The Blue Plate: Seasonal Comfort Food at Bernal Heights Diner

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This up-market Bernal Heights diner features Cook/Owner Cory Obenour’s seasonal comfort food in a casual setting. The restaurant’s been around since 1999, and it’s more popular than ever. Thanks to San Francisco Chronicle critic Michael Bauer’s recent rave? Whatever the reason, it’s certainly a worth a stop to taste the dishes Obenour is producing with organic ingredients.

Restaurant San Francisco
Other than the EAT sign, the exterior doesn’t give much away. Inside, there’s a counter from what was undoubtedly a diner in its former life. In the front room, which features a bar, there are paintings of bulls on the walls. In back, there’s a red room with cool paintings, and a chandelier. We got a booth by the front window, looking out at Mission Street.

Restaurant San Francisco
These complimentary squares of warm, salt-dusted focaccia were much appreciated.

Salad San Francisco
The grilled hearts of romaine ($10) was a winner thanks to the inclusion of crisp lettuce, crumbled applewood smoked bacon, slices of avocado, juicy cherry tomatoes and a generous amount of the hard Italian cheese grana.

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Grilled Monterey Bay squid ($8) was a simple but effective appetizer, tender cephalopods lightly dressed with lemon and parsley.

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My coriander crusted lamb ($14) appetizer was infinitely more complex. The slices of lamb were a little bland on their own, but I really enjoyed the fried garbanzo bean cake, garbanzo beans and green tomato raita, an interesting take on the tangy Indian yogurt sauce.

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Blue Plate meatloaf ($15) is a signature dish for good reason, with a nice outer crust and a luscious interior. It was paired with a mound of chunky mashed potatoes and snap-fresh summer beans -kidneys, wax and green.

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A salt-crusted Northern halibut ($23) filet was plated atop sunchoke puree and a center mass of tender escarole and roasted fennel. The dish was finished with a splash of 8-year-old sherry vinegar.

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I don’t normally order chicken at a sit-down restaurant, but the preparation sounded too good to skip. A peach-glazed chicken leg and thigh ($21) came with sweet grilled peaches and were set upon a bed of frisee and warm bacon-studded corn kernels. Everything about this dish shouted summer.

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For our first shared side, we ordered sweet corn and hen of the woods mushrooms ($8) with basil. I nearly OD’d on corn, but it would have been worth it.

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Most comfort food restaurants tackle mac & cheese. And a lot of them have a similar approach, normally combining three or four cheeses in a crock. Thankfully, Chef Obenour kept it simple, and added a twist, drunken Spanish goat cheese ($7). The creamy white cheese was excellent with the elbow macaroni, and had a nice golden top.

Dessert San Francisco
Although we were somewhat tempted by the warm chocolate baby cake with “cold foamy sauce” and the raspberry swirl sundae with warm chocolate and pistachios, it’s summer in San Francisco, meaning lush fruits. We craved the blueberry nectarine pie with vanilla bean ice cream, but they’d sold out. Instead, the four of us split a slice of coconut cream pie ($7), which was totally sumptuous, topped with a big dollop of whipped cream and toasted coconut shavings.

Dessert San Francisco
We also split a Santa Rosa plum cobbler with whipped mascarpone ($7). Unfortunately, the patchwork of biscuit-like crust outshined the tart slices of fruit.

We could have done without the woman with the irritating cackle at the bar, who was completely sloshed. Hopefully that was an isolated incident. As for the food, I was pleased with most of the dishes and could easily see returning to The Blue Plate on a weeknight.

The Blue Plate: Seasonal Comfort Food at Bernal Heights Diner

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Joshua Lurie

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

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