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Where To Eat Now: Keeping It in the Family

Platters are the new plates.



Read more of our ultimate Where To Eat Now guide here.

The time constraints and stresses of modern life have strained our social fabric. Or so we’re told by armchair academics who cite as an example the tragic dissolution of the family dinner.

In truth, the institution is alive and well—it’s been taken on, anyway, by no less than Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski, the husband-and-wife team behind State Bird Provisions. Their new project, the Progress (1525 Fillmore St.), stands next door to State Bird, a kindred spirit in its ebullient air and the exuberant eclecticism of its menu. But it swaps out the former’s dim sum–style cart service for a $65 six-course family-style prix fixe, served on an array of hand-thrown ceramic platters in party-size portions.

Brioza oversees the savory stuff, and his dishes defy easy classification. Crisp pig ears leave their salty imprint on a tangled garden of shaved fennel and cherry tomatoes that the kitchen showers with fresh herbs and fish sauce. A soup called the Treasure Chest features rich pork broth stocked with fermented pork sausages, sweet onion rice dumplings, and trout quenelles. The striking blond-wood dining room, with a curvaceous wall stripped down to pale lath, is transportive. As for the squabbling that breaks out over who gets the last potato-sauerkraut dumpling? That’s also reminiscent of a meal at home.

Where the Progress deals in family-style refinements, Cockscomb (564 4th St.) stages urban adaptations of medieval feasts. The chef is the offal-centric Chris Cosentino, whose aesthetic is such that even dishes not served “family-style” are stout enough to stand up to group assaults (are you really going to take on that beef heart tartare alone?). Street-chic art and a skate board hang on the walls, but so do hunting trophies, and the primal leanings of the kitchen create a hedonistic mood.

You’ll need an appetite for the “shared suppers,” described, conservatively, as serving two to four. Our recommendation: Pass on the whole pig’s head, which works better as a conversation piece, and pig out instead on the pinbone steak ($110), a hulking slab that includes a cross section of the hip and spine bones. Served with bone marrow dip, it will have you eating with your hands like Henry VIII.

Daniel Patterson, unlike King Henry, hasn’t lopped off  any heads, but he did burn through a couple of chefs and menu concepts at Haven (44 Webster St., Oakland) before finding a formula that works. The Jack London Square restaurant switched this year to a four-course, family-style prix fixe orchestrated by Charlie Parker, and the combination has transformed Haven into the marquee restaurant that the waterfront has long lacked. The menu shifts routinely but never fails to feature a stunner of a first course called Breaking Bread, a wildly diverse platter of country pâté, harissa hummus, Calabrian pepper tapenade, chicken liver mousseba, and assorted other makings of an elevated picnic, rounded out by fl atbreads, rice crackers, and thick slices of yeasty country bread.

There are two ever-changing entrées to choose from (a bavette steak, say, with black garlic and bordelaise sauce, or a mushroom-farro stew thickened with a slow-cooked egg), served with a vegetable side, but otherwise no pressure to make any decisions. Before dessert arrives (on a recent evening, it was toasted marshmallow– topped chocolate pudding), you’ve already reached the conclusion that at $65 per person, this dinner is a generous and relatively aff ordable delight, the sort of family meal that you’d be proud to serve at home—if you had the time and talent to turn it out yourself.


Read More:

Tiny, Pretty Things: Food that's ready for Instagram

A Ground Meat Groundswell: Burgers aren't going anywhere.

Prix Fixe Holdouts and Casual Refinements: Fancy still has its place.

Keeping it in the Family: Platters are the new plates.

Destination Neighborhood Joints: Local spots with wide-ranging appeal.

France, Now and Forever: The bistro still abides.

Eating, Drinking, and the Other Way Around: Bar or restaurant? You be the judge.

Next Wave Asian: Redrawing culinary borders.



Originally published in the August issue of San Francisco

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