Sears Fine Foods
Monday we settled in for our only real breakfast, and we could not have chosen better than Sear’s Fine Foods. The line stretches down the block, but moves fairly quickly. It is short enough so that you don’t feel put out, but long enough that you feel confident that the food must be good. Kitschy D-list photos on the walls and a clutch of antique typewriters scattered around give you something to ponder while you wait.
Just three years after its rescue from near-extinction by Lori’s Diner, Sears continues to serve its famous 18 silver dollar Swedish pancakes. They are so cute and adorable. I can see why children freak out over them. Rolled up with a little butter and lingonberry sauce, I was kind of freaking out myself. Their bacon and sausage are of the highest quality, service is first-rate and attention is paid to every detail. I only had to think, “I’m running low on coffee” before the psychic waiter would come running over with a refill. Spying on nearby tables, I could see that their red flannel hash is pretty popular as well. Stuffed after such a hearty breakfast, this was the one time we took the streetcar (5 bucks each! Ouch!). Clanking and rolling along with bellies full of pancakes and bacon made us feel like we were real tourists.
In the afternoon, I met my brother at Vino Venue, a wine bar across the street from MOAD. At Vino Venue, you fill a card with a dollar amount, like you would at a casino or video arcade. Each kiosk has different types of wine with descriptions and a price, from around 2.50 to 4.50. You put the card in, select a wine, and have a do-it-yourself wine tasting. I discovered I like “buttery” chardonnays, like the Wise West Australian Single Vineyard 2005 Chardonnay. But I spent most of my time drinking the wines with strange descriptions – gravelly earth? I want to know what gravelly earth tastes like!
AG Ferrari Foods
To soak up the wine, I picked up a sandwich at AG Ferrari Foods, an Italian gourmet shop and deli next-door. The deli case overflowed with appealing bites, but I was saving my appetite for John’s. So I just snacked on half of a turkey sandwich in the park. The bread and garnishes were perfection, but it was a little skimpy on the meat.
I was grateful that I had stopped in and made a reservation for Johns Grill earlier that morning. Group after group ahead of us were asked to wait, and it was a relief to be escorted immediately to our table. John’s Grill is famous for being the setting for the book, The Maltese Falcon, and the Dashell Hammet club still meets there. Someone had told me the interior was creepy. I thought it was rather cozy, but when I had to climb the dark stairwell to the restrooms, I had to admit, ok, it was a little creepy upstairs.
I ordered the house drink, named the Bloody Bridgid, after Hammet’s fictional murderess. The drink was so strong, I think she may have done him in with alcohol poisoning. The Dungeness crab cocktail was clean and fresh, topped with a shocking horseradish cocktail sauce. Not a single bit of shell. Icy cold. Sheer perfection. My filet mignon was unprecedented in its tenderness. Sometimes I think a good meal is like sex. It is hard to compare it to experiences from your past, because the most recent one always seems better. But try as I might, I can’t remember ever having a steak so tender. Normally with filet mignon there is one delicate tendon running through the middle, but it was such an excellent cut every bite melted in my mouth. It was a perfect meal.
We were not ready to let go, so we had to order a dessert. The chocolate cake with mousse was ok, but really just gilding the lily. I was surprised at how inexpensive our meal was, but it would be a great deal at any price. This is a place to take your parents, your boss, or the girl you want to marry. John’s is pure class.
Sear’s Fine Food 439 Powell Street SF 94102 (415) 986-0700
Vino Venue 686 Mission Street SF 94105 (415) 341-1930
John’s Grill 63 Ellis St. SF 94102 (415) 986-0069