District made a name as a wine bar when it opened almost 10 years ago in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood close to Mission Bay and a stone’s throw from AT&T Ballpark.
While it still draws the crowds, it now can’t be referred to as a wine bar after it got its full liquor license a month ago, expanding its bar program to specialty cocktails and a whiskey program that includes 60 small batch bourbons, ryes and scotches.
I was invited by the restaurant to check out its full bar, so I dropped in tonight with my friend Kim, who has visited District many times for happy hour because it’s near her office.
The red-brick walls and general layout of District hasn’t changed much over the years, with a large U-shaped bar in the center of the room. The menu has a nice selection of options that are perfect for snacking with a glass of wine or cocktails like cheese and charcuterie plates, raw oysters, flatbreads, salads and pizzas.
Tasting Brown Liquor
Since we were there to check out the full bar, Kim and I decided to start with one of the new whiskey flights. Since we’re both not experts in the brown liquor category, District’s introductory flight aptly named “Identity Crisis” ($16) was perfect for us. It’s a taste of a bourbon, a rye and a scotch.
Kim really enjoyed the Templeton Rye, and my favorite was the Benromach 10 year scotch. The “Identity Crisis” is a great way to figure out if you’re a rye lover, bourbon follower or scotch devotee.
Moving on to cocktails, we tried a classic in District’s version of a Sazerac ($12) and a specialty cocktail “Bluegrass” ($11) made with Blueberry and Rosemary infused Four Roses Bourbon, maple syrup and lemon. The Sazerac was well balanced with a strong hint of anise from the dash of Absinthe, but we found the Bluegrass to be a bit off, almost a bit watery.
Fun with the Food
To accompany all the drinking, we started with a fun cheese plate. We selected three cheese — Cabricharme, a goat’s milk raw cheese from Belgium; Brillat Savarin, a triple cream from France; and Midnight Moon from Humboldt County — that were nicely presented with three types of bread, nuts, honey, grapes and quince gels.
We also ordered the ahi tuna poke ($19) served with taro chips. This was a real surprise, with the raw tuna chunks coated in a chili rocoto-ginger dressing tossed with avocado and cucumbers to cool your mouth from the heat of the chili. It was the balance of soy sauce and the chili rocoto-ginger dressing that really sets District’s tuna poke apart from others in the city, making it my favorite in town.
A close second to our favorite bite of the night was the pistachio pesto pizza ($16), which was topped with burrata, zucchinis, toy box tomatoes and green garlic. The thin crust was nicely made, but the surprise was the milky fresh burrata. They weren’t as cheesy as much as they were creamy like milk puddles on the pizza. This soft texture of burrata added to the comforting nature of this pizza pie.
The last bite
The full bar and whiskey program offer more options at District, providing a full complement to its strong food service, which continues to satisfy after all these years. I’m not sure if District really needed the additional cocktails given how consistent its food and wine program is, but now there’s definitely something for everyone.
Since this was a media dinner, I won’t be doing my regular rating, but District has always been a favorite in this part of town and now I’ll come back regularly, especially when I want to try some scotch (and a serving of that tuna poke).
The deets: District, 216 Townsend St. (at Third), San Francisco. PH: 415.896.2120. Open weekdays from 4 p.m.; Saturday from 5 p.m. and weekend brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. No reservations, major credit cards accepted. www.districtsf.com
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