Beyond Oakland: Burgers in San Francisco

Anna and Susan

Anna and I were treated to a delicious dinner a few nights ago in San Francisco by Jennie and Susan. It was Susan’s birthday, and we met at Nopa. We arrived early so that we could sit at the big community table in the front of the restaurant. Dinner service starts at 6:00 but you can sit down for drinks and snacks at 5:00 and if you are happy with the seats you get, you can just camp there for dinner. We were the first patrons in the door and grabbed the prime real estate at the north end of the table. We ordered an array of cocktails and a trio of snacks and settled in for a party.

The drink concoctions are slightly tweaked versions of the classics. Among us we had a white Manhattan, a Rum Sidecar (sweet and strong), a Pisco Sour (the egg white froth was interesting), and a Margarita. Paired with a plate of broccoli salad, spicy roasted chickpeas, and a duck skewer with blood orange sauce, the drinks went down nicely. As the hour hand moved towards 6 the place really began to fill up. The community table seats about 20-24 and the long bar (maybe seating for 30) were completely hopping by the time the restaurant opened for dinner.

The women ordered an array of small plates to share. Jenny and I ordered burgers (Jenny shared with Susan). Everything was tasty. And the burger did not leave me wanting. It was a smallish patty, but plump and juicy. It was served on a fresh bun that seemed like it might have been house baked. The meat was a grass fed beef, and very flavorful. A slice of pickled onion, a couple of small Romain heart leaves and a light spread of garlic aioli kicked in just the right amount of extra flavor. Like the delicious bun at TrueBurger in Oakland, this bun played its role perfectly. Durable enough to trap any juice that flowed from the meat, but soft enough to give way without aggressive biting.

The desserts were yummy — we shared an almond olive oil cake with Meyer lemon cream that was awesome. The other a chocolatey minty thing was tasty, too, but I was too distracted by the Meyer lemon cream to give it more than a cursory taste.

Our server seemed to enjoy her work. Not a hint of that hipster foodie coolness that can easily be mistaken for arrogance. She was like a nice crisp Fumé Blanc — bright, austere, and sophisticated. Cheerful, not cloying.

Nopa is a hopping spot — for those who want a meal late at night they serve dinner until 1:00 am. Parking in the neighborhood isn’t easy, but Divisidero has an interesting, eclectic collection of shops, restaurants, cafés, etc., so if you have to walk a few blocks, there’s plenty to entertain you on the street. If you haven’t visited already, I highly recommend a trip to Nopa. And follow dear Susan’s advice: Get there early for a seat at the community table. (The community table is first-com/first-served.) Eating in the dining room might also be fun, but eating at the community table was awesome. The trio sitting next to us for the first couple of hours were incredibly entertaining.

Thursday February 11, 2010 — Mark —