July 6, 2011

Clement Street: A Village Within a Village

    In April, I spoke about San Francisco being a collection of small villages. A reader suggested that I might make this into a series of sorts, and so I am going to run with the notion.

A Village Within a Village
    This time, we're exploring the Inner Richmond, home to many wonderful small stores and restaurants. Although there are many little areas within this village, one of the most pleasant is to be found on Clement Street, located in the area bound by Geary Boulevard on the south, California Street on the north, and between Arguello and Park Presidio Boulevards.
    Like most San Francisco neighborhoods, the Inner Richmond is short on chain stores, but long on independent businesses. Here you will find one of the cities finest used book stores, Green Apple Books, along with bakeries, cafés, bars, houseware and grocery stores, and about a gazillion restaurants. A good place to have a coffee, do a bit of shopping, and then have a lovely lunch, a late afternoon drink, or dinner.

It's a Party
    Spring is a very special time for our family. In one eight-day period, we celebrate my husband's birthday, our wedding anniversary, and my birthday. Any one of these is cause for a party, but all three at once is our excuse for an annual holiday. Of course, we check our budget before we plan anything. Some years we go all out — fancy hotel overnight stays, theater tickets, and gourmet dinners — and some years, the income stream only runs to delivery pizza and a movie rental. In fact, we've been know to have celebrations in truck stops and diners.
    This year, our "big" meal during celebration week was at the Clement Street Bar & Grill, a comfy, wood-paneled family-friendly restaurant that has been under the same ownership since 1982. Years ago, when we lived in the neighborhood, this was our "treat" restaurant after a long work week. Good drinks (very important), tasty food, and real mashed potatoes. For birthday week, we made our first visit in over 15 years — we were on a bit of a nostalgia tour.

    The atmosphere is casual, but there are nice touches like linen tablecloths and a fireplace. The cuisine runs to steaks, chops, burgers, Caesar salads, house-made soups and desserts.
    We each ordered a before-dinner cocktail while we cruised the menu. We didn't order anything too fancy (a Manhattan for my husband and a scotch and soda for me), which were well made using quality brands of liquor. Wines are reasonably priced, and there is a decent selection by the glass.
    Our server gave us just the right amount of time to look over the menu while enjoying our drinks. We did look at the specials on the board, but we were there for the steaks. My husband ordered a grilled New York steak, and I had the filet mignon with a cabernet sauce; both came with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. Before our entrées, we had the green salad with the house vinaigrette and blue cheese crumbles, which was included in the price of the meal.

The Food
    The salad greens were fresh, and the dressing was tasty without being too tart. Both of us ordering steaks can be a bit tricky proposition — my husband is a medium-rare kind of guy, and I go for medium, trending toward medium-well. Usually, one order is either over- or under-cooked. Our steaks at Clement Street Bar & Grill were perfect! The accompanying real garlic mashed potatoes were as remembered, and the seasonal steamed vegetables were thoroughly cooked, yet retained all their fresh flavors and texture.
    After our salads and main course , we were pretty full so we split an order of crème brûlée for dessert. The lovely caramelized sugar crust covered a silky vanilla bean custard that made a perfect ending to our meal.
    We were there for a celebration so we popped for the steaks, which were a bargain at around $26, including a choice of that great salad or the house-made soup. For those times when  you might want a simpler and less expensive meal option, they also offer burgers and salads. Vegetarians are not forgotten either; in addition to the obvious salads, the menu includes some vegetarian pasta selections and various specials.
    Service is cordial, helpful, and relaxed, and when we arrived for our reservation, we were seated immediately. One caveat: If you are looking for cutting-edge cuisine, this might not be the place for you. However, if you are looking for well-prepared food in an "old San Francisco" clubby atmosphere, add Clement Street Bar & Grill to your day out in the Inner Richmond.
    And, since we now live in the adjacent Outer Richmond neighborhood, we will be sure to go back. I fondly remember that they do a bang-up Sunday Brunch.

Clement Street Bar and Grill, 708 Clement Street (between 8th Avenue & 9th Avenue), 415.386.2200

Originally published by Dishkebab
July 5, 2011

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