Thursday, April 19, 2007

Dish on Dining: Chow Revisited

Safe Bets in a Neighborhood Spot
215 Church St. (at Market), San Francisco
Other locations: Park Chow on 9th Avenue (San Francisco) and Chow in Lafayette
PH: 415.552.2469
Hours: daily 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (open till midnight on Fridays and Saturdays)
MC/Visa accepted, no on Amex

When I lived in San Francisco, one of the restaurants that I could count on for consistent comfort food was Chow on Church Street on the way to the Castro. (Say Chow on Church near Castro 10 times fast.)

Chow’s success has allowed restaurateur Tony Gulisano to open equally popular restaurants near the Golden Gate Park (Park Chow) and a location in Lafayette in the East Bay. Recently, I wanted to see if the original Chow still had its charm.

It’s funny that I sometimes see Chow referred to as a popular gay spot, just because it’s on the way to the Castro. Sure, you’ll see a lot of gay men eating there. (But is that really a surprise to see gay men eating out in San Francisco?) Or maybe it’s because Chow is right next door to a gay bar (the Pilsner Inn, which often serves as a waiting area for people waiting for a table at Chow). But whenever I’ve visited there, I’ve always found a mixed crowd who are just hungry to chow down on Chow’s eclectic menu.

The Bohemian vibe of the Church Street location is reflected in the mix of food on the menu, from salads to diner classics to attempts at Pan-Asian cuisine like Thai noodles. On this visit, my lunch partner and I sat out in the patio area in the back. And yes, we were sitting next to a gay couple.
I started with the mussels, which were simply steamed with white wine, butter, onion and parsley. It was a huge starter, which is the signature of Chow: hearty food at reasonable prices. This is why people keep coming back over the years. Along with the large bowl of mussels was a big honking piece of garlic bread (well, the bread wasn’t actually making a honking noise, but you get my drift), which I heartily used to slurp up the juices of the mussels from my bowl.
For lunch I had the sausage pizza with goat cheese and red onions. It was the small individual size, and it was warm and satisfying—nothing spectacular but definitely filling. My lunch partner ordered the beef short ribs that were pure comfort food, from the fork-tender meat to the bed of mashed potatoes. I tasted a bit of it and found it slightly bland. Around our table, I watched as people ordered huge salads that came piled up on plates.
Other than the mussels, there weren’t that many memorable things about our lunch. But the food was fresh and you sure got a lot of it. For that, Chow is a nice fall back when you can’t decide which fancy new restaurant to try. You can always count on Chow to make sure you never go hungry in the city.

Single guy rating: 2 stars (perfect spot for bargain bites)

Explanation of the single guy's rating system:
1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner

Chow in San Francisco

1 comment:

Passionate Eater said...

Looks delicious! Although I've only been to the sister restaurant, Park Chow, it seems from your review that Chow is a stand-alone great place in and of itself!

And, I just died after reading about those mussels. Mmm.... Slurping mussel broth sounds so good now!