Fine dining old-timer Acquerello has spun off a relatively casual kid sister just blocks away on Polk Street. Its sleek, slightly deco scenery backs artful small plates engineered for sharing. Bites may include beef tartare with Southeast Asian accents (chilies, nut purée) or a fried duck sandwich with all the trappings of In-N-Out. Wash everything down with market-driven cocktails created by an ex-Aziza barman. 1760 Polk St. (at Washington St.), 415-359-1212 C.A.
Franck LeClerc’s empire expands to the Marina with his second Café Claude, a gussied-up version of the original French bistro, this one clad in rich red-and-cream damask wallpaper, vintage gold-framed mirrors, and antique French chandeliers. The Claude bistro staples—steak tartare, French onion soup—survived the trip across town, but chef Doug DeGeeter has a few new tricks up his jacket sleeve, like a smoked trout salad with pink apple, black radish, dill, and lime. 2120 Greenwich St. (near Fillmore St.), 415-292-3599 C.A.
The glamification of the Divisadero corridor continues with this decidedly upmarket Mexican restaurant. Black walls set off works by Mexico City artists and colorful furnishings from south-of-the-border flea markets. The menu echoes its surroundings: less rustic, more stylized, and nary a tortilla chip in sight. One of the heartier dishes, Tierra y Mar, includes sliced rib eye next to a pile of Dungeness crab and pineapple purée. A selection from the list of artisan mezcals, served neat, makes a fitting sip between bites. 661 Divisadero St. (at Grove St.), 415-440-4500 C.A.
The Leopold’s crew has made over the former Long Bar with a ’40s-era kick. Dark wood, plush crimson booths, and taxidermied beasts set the tone for hearty dishes like a Flintstonian lamb shank or quail a la plancha. A whole trout wrapped in ribbons of pancetta and crispy squash blossoms offers a more modern approach. The best way to soak up the retro atmosphere? Order a Pimm’s cup and let it transport you to a time when farm-to-table wasn’t a San Francisco catchphrase. 2298 Fillmore St. (at Clay St.), 415-732-7777 J.A.S.
Originally published in the November issue of San Francisco
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