Slow and Steady (Slow Club -- San Francisco, CA)
***UPDATE 3/06: Chef Sante Salvoni, my favorite, has left the Slow Club under what I understand to be not-so-sexy circumstances. I am still waiting to see how the restaurant fares without him. Once I have a good handle on it, I'll do a full update.***
Sorry for the lapse in posts. I'm lazy. Actually, work has just picked up so I haven't had as much time to post, but I'm going to make up for it now.
When Jon and I first moved to San Francisco, he worked in an office that was one door down from Slow Club. I, too, worked there for about a year and we'd go there occasionally for lunch. That turned into the whole office going there for coffee in the morning, getting take-out when people needed to work through lunch (or dinner or on the weekends), and buying up their whole morning pastry supply when we had people in from out-of-town. The office closed, but we still go back. Not everyday now, but enough. We just can't stay away.
Here's why it's good: The owner, Erin, quite simply, rocks. From all of our observations, she treats her staff great and her customers like friends. We love her. One of the greatest things is that she never seems stressed out despite how stressful owning a restaurant must be. And everything always runs smoothly.
Reason number 2: They serve lunch AND dinner AND brunch on the weekends. This neighborhood is not residential and in terms of businesses, well they crashed with the dot-com bust. Everything fell to pieces around them (including the high profile Gordon's) but Slow Club's business stayed steady. It's a pretty damn good restaurant that can survive all of that without making major schedule changes. We've lived here for six years and everything has ALWAYS been consistent (in a good way, not a boring way). Impressive.
Reason number 3: Sante's cooking. I have a soft spot for Sante since he and I both come from the greater Boston area. That means that he sometimes makes things (like the best damn sausage ever) that I have been unable to find since coming to CA. But aside from my hometown loyalty, the food is just fucking great. I guess it's considered Cal-Mediterranean. I consider it good. Jon will tell anyone who asks that the burger is the best in the city (and yes, he's had Zuni's -- we live around the corner from them, but I'll post on Zuni another time). It's got a great bun, balsamic onions, lettuce, gorgeous tomatoes, mustard, a choice of cheese (including bleu)...you get the idea. And I have dreams about the french fries that come with it. I'm a sucker for fries. And these are my favorites. I've been known to order pasta AND fries (gross, I know, but I can't help it). On our most recent visit, I had bucatini (spagetti with a hole in the center if you are saying "buca-what?") with tomatoes, chili flake (I love spicy), pancetta and garlic. It was delish. I wanted it again the next day. But even if I had gone back for it, I probably would have had to order a different delicacy -- the menu changes daily (burger is ALWAYS there, though). The sandwiches at lunch are fantastic, the flatbreads are the best I've had. The entrees, whether salmon or pork or whatever are always delicious, and the accompaniments are sometimes so enticing that we'll order a dish just to experience them.
Desserts are super tasty as well. Give me that pot de creme any day.
Brunch is just as great. Jon loves the Ranchero Chicken, I'm partial to the fried egg sandwich and the french toast. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.
Reason number 4: The staff. They are relaxed, friendly and professional. The pacing is great. Yay staff!
Reason number 5: The bar. The drink list is great, the wine list is great...hell, the soft drinks (especially the fresh lemonade) are great.
Reason number 6: They don't take reservations. This sucks if, say, you have family in town that you want to take there, but I love that it's democratic. First come, first served -- we're all equal.
It's a great place to take picky eaters. The food is accessible without being dumbed down. There is something for everyone. It's the best compromise for food snobs (like us) and food fearers (like your friend who only likes, well, burgers) dining together.
Slow Club is comfort food in the best sense. The restaurant decor is hip, but not pretentious. The low lights and warm colors make you want to linger over your meal no matter how noisy or crowded it gets. And you always leave feeling satisfied. It's like a food hug.
"To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art."