After 30 years, in early 2013, the San Francisco institution, Fog City Diner, closed its doors for a complete overhaul. And at the end of the Summer, it opened again with a fresh look, and new, chef-owner Bruce Hill (also becoming a San Francisco institution, as co-owner of Bix (another favorite of mine), Pizzeria Picco and Zero-Zero) at it’s reigns, also dropping the ‘Diner’ from its name – now Fog City.
My husband Michael, used to work with Bruce Hill at Aqua under Michael Mina, so he had been following the menu development, and was super-excited to try out the new Fog City. I had never been, and of course, I can be VERY picky with restaurants in the US because I’m always looking for the purest, untarnished (organic) ingredients before I decide I will eat somewhere. I checked out the menu and was pleasantly surprised that there were some great, vegetable-based (vegan even) dishes, and according to my husband, Bruce is extremely scrutinizing to make sure the ingredients are of the highest quality, seasonal, and locally sourced.
My favorite type of restaurant when I’m going out for an occasion isn’t a stuffy one – in fact, don’t take me to a stuffy place, because I won’t enjoy it. It’s usually one with a unique design, a great and social bar atmosphere, and a menu that’s interesting, but NOT overly ostentatious or complex, with friendly service.
For the most part, Fog City fit the bill. Really, the only negative I had was the hostess – who frankly, had a scowl on her face and glared at me in the most loving of ways every time I saw her (sarcasm). She also practically threw the menus in front of us. I watched her a bit and noticed she did this with other people too. Frankly, I suspect she was a newbie and just had no clue – so I won’t blame it on the restaurant. She shouldn’t be there though.
Everyone else was terrific – bartenders were super friendly and recommended some unique top-shelf tequila for my husband’s margarita, that was mixed with some different type of orange liquor instead of Grand Marnier. He’s pretty discerning with his margaritas, and he loved it. The wait staff were very friendly, and before I selected a red wine, brought me a blind taste sampling of a few so that I could make the right choice. (I chose a Bordeaux blend from Northern California – Five Easy Pieces – that was spicy and fabulous, with cassis and fruity flavors, and a bit of caramel corn after taste – a good one).
The menu is made for sharing dishes – and I started with (and shared) what turned out to be quite possibly the best brussels sprouts ever: Brussels Sprouts Asian Pears Ponzu on the ‘Snacks’ menu. My husband had the deviled eggs (with crispy quinoa and bacon) and loved them.
For my main course, I had what turned out to be the most tender and flavorful OCTOPUS with white beans and fennel, with chili pepper, I have probably ever had. I was really hesitant to order this at first – because octopus can go very wrong, most of the time. But it was highly recommended, and I decided to go for it. I think it was very fresh since it doesn’ appear to be on the menu everyday. I was very glad I did. It was also very light. In fact the broccolini I had on the side was a lot heavier (but flavorful), and I ended up bringing home enough for 2 more meals!
My husband had the FOG CITY BURGER of all things! When he ordered, I had no idea why he was ordering a burger, but he said it was because Bruce Hill makes house made Amercian Cheese, pickles and brioche buns, and of course the beef is the highest quality and ground in house. With the burger he had the hand-cut Furkataki fries (which had sprinkled on top Bonito flakes and some type of seaweed, and that seems odd, but he said they were fantastic). By the way, he ate the whole burger.
Now after all this, I was quite full, but Michael had been dreaming of dessert (in fact, he had been dreaming of TWO desserts) for quite some time. So I had my fresh mint tea, and he had the ‘Fresh to Order’ French Crullers – one orange and one chocolate, and the Fog City Frozen Vanilla Custard with Egg Yolk Caramel sauce. He said to me, “I’m only going to have a bite of each because I want to see what they taste like together.” Of course, he ate all of it.
So all in, not only was Fog City a great experience, we’ll definitely go back, and I recommend it. A) I really liked the atmosphere, B) I didn’t get to try the over-roasted carrots or the cauliflower dish that I wanted, and C) Michael had 3 margaritas with top-shelf tequila, and I had a glass of wine, and we still got out under $150.00. That is very reasonable. Definitely give it a try if you’re in San Francisco!