Plow: Basking in Destination Brunch on Potrero Hill
1299 18th Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
415 821 7569
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Date of Visit: August 5, 2011
When people discuss San Francisco’s destination eating neighborhoods, of course the Mission comes up, as does downtown, and increasingly, SoMa. However, a number of tiny enclaves also tout interesting options, including Bernal Heights, Dogpatch, and Potrero Hill. Over the years, that last neighborhood has housed interesting options like Eliza’s, Baraka and the still enduring Chez Papa, and most recently, Plow. Joel Bleskacek and Maxine Siu opened their farm-driven restaurant last fall in a former architecture studio, and it’s already become a hit for breakfast and lunch.
The airy, sun-soaked space features counter stools overlooking an open kitchen. Tables are made from French oak barrels and floors originated in an old Washington State hop house. A farm photo completes the aesthetic, along with fresh baked goods on the counter.
Plow isn’t exactly Tartine, in that they have a limited bakery selection. However, what they did make was all good, including a gritty Corn Millet Muffin ($3) served with a pat of sweet butter. Fairly often, muffins can be buttery sugar bombs, so it was a relief to see most of the sweetness come from the butter. The Toasted 9-grain Muffin ($3.50) was similarly restrained, slathered with not-quite-chunky house made peanut butter and drizzled with hyper-local Potrero Hill honey.
Lemon Ricotta Pancakes ($10.75) get a lot of play, and as long as they’re like the airy versions Plow offers, that’s fine by me. They folded house made ricotta and lemon zest into the batter, dusted judiciously with powdered sugar and even provided maple syrup.
The slabs of cinnamon-tinged French Toast ($12) was a little dry for my taste, though other people at the table were raving. Soft, sweet roasted peaches and sweet mascarpone were nice touches, and maple syrup managed to make another appearance.
Fried Chicken Sandwiches have erupted in the Bay Area, probably driven by the success Oakland’s Bakesale Betty has had. For their version ($12.50), Plow brings some Berkeley flavor to Potrero Hill with a soft Acme torpedo roll. The filling: buttermilk fried chicken breast with tangy cabbage and jalapeno slaw. Why restaurants insist on sticking with breast meat for sandwiches continues to amaze me considering the higher fat content and resulting flavor boost found in thigh and leg meat. Anyway, it was a pretty good sandwich, made a little better with a dousing of Youk’s hot Sauce, but what was more memorable was the side of crispy fried potatoes scattered with strands of onion and herbs.
Matthew “Mattatouille” Kang threatened to order The Plow, an array of breakfast meats, but opted for a Chinese breakfast ($9) involving two fried eggs draped over steamed jasmine rice, chives and slices of lap chong, sweet Chinese pork sausage and soy sauce. The bowl was fine, but not so different from what you’d find at a Hawaiian or Filipino breakfast joint.
Brunch has become a phenomenon in California, with a number of farm-to-table restaurants getting into the act. Plow would fall near the front of the pack thanks to their accessible menu, relaxed setting, primarily reasonable prices and almost just as important at this point, an aftermath that was far from devastating. Since Plow uses good ingredients, and they don’t come on a plate the size of a manhole, you feel good afterwards. Sometimes more isn’t better; better is better.