Put away your sad desk lunch -- SoMa’s Garaje has a spin-off in Garajito just a few blocks away, next to a parking garage (so at least you won’t have look for a space). This tiny outpost at 257 Third St is the place to go if you’re at Moscone Center and don’t want to deal with convention center food lines (or convention center food). Garajito serves tacos, salads, and zapatos -- essentially a pressed burrito -- among minimalist vintage digs (including a handful of old SF street signs). Bring cash and opt for a pulled pork sandwich with bacon, spicy slaw, and onions or seared ahi tuna taco.
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A New York hotspot stakes claim in SF’s Mission with this Indian newcomer. Following an enthusiastic greeting in Manhattan’s Alphabet City neighborhood, Jessi and Jennifer Singh brought their healthful modern Indian concept to the Bay and add a few Mission-friendly touches, such as fresh, local ingredients and a “help yourself” beer fridge, stocked with a rotating collection of local brews. Retaining the bold flavors of Jessi’s native Northern India, the owner-chef has developed twists on classic dishes such as the “Inauthentic” butter chicken and coconut curry with scallops. The chef’s tasting menu is $62 per person and features signature appetizers and Tandoor items, a thali-style curry platter served with charred naan, and dessert like the signature Kulfi with cardamom, honey, and pistachio, while à la carte items run $16-$26.
The Tartine empire continues its spread through the Mission with this long-term pop-up from Bar Tartine’s Nick Balla and Cortney Burns. Motze will only be around for 18 months while they have the space, meaning a reservation is required to eat at the latest Tartine altar of California cuisine that adds in a heavy dose of Japanese influence. A shareable menu changes daily based on what’s freshest and runs $58/person, including gratuity. Stop by Tuesday through Saturday for dishes like rainbow trout with wasabi, spicy porridge, and peanut butter truffles. The pop-up is named for Chinese philosopher from the fifth century BCE who touted the principle of “undifferentiated love” -- we’re sure you’ll have unbounded love for Motze’s dishes.
Contemporary northern and central Indian fare, with -- you guessed it -- a California sensibility, arrives in the burgeoning restaurant scene in Civic Center area. Designed to cater to Bill Graham revelers, symphony and ballet-goers, and folks who work in the area, August 1 Five serves lunch-friendly wraps, sandwiches, and small plates then transitions to happy hour seven days a week and a more robust dinner menu. But this isn’t any plain, quick stop joint. Lush jewel tones and high-backed velvet booths make for a luxurious, bold setting while a central square-shaped bar area that seats around 90 adds a convivial atmosphere for pre-show imbibing. Almost everything is organic or locally sourced, too, so you can feel great even before your evening of entertainment gets underway.
A solid culinary block has formed on Mission and 6th as this wine and beer cafe takes the vacant place between Equator Coffee and Popsons. Brought to you by Tom Patella, one of the guys behind Marina gem Causwells, along with Billy Riordan, Waystone aims to be an unpretentious watering hole for the transitioning neighborhood. Its robust, well-curated wine and beer menu is arranged by flavor attribute, and the food is on point and well priced. Go for the avocado toast, braised beef sandwich, or the Ploughman’s lunch -- Riordan’s take on a charcuterie board that includes assorted picked items, house mustard, and chimichurri.
A swanky, two-story supper club from Bacchus Management (Spruce, The Village Pub in Woodside) moves into the corner of Post and Leavenworth, replacing an SRO. The extensive renovation of the over 100-year-old building reveals some of its original charm -- think exposed brick and beams -- giving the whole space a rollicking 1920s vibe. The main attraction is the tiered glass and steel chandelier that cascades down the stairwell on the first floor to the subterranean reservation-only dining room. While the 23 seats downstairs will surely be a hot ticket, guests can enjoy Chef Mark Sullivan’s full menu of savory treats ranging from tots with cheddar and chorizo, to chicken liver toasts, and crudo. You’ll find a $15 burger upstairs, where 64 bar seats and a wall of backlit liquor provides posh ambiance. Spruce’s barman Brandon Clements offers a menu of 15 cocktails, served as highballs, shaken, stirred, or barreled and bottled. Groups can go for the $100 Cocktail Bill Boothby Bowl (a swanky take on a tiki punch bowl), made with bourbon, rum, maraschino, green tea, pineapple, and mint.
Garajito is the younger, more compact brother of SoMa’s Garaje, with a mere eight seats and a diminutive menu of zapatos, tacos, sandwiches, and salads served in a fast-casual setting. Choose from colorful, flavorful selections like the Manteca fried carnitas zapato, which is a panini-burrito hybrid flattened in a press and stuffed with jack cheese, creamy avocado, refried beans, and salsa. Enjoy your Mexican meal either on the go or at one of Garajito’s red-topped chrome tables, which are flanked by rustic hewn wooden chairs. Garajito is cash only; so don’t leave your bills at home.
The Mission’s Babu Ji’s self-proclaimed charge is to provoke a dining ethos of unadulterated excitement in its guests when they receive their orders. That’s no challenge for Jessi and Jennifer Singh, venerable culinary rock stars who have propelled their brand of Indian to both US coasts and down to Australia, and their regularly changing menu that spans Indian street food, cross-regional curries, and tandoori specialties. Babu Ji serves inventive takes on traditional Indian fare like Colonel Tso’s cauliflower, which is coated in agrodolce chile sauce, deep-fried, and topped with sesame seeds, onion seeds, and chives, and prawn coconut curry, which, can be substituted with pumpkin for vegans. And as if the whole culinary affair needed an extra garnish, the cocktail list was crafted by none other than Vincent Chirico of New York’s Raines Law Room.
August 1 Five is named for the date commemorating India’s independence from British rule, and it is autonomy that the restaurant embraces in its menu. The program of small bites and large plates, spanning crispy chicken with red Kashmiri chili, garlic, garam masala, and tomato; a trio of samosas, with pea and potato, butternut squash and raisin, and cheese and mushroom; and filet mignon with clove, cinnamon, ginger, and garlic, represents August 1 Five’s anchor in the cuisines of northern and central India. But the restaurant’s mission is greater still, as it champions the sourcing of local, organic, and sustainable ingredients whenever possible. August 1 Five’s décor is done in distinctively cool tones, perhaps to offset the pervasive heat of so many of its dishes.
Waystone fills a culinary niche in Mid-Market, where workers and shoppers are often forced to grab bites at the mall or other tourist-oriented venues nearby. Situated in the Warfield building, the wine bar offers a simple, limited menu of hearty seasonal fare like the Ploughman’s Lunch, made up of assorted pickled veggies and cheeses, a hardboiled egg, house mustard, chimichurri, and toasts with the option to add sliced sausage and house cured salmon. Pair it with any of the menu’s salads, sandwiches, soups, and desserts, and wash it down with a California or European wine from the list programmed by Causwells legend Tom Patella. Waystone is a welcome destination for those on the nine-to-five grind; the décor has modern, natural elements, like pale wooden countertops, that make it warm and cozy, complementing the Warfield’s brick walls and concrete floors.
The Saratoga has transformed a 1908 hotel into a magnificent cocktail bar and supper club. The glamorous two-story restaurant offers two distinct experiences: the open upstairs lounge, with its conspicuous, expansive backlit wall of liquor, is designed to be a casual space where guests make themselves at home (think comfy leather seats with brass studs at the bar and a mix of banquettes and tables in the dining room), while the basement room is a quieter, more upscale den with 24 reservation-required seats and grey cashmere-lined walls covered in art, the entrance of which is marked by a multi-tiered steel and glass chandelier that dangles like an earring. The Saratoga’s menu is decidedly unserious interpretation of standard American bar fare, and with options like seven-spice chicken sliders, “Toga Tots,” with fiscalini cheddar, chorizo, and scallion, and shoe string potatoes, with rosemary, parmesan, and garlic, your food will amuse as much as it will fill you.