The story: The people behind Sons & Daughters near Union Square opened a casual dining spot in North Beach, taking up the location that for many years was the fabled Washington Square Bar and Grill. The Square pays homage to that history, but the food is definitely an extension of the seasonal, local philosophy that has made Sons & Daughters successful.
Why I went: Earlier this year I was at a cocktail tasting event and enjoyed the small bite I had from The Square’s table, so I made a note that I had to check out the restaurant. I’ve also eaten at Sons & Daughters, which serves up a tasting menu only, and enjoyed the food of chefs Matt McNamara and Teague Moriarty. I met my friend Jessica for a weeknight dinner.
The vibe: The restaurant is split between a bar and dining area. The bar has a friendly, welcoming feel with creative cocktails, while the dining area was casual like a tavern. Despite dining at a peak hour of 7:30 p.m., the room wasn’t as crowded or loud. It may be that people are still discovering this gem.
The menu: Featuring ingredients from the restaurant group’s own Santa Cruz farm, the menu features a nice balance of vegetables, meat and seafood dishes. Because it changes with the ingredients, the menu can be different every week. The food menu has five sections: snacks, small plates, soups and salads, entrees, and desserts (with about four items per category).
The booze: The changing menu holds true for the bar, which serves up seven specialty cocktails that may not be there from week to week (although the Rye Manhattan is always on the menu because of its popularity). But the bar program is creative and well-executed, keeping up with the strong bar programs of the area from Comstock Saloon to Tosca Cafe.
My favorite dish: From the small plate section, I enjoyed the slow cooked pork belly with a Dark Hill soft cooked egg and Brussel sprouts ($13). The plate was beautifully presented, with interesting elements tasty on its own and pleasant as a combination. Even the baby kale salad ($11) was simple but sophisticated with the creamy dressing, feta and roasted pistachio.
Insider tip: The men’s and women’s bathroom are on opposite sides of each other and not in the same general area. Men’s are closer to the bar and women’s are closer to the kitchen and dining room. I saw a lot of men (including me) looking confused.
The last bite: From the cocktail I had at the bar waiting for my friend (The “Smoke and Sand”) to the dessert of pound cake with strawberries, everything was beautifully presented and delivered on flavor and taste. Despite being a casual restaurant, The Square still picks up some of the elegant style of Sons & Daughters, which is a good thing. Hopefully The Square has a long history in this spot like its predecessor.
The rating: 3 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: The Square, 1707 Powell St. (at Union), San Francisco. PH: 415.525.3579. Open for dinner, Wednesday through Sunday; and weekend brunch. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. www.thesquaresf.com