Chow is the kind of place that makes me happy to live in San Francisco. From the outside, it looks like an ordinary neighborhood joint. Almost anywhere else in the country a restaurant that feels this comfortable would almost certainly have average food. Happily, this is not the case with Chow, which recently made Michael Bauer’s (San Francisco Chronicle) Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants for the eighth year in a row.
Little Buddy and I arrived promptly at 11:30 for our lunch date. Parking in this area is kind of typical San Francisco. There are meters, but with a little luck you can find two hour parking on side streets. The first thing I noticed as we walked up was a handicap ramp up to the door. If I’d had my stroller, I would have easily pushed it through the door.
The restaurant was just starting to get full, but we had our choice of tables. A high chair was brought over for LB. I picked a corner table in the back, but really any table would have worked as there was ample space between tables. LB would have had to throw his food pretty far to have hit his fellow diners. Turns out that wouldn’t be a problem anyways—he loved his meal and even picked up the “uh-ohs” from the catch-pocket on his bib. (My son says “uh-oh!” to let me know he has dropped something. He also uses this phrase with a defiant tone when he has thrown something on the floor to get my attention. Admittedly, this is not quite as cute.)
I was happy to see that the menu had kids section on it. I think it says something about a restaurant when that is the case. It tells me that this restaurant has put some thought into what they would like to serve their smaller clientele. While many restaurants will be happy to make buttered pasta for a child, not very many take the time to put together a good kids menu. To have it on the main menu is a really nice touch.
I chose Mac n’ Cheese with a side of peas and carrots for LB and Farfalle with pea greens, mushrooms, tomatoes, & cream for myself. Our waitress was prompt and friendly. The food took about 10 minutes to arrive. LB and I entertained ourselves with the chop sticks that were on the table. It’s always a tricky situation judging how much time is too much to wait for food. Too little time and I assume the food’s been sitting under a light in the kitchen all morning. However, too much time passes and I it doesn’t matter how carefully it was prepared – LB is pissed and I’m scarfing down my food in order to get out the door before he makes a scene.
When the food arrived, I was very pleased with the portion sizes. There were two options on the menu and I had selected the smaller. It was perfect “mommy-size.” The cream sauce was rich, but not too heavy. The pea greens were a nice texture and complemented the rest of the dish. It’s really nice to be able to eat comfort food and still be comfortable when leaving the restaurant — meaning your pants don’t feel like they are going to split at the seams.
LB was thrilled with his meal and couldn’t eat it fast enough. I’ll admit that I’ve been a little worried about our eating adventures. LB really eats best at home in his own highchair without all the excitement of being in a new place. I’ve been wondering if my zeal for eating out was not good for my little eater. My fears were diminished though as I watched him eat his lunch. It was the same high-quality that I would have prepared for him at home. The peas and carrots were lightly sautéed, rather than steamed into submission as so often happens with “children’s entrees.” They had a very nice flavor and LB enjoyed biting into the baby carrots pieces. The Mac n’ Cheese was not greasy and the cheese had a nice complexity to it.