For the past week, everytime I’ve logged onto the San Francisco Zagat page, I’ve been hit with a clip from Zagat’s New and Notable section.
“Radius Angles into SoMa!”
It’s been calling out to me every night. (Yes, I spend a lot of time on Zagat these days.) So Matt and I decided to take our Little Buddy there for lunch.
We drove around the block 4 times looking for the place. We finally parked a block away from what we thought was the address. When we arrived, we saw a small sign next to a restaurant that was under construction that directed us to the “Café and Takeaway.” The Café had just opened and the restaurant isn’t set to open for another month. There isn’t even a sign up yet, but I’m very glad we found it.
When I walk into a new restaurant, particularly one that has just opened, I usually think one of two things. “Great concept that’s not really executed well,” or “It’s running smoothly, but it’s not that interesting.” Happily, I found that Radius has a great concept that’s being executed very smoothly. It’s “Locally Sourced French Inspired California Cuisine.” The gimmick is that everything comes from within a 100 mile radius. As long as I live in Northern California, I’ll think this is a great concept. I’m not sure how well a restaurant in Minnesota would be able to implement this in the middle of winter.
We walked in and were warmly greeted. We were the only ones there at 11:30. One of the owners (and the architect of the space, I later found out) asked us how we heard about Radius. I was surprised that he didn’t know they were on the front page of Zagat. He explained that since the restaurant wouldn’t be ready for business for another month, they hadn’t really started to do any publicity. He attributed it to the buzz they’d been getting on the foodie blogs. It was kind of charming how happy he was with the news and I admit I instantly wanted to like the restaurant.
The café utilizes both wood and steel. The wood reminded me of a wine country store and the use of steel seemed appropriate given the location in the heart of SOMA. There is a mini-pantry selling bread, Katz honey and oils as well as their own Fried Chicken Seasoning among other food products.
We ordered at the counter. I decided to try the “Lucky Dog Skirt Steak Sandwich” and Matt chose a “Pressed Chicken Breast on a Baguette.” There was a small portion of Orzo Salad for LB. We grabbed a high chair for LB and seated ourselves at a table. Slowly other people began to drizzle in. It was nice that the owner made conversation with everyone. It was obvious that he wanted the café to feel like a true neighborhood spot.
Our food arrived quickly. LB loved the pasta, which had red peppers, arugula and green olives mixed in. He even ate (licked?) a few pieces of the arugula. I think he was going for the Zinfandel dressing. Yes, he is his mama’s son. The steak on my sandwich was very flavorful and was complemented nicely by mushrooms and sherry onions. Matt’s sandwich was a pressed chicken breast with spinach, Carmody cheese and tomato confit. It was also very good. The best part of our meal, however, was desert.
Radius makes all of the own pastries. We couldn’t leave without trying something. A Cannelés Bordelais is a tricky little French cake. When it is made correctly, the outside is brown and crusty while the inside remains moist. These were delicious. I could have eaten 10 of them. Luckily, they are 3 for $5.
I did a little reading when I got home and found that the chef, Kelly Hughett, “has a resume seriously packed with fine dining, including a multi-year stint at the Ritz-Carlton, after tastes of Vegas, New York, and Ducasse,” as reported by John Birdsall, SFoodie Editor for SF Weekly. I just knew that canneles was made by a sophisticated hand!
While the café menu isn’t extensive, I was able to find a few other things that LB would have eaten. There is a pressed PB&J sandwich on the menu, which I’m sure would be good for an older child. In my experience California cuisine is usually pretty kid-friendly and so I think most people would be able to find something for their child. It might be a good idea to bring something from home, though because the menu is limited to a few items at this point. The bathroom does not have a changing table. (boo, especially in the casual café) However, if the food in the café is any indication of what’s to come when the restaurant opens, LB will be a very happy regular. Based on the co-owner that we met, I’m sure that the service will be friendly. He even remembered all three of our names as we walked out the door.