[MetroActive Dining]

[ Dining Index | SF Metropolitan | MetroActive Central | Archives ]

Cow Town

City of Broad Bellies: Morton's of Chicago brings its Brobdingnagian notions of portion size to San Francisco.

Beef--it's what's for dinner
at S.F. steak houses

By Hank Hamilton

Many men (and women) do not live by broccoli alone--some must have meat. No, not Santa Fe grilled chicken breast--steak! You know, those particular cuts of beef that have names like porterhouse, T-bone, sirloin, tri-tip, filet mignon and New York cut.

Once or twice a year, I enjoy a good steak in the right place with the right companion. Now, many folk don't think of San Francisco as a steak town, and I'm among that number, but we do have our moments. For some reason, steak restaurants seem to be among the most romantic (low light, play-kneezy booth, piano music), indulgent ("Would you like butter and sour cream on that potato along with the Roquefort cheese on your steak?") and accommodating ("Yes, I'll be happy to make the Caesar for two for just one").

All of this pampering usually comes with a stiff price, but shopping around can unearth some bargains. Good meat without the pampering can be found at some lower-priced places. Now, I know there are good French restaurants around that serve good steaks, but usually in only one or two styles. There is also good steak in a number of Asian places, but those houses don't meet the romance/indulgence criteria. The teppan-cooking show in some Japanese restaurants is more of a reason to go than the meat. Wait a minute ... I see a whole new report ... but never mind for now.

Here is a short compendium of my faves in the "steak house" category.

My favorite steak place is old San Francisco all the way: old wood, a classic bar, and warm, friendly, accommodating wait folk. Steak reigns here (I love the dry-aged T-bone), but there is consideration of other tastes. In response to a polite request, they'll move items in the preparations around a bit. Comfortable and quiet, it's a good place for a little business wrap-up, a romantic kickoff or a party. Or, what the heck, just stop by for a cocktail and a meal. There is a little seafood and some Italian pastas. Reasonably priced wines from a good list and valet parking are pluses. Reservations are available but not usually needed. $100 dinner for two. 781-7058, 886 Broadway, above Powell. Lunch Thu.; dinner, late dining seven nights. Cocktails, beer and wine. D, V, M, A, J, C.

My favorite elegant steak place. This is a "put yourself in our hands and you will have no worry" place. Diners can relax and enjoy house-aged, perfectly prepared beef such as the bone-in New York-cut steak. Those with lagging appetites can come early for light jazz, martinis and snack food in the bar. There is no business connection between this place and the well-known Harris Ranch on I-5 in the Central Valley, but the owners do have Cacti in Novato. Jackets are required of gents, ladies may take the hint. Reservations suggested. Reasonably priced valet parking is available. There is a large wine list. $120 dinner for two. 673-1888, 2100 Van Ness Ave. Dinner 7 days. Cocktails, beer and wine. M, V, D, A.

At a different pole from the other places, Izzy's is mostly a social bar that happens to serve some fine steaks and interesting seafood in an American bistro atmosphere with kinda jazzy service. Among the three reasons to be here: a well-priced, well-prepared steak (for example, the New York sirloin steak with creamed spinach and au gratin potatoes), but who's to say steak can't come with fun? There's an active bar filled with pretty people all on the up-escalator, and a few local drunks, but what the hey, it's the neighborhood. Validated parking is available at the garage on Moulton. Reasonably priced 50-item wine list. Reservations suggested. $85 for two. 563-0487,3345 Steiner St. Dinner, late dining. Cocktails, beer and wine. A, D, Di, M, V.

A pleasant surprise for me (and on my pre-dinner fave list), this place has been parked for years next to the O'Farrell-Ellis parking garage (validation available), across from Macy's East. They deal in serious quality steaks at reasonable prices. (I enjoy the Delmonico steak in a Chianti wine sauce with forest wild mushrooms and banjo potato.) There are also some pasta and seafood dishes with an Italian slant. The wine list here will surprise and intrigue aficionados ... there are many cellar classics. Dinner prices are half those at the fancier houses, and you still get a booth. There's party space, too, and an eager staff. You can sit right across from where the steaks are prepared. $65 dinner for two. 421-2100, 171 O'Farrell St., above Stockton. Lunch, dinner 7 days. Beer and wine. V, M , A.

Smith, Party of 50: You and a lot of friends can reserve the big table at Morton's of Chicago.

Morton's (of Chicago)
Now here we have a cow of a different color. This is the only place on this list that is a national chain, and like a 900-pound gorilla, it is hard to ignore, but can be lovable if you like that kinda thing. It's packed, busy, full of people from somewhere else, usually on expense accounts and simply looking for the buzz. The meats are top quality, the portions are more than adequate for four; the noise is punishing. The service is offhand.

Look! There's what'siz name from the orthodontists conference in St. Louis! But the meat is really good (the 24-ounce porterhouse is a favorite), baked potatos are the size of an average head, and lifting the 400-item list of overpriced wines will provide exercise. Reservations advised. FYI, cigar smoking is permitted in the bar ... bummer! $140 for two. 986-5830, 400 Post St. Lunch Mon.-Fri.; dinner 7 days; late dining Mon.- Sat. Cocktails, beer and wine. A, D, J, M, V.

The Van's
This hillside place in suburban Belmont has a number of top-notch beef dishes along with a general-attendance menu. One can stop by here if in the neighborhood or make it a destination for a special evening. While steaks are the primary menu items--for example, pepper steak with a creamy peppercorn mushroom sauce and a touch of bourbon--chops and seafood are also handled well. There is a small parking lot at this dark and romantic restaurant with panoramic views of East Bay lights at night, as well as a piano bar. Reservations suggested. $85 dinner for two. 591-6525, 815 Belmont Ave., off El Camino. Lunch Mon.-Fri.; dinner 7 days; late dining Mon.-Sat.; brunch Sun. Cocktails, beer and wine. A, D, Di, M, V.

[ SF Metropolitan | MetroActive Central | Archives ]

From the March 1997 issue of the Metropolitan

This page was designed and created by the Boulevards team.
Copyright © 1997 Metropolitan, Inc.

Foreclosures - Real Estate Investing
San Jose.com Real Estate