Chilled fruit cup at Californios
Atmosphere-wise, Franck LeClerc’s handsome watering hole feels like a ménage à trois between a gentleman’s club, a French prop studio, and a stack of money. But the fare demonstrates a refreshing lack of pretension: It’s simple food done very well. Raw oysters come fantastically cold, plump, and creamy; a chickpea panisse cake boasts a crunchy crust and creamy innards; and grilled entrecôte steak hews deliciously to tradition. It’s all unabashedly old school—and deeply satisfying. 185 Sutter St. (at Kearny St.), 415-576-8800 —Rebecca Flint Marx
Calling Palm House “tropics-inspired” is like calling Capri Sun fruit-inspired: convincing in concept, slightly less so in practice. The vibrant hues and dishes like plump “Trinidad-style” grilled gulf white prawns and guava-pepper pork tacos channel a kind of Caribbean-lite—festive, fun, and a bit shallow in execution. But they make a perfect accompaniment to the stellar cocktail list: The lusty, spicy-sweet chipotle-mango margarita is reason enough to set sail for the Marina. 2032 Union St. (near Buchanan St.), 415-400-4355 —R.F.M.
Industrial meets art deco at this coolly designed little spot serving classic American food with just the right smidge of chefly affectation. The excellent burger comes draped with a big fat square of American cheese, while an heirloom tomato salad enjoys a creative update courtesy of fried okra, Jimmy Nardello peppers, and melon vinaigrette. The service is as sweet and welcoming as the doughnut bread pudding, which should come with a Lipitor chaser. 2346 Chestnut St. (near Divisadero St.), 415-447-6081 —Sara Deseran
The Dock at Linden Street
At this warehouse-chic build-out next to the Linden Street Brewery, the small-batch beer flows freely and Commis chef James Syhabout lets his imagination loose. The result is global bar food, ranging from oyster po’ boys to yakitori-style grilled corn to a falafel “waffle” with merguez sausage and a cooling splash of lebni, or strained yogurt. Much of the grub is fried, a fair bit of it is spicy, and all of it begs for sudsy lubrication. Think of it as happy hour from many time zones, all under one roof. 95 Linden St. (near 3rd St.), 510-338-3965 —Josh Sens
Originally published in the October issue of San Francisco