Feature photo by adactio
I recently travelled to San Francisco on business. Being my first West Coast trip, I decided that no matter how busy or tired I felt, I would do my very best to take advantage of my limited downtime by visiting some great restaurants.
Thankfully, I have some awesome co-workers; not picky eater or complainer among them. The only thing better than a good meal is good company to share the feast with!
One of the first restaurants we visited on my lusty quest for good food and drink was the Thirsty Bear. Located near the Moscone Convention Center and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Thirsty Bear welcomes both suits and hipsters into its brew pub/restaurant. Like many breweries, exposed brick, rustic wood floors, and visible fermenters are the key minimalist features of the décor at the Thirsty Bear. Anything more would have probably made the place claustrophobic as the crowds of people gathered around each table demanding more tapas and beer were already pushing maximum density.
Tapas! Yes, tapas. I have dreamed of the day when the food gods would combine one of my favorite cuisines with my beverage of choice. My prayers were answered with authentic Spanish tapas and microbrewed beer. “Heaven on earth,” I thought as I was handed the menu. The usual suspects were there: olives and cheese, tortilla española, varieties of paella, and other meat and seafood options. Each of my dinner partners ordered a dish, and we all had at it. Some favorites among the group that warranted second orders were the patatas bravas and the tortilla. I quote my boss, who asked to be referred to as Mrs. A. Beaverhausen, the tortilla was “effing awesome.” I have to say, I completely agree. The tortilla of the day was roasted red pepper, onions, and peas. It came in small wedges which made for easy sharing (as opposed to the gi-normous slices I’m used to).
Other dishes that made it across our table and enjoyed thoroughly: mixed greens with pickled grapes, dried currants, toasted walnuts and concord grape vinaigrette; seared duck breast with bosc pears; empanadas de puerco con queso fresco served on a roasted squash romesco. Dessert was rich and heavy. A co-worker and I split the cinnamon churros with hot chocolate. The churros were crispy on the outside and doughy on the inside, and the hot chocolate was possessed by some crazy glutton-demon. Imagine chocolate powder squeezed through a cafetera like Cuban espresso…it was like that. Pure, unadulterated chocolate.
One dish I am disappointed I did not get to try was the pulpo en su tinta. That’s octopus in its own ink served with cucumbers, red onion and red wine vinagrette. My grandmother used to make a similar dish with squid. So, if anything, I would have liked to taste it for the sake of nostalgia.
As for the beer, I was impressed and surprised. When brewpubs have a focus on quality food, the beer tends to suffer. Not so at the Thirsty Bear. Their Brown Bear Ale and Meyer ESB were my top two favs out of the flight I sampled. The Brown Bear is, of course, a brown ale with a roasty, smokey finish that made me want a whole pint-full. The ESB was slightly hoppy and had an amazing head. Why? Nitrogen! It gets my vote for best use of this popular, inert diatomic gas.
The Thirsty Bear is located at 661 Howard Street in San Francisco, CA. I suggest reservations on Fridays and through the weekend. There was live music the Friday night I was there (snare drum + steel drum + guitar(?) = some crazy cover band, but it was awesome), and the restaurant also holds flamenco nights. You can check dates and times here. Buen provecho!
Hours of Operation
Monday – Thursday: 11:30am – 10pm
Friday: 11:30am -11pm
Saturday: 12pm (noon) – 11pm
Sunday: 5pm – 10pm