Comfort, au courant

virginia@bayguardian.com

APPETITE San Francisco doesn’t lack for comfort food. The last decade’s wave of twists on hearty, familiar fare has insured most neighborhoods aren’t without elevated burgers and grown-up childhood favorites. Two new restaurants, opened in September, continue and update the trend.

 

COMPANY

Guerrero and 22nd Street has long been one of my favorite corners. Whether enjoying a pint at the Liberties, a cocktail at retro fabulous bar Lone Palm, or house charcuterie at Beast and the Hare, at this intersection I feel transported, encouraged to linger and take in my surroundings, as if in Europe. In Company’s big picture windows, vintage red chairs and retro lamps make the space even more welcoming than it was before, as Tao Cafe. Lunch is idyllic: a book, a sandwich, and a bowl of soup becomes a way of spoiling myself.

Dinner is likewise mellow, families and couples confirming a local vibe. It’s clear in early months that while Company may not be revolutionary destination dining, chef-owners Karen Hoffman (from Four Seasons Newport Beach and Jardiniere) and Jason Poindexter (Four Seasons Chicago and San Francisco) offer tranquil surroundings and well-executed food. The ubiquitous upscale burger is there: “Breadand Butter” burger ($14), a patty of ground chuck and oxtail, topped with Madeira-glazed pioppini mushrooms and decadent triple creme brie. At lunch, vegetarian stands up to burger and pork offerings: grilled eggplant and house ricotta panini ($11) is layered with rapini/broccoli rabé and romesco sauce. Smoky eggplant and ricotta are in harmony: warm, luxurious, almost healthy. A bowl of squash soup, savory with duck confit, brightened by citrus reduction, is $8 but as an add-on cup to a lunch entree is merely $3.

At dinner, salads are vivid, unlisted vegetables one night in a “crisp vegetable salad” ($9) being beets, cucumber, and avocado over sweet gem lettuce, tossed with feta and toasted pine nuts in a basil mint vinaigrette. House-cured salmon salad ($11) is likewise fresh and silky, with cucumber and beets in yogurt dill dressing. Crispy confit chicken wings ($9) are especially tender, accented with heat (and color) from red jalapenos and fried mint leaves. Syrah-braised short ribs ($23) are cooked in harissa, evoking Middle Eastern intrigue over whipped garnet yams and charred rapini.

With four beers on draft, like intense peach notes of Widmer Bros. BRRR Seasonal Red Ale from Portland ($6), and a shorter wine list (heavy on France, Italy, California), there are cocktails sans hard liquor from Assistant General Manager Russell Morton. While I don’t get excited about soju and wine cocktails, preferring robust spirits to mild soju, Morton elevates an amaretto sour into an almond cherry sour ($6), keeping house amaretto tart rather than too sweet, with lemon, cherry bitters, and brandied cherries.

1000 Guerrero, SF. (415) 374-7479, www.companysf.com

 

JAMBER

Midwestern brother-sister duo Jess and Matt Voss opened Jamber, serving gourmet pub food from Chef Peter Baker with California-only wines and beers, all on tap. The siblings’ care shows in hand-assembled tables, chairs made from wine barrels, wines selected from wineries they personally visited, a hip, industrial vibe warmed by woods and graffiti art in the loft-like space with a walled front patio.

Wines (happily, there are options: 2.5 oz. and 5 oz. glasses, 1/2 or full jugs), like Darcie Kent Gruner Veltliner from Monterey or a Margerum Grenache Blanc from Santa Barbara, flow easily from taps, with beers such as Almanac’s Farmhouse Ale or a hibiscus saison, Pacific Brewing Lab’s Nautulis. In my visits, there’s a relaxed welcome from staff best experienced sitting at the rustic wood bar. Jess’ bacon jam recipe is a highlight: a savory, textured pleasure of a spread, no matter what it’s served with. Mr. Meatloaf ($15) is the star, a hefty, tender slab of buffalo meatloaf wrapped in bacon, accompanied by mashed potatoes and roasted carrots. I often find myself bored by big hunks of ground meat. Not so here. Jamber’s meatloaf is about as good as meatloaf gets.

Two more standouts: PB & Jam ($11) is a hunk of pork belly layered in a sandwich with peanut butter and that Jamber bacon jam. Most starters, like pretzels and fried mozzarella, are on the heavy side; the top one is easily Parmesan rosemary mashed potater tots ($8) — warm mashed potatoes oozing out of lightly fried breading — with, yes, Jamber bacon jam. After a decent mac ‘n cheese ($10) or freshly generous salads ($7–$9), a pot pie ($12–$14), namely ratatouille, sounded brilliant but was a soggy, funky mash of vegetables in flavorless crust. Likewise, the beet Jamburger ($10, there is a veal-beef burger for $12) made me sorry I took the vegetarian path. Despite fresh bread, it tasted like slices of beet on a bun rather than the creative beet-veggie patties I’ve had that never replace a “real” burger but can be a worthy sandwich on their own.

Despite a couple difficult dishes, there’s enough here to love at this all-day SoMa spot for a drink and a filling bite.

858 Folsom, SF. (415) 273-9192, www.jambersf.com

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