The Corner Store, an ebullient new pub and restaurant located on the partially hidden southwest corner of Masonic and Geary, has deep local roots. One of the two owners, the chef and a multitude of investors grew up in San Francisco and hung out together since they were in kindergarten. The eventual crew worked around town in restaurants and bars, and finally came together to open their own place. In the interest of disclosure, the chef Nick Adams, got his first cooking job at my restaurant, Hayes Street Grill.
Because the group knows so many local kids, and their parents, the place was packed from day one, huge pressure on a new place. Though I was predisposed to like it, in all honesty, I thought the place needed some time to pull all the details together.
But recently, two of us walked over for an early weeknight dinner at the now six month old restaurant, and the whole thing clicked. The place was as full as ever–every bar seat taken, the dining room full, the heated outside tables huddled against the side of the building filling up–but the small open kitchen was executing with assurance and consistency.
We had a perfect neighborhood meal, starting with a couple of negronis ($9), expertly made with equal parts Campari, sweet vermouth and gin. A shaved winter salad ($8) with thin slices of raw root vegetables and chicories in a balanced balsamic vinaigrette was ingeniously pulled together by a swatch of celery root puree at the bottom of the plate. It had the texture of cream and it gave the salad lusciousness. A couple of Corner Store burgers ($13), on house-made brioche buns were dressed with aged cheddar, pickled red onions, bread and butter pickles, aioli and a dollop of bacon jam which kind of acted like catsup. The patty was loosely formed and juicy. The whole added up to a savory, sweet and sour, umami blast, totally satisfying and super fun to eat–not too big, not too small, just right. A towering pile of crisp shoe string fries banished any lingering hunger.
What more could anyone want on a cold winter night?
Well, maybe the wedge, Corner Store style, made with little gem lettuce, buttermilk dressing, pickled shallots, blue cheese and candied bacon bits ($8). It’s a lighter version yet comforting at the same time. On other visits I’ve had an excellent corn meal crusted trout filet ($17) on a pile of broccoli and cauliflower florettes nicely seasoned with anchovy, brown butter and capers, a lovely dish. I promise that the Mary’s chicken dish of the moment ($17)–it changes as does the trout dish– will be succulent. A plate of warm, house baked, brioche dinner rolls ($4) are light and airy, but irresistible, especially slathered with honey butter and fleur de sel.
I’ve been meaning to try one of The Corner Store’s adult fountain treats ($9) for dessert, such as the Manhattan shake–bourbon, sweet vermouth, cherry syrup and vanilla ice cream–but I’ve never had room. From experience at my beloved Ice Cream Bar on Cole Street, I’ve found that these can be meals in themselves.
The Corner Store vibe is inclusive, friendly and just stylin‘ enough for an uptown neighborhood that encompasses Pacific Heights, Laurel Heights, the Haight and the Inner Richmond. It serves as a club house for a private school crowd now in their twenties and thirties, their parents and the grandkids, depending on the hour. With cocktails, sports on TV, brunch, lunch, dinner and adult fountain, this Store carries just about everything.
5 Masonic (at Geary) San Francisco 415 359-1800
Tuesday through Friday lunch and dinner; Saturday and Sunday brunch and dinner. Closed Monday