Category Archives: Beef

Rib Eye Steak (Town Hall, SF)

Niman Ranch Rib eye Steak 

Niman Ranch Rib Eye Steak, Town Hall, SF
Niman Ranch Rib Eye Steak, Town Hall, SF

Town Hall, San Francisco CA

As much as we might belabor the point, a truly superior steak is actually far harder to find than it should be. There are a slew of pretty decent steaks out there, but if you consider the steaks you’ve eaten in the past 5 years that sear your memory like grill marks, I’ll bet the farm you won’

t have many to report. I am happy to share, however, that the Niman Ranch rib eye at Town Hall is in that exceptional beast who deserves a place in the pantheon of the best steaks in the San Francisco Bay Area.

With great meat, as the Argentineans will show you, you don’t need to get too fancy. Just honor the beef. Salt, grill, a little gravy, voila.And that’s what Town Hall’s chefs do here, taking a fine (and generously sized) piece of meat from Niman Ranch and, without much gussying up, delivering a stellar dining experience. Perfectly seared hash marks on the outside, enough fat for flavor but not so much that you start getting self-conscious about how much you’re spitting out, and a mild but flavorful gravy/jus that honors the true flavor of the beef. Everyone making steaks in this town should come down and use this as their benchmark.

Seasonal pairings with the rib eye vary. My rib eye came with absolutely fabulous mac-n-cheese croquettes that had a crisp exterior crunch and a hot carbo-cheese interior that ignites the shivering soul.  Mac-n-cheese croquettes? Really, that’s warped enough to be considered visionary. (Maybe it came from somewhere else, but who cares…these are awesome little poppers. And if they don’t come with the rib eye, they’re usually available as a side for $6.)

The last item on the plate offered a shock of fallen green. The verdant broccolini bouquet sat diagonally across the steak like mislaid compass points, or like beautiful flowers resting on a grave after a very focused toss: with the sort of sacred decorum that’s understood in places like Paris, New Orleans, and Buenos Aires but not always everywhere else. But it seems certainly understood, and honored, at Town Hall.

The Damage: $31

The Grade: Exceptional / Awesome (5 out of 5)

The Skinny: Town Hall

342 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA

Phone: (415) 908-3900


Town Hall on Urbanspoon

FILET MIGNON (Chez Spencer, SF)


Filet Mignon with morels, truffle butter, Chez Spencer, SF CA
Filet Mignon with morels, truffle butter, Chez Spencer, SF CA

THE DISH: FILET MIGNON (with morel mushrooms and truffle butter)

Chez Spencer serves up one of the best steaks in the San Francisco Bay Area, certainly among my favorite steaks for 2008. Just reading the ingredients on the menu is likely to make you drool: morel mushrooms and white truffle oil gravy….whew, why didn’t I know about this steak before last year? When people describe certain foods as ‘orgasmic’ or ‘like sex on a plate,’ include the morel-truffle drunk filet mignon at Chez Spencer among them. It is one awesome steak.

THE SPOT: Chez Spencer

Chez Spencer is a romantic little French restaurant hideaway in a funky, grungy stretch of city that conjoins South Van Ness and the Mission District. Chez Spencer has been around for some years, but still feels like a San Francisco secret. it really should be among everyone’s “best” lists — best steak, best romantic dinner, you name it.  

The indoor decor of Chez Spencer is light and spartan, with white walls and a bowed timber beam-crossed ceilings.  Go on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night to benefit from terrific atmosphere music from a blind fellow who plays the standup piano in the front corner of the bar. The acoustics in this converted space are sweet.

THE GRADE: Awesome, exceptional (5 out of 5)
THE SKINNY: Chez Spencer
82 – 14th St (near South Van Ness) San Francisco, CA 94103
Phone: (415) 864-219
Chez Spencer on Urbanspoon

Burger (Filet Burger, Frisee Restaurant, SF)



Frisee restaurant is one of those places that you discover, bring friends to, they pass it along, and so on, but it doesn’t get enough good press. So eat there now, whilst you can. The décor is lime-fresh, with a small counter in front of high windows looking out onto Market Street, and seating lined down a long banquette that feels like a groovy lounge.

But it’s not so hipster that you can’t bring your Mom to enjoy a meal there. That’s because Frisee staffs genuinely nice (but not overbearing), professional, and caring servers. Even if you’ve never been there, they make you feel like you’re coming back to a friend’s house. The staff, the food, the cool hidden gem vibe all make Frisee a great find and a great place to chow when you’ve got that burger urge.

Filet Burger with Kinnebec fries, Frisee, SF
Filet Burger with Kinnebec fries, Frisee, SF


So we’ve been on a steady burger diet, for the benefit of the people and Mr. Kite, and among San Francisco’s burger purveyors, we’ve got to rank Frisee among the top (so far). One thing that makes Frisee’s burger more enticing from the get-go is its plush menu vocabulary. To wit: All-natural (hormone-free, antibiotic-free), grass-fed, filet mignon hamburger.

Be still my bloody heart.

But there’s more. Point Reyes blue cheese, toasted red onion, tomato relish, butter lettuce, Dijon mustard and mayo on an onion roll. Wow…seriously?

Plus, it comes with crisp, Kennebec fries topped with a balsamic drizzle. Compare the Filet Burger @ Frisee by price and value to other burgs in town, and you’d be hard pressed to eat burgers anywhere else in SF. (Prove me wrong.)

The Filet Burger is available during brunch, lunch, or dinner.

THE GRADE: AWESOME (5 out of 5)

THE DAMAGE: $14 lunch; $15 dinner


2367 Market Street, San Francisco CA

Phone: 415-568-1616


Hours: Mon – Fri Dinner only 5:30pm to 10:00pm

Sat & Sunday Brunch 10:30am to 3:00pm

Sat Dinner 5:30 to 11:00; Sun Dinner 5:30 to 9:00

Frisee Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Burger (“The Burger” at Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant, Big Sur CA)



"The Burger" at Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant, Big Sur, CA


When you spend a full page on your website glorifying your burger and you call your burger “The Burger,” you had better deliver something beyond special. Hungry burger lovers are licking lips in anticipation, in a literal way. Despite the great environment, a house-made bun, and 8 ounces of Niman Ranch beef, “The Burger” just doesn’t deliver. (Especially for the high price which, for now, I’ve conveniently forgotten). The condiments, the toppings (typical white onion, tomato, lettuce, pickle), even the fries, meh…

I encourage the great folks at Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant to revise the recipe, up the ante, confound the condiments, shock the vegetables, bustle the hedgerow, whatever it takes to step this up to its reputation. Because every other dish I ate at Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant was rocking. Every one but “The Burger.”

Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant, Big Sur CA
Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant, Big Sur CA


To say I love this restaurant is an understatement; it’s a wonderful, warm place to dine in Big Sur, the chefs are conscious and caring, and the food, on the whole, is great. You know, the burger was OK but at the price, it should be awesome.


THE DAMAGE:Expensive for a burger that you will not fall in love with


Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920

Phone: (831) 667-0520


Brunch, Saturday & Sunday, 10:30 am to 2:45 pm

Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Burger (The Famous Ambrosiaburger, Nepenthe, Big Sur CA)

The Vibe: Nepenthe is the legendary Big Sur dining spot with a vast view, family-owned since 1949. There’s a large outdoor patio in front, a smaller patio in back that faces the ocean (through many tall trees), and indoor seating with tall wooden beams above, a semi-circular bar to the right, and an old fireplace to the left. It’s a neat little place that exemplifies the Big Sur energy, homey and pioneering and funky and cool.

What most people don’t know is that Nepenthe’s got an incredible wine list, so it’s a great place to go for a salad or burger or sandwich paired with a really top-flight bottle of wine. You’re on vacation; why not?

The AmbosiaBurger at Nepenthe, Big Sur, CA
The AmbosiaBurger at Nepenthe, Big Sur, CA

The DIsh: “The Famous Ambrosiaburger” (with Cheddar Cheese)

Despite the fact that Nepenthe undercooks their burgers on purpose—and you may be too hungry to care to send it back—the flavor and juiciness of this burger makes it really a delight. If you visit, be kind and mindful and remind your waiter you really do want it medium or medium-well instead of waiting for it coming back a bit bloody, no matter what level of grill time you request. The meat’s great and it comes on a great bun with great sauce (the ambrosia, which is like a home-style thousand island dressing). But there’s something more: a charcoal or dirty grill flavor to the burger that reminds you of being a kid, having a home-cooked burger, that makes their burger really flavorful and enjoyable. The immense, relaxing, and romantic environment probably have an affect on the senses as well, turning a hungry memory into something larger than it should be. But good meals are like that.

The beef is actually chopped steak, and the slightly sweet French roll is fantastic, with gooey cheddar pulling it all together. It’s one of the best burgers I ate in 2008.

The homemade slaw was somewhat bland and disappointing, so I recommend you opt for another side selection. The service can be slow, but if you’re down in Big Sur, you should start slowing down, too. Be sure to review the wine list! You’ll be as gaga as Wine Spectator was over it.

The Grade: Excellent / Exceptional (4 out of 5)

The Damage: $13.50 (yikes…oh yeah, chopped steak), plus $1.50 for cheese (a must)

The Skinny: Nepenthe Restaurant

Highway 1, Big Sur CA 94920

Phone: (831) 667-2345


Serving lunch and dinner, 11:30 am to 10:00 pm daily

Nepenthe on Urbanspoon

Burger (Burger Meister, San Francisco CA)

The Dish: Mushroom & Onion Burger

The “Meisterburgers” begin with great meat, and a substantial amount of it: half a pound of Niman Ranch beef. (If you prefer turkey, they have 1/3 pound turkey burgers as an option.) Your burger comes paired with a generous topping pile: a flag of green lettuce, blushing tomato slice, red onion, and crisp pickles. You also get a choice of coleslaw, salad mix, or fries. While the slaw was decent, I’d recommend the salad or the fries instead. I’d bolster up with some cheese (cheddar, Monterey Jack, pepper jack, Swiss, or blue cheese) for just 0.75 more.

Mushroom & Onion Burger, BurgerMeister, SF
Mushroom & Onion Burger, BurgerMeister, SF

Since burgers at Burger Meister are totally customizable, I was tempted to add some blue cheese to my mushroom & onion burger. It was a very good burger, bordering on great. But because Burger Meister provides free toppings that include red onion (not grilled), I felt that ordering a burger with onion was redundant. My poor big, free red onion sat alone and uneaten, whilst the grilled red onion got all my love and attention. Ugh, guilt over onions.

So next time, I’ll opt for another burger and leverage the onions that came to the dance.

One more note about sauciness and customization: everyone likes to make a burger to their taste, and at BurgerMeister, every counter and table has a cardboard beer bottle holder with six bottles of hot sauces, steak sauces, and condiments ready for the spillage. BurgerMeister is actually that place where you can have it–it being a memorable burger–your way. Kudos to that.

The Grade: Very Good (2 out of 5) (Other burgers would probably merit higher grades, but those will be judged individually)

The Damage: $8.75; Add 0.75 for your choice of cheese

The Spot: Burger Meister is a Bay Area favorite, for good reason. They make a pretty mean burger. From this basic American mouth-melter, they’ve built a small chain of five chop-beef-shops. This review is of the little Burger Meister in the Castro, on Church Street.

Burger Meister and Punk, San Francisco
Burger Meister and Punk, San Francisco

The Skinny: Burger Meister, Bay Area (5 Locations)

138 Church Street, SF CA 94114

11 am to 11 pm, 7 days a week


Burger list:

Burgermeister on Urbanspoon

Burger (Kobe Beef Burger, Alice’s Restaurant, Woodside, CA)



We happened across Alice’s Restaurant by accident, en route to the lighthouse out at Pigeon Point. The place, made famous by the eponymous Arlo Guthrie song, is an old wooden roadhouse at a crossroads, where Highways 84 and 35 meet. On sunny California days, it’s a nice place to grab some grub on the outdoor deck, and it’s got live music Thursday nights starting at 7pm.


Alice's Restaurant, made famous by Woodie Guthrie



Alice’s Restaurant has 19 burgers, typically built with a third-pound of sirloin and your typical lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayo. Alice’s burger combos are named after motorcycle makers: BMW, Moto Guzzi, Harley, Indian, etc.

Coming in hungry, I opted for the Kobe Beef Burger, made with a full half-pound of Japanese Kobe Beef. While it was very good, it doesn’t warrant Alice’s Restaurant’s propitious claim that it’s “home to the best specialty burgers in the world.” A burger, after all, is not just about great meat…

Perhaps some of the other burger options would make a better grade, like the Indian (bacon, grilled onions, and Swiss cheese) or the Jalopy burger (BBQ sauce, grilled onions, and jack cheese).

Burger list:

Detailed Menu:

THE GRADE: GREAT (3 out of 5)

THE DAMAGE: $10.95 (most of the other burgers are either $8.50 or $8.95; you can upgrade any burger to Kobe Beef for $3.50)


17288 Skyline Blvd
, Woodside CA 94062

Telephone:  (650) 851 0303


Beef Bavette (Baraka, San Francisco CA)

The Spot: Baraka, San Francisco CA (Potrero Hill)

The Dish: Creekstone Farms Natural Beef Bavette

Incredible. Decadent. Unbelievably good.

The beef bavette at Baraka is that rare meal that can revive the glory of food and life in any dispirited soul. Certainly one of the best meat dishes I’ve enjoyed in 2008, Baraka’s beef bavette (a tender steak cut from the flap of the beef loin) is the kind of meal you daydream about obsessively until you realize you have to eat it again or you will confound the daily rhythms of your life.

The parsley bone marrow butter alone—glazed across the beautiful, fairly large portion of beef bavette—should get your heart racing after the first bite. It’s a rich and sumptuous touch that deifies perfect, medium-rare beef. As with the other dishes I’ve tried at Baraka, Chef Chad Newton blends flavors that successfully juxtapose each other in the palate. There’s the earthy, slightly bitter baby Savoy spinach, mildly sweet, white cippolini onions cooked sous-vide, and decadent, tender braised beef cheeks stuffed into a beef bone. The sauce bordelaise—which combines bone marrow, dry red wine, shallots, and demi-glace—is a superb complement as a lush moat around the beef, which sits squarely atop the spinach between the beef bone tower and the smaller stack of cippolinis in a cool, very architectural presentation.

This is the best beef bavette I’ve had in the past 5 years; a simply phenomenal dish. The only slight critique I might suggest would be to relocate the baby Savoy spinach to the side instead of beneath the bavette, simply because the crispness of greens stand out more when shielded a bit from the beef juices and sauce.

As described on the menu: Creekstone Farms Natural Beef Bavette – Braised Beef Cheeks, Baby Savoy Spinach, Parsley Bone Marrow Butter, Sous Vide Cippolinis, Bordelaise

The Grade: Sterling Awesome/Phenomenal (5 out of 5)

The Damage: $27 (quite a bargain, relative to other SF restaurant prices)

The Skinny: Baraka
288 Connecticut Street (at 18TH Street)
San Francisco, CA 94107
(415) 255-0370
Dinner only, Sunday – Thursday 5:30pm to 10:00pm; Fridays/Saturdays 5:30pm to 11:00pm

Chef: Chad Newton (former Sous Chef at Postrio)

Sous Chef: Ashton Mullikin (worked with New Orleans greats Susan Spicer, Andrew Jaeger)

Baraka website:

Open Table: Baraka online reservations

Baraka on Urbanspoon

Filet Mignon (RNM, San Francisco CA)

RNM Restaurant, San Francisco, CA

The Dish: Filet Mignon

It’s hard to pass up a good filet mignon and RNM serves up a great one. The size of the steak is quite hearty. It’s a very nice plating, with an architectural stacking of onions and toast, steak, and the Upland cress, which look ready to launch off the steak platform at any moment. The sweet gorgonzola and wine demi-glace are perfectly balanced. Softness, sweetness, chewiness, crunch…it’s really a superior steak. Described on the menu as: Sautéed filet mignon on toasted pain levain with dolce gorgonzola, cippolini onions, cabernet demi glace and upland cress.

The Damage: $26

The Grade: Sterling (5 out of 5)

B-Sides + Killer Apps:

Here’s what I recommend as a starter for your steak at RNM Restaurant, San Francisco. Described on the menu as Grilled hearts of romaine with Fuji apples; Saint Agur cheese; toasted hazelnuts and a champagne vinaigrette.

This is one of my favorite salads in San Francisco: a very simple and delicious first plate. Like the filet mignon, it has a salty, sweet, crunchy glide…a great combination of flavor in perfect harmony.

The Damage: $9

The Grade: Sterling (5 out of 5)

RNM on Urbanspoon

Filet Mignon (Colibri Mexican Bistro, SF)

The Word: I’ve eaten at Colibri Mexican Bistro numerous times over the last 2 years, and every dish I sampled has been superb. This restaurant is very much under the radar as far as SF foodies go. It’s not garnered a heap of critical praise and–thankfully– is not trendy enough to be overrun by hipsters. Which makes Colibri a great place for those in the know, craving a great meal.

The Dish: Filet Mignon
The perfectly succulent filet mignon at Coilbri Mexican Bistro arrives topped by an ancho chili cap stuffed with seasonal goat cheese. The steak sits atop beautifully mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach in a small fiery pond of chipotle chile sauce. It’s not a huge in size (really, only a few filet mignons will be), but it’s definitely huge on taste. It’s a phenomenally delicious meal, and feels like a real value for the price.

The Damage: $18

The Grade: Sterling (5 out of 5)
The rich filet mignon definitely pulls our highest marks. It’s the kind of steak you have, and two weeks later you think about it and find saliva on your chin.

Filet Mignon - Colibri Mexican Bistro, SF

B-Sides + Killer Apps: Fresh Guacamole, Tortillas, and Spicy Salsas
This is one of the few places where your waiter/waitress will come tableside to wield the mortar and pestle and smash up some fresh guacamole for you. There’s plenty guacamole for 2 or 3 people to share. It’s a fun presentation, and comes with a generous heap of fresh tortillas and sauces of varying hotness.

The Damage: $10

Fresh Guacamole & Salsas

The Skinny: Colibri Mexican Bistro
438 Geary St (at Mason St)
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: (415) 440-2737
Lunch, Dinner, and Weekend Brunch

Reserve via OpenTable

Colibri Mexican Bistro on Urbanspoon