Comforts of the flesh

Pub date May 15, 2012

APPETITE Oxtail three ways, a hammy biscuit, gourmet meatloaf… comfort comes in each of these forms at new spots (or in the case of Presidio Social Club, with a new chef) in meat dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.



Prather Ranch is to be commended for raising sustainable, humanely-reared meats with a whole-animal (let no part go to waste) sales model. I’ve long enjoyed sausages and quality meats from the Ferry Building butcher. A few months ago, Prather opened American Eatery, providing meats to go in drool-worthy dishes like Chuck Wagon chili ($6.50), a mixture of pork, pinquito beans, sharp cheddar, scallions and sour cream, or Munich-style white brockwurst sausage ($7) with whole grain mustard sauce and sauerkraut.

American Eatery executive chef Erica Holland-Toll came from the former ACME Chop House and Lark Creek Inn. Long using Prather Ranch meats at her restaurants, she was well-qualified to oversee the Ferry Building menu. Breakfast is playful with unusual offerings like braised pork scrapple ($8), a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch mix of pork trimmings, cornmeal, flour, and spices in a sort of panfried loaf. Burgers tempt, even at breakfast, particularly The Stonebreaker ($12), laden with cheese curds and meat gravy.

I go for maple-smoked ham. Try it on an Acme Torpedo roll ($10) joined by avocado and Eatwell Farms egg, perfected with basil and cheese curds. I’m particularly smitten with the maple-smoked ham and cheese biscuit ($8). The thick biscuit cushions Prather Ranch’s thinly shaved slabs of ham, San Joaquin Gold cheese, a fried egg and red eye gravy mayo. Biscuit Bender’s flaky buttermilk biscuit is the right choice. A local baker whose biscuits can also be found at Mission Cheese and Hollow, Bender wisely makes larded and non-larded versions. Ah, lard! Kudos for keeping tradition alive. I devour the sandwich with a Blue Bottle cappuccino, then sigh with contentment.

AMERICAN EATERY Ferry Building, SF. 415-391-0420



The Civic Center’s O3 Bistro and Lounge opened in January in the former, transformed California Pizza Kitchen. The sleek, open space in tones of black, silver, and purple exudes an Asian cosmopolitan feel with open windows offering a view of busy Van Ness Ave., not an obvious foodie stretch. While there’s a range of small plates ($7-12), including hoisin-glazed short ribs and ahi tuna crudo, dinner adds on pricier ($18-28) entrees such as seared scallops with lobster garlic noodles.

It’s fall-apart tender braised oxtail that calls out to me. At lunch there’s oxtail hash ($13), a mixture of caramelized onions, roasted red bell pepper, and russet potatoes over kimchi dirty rice, topped with bacon dust and a fried egg. At both lunch and dinner, find it in wonton shell tacos ($8-10) with jicama slaw. Does it get much more comforting? At a recent lunch I indulged in an oxtail grilled cheese sandwich on thick, rustic slabs of bread, sweetly glorified with five spice raisin jam. Braised oxtail any which way? Bring it on.

O3 524 Van Ness Ave., SF. 415-934-9800,



Possessing one of the more beautiful, unique SF dining rooms, Presidio Social Club is set in a 1903 military barracks like a sunny, white, 1940s clubhouse with hints of red and chrome. Grabbing a bar stool for an Anejo Sour or Aviation from bar manager Tim Stookey and crew is a timeless respite. The rotating barrel-aged menu pleases, particularly the Aged Reasons Rye: rye, Punt e Mes vermouth, Cointreau, orange bitters.

New chef Wes Shaw hails from Texas, working with longtime chef-owner Ray Tang on a new menu that doesn’t neglect PSC classics like a Dungeness crab Louis sandwich ($18) or above-average mac n’ cheese ($10). But he also adds vitality with TX nods, like 8-hour smoked brisket on Tuesdays or marinated calamari, kicked up with butter beans and chiles. Fresh Monterey sardines ($10) come flaky over chickpea puree, shrouded in celery, while cracked Dungeness crab or a platter of oysters (Thursdays are $1 oysters, 4-7pm) remain ideally suited eats in PSC’s crisp space.

Surprisingly, two vegetable sides ($6) are among my favorite menu items, both deftly prepared, as fresh and healthy as they are palate-satisfying. Broccoli di ciccio is tossed in lemon with garlic and chiles, while smashed peas in mint oil are brightly seductive. How about that meat? One of the best dishes on the menu remains classic meatloaf ($17), infused with new life — a seemingly bigger slice than I remember in years past. Like mom would make if mom was a gourmand, the juicy, meaty loaf rests atop a sea of mashed potatoes, crowned with slivered carrots and fried shallots for a pseudo-light finish.

PRESIDIO SOCIAL CLUB 563 Ruger, SF. 415-885-1888,

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