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Review by David Grabstald
1058 Valencia Street (between 21st and 22nd)
San Francisco, California 94110
Loved: fun decor, fresh food, and precise menu
To Die For: pull apart dinner rolls, in-side-out burger, mussels and
pork with a spork
Prices: $$ (Reasonable)
Hours: Dinner: Monday through Thursday, 6:00 PM until 10:00 PM; Friday through Saturday 6:00 PM until 11:00 PM
Noise Level: Noisy, but not annoying
Service: Well paced and friendly
Reservations: Accepted, but walk-ins also welcome
Good for Kids: Perhaps
Good to Know: Open for dinner, street parking, wheelchair accessible, casual dress code, major credit cards accepted, cooking oil is recycled into biodiesel
Recommended / Rating: 5 Stars (0=Don’t Bother to 5=Highly Recommend)
Every time I venture into the magical place in my apartment known as “the kitchen,” I discover I'm usually missing some kitchen appliance, utensil or food item that should probably be bought to make my culinary endeavors easier.
Usually out of frustration, and because I tend to be on the impatient side, I tend to venture out and about in San Francisco to discover much better kitchens, whose chefs and staffs use some pretty spiffy utensils to make some really delicious meals. My 2008 has already started with a culinary bang, as I recently had the pleasure of dining twice over several weekends at one of the Mission's dining hot spots, Spork.
What once was a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant has now been lovingly restored into quirky, hip hot spot where you’ll find lots of great American food at reasonable prices. And to top it all off, you can even eat your dinner with a spork!
A spork, if you don’t already know, is a combination spoon and fork, which Kentucky Fried Chicken supposedly introduced in the 1960s. Chef and owner Bruce Binn (formerly of Delfina, Postrio, and Bix) has transformed the rather drab interior into a clean, modern space with plenty of things to look at while waiting for your food. There is plenty of spoon and fork pop art on the walls, Japanese anime figures placed all about the room and on most tables, a semi-open kitchen with several bar stools, cork floors, wood-trimmed booths, and blue-gray walls. It’s a winning design, which is as pleasing to the eye as Binn’s food is to the palate.
On both occasions, my friends and I were seated after about a ten-minute wait standing near the entryway, which consists of a doorway surrounded by tall drape panels to keep out any drafts. Until recently, Spork didn’t accept reservations, which was rather nice. For my second visit, I called ahead to see how busy they were, and was told by the polite person on the phone (who turned out to be Chef Binn), that they were now taking reservations. In any case, they still accept walk-ins.
After being seated in one of their comfortable booths, the waiter arrived within one minute, took our drink orders, and discussed the menu, which is fairly simple, consisting of a nice variety of “Firsts” and “Seconds” to choose from, as well as a nice selection of wines and beer. Binn updates the menu with minor changes frequently, so going back week after week is always full of surprises.
Don’t even think about skipping on the fresh pull apart dinner rolls (free) with honey butter. They’re addictive. Next, try the dinner salad with butter lettuce, organic radishes, walnuts, shaved Parmesan cheese, Dijon vinaigrette ($7) was basic but satisfying. The vinaigrette was a bit too tangy for my liking, but my friends seemed to enjoy it. The puree of mushroom soup with caramelized mushrooms, Madeira, and chestnut cream ($8) was perfect for a chilly evening, and wasn’t too rich. On the other hand, if rich and cheesy is to your liking, then definitely try the goat cheese croquette with marinated organic red beets, lamb's lettuce, aged sherry ($9). The beets and the cheese blended perfectly together for a really nice flavor. Yum!
While you could linger over a great bottle of wine and some of Spork’s great “Firsts,” it’s a good idea to dive into Binn’s “Seconds”, which are really tantalizing! The mussels and pork with a spork with mussels, roast pork, Belgian beer, green beans and smoked chili aioli ($17) was a unique combination that I thoroughly enjoyed. The mussels were fresh and the pork was tender and juicy, with just a hint of a spicy bite from the smoked chili aioli. Another Spork favorite is the in-side-out burger, consisting of grass-fed patties, caramelized onions, Tillamook cheddar cheese, and smashed fries. Two pieces of tender meat were the bun for this fun twist on a regular burger, with the bun in the meat’s place. Get it? Try one and you’ll see that it’s not the usual burger you’d expect. And that’s a good thing.
Other excellent “Seconds” include a mushrooms gone wild dish with fresh pasta, black trumpet and wild hedgehog mushrooms, porcini broth, haricot vets, whipped truffle cream, and parmigiano reggiano cheese ($16), the tasty steak with mashed potatoes horseradish cream, pink peppercorns, and red wine glaze ($19), and marvelous seared dayboat scallops with roasted butternut squash, caramelized cauliflower, brown butter, sage and aged Balsamic vinegar ($23).
Although there isn’t a “Thirds” section on the menu, the desserts were there in full force, including a delightful batch of fresh beignets, a “pot” brownie with vanilla gelato, and something quite amusing known as the “Elvis Has Left the Building,” with vanilla gelato, caramel, peanuts, and semi-melted peanut butter cups. The King would have been proud!
So, no matter what utensil you like to eat your meals with, you can’t go wrong with the simple, yet satisfying culinary excellence that Chef Binn has created at Spork.
Bio & Past Articles
Betty's List Restaurant Review
Columnist David Grabstald.
An enthusiastic freelance writer, editor and copywriter with marketing, media and daily newspaper experience, David serves as senior food critic for Betty's List. His articles have been published by Macy's Westbound, Mervyn's, The New Filmore, SF Examiner, Marina Times, North Texas Daily, And Baby Magazine and others. He is an experienced writer of grant proposals, documentation plans, feasibility reports, press releases, employee procedure manuals and other formats. David has written news scripts for NBC and produced video packages for the Irving Community Television Network. David can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is http://davidgrabstald.blogspot.com/