Go Retro in San Francisco

Last weekend, we jet-setted once again to San Francisco. And once again, it was a food-centric good time. We visited several new hot spots that are a throwback to the days of yore, where they are conjuring up modern vintage cuisine that plays on another time and place.

First up was Comstock Saloon, which had only been open a day upon our arrival. Having called ahead to reserve a table, we got the royal treatment and one of the best seats in the house. We started with cocktails, each reminiscent of something out of the Wild, Wild West such as the “John Collins,” a refreshing mix of Genever, lemon, sugar and seltzer. Then, out came the snacks–little crocks of green olives, fried beans (crispy, salty, fava beans..delish!), pickled veggies and my favorite, the cheddar crackers with pepper jelly (takes me back to Christmas in the South!). The perfect spot for catching up with a friend—energetic and beautifully crafted, it’s a place where old becomes cool again.

Later that evening, we mosied over to Mint Plaza to the just opened restaurant Thermidor, where the food is playful and the service is flawless. The whole experience evokes 1960s with a modern twist, where your chips and caviar will take you back to the french onion dip mom used to make in simpler times. Opting to share a variety of dishes, the short rib crostinos with horseradish cream and the mini lobster roll are not to be missed. For dessert, while there may be more decadent, we went for the Donuts, Coffee & Cigarettes, where the “cigarette” is white chocolate filled with tobacco infused custard. Rumor has it, this masterpiece was first created at the French Laundry for Anthony Bourdain—a clever way to get a chain smoker to remain at the table for the entire meal.

The next night, we headed to the elusive Bourbon & Branch, a speakeasy that gives you an inside glimpse at a time when Prohibition demanded that customers “be quiet and speak easy.” Having reserved a table way in advance, we came prepared for the house rules and loved that you have to give a secret password to enter. The cocktails were superb, the experience was worth the planning (they ask you how long you plan to stay when you reserve) and the firecracker of a hostess provided enjoyable entertainment as she turned people away. Trust me, no password; no entry. They ain’t playing around. But that’s what makes this place so cool…at least when you are on the inside.

STAY: This time we opted for frugal over frills, though the Omni could argue having both, located just down from Nob Hill. It was some of the best service I’ve had in the city. Check out the Summer Fun Package and get a weekend night free.

SHOP: Visit the newly opened Black Fleece boutique by Brooks Brothers in the fashionable Pacific Heights. One of only two locations in the world, this first collection designed by guest designer Thom Browne is for the young, sophisticated and fabulous. Note—prepare for sticker shock, though their summer sale is in July.

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