FOG CITY, Embarcadero (1300 Battery St. between Broadway St. & Pacific Ave; 415-982-2000)
What’s old is new again… or in the case of the completely revamped Fog City, the legendary former diner manages to offer food gourmet enough for locals and foodies, yet approachable enough for tourists and non-foodies.
With booths now lining both sides of the restaurant, Embarcadero views are taken advantage of. The feel is more spacious and warm than before, with bustling open kitchen, hearthfire and centerpiece bar.
Visiting for lunch, dinner and drinks since it reopened, here are three highlights of the new Fog City from Chef/Owner Bruce Hill.
AUTHENTIC HOT BROWN
A Hot Brown is one Kentuckys signature dishes, created in 1926 at the Brown Hotel in Louisville. I’ve eaten an original Hot Brown at the Brown Hotel, a mound of roasted turkey breast over toast points slathered in bacon, tomatoes, and Mornay sauce (butter, milk, Parmesan, egg, cream), then baked golden brown in Parmesan cheese. Decadent brilliance, which I’ve also loved expressed in various iterations around Louisville (here are a few), including a Hot Brown pizza.
I have not seen a traditional Hot Brown on the West Coast – until Fog City’s lunch menu. Though FC’s version ($16) is not quite as rich as at the Brown (keeping California tastes in mind), it is an authentic tribute to the original elevated with organic, quality ingredients: roasted heritage turkey, Pt. Reyes cheddar mornay sauce, Early Girl tomatoes and crisp bacon over sourdough wheat bread. Now I know where I can get my Hot Brown fix.
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While Lead Bartender Dustin Sullivan and crew craft a range of drinkable classics and house cocktails ($12), it’s a Dark n Stormy Slush that steals the show. Served in a classic Moscow Mule copper mug, the simple rum, lime and ginger beer cocktail is elevated here combining Goslings Black Seal Rum, lime, orange, ginger and Angostura bitters, the ingredients frozen and liquefied with ginger beer. The end result is a boozy, bracing slushie.
Besides cocktails, there’s 16 wines on tap, plenty by the bottle, 7 beers on tap, and from spirits to beer. In all categories, it’s nice to see a dominance of small production, Northern California producers, as wine menus at many SF hotspots lean towards international. Bonus cocktail: Fog City Milk Punch is a historical style of punch, here mixing spice-infused bourbon, rum, brandy, lemon and sugar with clarified milk, which Sullivan makes in house. The acidified milk is filtered until clear, adding a subtly tart, textured unctuousness to the drink.
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
Though not trying to push culinary boundaries, comfort food like a Fog City burger ($14) or a wood oven-roasted whole chicken ($29), sit alongside gratifying vegetable dishes such as oven-roasted baby carrots ($12) perked up with black garlic mole, almonds and cotija cheese. Dessert hits the mark in the form of sweet orange-glazed French crullers ($6), melting soft and warm, or a blessedly savory-sweet green chili apple pie ($7).
Many of the best dishes are on the lunch menu only, like the sweet umami of barbequed eel over endive leaves ($12), creamy with lemon anchovy vinaigrette and grated Parmesan cheese, or smorrebrod ($15), which could fit in at a Bar Tartine lunch. This Danish-style open-faced sandwich is covered with smoked salmon, smoked egg salad, silky avocado and dill over sourdough rye-seed bread. Another lunch winner is Louisiana sole schnitzel ($21), the fish served flat, breaded and fried like traditional wiener schnitzel, accompanied by Half Moon Bay brussels sprouts, Sardinian capers and Asian pear in brown butter.