Heirloom Café: Staying Seasonal in San Francisco

Hamburger San Francisco

Our meal at Heirloom Café started with an unexpected and resounding thud. It was the back leg of my father’s chair cracking clear through a floorboard, leading to a fall. Thankfully, my father rebounded, and so did Matt Straus’ seasonal, wine-friendly restaurant.

L.A. based sommelier Eduardo Porto Carreiro told me about his mentor’s Mission district restaurant earlier this year, and it seemed inevitable that I’d end up there during my summer-ly sojourns to San Francisco. Straus opened Heirloom in spring 2010 in a long dormant convenience store that last operated in the early ’70 s. [That probably explains the floorboard without structural integrity.] Straus previously worked at L.A. restaurants like Campanile and Grace before moving north three years ago. On an interim basis, he sommed at Jardiniere and RN74 before opening his own restaurant, where he’s chef, sommelier and more.

California Cuisine San Francisco
We started with a complimentary dish of plump Castelvetrano olives and Marcona almonds.

California Cuisine San Francisco
Corn Soup ($9) was especially good, sweet and enriched by the kernels’ natural starch. Crispy fried shallots added texture and a sprinkling of espelette pepper contributed a little heat.

California Cuisine San Francisco
My father enjoyed the Grilled Marinated Squid ($13) a little more than me. The tiny, tender rings paired well with giant runner beans, crisp endive, tart lemon and oregano. It was a solid seafood salad, but it felt like there was an element of spice or texture missing.

California Cuisine San Francisco
Grilled Summer Vegetables ($6) were seemingly simply, but impeccably prepared. The tender squash, peppers, onions and more rested on creamy hummus and benefited from breadcrumbs.

Wine San Francisco
When we told Straus what we ordered, he returned with a line-up of complementary wine pairings: including bold Barbaresco for my burger, La Pialade for my father’s duck confit and Cour-Cheverny for my stepmother’s ceviche. We were all pleased with his picks, and it was hard to stop sipping while waiting for our main courses to arrive.

California Cuisine San Francisco
Fortunately, we had Potato Gnocchi ($15) to pass the time. These especially large specimens were pan-fried, leading to good color and bite. The gnocchi appeared with a winning combination of crumbled fennel sausage, shaved mushrooms and fresh, firm English peas, which to my way of thinking couldn’t appear enough on San Francisco menus over the summer.

Hamburger San Francisco
Straus developed a fairly unconventional off-menu burger that was kind of a tough sell for me since the ground Golden Gate beef is folded with pungent Epoisses. It was impressive how Straus managed to mask the intensity of the cheese in the burger, which was really pretty good. The English muffin emanated from Berkeley’s Sconehenge and was butter-grilled, but too soft and bao-like. Instead of fries, the burger appeared with pickled orange and yellow carrots, which provided a punch of crisp acidity.

Hamburger San Francisco
The burger was juicy, but cooked beyond my requested medium rare. The patty also could have used a more pronounced sear.

Sandwich San Francisco
My father’s duck confit sandwich was good, but really, it’s more surprising when duck cooked in its own fat doesn’t succeed. Regardless, this version involved a chewy (in a good way) baguette, crisp slaw and a tart one-two punch from cherries and cherry aioli.

Pie San Francisco
Our Free Form Apricot Pluot Pie ($7) involved ripe, vivid fruit, but the dessert was pretty boring, with layers of drier biscuit-like crust, a creamy element, and not much else.

Cookie San Francisco
The Fresh-Baked Walnut, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie ($2) was more successful, with an earthy nuttiness from the oats and walnuts and sweet molten chocolate.

There are a lot of seasonal, local restaurants in the Bay Area lately, and while not every dish was a hit, there was enough happening at Heirloom to warrant a repeat visit or recommendation.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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