The story: Bar Agricole in San Francisco’s SOMA district made a splash when it first opened, winning rave reviews for its interior design but also for the food of then Chef Brandon Jew. The chef has since left, and now diners are rediscovering Bar Agricole with the food stylings of Chef Melissa Reitz (formerly of Camino and Pizzaiolo).
Why I went: I’ve never had the chance to try Bar Agricole under Jew’s stewardship, and recently when my high school friend Julie was in town for a convention, I took her and her colleague Janine there for brunch since it takes reservations (always a plus for Sunday brunch in the city) and it was close to Julie’s Union Square hotel.
The vibe: For Sunday brunch, the bustling vibe is definitely outdoor in the large covered dining area. Inside the restaurant, the side booths can make the place seem more cozy and private but still a spot attracting groups of diners. Reflective of SOMA, the outdoor space provides a glimpse of the area’s graffiti, while the award-winning interiors has the feel of a contemporary museum.
The menu: Brunch includes a few selection from the raw bar and several baked goods like mini muffins, biscuits, pop tart and toast. The egg-centric dishes reflect the California Mediterranean influence with seasonal and local ingredients, such as the nepitella and espelette (local herbs) in the two baked eggs with ricotta, spinach and black beans ($14). The dishes can be supplemented with roasted potatoes, sausage, bacon or ham.
The booze: With the word bar in its name, you can expect a first-rate cocktail program at Bar Agricole. For brunch, they offered up six different cocktails from Sangrita to a Mary Pickford, and a few beer on tap. Since it was brunch, I did ordered a Bloody Mary and Bar Agricole’s version is on the spicy side, but good.
My favorite dish: Everyone at our table liked their orders, but I was especially in love with my order of two poached eggs on toast with pork belly, roasted chicories and mustard hollandaise ($16). The pork belly was beautifully tender and moist, and the oozing yolk from the poached eggs added more decadence. The richness was cut by the twang in the roasted chicories (or radicchio) on the plate that had a slight vinegar flavor. It was a very well-balanced plate of brunch.
Insider tip: Although in season, I would skip on ordering the quarter Dungeness crab. For $8, you get a claw and a few pieces of meat served with aioli. Doesn’t seem special enough to spend the money on.
The last bite: A beautiful space with friendly, attentive service, Bar Agricole is still a destination for quality food and great drinks after all these years.
The rating: 3 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: Bar Agricole, 355 Eleventh St., San Francisco. PH: 415. 355.9400. Dinner Sunday through Thursday, 6 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 5:30 to 11 p.m.; weekend brunch, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. www.baragricole.com
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