Where the roadside diner gets the Left Coast-Gay Bay treatment
The mac 'n'cheese ($8) was made with fontina and a Sonoma dry-jack fonduta, which helped permeate the pasta tubes. I didn't like the fried onion rings on top; they were crunchy but discordant. A plate of humble franks and beans ($8) was stylishly reinvented with grilled sweet Italian sausage from Paul Bertolli's Fra' Mani in Berkeley, surrounded by butter beans (from Iacopi Farms) in a rich sauce of oregano, pecorino romano, and (to judge from the glossiness) butter. And how many diners, or truck stops, would toss a salad of baby arugula leaves ($8) with diced peaches (for deep sweetness), almond brittle (for sweet crunch), Point Reyes blue cheese (for rich bite), and a huckleberry vinaigrette for a final fillip of piquancy and (deep purple) color?
The burger ($13, plus $2 for cheese) was quite a production. The beef was kobe, from Snake River Farms; the bun, challah (which is pretty much brioche, for purposes of richness). Also aioli and house-made burger pickles and — better than either of those items, good as they were — no raw onion. Best of all, the kitchen actually grilled the meat as ordered, to medium rare, as recommended by Flo. A medium-rare burger means a juicy burger, and juiciness makes all the difference. A dry burger is a dead burger. The stack of fries on the side was excellent, still warm and crisp from the deep fryer.
The roasted red trout ($20) looked like a pair of cantaloupe slices slipped atop an heirloom-tomato panzanella, with a scattering of garlicky Monterey Bay calamari and some uncredited braised greens. The fish was lovely, but it was the panzanella that commanded our attention: it was colored by several shades of cherry tomatoes and made crunchy by croutons toasted gold. Panzanella is summer on a plate, but it's also, at least traditionally, frugality on a plate, a way of rejuvenating bread that's past its prime. To find it deployed with such elegant discipline here was a delight. Encore!
Dinner: Tues.–-Sat., 5:30–11 p.m.
Lunch: Mon.–Fri., 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m.
Brunch: Sat., 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
1198 Folsom, SF