Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Garden Dining at Starbelly in San Francisco

This is an occasional report on return visits to restaurants that I’ve already reviewed.

Outdoor dining season begins — almost
3583 16th St. (at Market), San Francisco
Castro neighborhood
PH: 415.252.7500
Open Mon.–Fri., 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 10:30 a.m.–11 p.m. (till midnight on Friday and Saturday), weekend brunch served till 4 p.m.
Reservations, major credit cards accepted

Original visit: November 2009

We briefly had some spring weather in the Bay Area recently, but now we’re getting some spring showers. Still, you can start building your list of great places to eat outdoors, and I would put Starbelly in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood near the top of your list.

When I first visited this new neighborhood joint, I was seated in a tiny two-top in the front area by the bar. This time I returned with my friend Ken (who also ate with me the first time) and we requested the garden since it was such a beautiful day.

Walking to the back, Ken and I got a mini tour of the rest of the restaurant, which we didn’t get to see when we sat in the front. It really looks spacious and fun in the back.

The garden looks bright and cheery, with some potted plants and interesting vertical garden displays. The wooden planks guarded us from the outside noise, but didn’t enclose us into a humid greenhouse like I’ve experienced at other restaurants.

Ken and I were there for a few small plates since we were headed to another event. We started with some drinks. Inspired by the almost-summer weather, I got the Housemade Pimm’s Cup ($8), which my friend Sylvia introduced me to as a perfect summer drink. Made with a gin base and ginger soda, Starbelly’s version came with a slice of cucumber wrapped around the inside edge of the glass.

Ken ordered the Calimocho, which was his first time trying this drink that our server told us is very common in Paris (but Wikipedia says is originally from Spain). It’s a blend of red wine and cola, so it was festively presented at Starbelly in a Coca-Cola bottle in an ice bucket. Ken says he enjoyed it and felt very French.

For our food, Ken ordered the asparagus soup ($9), which was perfect for the spring, and included seasonal crab. He also ordered the Market Apple and Celery Root Salad ($8), which oddly had some green-colored dressing that looked like his asparagus soup. The celery root was sliced into strips that looked almost like pasta and garnished with dried cherries and pistachios.

I ordered the Little Gems Salad ($9), which I enjoyed the last time because of the hazelnuts. This time it got changed up by being a warm salad, with the little gems slightly wilted on the grill, and freshened up with oranges and goat's milk feta.

I also got the Grilled Local Sardines ($9), which was plump and tender served along with tangy roasted lemons, pimenton and capers. This tasted like a classic Mediterranean dish.

For a small side, I got the oven-roasted beets ($6), which had sprinklings of a soft and creamy chevre cheese that got partly tainted from the red beets to create a pretty pink blush.

It was a lot more fun dining in the garden, where the tables aren’t as packed as in the main dining area or squeezed bar area. With Starbelly’s refreshing drinks and seasonal small bites, this is a great place to hang out and enjoy the sun.

Update experience (previously 3.25 stars): Holding steady with its fresh ingredients and contemporary/casual ambiance.

Starbelly on Urbanspoon

Related reviews:
Beretta: “Hip to Cocktails and Pizza in the Mission”
Bar Bambino: “Sophisticated Italian in a Neighborhood Setting”
Flour + Water: “The Personal Touch to Your Pizza”


Cookie said...

It's such a bummer our spring weather only last a couple of days! Hopefully it'll return soon cuz it is COLD right now! I've never heard of this restaurant but the menu looks great. We'll have to go check it out once it gets nicer again. Thanks for the review!

agent713 said...

That whole meal looks amazing! I love the presentation of your drink.

I've done the coke and wine thing. Didn't know it was French...

foodhoe said...

That vertical succulent thing is cool. I love the castro, it's always warmer than other parts of the city... excellent to find a good outside spot with such delicious looking food.

Carolyn Jung said...

Good thing they didn't make you drink the red wine and Cola the traditional way in Spain -- by holding a large, long-neck pitcher a foot over your head and letting the stream of liquid shoot into your mouth. I was always too afraid to try that. The dry cleaning bills would be horrible. Hah.

Single Guy Ben said...

Carolyn, were you at some Spanish frat house? :P

Mrs. L said...

And it looks like the coke bottle used is one of the "Mexican" coke bottles!