soaring from floor to ceiling arch high overhead, admitting cascades of sunlight as diners gaze out and give each rolling wave a name and backstory.
A baby-blue "Bienvenidos" greets customers as they step into the warm yellows and oranges of El Sinaloense Mexican Restaurant. Vibrant portraits of south-of-the-border feasts and beaches embellish the sun-toned walls, between which the waitstaff frequently refills each table's bottomless bowl of housemade salsa. Diners chase chips with seafood specialties born on the shores of Sinaloa, such as the topolobampo, a fillet of grilled fish crowned with clams, prawns, and octopus. A more traditional Mexican plate, the Molcajete stars jalapeños, onions, and cheese next to chicken and shrimp simmered with nopales.
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.
Johnny Cherry, the proven barbecue king, seasons the fare at Frank's BBQ and Seafood with his own special blend of herbs and spices, earning himself and the eatery a first-place finish in the Black Cuisine of San Francisco competition for 10 years running. He cooks up pork and beef ribs, sliced beef brisket, and chicken wings, all available in a variety of combos with sides such as potato salad and hush puppies. Not to be outdone, seafood dishes such as red snapper, catfish, and fish burgers sidle up beside the barbecue fare.
Margie—Frank's BBQ and Seafood's resident soul-fare specialist and fellow Black Cuisine of San Francisco first-prize winner—drops by every Thursday and Friday to whip up her down-home cuisine. Made from her grandmother's Alabama recipes, her entrees include smothered turkey wings, meatloaf, and oxtail, prepared with comfort-fare sides such as string beans and candied yams in the shape of a La-Z-Boy. On request, she can also craft homemade desserts such as cakes, peach cobbler, banana pudding, and pies. Frank's BBQ and Seafood and Margie's soul fare are also available for catering for any event.
When star chef Mario Batali tasted Cioppino's Restaurant & Bar's signature dish—cioppino, an italian seafood stew with tomatoes and fennel—he liked it so much that he said, “I could eat that every day.” The richness of the cioppino sets the tone for the rest of the menu, which teems with hearty Italian staples such as rigatoni pomodoro, shrimp capellini, and margherita pizzas.
Diners devour these dishes inside the mural-bedecked dining room at tables draped in red-gingham tablecloths. They can also head out to the patio, which the Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant keeps open 365 days per year, come rain or kraken attack.