A very pretty restaurant just joined our downtown dining scene, Aveline (490 Geary, SF. www.avelinesf.com). Theatergoers, you have a new spot! The chef is Casey Thompson, whom many of you will recognize from the third season of Top Chef. She has crafted a New California menu, with plenty of creativity and beautiful plating. Start with truly decadent bites like yolk beignets with lardo or crab macarons. And of course the Texas native needed to have some fried chicken on the menu: Her updated version comes with kimchi powder and pickled vegetables.
There are two seating areas in the attractive dining room, with tufted upholstered seats and banquettes, or you can reserve one of the four seats at the chef’s counter, where she’ll just cook for you (off menu). This place would be perfect for a date, or a spot to take out-of-town visitors, or even have a business dinner. The room is stylish, but not too feminine, or too masculine either. Bonus: Just across the Warwick hotel lobby is The European, a sophisticated cocktail bar with a swanky lounge area in the back. Not only can you enjoy some lighter aperitif-style cocktails (try its namesake, The European), but Thompson has created a fun menu of bar bites, which helpfully includes a burger. And I can’t wait to try the “chips ‘n dip” of chicken skin “chips” with charred onion, smoked eggplant, and trout roe. Whoa. Both are open nightly.
BUSY BIZ LUNCH
With all these openings around town, you have a bunch of new lunchtime places to add to your list. First up, Thai hotspot Kin Khao (55 Cyril Magnin, SF. www.kinkhao.com) has reinstated its lunch service. Stop by the downtown spot for its pretty hot wings (sriracha lovers will dig ’em) and som tum papaya salad. Or fill up on the pork bowl with flat rice noodles, crispy belly, braised shoulder, and a runny-yolk egg in pork broth (perfect for our June gloom days). Hours are Mon–Fri 11:30am–2pm.
One of the exceptionally stylish places to open downtown is Gaspar Brasserie (185 Sutter, SF. www.gasparbrasserie.com), with two levels, two bars, and a brand-new lunchtime service — meaning you get to soak in all the swish ambience while dining on a tuna tartine or steak frites. Start your lunch with some oysters, I sure would. There are excellent lighter-style cocktails as well, so go for it, without the three-martini hangover. Lunch is served Mon–Fri 11:30am–3pm.
Have you checked out the updated Schroeder’s (240 Front, SF. www.schroederssf.com) yet? The hip space has plenty of seats for you: beer hall-style communal tables (popular at happy hour) and more traditional-style seating in the back. Lunch is served Mon–Fri 11:30am–2pm. Hello, duck pastrami salad (a mix of cabbage dressed in a very mustardy vinaigrette with rye croutons). You’ll also see the hearty chicken schnitzel sandwich on a lot of tables. Start with the potato pancakes (they’re good to share) and treat yourself to a light Kolsch for lunch — come on, it’s a beer hall!
The folks at Twenty Five Lusk (25 Lusk, SF. www.25lusk.com) have launched a weekday lunch service (Mon–Fri 11:30am–2pm), with a $15 special each day. You ready for the lineup? Okay, let’s do this. Mondays feature braised short ribs with truffled tater tots and a Syrah reduction (afternoon nap not included); Tuesdays bring a smoked duck tartine with bacon, fig mostarda, wild arugula, Fontina cheese, and Portuguese bread (sign me up); Wednesdays are grilled prawn soba noodles with mint, asparagus, and hoisin barbecue sauce (you gotta go light one day); Thursdays it’s Fried 38 North Chicken with salt-roasted new potatoes, sausage gravy, and cucumber salad (don’t tell your doctor); and on Fridays, you can get a Dungeness crab roll on buttermilk pain de mie, with drawn butter and wild arugula. (Hold me.)
Marcia Gagliardi is the founder of the weekly tablehopper e-column; subscribe for more at www.tablehopper.com. Get her app: Tablehopper’s Top Late-Night Eats. On Twitter: @tablehopper.