The story: The original Fog City Diner, opened in 1985, became an instant classic for San Francisco with its waterfront views and regular clientele of local politicians. When the restaurant closed for renovations last year, it reopened as a re-imagined Fog City (diner dropped) as a modern restaurant that still retained the comfort food charm. Established Bay Area restaurateur Bruce Hill (Bix, Picco, Pizzeria Picco, and Zero Zero) stepped in to revamp the kitchen and menu, adding a wood-fired oven and new signature dishes.
Why I went: I had some out-of-town guests visiting for the weekend, and I thought Fog City would be a good spot to showcase both the history of the city and its future with the new modern food program. And the waterfront location didn’t hurt on a beautiful (and warm) Friday night.
The vibe: A busy bar in the center of the room with flat screen TVs attracts a lot of testosterone, with a majority of Financial District types hanging out for happy hour. A bit like the Marina crowd, the bustling restaurant is also popular for its limited outdoor seating under the classic neon sign.
The menu: A comprehensive menu with a mix of seafood and meats, a lot of them prepared in the wood-fired oven. They’re featuring many of the popular items around town these days, such as its own version of a deviled egg, Brussels sprouts and kale. Items like mac and cheese and a whole roasted chicken emphasize the comfort food, while creative dishes like short rib kimchi tacos and furikake fries play on the area’s Asian influences. Its dessert program emphasizes Fog City’s original frozen custard, churned fresh daily.
The booze: A nice selection of specialty cocktails with fun names like “I’m on a Boat,” “Inside Job,” or “Bicycle Kick.” I was tempted by the Fog City Sour ($11), which is derivative of the Pisco Sour (one of my favorite drinks) but made with tequila. The bartender did a nice job of whipping up the egg whites to create a creamy top looking beautiful with angostura bitters.
My favorite dish: I loved the grilled local calamari ($16), which we ordered as a starter. It looked beautiful with the bright pickled Fresno chilies, but the flavors were on points and calamari cooked just right. For dessert, I had fun ordering the frozen affogato ($7). Affogato is the traditional Italian dessert of espresso poured over vanilla ice cream. At Fog City, they turn the coffee into a granita, which looks like black lava rocks. The granita had an intense coffee flavor, which was balanced by the scoop of vanilla frozen custard.
Insider tip: Be wary about service because Fog City can be popular but staffing seems a bit overwhelmed. When we were seated at our table, no one came to greet us or bring us water. I had to ask for our server, and someone who didn’t work at that station ended up being our server. While most people are super friendly, especially people bringing the dishes and the managers, the waiters can seem frenzied.
The last bite: Despite the service issues on a Friday night, the menu offers a nice variety of options, something for everyone. Some dishes like the calamari really shine while others like the whole chicken is decent but nothing spectacular. But for an institution, the food does live up well.
The rating: 2.5 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: Fog City, 1300 Battery St., San Francisco. PH: 415.982.2000. Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. (until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday). Reservations, major credit cards accepted. fogcitysf.com
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