(San Francisco, CA) For our final dinner in San Francisco, we browsed availability on OpenTable and came across a place called Fog City Diner. The online menu looked sufficiently enticing, so we booked it. On a very pleasant Sunday evening, we meet up with friends Harry, Susan, and David at a historic restaurant that looks like an old railway car, decked out in neon...
I’m pretty impressed by the structure of Fog City Diner, with its railcar theme reminiscent of 50’s culture. I almost expect a private eye to walk out, dressed in trenchcoat and fedora. It belongs on the cover of an Elmore Leonard novel. Inside, it’s mostly booths and a long bar at the back. It’s cozy, to be sure. We meet our friends at the bar and await our table. I nervously eyeball a large booth that’s open but clearly a little too small for five people. They aren’t going to seat us there, are they? Yep. Looks like our OpenTable “curse of the bad table” continues. We squeeze into the booth and I do my best to be comfortable, though I’m not quite the skinny lad I was 20 years ago.
Our server is a gregarious gentleman who is playfully cheeky and very efficient. He is the epitome of the classic diner waiter and somehow reminds me of New York waitstaff. Quickly, we decide to order a few appetizers to share. I’m still kind of full from lunch and our mid-afternoon pit stop at a local brewery, so decide that I only have eyes for the Chili Lime Calamari app. (It is the first calamari I order in my quest to gorge on the little octopus while on vacation.) The lightly breaded seafood is perfectly prepared, with very little bounceback. When dipped into the chili lime sauce, on the side, it becomes smoky, tangy, and spicy—a bit too spicy, actually, after I accidentally eat one of the pepper nibs floating in the sauce. Thankfully I have an ice cold Anchor Steam to help me recover.
Everyone else seems to be getting traditional diner plates, so I switch it up and order the Chicken Chorizo Tacos. Three little crispy pockets filled with chunks of white meat chicken atop ground chorizo, all covered in slightly melted pepperjack cheese, arrive on a long plate. I squeeze some lime on top, then dig in. The cheese and chorizo work together to deliver a nice kick, while sprinkled cilantro adds freshness. I’m not in love with the chicken; it’s a bit dry. I would have liked a bit more sauce. I’m also not a big fan of crunchy taco shells, though these do have a little give to them.
One bite of Susan’s pot roast tells me that I’ve ordered the wrong dish. Despite not being particularly hungry, I’m immediately regretting that I didn’t get the pot roast. I think I actually exclaimed, “That’s the truth!” while strangers looked on with curiosity. Indeed, we all recommended to a nearby table that they order the pot roast, if nothing else.
The cool vibe, combined with inspired twists on standard diner fare, makes Fog City Diner a recommended experience. Just be sure to arrive hungry (and thirsty). And definitely order the pot roast.
I've heard great buzz about Fog City Diner so we decide it's the spot for a group dinner. Former college buddy Harry joins us, as are new friends Susan and David, who make the trek from Sacramento. You never know how the dynamic will work with long-time friends and new pals, but it turns out to be a lively evening.
I'm overdue for some fresh veg and decide to start with the prosciutto melon salad. A liberal mound of baby arugula lightly dressed in a meyer lemon vinaigrette is surrounded by slices of cantaloup and honeydew, topped with prosciutto and Parmesan. The arugula is tender with a peppery bite. The sweetness of the melon is contrasted by the salty pork and the nutty cheese. It's such a good salad that I'm not really tempted by the small plates the group got for sharing (calamari, crab cakes, and curried mussels). My usual glass of bubbles, the Vivid Bliss Blanc des Blanc, pairs deliciously.
For my main, I'm considering Anchor Steam battered fish and chips, pot roast, or chicken schnitzel. Despite a wonderfully comforting lunch earlier in the day, I'm craving more comfort, I guess. At the last minute, I change my mind and go for one of the daily specials—grilled salmon on a bed of freshly shucked corn, snap peas, Dungeness crab, and grape tomatoes. It's even more fabulous than it sounds. The salmon filet is perfectly grilled to medium, as requested. (I'm not big on rare salmon. Ick.) The corn, snap peas, and crab are sweet and succulent. The dish feels decadent and virtuous all at once! I decide to go against the grain and order a glass of Irony Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa. The experts recommend a white or a Pinot Noir, but I'm wanting a big bold red.
During the meal Susan shares some of her pot roast with the table and I believe it's absolutely the best pot roast I've ever had. I'm over 40 and from the Midwest; I know of what I speak.
After all that honorable and clean food, I decide to enjoy dessert and order the apple tart, reasoning the fruit makes it a somewhat healthy choice. The tart is okay, but really nothing special. The apples are slightly overcooked and the crust is extremely tough. The tart has a dollop of creme fraiche which perks up the mushy apples. Because our server gives me only a large spoon, I can scoop up the apples but there's no way to cut through that tough tart crust. Eating it is awkward and not worth the effort so I go back to my wine.
Save for dessert, the food is impressive. Our server was fun and personable. I'd go back with a group of friends to split a bunch of appetizers or just for that ridiculously good pot roast.