San Francisco’s Washington Square Bar & Grill was the ultimate power-dining spot. Back in the day, it wasn’t uncommon to see Willie Brown and other movers and shakers holding court there in North Beach over perfect burgers and classic cocktails.
Like all good things, though, the Washbag (as it was affectionately known), sadly came to an end.
Now, Chef Dane Boryta and his wife, Elizabeth Ferro (who met while working together at Bruno’s in San Francisco), are trying to bring glory back to that landmark spot with their restaurant, Bottle Cap.
Opened in July, the restaurant is outfitted with aqua stenciled tables, which give it an air of an ice cream parlor. There’s eclectic art on the walls, including a mosaic of Tina Fey. Old movies are projected on a wall of the back dining room. And live music is featured three times a week.
A couple of weeks ago, I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant. It’s a very personal venture, with Ferro making the rounds to greet tables.
Boryta’s food is farm-to-table comfort with items such as spaghetti with free-range chicken meatballs, mushroom piergois, and Devil’s food cupcake with marshmallow. The menu seems to run the gamut, based on the whims of the chef. Boryta was excited about the alligator he got in the other day and was contemplating what best to use it for.
On a chilly night, I started with the wonderful parsnip soup with garlic oil ($7). Velvety, and just barely sweet with the slight bite of garlic, it hit the spot.
My husband can never pass up fried chicken on a menu, so he zeroed in on the fried chicken thighs ($8), which had a nicely crunchy batter and moist flesh, but perhaps needed a bit more seasoning. The accompanying creamy dill yogurt sauce helped liven up the flavor, though.
The “Humboldt Burger” with sharp San Joaquin Gold cheddar and grilled onions was quite juicy and flavorful, and accompanied by tangy pickles and freshly-made barbecue potato chips.
A side of sweet potato fries ($4) was quite sizable. The excellent fries had custardy interiors and very crisp exteriors — not always easy to accomplish with sweet potatoes, which have a lot of moisture.
My Loch Duart salmon ($23), brushed with a subtle honey-mustard glaze, was cooked a nicely medium-rare. It came with a fairly large cabbage roll stuffed with barley. The dish was quite generous in size, but the cabbage roll became a little too monotonous half-way through.
We ended with a bowl of butterscotch pudding ($7) with chantilly cream. It had a wonderful deep burnt-caramel flavor, but a rather thin body.
Bottle Cap may yet to live up to the legendary spot it took over. But it’s a nice alternative to touristy Italian spots when you’re visiting North Beach.
Other North Beach-Area Eateries: Rose Pistola