Steak Frites (Monk’s Kettle, SF)

Steak Frites

Steak Frites - Monk's Kettle, SF
Steak Frites - Monk's Kettle, SF

A good steak frites is the French man’s answer to hungry lunching. It’s a simple dish, the French bistro take on meat-and-potatoes, get-the-job-done. Monk’s Kettle serves up a very tempting steak frites, with a giant leafy forest of greens.

This skirt steak’s a juicy little Angus (Nature Well), cooked to order (medium-well or bust), and nicely portioned. But red wine shallot butter and demi-glace give the beef quite a pronounced pounce. This steak frites has a bit more attitude than most; it’s an excellent version. The fries are thin and crisp, nicely done, reminiscent of the addictive, McDonald’s variety.

Steak Frites (thick detail) - Monk's Kettle, SF
Steak Frites (thick detail) - Monk's Kettle, SF

The Spot: Monk’s Kettle

Aside from a lovely steak frites, Monk’s Kettle is one of the best places in San Francisco Bay Area to sample an astounding array of beers. Their 24 draught taps change 3 to 5 times weekly. The beer menu itself is 6 legal-sized pages listing (and explaining) a worldwide variety of familiars and odds, with prices that range from your low-budge suds (PBR and such) to party-like-a-rock-star froth (including champenoise-style beers that set you back between $45 and $60 for 12 oz.). The staff is authentically friendly, very knowledgeable about the beers they have, and enjoy helping folks match their flavor palette or dare into new territory. If you’re no pork chopper, just go by for a beer sometime.

Get your Belgian beer on: Monk's Kettle
Get your Belgian beer on: Monk's Kettle

The Grade: Excellent

The Damage: $21.50

The Skinny: Monk’s Kettle

3141 – 16th Street, San Francisco (between Valencia & Guerrero Streets)
Phone: (415) 865-9523
Website: http://www.monkskettle.com 

Pork Chop (Monk’s Kettle, SF)

Awesome Pork Chop

Grilled Pork Chop, mustard sauce (Monk's Kettle, SF)
Grilled Pork Chop, mustard sauce (Monk's Kettle, SF)

Within a week, I had two of the best pork dishes of the year. And one of my favorite pork dishes from 2009 is the grilled pork chop from Monk’s Kettle, a gastro-pub in San Francisco’s Mission District.

The pork chop at Monk’s Kettle is simply outstanding. It’s double-cut thick with nice, tire-burn grill marks, and the perfect sunrise pink interior that’s tender, juicy, and hard to come up for air for after bite one.  The chop (Coleman Natural Hampshire) has been brined in apple cider with brown sugar (and the necessary bay leaf)to really heighten the flavors. Did I say juicy?

The mustard sauce that swaddles the pork chop like a pale yellow superhero cape is utterly fantastic. It’s a creamy Bechamel sauce with stone ground mustard, a sort of plate-licking temptation that disappears instantly like a demon. You’ll not see much sauce remaining when your server collects your UFO-shaped dish.

The sides here are also great, making this dish one of my favorite pork dishes of 2009. And there’s enough on this plate to feed a substantially hungry person, either once or twice.

The orb-like accompanying side that appears to be a polenta imposter is actually a cheddar-scallion potato cake. Crunchy exterior, great surprise inside. So good I want it for breakfast. Chef Kevin Kroger uses house-cured bacon, not as just a tiny flavoring or afterthought to bolster the Brussel sprouts, but as another serious element. I think it’s actually the Fifth Element on this plate. I’m keen on bacon & Brussel sprouts, and this pairing favors Monk’s fine, crispy, maple-smoked bacon. The interplay between the elements in this dish is wonderful.

Monk's Kettle Chef Kevin Kroger
Monk's Kettle Chef Kevin Kroger

The Spot: Monk’s Kettle

Aside from simply the pork chop, Monk’s Kettle is one of the best places in San Francisco Bay Area to sample an astounding array of beers. Their 24 draught taps change 3 to 5 times weekly. The beer menu itself is 6 legal-sized pages listing (and explaining) a worldwide variety of familiars and odds, with prices that range from your low-budge suds (PBR and such) to party-like-a-rock-star froth (including champenoise-style beers that set you back between $45 and $60 for 12 oz.). The staff is authentically friendly, very knowledgeable about the beers they have, and enjoy helping folks match their flavor palette or dare into new territory. If you’re no pork chopper, just go by for a beer sometime.

God bless the Monks
God bless the Monks

The Grade: Awesome / Phenomenal (my highest grade)

The Damage: $24.50

The Skinny: Monk’s Kettle

3141 – 16th Street, San Francisco (between Valencia & Guerrero Streets)
Phone: (415) 865-9523
Website: http://www.monkskettle.com 


Monk's Kettle on Urbanspoon

Pork Chop (Fresca, SF)

Pork Chop – Chuleton de Chancho

Fantastic Pork Chop, Fresca (SF)
Fantastic Pork Chop, Fresca (SF)

Fresca, a Peruvian restaurant with two locations in San Francisco, is renowned for an amazing array of ceviche. So Fresca may not be top of mind when someone’s considering a great meat dish in the Bay Area. But make no mistake, Fresca makes one of the best pork dishes in San Francisco. 

The pork chop at Fresca is stellar. It’s a nominee for Meatmeister’s Top Pork Dishes of 2009.

The pork chop itself is a generous portion (sometimes called a double-cut for its thickness), and is perfectly pale pink and juicy inside. The grilling on the chop is superb. The pork chop vogues across a muddy-river toned flatbed of rice and beans (black bean “tacu-tacu”), and some wicked plantains that are slightly crisped, sweet, and tender. Atop the chop is a mango mustard salsa, with some aji honey mustard sauce. Whew; it is one great dish and highly recommended for pork chop fans.

The Grade: Awesome / Phenomenal (my highest grade)

The Damage: $19

The Skinny: Fresca

Website: http://www.frescasf.com 

Locations: Fillmore, Noe Valley, Sunset, and West Portal

Noe Valley location: 3945 – 24th Street, SF CA

Phone: (415) 695-0549

See Fresca’s dinner menu

Great Burger (Ford’s Filling Station)

Great Burger – Ford’s Filling Station

Great Burger: Ford's Filling Station, Culver City CA
Great Burger: Ford's Filling Station, Culver City CA

Pub Burger – Ford’s Filling Station – Culver City CA

Ford’s Filling Station in Culver City serves up one of the better burgers in the Los Angeles area. Made with organic Niman Ranch chuck, the beef patty is great and properly cooked to order. Ford’s ‘pub burger’ is topped with Maytag blue cheese from Maytag Farms in Iowa and is capped with a Yosemite-sized dome of caramelized onions. The Maytag blue cheese is a great topping on burgers, and the amount feels right. I like caramelized onions but the sizing here was generous;  you’ll want to scrape half the onions off to maintain the burger’s balance and taste the meat. The lettuce comes shredded, and the tomatoes are peeled, which feel like stylistic (not culinary) touches. The buns are excellent and slightly toasted inside with full flavor throughout.  

The pub burger comes with a monster pile of onion rings which are crispy and very good. (They’re a bit greasier than one would like, but still very tasty and grease-reparable with an extra napkin or two.) 

The extra red onion slice will sit, lonely and purple, since you have a plate of caramelized and fried onions…overall, a great burger, despite the onion fetish.

The Grade: Great

The Damage: $16

The Skinny: Ford’s Filling Station

9531 Culver Blvd, Culver City CA

Phone: (310) 202-1470

Website: http://www.fordsfillingstation.net

Truffle Burger

Truffle Burger

Truffle Burger, Lark Creek Steak, SF
Truffle Burger, Lark Creek Steak, SF

Burgers are prime candidates for creative culinary additions: cheeses, pickles, tomatoes, relish, aioli, sauce, condiments, and bacon (of course). Truffles are inherently additives to dishes, due to their seasonal availability, a continual scarcity that makes them cost-prohibitive as anything but a topping. 

But if you love the taste of truffles, you’ll love this truffled steakburger from Lark Creek Steak. It’s got truffled brie cheese, frisee, truffle vinaigrette, and house-made onion marmalade atop the LCS standard steakburger, my favorite burger on the West Coast. It’s not a truffle flavor overkill like some truffle-inspired dishes, but a good balance of that earthy, sexy flavor that will satisfy your truffle urges without piercing your bank account. (Well, it’s a small piercing, like a nose ring.) Another excellent burger from Chef John Ledbetter and company at Lark Creek Steak. 

Described on the menu: Perigord black truffle steakburger – 8oz – truffled brie cheese, frisee, truffle vinaigrette, caramelized onion marmalade

The Grade: Excellent

The Damage: $24.95

The Skinny: Lark Creek Steak

Westfield® San Francisco Centre
845 Market Street, 4th Floor, Ste 402
San Francisco, CA 94103

Phone: (415) 593-4100

Reservations: http://www.larkcreek.com/larkcreek_steak/index.html

Lunch:
Mon.-Fri. 11:30 am – 2:00 pm
Sat. & Sun. 12:00 pm – 2:30 pm

Dinner:
Mon.-Thurs. 5:30 pm – 9 pm
Fri. 5:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Sat. 5:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Sun. 5:00 pm – 9 pm

Lark Creek Steak on Urbanspoon

Mushroom Burger (Lark Creek Steak)

Best Mushroom Burger – Lark Creek Steak

Awesome Mushroom Burger, Lark Creek Steak
Awesome Mushroom Burger, Lark Creek Steak

My favorite mushroom burger of 2009 (to date) is Lark Creek Steak’s mushroom steakburger. Their beef preparation should be copied by others: they use an open, wood-fire grill to cook their burgers. Their top-quality ingredients are evident by taste, and they precisely cut the portions of lettuce, pickle, and onion so that they actually fit within the burger’s radius. Hearty, healthy, high-minded ingredients all make this steakburger a great one. The fat-cut fries are really good, too.

Why Lark Creek Steak’s burgers are so good: 

MEAT

  • meat is not ground chuck (typical, low-cost burger meat)
  • meat is trimmed from regular Lark Creek Steak steaks (filet mignon, New York strips, sirloin, etc.)
  • meat is double-ground, making it extremely soft and tender
  • meat is ground fresh, sometimes 3 or 4 times daily (depending upon demand)

COOKING METHOD

  • burgers are grilled over open wood fire for slightly smoked, healthier grill flavors (not over flat surface that accumulates grease and fat)

OTHER INGREDIENTS

  • button mushrooms are roasted and semi-sweet, perfect in flavor
  • quality Swiss cheese, well-melted over the burger & mushrooms
  • terrific buns; toasted on the inside slightly (so condiments don’t make bun soft inside) and served warm
  • burger accoutrements are perfectly proportioned and flavorful (butter lettuce has more flavor than typical iceberg lettuce; pickles are crisp and long-sliced to fit flat across burger;  red onion is also well-sliced and grilled to mildly caramelize flavors)

The Grade: Awesome  (highest grade)

The Damage: $14.95

The Skinny: Lark Creek Steak

Westfield® San Francisco Centre
845 Market Street, 4th Floor, Ste 402
San Francisco, CA 94103

Phone: (415) 593-4100

Reservations: http://www.larkcreek.com/larkcreek_steak/index.html

Lunch:
Mon.-Fri. 11:30 am – 2:00 pm
Sat. & Sun. 12:00 pm – 2:30 pm

Dinner:
Mon.-Thurs. 5:30 pm – 9 pm
Fri. 5:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Sat. 5:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Sun. 5:00 pm – 9 pm

Best BBQ Burger (Lark Creek Steak’s “Cowboy Burger”)

Cowboy (bacon & cheese BBQ) Burger

Best Bacon Cheeseburger: Lark Creek Steak's Cowboy Burger
Best Bacon Cheeseburger: Lark Creek Steak's Cowboy Burger

I love bacon cheeseburgers with BBQ sauce. It’s a combination of hearty flavors that seems quite natural and, while each of the flavors of bacon, BBQ sauce, sharp cheddar, and onion are individually powerful and can overwhelm any dish, within a burger context they somehow seem to play well together. When the burger is done properly, that is. Everyone and their mother has a bacon cheeseburger, but very few places make one that stands out as strongly as the cowboy burger from Lark Creek Steak.

The Best BBQ Bacon-Cheeseburger on the West Coast

Of the 40+ burgers I’ve tried in the past 6 – 8 months, the “cowboy burger” at Lark Creek Steak is far and away the best BBQ burger or the best bacon-cheeseburger of them all. So (at least for now) I can confidently proclaim Lark Creek Steak’s cowboy burger as the best bacon-cheeseburger on the West Coast. Nothing else has come close over the past year. 

Described on menu: Cowboy Steakburger (8 0z.) – bacon, cheddar, barbecue sauce, crispy onions

Cowboy Burger, detail with crispy fried onions

Cowboy Burger, detail with crispy fried onions

Why Lark Creek Steak’s burgers are so good: 

MEAT

  • meat is not ground chuck (typical, low-cost burger meat)
  • meat is trimmed from regular Lark Creek Steak steaks (filet mignon, New York strips, sirloin, etc.)
  • meat is double-ground, making it extremely soft and tender
  • meat is ground fresh, sometimes 3 or 4 times daily (depending upon demand)
  • bacon is perfectly crisp, and sustainable ranch-grown 

COOKING METHOD

  • burgers are grilled over open wood fire for slightly smoked, healthier grill flavors (not over flat surface that accumulates grease and fat)

OTHER INGREDIENTS

  • fried  onions are thin, perfectly crisp, and perfect in flavor
  • terrific buns; toasted on the inside slightly (so condiments don’t make bun soft inside) and served warm
  • burger accoutrements are perfectly proportioned and flavorful (butter lettuce has more flavor than typical iceberg lettuce; pickles are crisp and long-sliced to fit flat across burger;  red onion is also well-sliced and grilled to mildly caramelize flavors)

The Grade: Awesome / Phenomenal (highest grade)

The Damage: $15.95

The Skinny: Lark Creek Steak

Westfield® San Francisco Centre
845 Market Street, 4th Floor, Ste 402
San Francisco, CA 94103

Phone: (415) 593-4100

Reservations: http://www.larkcreek.com/larkcreek_steak/index.html

Lunch:
Mon.-Fri. 11:30 am – 2:00 pm
Sat. & Sun. 12:00 pm – 2:30 pm

Dinner:
Mon.-Thurs. 5:30 pm – 9 pm
Fri. 5:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Sat. 5:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Sun. 5:00 pm – 9 pm