Old Bus Tavern (San Francisco)

1/27/2017—Any halfway serious foodie in this country knows that San Francisco is basically the foodie Mecca of the United States. I had been talking about making a trip out there for ages, and the opportunity presented itself during the week leading up to my birthday. Will was going to be out there for work, so I figured why not meet him out there and make a little birthday trip out of it? By some amazing twist of fate, the week we were there also happened to be San Francisco restaurant week.

My strategy for choosing which restaurants to try started with seeing which Michelin-starred restaurants were participating in restaurant week. The greater San Francisco area has no shortage of Michelin stars, so it wasn’t hard to find a couple on the list. Unfortunately, even three weeks ahead of time, these restaurants were already booked for restaurant week. My next move was to consult the list of 100 best restaurants in San Francisco (I constantly consult Washingtonian’s version for DC). I found one that was participating and still had a few reservations available—Old Bus Tavern.

The menu posted on the restaurant week website said they were offering dinner for $40, or dinner + beer pairings for $65. When we asked our waitress about the beer pairings, she said it must have been an old menu posted online because they weren’t offering that this year. Will and I must have looked super disappointed, because she soon followed up with “let me talk to the chef/brewmaster and see what we can work out for you.” After a few minutes, she came back with confirmation that we would get our beer pairings after all. I was quite impressed with the restaurant’s ability to do the pairing on the fly, and appreciated the great service.

For our first courses, Will and I chose the cornbread and Hasselback potatoes. The heirloom blue cornbread was perfectly moist and crumbly, and came with this AWESOME jalapeño honey butter. The potatoes were crispy on the outside and were served with crème fraiche and sprinkled with chives and parmesan cheese.

For our second courses, we ordered the cauliflower soup and the gulf shrimp perloo. The smooth and creamy cauliflower soup was poured over pickles, toasted pecans, a bacon marmalade, and radish. The bacon added a nice smoky flavor to the otherwise subdued flavor of the cauliflower. The gulf shrimp perloo came atop brown rice and was seasoned with Cajun spices.

For the main entrees, we ordered the swordfish and the pastrami short ribs. The swordfish was grilled and laid atop a bed of barley with hedgehog mushrooms, and served with a kohlrabi salad. The star of the meal thus far was definitely the pastrami short ribs. These were served with bone marrow mashed potatoes and cabbage, and topped with smoked walnuts and beef jus vinaigrette. Yum!

Since it was birthday week and we were on vacation, we couldn’t skip dessert. For dessert we ordered the carrot cake madeleines and the cold brew float. The madeleines were served with a ginger cream. I think I was expecting them to be moist and spicy like a carrot cake, but they were much closer to the madeleine end of the spectrum—a tad dry, and a bit lacking in flavor, in my opinion. The cold brew float was coffee ice cream served in the restaurant’s house made cold brew. They offered a shot of whiskey on the side to make it an Irish coffee float, which we gladly accepted. The float was delicious.

I was happy with our first SF, food-mecca restaurant choice. The beer pairings were awesome, and I would definitely head back here for another round of those short ribs.

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