When I first struck out to visit all the restaurants that received a Restaurant Appreciation Month commendation from each member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, I figured it would be pretty easy. There were 12 months in a year, and 12 restaurants to visit. That’s a long division problem that even I can do.
But here we are in
July (ugh) August and I’ve only been to four places. Meanwhile, the next Restaurant Appreciation Month is only three (ohgod) two months away and I still have (let’s see, twelve minus four is…eight?) EIGHT! Holy crap, I still have eight restaurants to go.
Luckily, this RAM adventure is going to be as brief. The menu at Farm:Table is as short as it is sweet.
Farm:Table (754 Post St) is technically not in Tenderloin, San Francisco’s most infamous of neighborhoods, but its pretty darn close. “Tenderloin-adjacent,” to use the parlance of the kind of well-intentioned realtor looking to shoe-horn you into a condo that seemed reasonable until you realized that the HOA’s were how much????
Here in San Francisco, the words “the Tenderloin,” are usually uttered in response to the question, “Pardon me, but do you happen to know where I can acquire an only moderately used hypodermic needle?”
But guys, the Tenderloin is changing. There’s a museum there now. And let me tell you , it ain’t your grandam’s museum. I went to a panel on the history of civil unrest in the Tenderloin and (1) there was an open bar for $10, and (2) two of the panelists were elderly transgender sex workers. What more could you ask for from a museum? That’s better than most of the weddings I’ve been to.
Farm:Table is part of that change, and that’s probably why former Supervisor/current State Assemblyman David Chiu chose it for restaurant appreciation month. It’s a little (like incredibly tiny, there’s one communal table inside and a few weird bench-y* things outside) slice of hipster bourgeois in the otherwise gritty heart of the city.
*”Bench-y” isn’t really the right word. A normal person knows what to do with a bench. There is no human experience that can prepare you for what its like to awkwardly perch over these slender wood planks like the little match girl huddled over a flame.
Dining companion M and I had to fight with this decorative winter cabbage for valuable sidewalk real estate. It was a fight we mostly lost.
There was another option. I hesitate to call it “seating.” It was more like a three-dimensional representation of what Pablo Picasso thought seating looked like.
Part cubist skateboard ramp, part park bench, part potted plant. This disfigured amalgam of wood, metal and horticulture is actually one of San Francisco’s mini-parklets — where the city turns a parking space into something that isn’t a parking space. Don’t get me wrong, I like the concept of parklets broadly, and I even find the design of this specific parklet interesting. It’s just that, in a place where decent seating is in demand, this parklet is sort of thumbing its nose at us.
To be clear, its not an entirely unpleasant experience, its just totally unfamiliar. I’ve done a lot of sitting in my life — I’m basically an expert at it, that’s why it was so surprising to encounter a kind of sitting that I didn’t really know how to handle. I thought I’d seen it all sitting-wise. Clearly, I was wrong.
I sort of feel badly for starting this review by harping on these aspects of the Farm:Table experience, because I’ll be damned if Farm:Table’s heart isn’t in the right place. It’s a small cafe that offers a locally sourced, fresh dining option in a neighborhood that is desperately under served.
The problem is one of the chicken-or-egg variety, the neighborhood doesn’t have the kind of foot traffic that would justify more ground floor retail space dedicated to this sort of thing, and because it doesn’t have more options it doesn’t get the foot traffic necessary to justify it.
So Farm:Table is trying to do it’s thing in an imperfect world (aren’t we all?). Its an ambitious and valiant effort that is largely well-executed, and David Chiu was right to recognize it during restaurant appreciation month.
The menu is pretty limited, but it changes daily, and its usually based on what kind of produce is available/in season. We saw the proprietress carrying load after load of raspberries into the kitchen, so their claim to farm freshness seems pretty legit. The food itself is the uptown cousin of your typical brunch fare. San Francisco Magazine named it “best breakfast” in the city.
I had the Daily Toast (7.75), which effectively availed itself of those fresh berries I mentioned earlier. It also re-reminded me of how delicious mascarpone is. Calling it “toast” is like calling Versaille “a house.” While technically true, it (purposefully?) undersells the experience.
And dining companion M had the Savory Tart ($7.75) which was really vegetarian quiche….as long as you’re the kind of vegetarian that eats eggs.
Vegetarians eat eggs, right? I should know this, I live in San Francisco.
In any event, even if you aren’t the kind of vegetarian that eats eggs (or the kind of carnivore that doesn’t eat vegetables) you should consider the tart, because it was yummy.
Update: a reader immediately pointed out that this quiche is not vegetarian because it has bacon in it. I was going to update the post to reflect that, but realized that would require removing all my vegetarian jokes, which, jouralism be damned, I am unwilling to do. Vegetarians consider yourself warned.
We both got coffees, which dining companion M described as “extremely well-poured.” I don’t really know what that means, but she is into coffees, so I’ll take her word for it that you know what that means.
We both really wished we had also ordered the Egg on Croissant (also 7.75, guys everything is 7.75) because it looked really de-lish.
From Farm:Table’s instagram:
Some may take issue with the performative precious twee-ness of the experience, but the food is good enough that it’s worth looking past, especially in a neighborhood where you’re more likely to smell fresh urine than a fresh-poured latte.
Farm:Table puts it’s money where it’s mouth is, and its worth putting your money where their food is, to put in your mouth.
(that’s my “I’m eating away my hangover in the Tenderloin, and I’m actually enjoying it” face)