Tuesday, March 25, 2014

At TBD, A Warm Hearth and Low ABV Cocktails That Pack a Tasty Punch

One of my guilty home fantasies is to have a fireplace. A big, warm hearth to gather around when the San Francisco fog rolls in—and also so I can burn that perennial almond wood from Whole Foods that always looks so good. But as a city dweller, this is far fetched. Luckily, with the opening of TBD in SOMA, I think I might have found a dream come true.

TBD is the second restaurant project by the young, energetic, and enterprising team that opened the seasonally focused AQ restaurant—which incidentally is right next door to TBD in SOMA.

And if AQ is affordable fine dining, owner Matt Semmelhack and chef Mark Liberman have now opened an even more casual environment in TBD, a place where guests can find hearty seasonal meats and other grilled delicacies, a communal place to gather around an urban hearth, and easy, culinary-style cocktails. Yes, this is where I’m going to get my fireplace fix.

It’s the perfect place for when you want to get a bit, well, lodge-y. The dominant feature in the narrow space is a dramatic open grill, where on open flames cooks grill nice slices of locally source filets and farmers-market-fresh vegetables.

Patrons have a choice of sitting at the bar in front of the open oven or at dining tables either on the ground floor on a loft level looking down into the open kitchen.

Tim Zohn, acclaimed bar director from sister restaurant AQ, takes up the cocktails at TBD. “The cocktails here shouldn’t compete with next door’s program,” he said. “I wanted to do something totally different.”

And to Tim, that meant putting a fresh spotlight on the ever more popular low-ABV cocktails, drinks that rely on wines, beers, and bitters instead of more traditional hard liquors.

Tim calls these drinks "Loopholes." Isn't that cute?

Tim first became interested in low-ABV cocktails when he was designing the bar menu at AQ, before it got its liquor license.

But, at TBD, the reason for Loopholes is not that the spot had trouble getting the highly coveted liquor license, says Zohn. Rather, TBD is the place to find a fresh look at how great tasting drinks can be made with these sometimes denigrated ingredients. Plus, they go pretty great with food.

Of note, this cocktail program is paired with a robust sherry selection, handpicked by AQ sommelier Kristen Capella—something Josh and I are particularly excited about. (Sherry’s time in the sun has been long overdue!)

I tried of few of these cocktails.

First, the Porter Old Fashioned

The cleverly named Nogroni (opposed to the Negroni because this one has no gin, swapping out the spirit for bitters). Like a Negroni, it's bright and rich, but a little more spicy.

Something not on the menu, but a drink I highly recommend if you catch Tim: a Beergarita! It's sparkling, bright, dry, a little savory (from the wheat), and refreshing!


In addition to the drinks, TBD boasts a delightful menu with small, medium, and large share plates focusing on grilled items. The menu is divided into several categories: raw, smoked, hearth and embers, grill, plancha, and sweet.

This dish of cured wild salmon, rye waffle, and dill was particularly delicious. The waffle was satisfyingly crunchy and a little chewy, perfectly sweet with the rich flakes of fish.

TBD San Francisco

The bread, butter, and seaweed offers a really nice vegetarian small plate. The butter is bright and fresh and the seaweed is crunchy and briny.

TBD San Francisco, Bread Butter Seaweed

I also ordered the aged beef sirloin, which was a dense, rich cut cooked perfectly pink.

TBD San Francisco, Aged Beef Sirloin

Cooked on this beautiful grill, no doubt!


And finished with "smores"—satisfyingly smokey and with crunchy chicory!

TBD San Francisco, S'Mores

And super moist dutch oven cake!


TBD in action:


See more pictures in our gallery here:

1077 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 431-1826

Posted by Noelle

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Meet the Cocktails: Holy Water

Holy Water bar

Bernal Height's newest (only?) cocktail bar, Holy Water is meant to be a neighborhood bar, but after our visit last week, I think it's well worth a trip from across town. Here, we found some refreshingly simple, classic cocktails beautifully made, some serious tiki favorites, and carefully curated California beers in an enjoyable, casual atmosphere.

John Ottoman, below, owns Holy Water, along with a team that was is also involved with Bloodhound, Prize Fighter, and Brass Tacks.

John specifically designed this bar to fit into the neighborhood, Bernal Heights, which is known as a cozy community within San Francisco. As a result, the cocktails on the menu are all $9 classics, perfectly executed (no exaggeration––they're flawless). The beer selection is on par with Monk's Kettle in terms of quality. He tries to keep all of his beers local, and they rotate semi-regularly. If you're looking for rare or unusual beers, you'll find them here. (I had a great sour ale, for instance.) The specials also make Holy Water a great local spot or destination. If you can't read it, that sign says "Shot + Beer $7."

It's the perfect place for a chill night with tasty drinks! (Or maybe before or after one of our favorite restaurants ever, Ichi Sushi, which just opened a bigger space!)

Now meet some of the cocktails!

Turf Club: gin, french vermouth, maraschino, orange bitters. If I had to choose one drink to prove that John Ottoman is a master of his craft, I'd pick the Turf Club. A bit of a riff on the martini, it has that same clean, crisp character—with a bit more sweet flair from the maraschino.

Jungle Bird: black rum, pineapple, Campari, lime. I've always loved the Jungle Bird, but I've never had one quite like this. They use a brighter pineapple at Holy Water, which makes the drink taste brighter than usual. The brightness of the pineapple complements the Campari perfectly, leaving you with a semi-dry, pineappley finish. It's fantastic.

Mexican Firing Squad: tequila, grenadine, lime. This is another drink that left me floored. The three ingredients were so expertly mixed that the drink tasted better than the sum of its parts. The Mexican Firing Squad, like the other drinks, is bright and crisp. The tart grenadine and smoky mezcal leaves you smacking your lips and going back for more.

Holy Water, Mexican Firing Squad

After the Gold Rush: bourbon, pineapple, apricot, lime. Following the flavor profile of the other drinks, the After the Gold Rush cocktail is bright and clean. The bourbon complicates it, though, adding a more richness to the cocktail. Absolutely delicious.

All in all, Holy Water is either the perfect neighborhood spot or a destination well worth the trip. It's vibe is casual, beer selection epic, and cocktails endlessly pleasing. Go to there as soon as you can.

Holy Water

309 Cortland Ave
San Francisco, CA 94110
Open Mon - Fri, 4 p.m. - 2 a.m.; Sat & Sun, 2 p.m. - 2 a.m.

Posted by Josh and Noelle

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Heaven's Dog Re-Opens: A Small Peek at The Coachman

Anyone who has ever seen the TV show Cheers knows what it’s like to have A Place.

It doesn’t have to be a bar. It could be a coffee shop or a lunch place, a tea shop or maybe even a favorite stretch of beach. It’s a place where, well, yeah—everybody knows your name. You know the people there; they know you. You feel so comfortable there you could find the bathroom blind. And you already know what comes next in the Spotify/Pandora list.

Have you ever had a place like that? Well, for us, that was Heaven’s Dog.

Josh and I have shared countless memories at Heaven’s Dog. We first started going there in 2009—that first time we met Erik Adkins thinking he was a bouncer (and were stunned out of our minds when he ran behind the bar and made a Remember the Maine for me and a Bittered Sling for Josh; funnily, we switched cocktails. The Bittered Sling would instantly become one of my favorite cocktails).

And we’ve gone ever since. Since opening, the staff was stacked with an all-star team. And it soon became storied and cherished place among industry professionals, who would head down to the SOMA “hole in the wall” if they got cut early.

Then one cold day in November, we pulled up for a quick mid-week night cap, and the place was dark. There was a handwritten note on the door: “Closed tonight.” We would later find out that there was a flood in the building forcing the restaurant to temporarily close.

Days passed. Weeks passed. Months passed. A year passed.

And we soon learned that Charles Phan—owner of Heaven’s Dog and of the famous Slanted Door Group in San Francisco—had greater plans for the restaurant, renovating the whole space for a new concept: British pub.

This week Heaven’s Dog finally reopened as The Coachman.

As beverage director of the Slanted Door Group, Erik Adkins is steering the bar program with John Codd in the esteemed position of bar manager (formerly of 15 Romolo and former bar manager of now-closed Slanted Door sister restaurant Wo Hing). The food is expected to be English steakhouse style—with prime rib, pies, Yorkshire pudding, and modern twists on bangers and mash.

We haven’t seen the space fully operating yet, but here we offer a little sneak peek from the opening event.

There are some notable changes to the space.

The private glass dining room has been knocked down, as well as the office space behind it, creating a much longer and open dining room.

Mall-goers might recognize this handsome back wall, which used to be at the Out the Door restaurant in the Westfield.


The back bar has been changed up a bit, too. The long glass shelves have been replaced by modern looking boxes—either a similar design to the now-closed Wo Hing or maybe even taken from it.

The long, gorgeous bar—all one piece of wood—remains intact, looking good as ever.


Hand pumps have been installed for the cask ale program. This warmer style of beer service was something I grew fond of in London, and I’m excited to see it brought to The Coachman.

Three cocktails at the event were offered up as a hint of what’s to come (please note, different glassware and garnishes will be used during full service).

The Pineapple Julep, a bright, tasty and refreshing drink of Bols genever, spiced and roasted pineapple, maraschino liqueur, and crushed ice —a Jerry Thomas classic that tastes of tiki meets American old school.


Wall-E-Bear, a smooth rum drink with a little bit of funk. Made from Aniversario pampero rum, fino sherry, negroni reduction, and yellow chartreuse.


And Knickerbocker, another bright cocktail of Appleton A/X Jamaican Rum, Strawberry, Kina, lemon, and sparkling wine, easy to drink, especially with food.


We’ll tell you more as we get to know The Coachman better. But for now: Welcome to the world, The Coachman!

The Coachman
1148 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 831-1701