Southern Elegance: 1300 on Fillmore

1300 on Fillmore

1300 Fillmore Street (at the corner of Eddy)
San Francisco, CA 94115


Monday-Sunday: 5-11pm
Lounge: 5am-1am

The South enchants me.  Even as its beliefs and mentality feel far removed from the essence of me, I cannot help but be profoundly drawn to its music and food as if it has long been a part of my roots.

Thus my craving for Southern food in all its forms: BBQ, Creole, Cajun, and so on.  California is not without these foods but they’re certainly not plentiful.  So when a Southern spot opens in my city, I am there, looking for hints of what I’ve tasted in travels through the Carolinas, Georgia and Tennessee… or that Queen of Southern cities: New Orleans.

1300 on Fillmore opened about three months ago in the same building as the new Yoshi’s jazz club, a welcome addition in the attempted revitalization of San Francisco’s former jazz heavy, “Harlem of the West”: Fillmore Street.   Enter the gorgeous lounge/bar area of 1300 and witness an ode to Lower Fillmore’s past in an illuminated wall of photos featuring many of my jazz heroes from John Coltrane to Ella Fitzgerald singing at the clubs that once lined this street.  Though such luminaries are no longer alive (and without peer today, even in a sea of excellent jazz musicians), the idea of this street bursting with jazz clubs again thrills me.
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Sipping cocktails in 1300’s lounge as you sink into the brown leather couch or comfy armchairs, is an evening in and of itself, and well worth your time.  A small selection of appetizers grace the bar menu for a hint of what the kitchen is concocting.  With entrees ranging from $18-$29, the restaurant sure isn’t cheap, but my dining experiences thus far have been worthy of celebrations as well as perfect for a group.

The service is delightful, personable yet not too chatty.  The staff seems as excited about the place as I am, sharing menu items and favorite dishes with relish.   Each time I’ve visited, both chef and owner greeted my table, offering stories of their vision for a Sunday Gospel Brunch soon to come (yes!!) and the woes of securing a cabaret license, which they are very near to gaining, for regular live jazz in the restaurant.

The menu is “Upscale Southern”… certainly with modern, California touches, infusing some of the best elements of Southern cuisine.  It reminds me of elegant restaurants I enjoyed in Charleston (like Anson) or Savannah (Bistro Savannah) where inventiveness met tradition in the most satisfying way.

Favorite dishes?  Their hominy Grits in multiple forms, tasting like stone-ground, gourmet grits I ate in the South, not at all like what may very well be “the real thing”: bland, cream-of-wheat style mush (which I also like!)  Order grits as a $13 appetizer with Barbecue Shrimp (also on the Lounge/Bar menu) or as the perfect accompaniment to Beef Tenderloin, scented with Blue Cheese.  Another favorite appetizer is Braised Pork Belly on White Bean Puree ($11), which dissolves tenderly in the mouth.   On a low note, the side of Caramelized Sweet Onion Ham Hock Braised Greens ($6) was surprisingly bland despite a seemingly surefire seasoning of ham hocks.

Maple Syrup Slow Braised Beef Short Ribs ($28) is a decadent entrée piled with onion rings on top of buttermilk chive mashed potatoes.  The aforementioned Grilled Tenderloin of Beef ($29) plays rousingly well with Blue Cheese Hominy Grits and balsamic onions.  The Pork Chop ($25) with apples and chicory, is likewise heart (and gut) warming.  Seared Salmon ($25) is nicely executed yet fails to excite my taste buds but for its accompanying “Lobster Mash” with juicy junks of fresh lobster meat.   Fried Chicken ($21) needs extra prep time (30 minutes!) but comes out in a huge serving, crispy and moist, with truffle whipped potatoes and biscuits.  It gives Firefly’s famed fried chicken dish a competitor, yet I think Firefly still comes out slightly superior.

Dessert offers large Beignets with an intriguing shot of coffee soda and addictive dark chocolate dipping sauce, an always pleasing Bananas Foster, or a rich, not-to-sweet Sweet Potato Bread Pudding.

Though it’s too pricey to frequent 1300 as much as I’d like to, the glowing service, atmosphere and savory, shining food makes this a new San Francisco favorite and a welcome sign of things to come on Lower Fillmore.