The story: SOMA restaurant Radius emphasized the local sustainable dining movement, saying it got ingredients within a certain radius of the restaurant. But after five years, owner Jon Whitehead closed Radius and revamped the space into a Latin-Caribbean inspired small plates spot, which opened in March. He brought in Chef Mark Furr (most recently of Broken Record) to revamp the menu and head the kitchen.

El Capitan is in the former Radius space. Tucked in the corner is still an old sign.

El Capitan is in the former Radius space. Tucked in the corner is still an old sign.

Mercat Cava Brut, $10

Mercat Cava Brut, $10

Why I went: I was meeting my niece after work, so was looking for somewhere close to her job in the Union Square area. Also, on a Friday night it was difficult finding last-minute reservations anywhere until I spotted El Capitan.

The vibe: Open and airy, with a clean fresh look with white walls and casual handsome wood trimmings. I never visited Radius but heard it was more fine-dining, so the vibe now is definitely more casual. But for a Friday night it was a bit quiet. (The front bar area where we sat seemed full but the noise level was low-key, almost like people didn’t want to speak over their neighbors because the tables are so packed next to each other.)

$1 oysters during happy hour, comes with a tarragon mignonette

$1 oysters during happy hour, comes with a tarragon mignonette

Pork cheek fry bread tacos ($4.50 each) is tender pork cheeks in jerk rub piled on with slaw and mango vinaigrette.

Pork cheek fry bread tacos ($4.50 each) is tender pork cheeks in jerk rub piled on with slaw and mango vinaigrette.

The menu: The majority of items on the menu are small plates, with sections specifically for ceviche (raw seafood) and fry bread tacos. All the small plates are under $15 (except the occasional specials like the lobster ceviche that was offered for $20), and there were a couple of large plates (although our waitress didn’t make them sound very large as she tried to sell us the suckling pig, $20). I liked the idea of munching on a variety of things while not getting super stuffed, and that’s the sense I get at El Capitan – you can snack and eat but don’t expect to leave full (although my niece says she was full, but that’s because she had a late lunch).

The renovated bar has added beer on tap for a casual pub vibe

The renovated bar has added beer on tap for a casual pub vibe.

Scallop crudo ($15) with yuzu, passion fruit emulsion, chili, cilantro and shiso.

Scallop crudo ($15) with yuzu, passion fruit emulsion, chili, cilantro and shiso.

The booze: A large selection of beer on tap and a few cocktails and wine. I went for my standard small-bite drink, cava, the Spanish sparkling wine that I feel is a great way to start a tapas-like meal.

My favorite dish: All the dishes had diverse flavors and were beautifully plates (except for maybe the large mound of arugula and peach salad), but my favorite was probably the scallop ceviche ($15) with a yuzu sauce and passion fruit emulsion. There was a bit of chili and cilantro, along with shiso, all combining for a unique twist to ceviche (which often just has a strictly sour base).

Short ribs ($14) with sweet potato, mole, broccoli rabe and sesame seed.

Short ribs ($14) with sweet potato, mole, broccoli rabe and sesame seed.

Arugula salad ($8) with white peach, candied walnut, goat cheese, and lemon vinaigrette.

Arugula salad ($8) with white peach, candied walnut, goat cheese, and lemon vinaigrette.

Insider tip: Happy hour is from 5 to 7 p.m., and you can find $1 oysters. We got there a few minutes before 7 and squeezed in a few dollar oysters to start. Another tip: Keep in mind the fry bread tacos prices listed are for one taco, so plan accordingly.

The last bite: El Capitan is a bit out of the way in SOMA, but it’s a refreshing and casual spot when you’re in the mood to munch on a variety of things and catch up with friends over drinks. While the portions are small, they’re quality ingredients presented beautifully.

Grilled octopus ($15), with warm white bean salad, chorizo sauce, and salsa verde.

Grilled octopus ($15), with warm white bean salad, chorizo sauce, and salsa verde.

Tres leche cake ($8) with champagne poached strawberries, dulce de leche and whipped cream.

Tres leche cake ($8) with champagne poached strawberries, dulce de leche and whipped cream.

The rating: 2.5 out of 4 camera snaps

2.5snaps

 

 

The deets: El Capitan, 1123 Folsom St. (at 8th), San Francisco. PH: 415.525.3676. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m. (till 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday). Reservations, major credit cards accepted. www.elcapsf.com

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3 Responses to A Review of El Capitan (formerly Radius) in San Francisco

  1. Carolyn Jung says:

    You did have a nice assortment of small plates there. The fry bread looks especially fun to share. Gotta check this place out.

  2. Interesting! I can see this being a good happy hour spot with its smaller plates. Also, what exactly is a fry bread taco??

    • Ben Ben says:

      Shikha, fry bread is a Native American delicacy. It’s like a flatbread. And I will fess up and say that it was deep fried! Yes, that’s right. I knew it was deep fried and I generally avoid fry bread when eating out, but since it was a cornerstone of their menu, I thought I had to try at least one. I only ate one of the two fry bread tacos you see. (My niece had the other one.) It actually didn’t taste greasy or anything, and was somewhat soft and bread like. It was like eating a puffy soft taco.