San Francisco Restaurant Awakening

By Emma Krasov. Photography by Yuri Krasov

Tired of my own home cooking—both the process and the results—and totally exhausted by the persistent self-isolation dictated by the pesky virus, I jumped at the opportunity to visit the wonderful San Francisco restaurants that are just reopening now, especially those that became favorites of true connoisseurs due to their originality, authenticity, and consistent high quality of food, drink, and service.

Town Hall, founded in 2003 in one of downtown historic brick buildings from the beginning of the 20th century, in recent years became surrounded by the towering tech giants’ abodes, but certainly held its own with its two-story facility, usually bustling and overcrowded every night in pre-COVID-19 times. Town Hall’s flavorful Southern cuisine and traditional libations, life music performances, various wine and culinary events, and especially the yearly Mardi Gras festivities made this restaurant a notorious gathering place for its many regulars and out-of-town fans.

For the Town Hall’s September 2020 reopening, the co-founding Executive Chefs Mitchell and Steven Rosenthal and their partner co-owner Bjorn Kock created a special menu, inspired by Chef Mitchell’s celebrity mentor, Chef Paul Prudhomme and his 40-year old legendary New Orleans restaurant K-Paul’s, recently closed for good. The remodeled Town Hall patio and a part of the adjacent plaza with recently planted trees and flower beds provided 850 sq. ft. of outdoor dining in a surprisingly quiet cozy area of downtown with tables for couples and small groups under the outdoor lights and heaters.

The new menu items, dedicated to Paul Prudhomme’s Southern staples used to be served at K Paul’s include excellently authentic shrimp and crawfish gumbo with okra, scallions, and Carolina gold rice, especially good with a side of signature jalapeño cornbread, served in a hot cast iron skillet; delectable BBQ gulf shrimp with Worcestershire sauce on garlic toast, and bronzed King salmon with grilled asparagus, sweet corn bread, and pecans Meuniere.

The Town Hall’s own buttermilk fried chicken with French fries, spicy mustard pickle and hot house-made sauce of Fresno peppers is certainly one of the most popular choices, and very deservedly so.

Butterscotch and chocolate pot de crème dessert is a silky-sweet ending to a well-rounded meal.

The new opening hours are Monday – Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch and Monday – Saturday 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Sunday 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. for dinner. For the first time, the restaurant implements weekend brunch service Friday-Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Town Hall is located at 342 Howard Street, San Francisco, California 94105. Call for reservations (415) 908-3900 or visit http://townhallsf.com/

The Terrace at Palette, the newest San Francisco’s outdoor dining destination,occupies a part of a sidewalk in the central South of Market district, plus some part of the road, formerly known as metered parking. Given the existing ambiance, the restaurant did a great job creating this al fresco dining space, elegantly outlined by a partition wall, topped with potted flowers and decorated on the outside with a mural of “foam” pattern by Nathan Richard Phelps to blend with the outer walls of the Palette restaurant and art gallery. That’s right! It’s all about the arts—both visual and culinary.

First opened in the long-gone 2019, Palette has been imaged by its founder, chef/owner Peter J. Hemsley as a dining destination dedicated to locally sourced food as well as locally created art, thus providing for the community by the community. Bay Area-based food purveyors, farmers and artisans help Chef Peter pursue the freshest seasonal ingredients for his “Cal-Coastal” menu, while his own artwork adorns the gallery walls alongside a slew of other local artists’ works.  

Custom-made blue water glasses and artful blue ceramic dishes create an atmosphere of art appreciation even before the food arrives. A mind-boggling list of fantastically creative cocktails is a separate artwork, worth some thoughtful contemplation (note an ice cube with an etched Palette logo on top).  

Among the most enticing concoctions are Helios (Martell cognac, peach sherry, lemon, fennel honey), Tigerheat (Vida mezcal, Fair cocoa, leche de tigre, mango) as well as Good Pal (Toki whisky, Sirene bitter, Lo-Fi dry vermouth, cucumber) and Bangkok Babylon (Ancho Reyes, rum, coconut, pandan, lime leaf).

When it comes to food, Chef Peter’s brand new concept is reflected in the menu designed exclusively for outdoor dining. Bites section of the menu includes fresh-baked pillowy focaccia with garlic confit in a little bowl of Full Belly Farms olive oil, and a lavish cheese board with rare creations from Tomales Bay Creamery, Bohemian Creamery (try Agua bufazola), and Long Dream Farm.

On the Starters menu the shining stars are house-made pâté en croute with port wine gelée and pistachios, Star Route Farm frisée, and stone ground mustard, and grilled quail with amazing Lonely Mountain Farm mulberry-jalapeño glaze, Front Porch Farm polenta, fresh pea shoots and other greens on a side.

The many wonderful Mains include grilled Bay halibut with Tierra Vegetables pepper stew, confit potatoes, and baby fennel, and the most delightful, with ever so slightly lemony flavor seafood linguine with mussels, clams, shrimp, stewed Lonely Mountain Farm cherry tomatoes, and Toscano Farm summer savory. 

Every sip and bite at The Terrace at Palette is definitely worth a trip, and offers an artful, one-of-a-kind sensory experience.

The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday. Happy hour with “Buck-a-Shuck” oysters, Champagne, featured cocktails and small plates 4 to 5 p.m., dinner 5 to 9 p.m.

Palette and The Terrace at Palette is located at 816 Folsom St. San Francisco, CA 94107. Call for reservations (415) 865-0529 or visit https://palette-sf.com/