Food & Wine

Embracing craft beer & small bites on Polk

Artisan bread & coffee in Dogpatch

By James Stolich

Although San Francisco’s craft beer movement is growing steadily,  history is littered with hoppy ventures that have gone flat. Ambitious projects such as Abbot’s Cellar in the Mission have since shuttered. And in 2014 Magnolia Brew Pub declared bankruptcy after opening Smoke Stack (they have remained open). This has not deterred Ted Kim (Steins Beer Garden & Restaurant in Mountain View) and his partners from opening Buffalo Theory on Polk Street, and with a stellar menu to boot. From craft beer we move to craft coffee, desserts and artisan bread at Tartine Bakery’s massive new manufactory project in ever-evolving Dogpatch.

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Buffalo Theory An exciting new eatery focusing on craft beer is now open at 1735 Polk Street at Clay, an area of the city that has experienced a real dearth of new restaurants. Owners Ted Kim, Quinn Wong and Gil Hoh have partnered with chef Tim Luym (Poleng Lounge, Attic) to create a playful menu of mostly small plates to complement a rotating list of 40 beers on tap.

The large, sleek industrial space is filled with curious antiques and San Francisco collectibles, including a vintage typewriter at the entrance with a typed missive that explains the “buffalo theory.” Buffalo cull the weak in their herd, thus making them stronger as a whole. Apparently, drinking beer and alcohol kills off the weaker brain cells first, making for better cerebral function. Who knew?

The lounge area features two comfortable leather banquettes where guests can mingle and wait for a table or a seat at the 10-person bar. If socializing isn’t your thing, you may choose to ogle the prominently featured mechanistic buffalo by local artist Luke Stevens.

Executive chef Tim Luym was a San Francisco Chronicle rising star chef in 2007 and won accolades for his Filipino-inspired food at the now-shuttered Poleng Lounge. At Buffalo Theory, Luym has devised a creative menu celebrating dishes from the likes of Italy, Spain and Japan, each melded together with a foundation of Filipino and Asian ingredients.

The brilliant “Aranchino,” a play on the Italian deep-fried risotto rice balls, takes panko-encrusted Asian sticky rice with mushrooms, shrimp and Chinese sausage and marries them beautifully with an X.O. aioli. The dish is inventive, fearless and delightful, a theme that extends to the beer-braised short rib shepherd’s pie. The twist on the UK classic incorporates Japanese curry, seasonal vegetables, mashed potatoes, Japanese yam and English peas.

Lighter fare includes a yellowtail tosazu crudo (wakame seaweed, Japanese cucumber, furikake, lemon zest) and crispy chicken wings with a classic adobo glaze. There is even a play on Spain’s white bean stew from Asturias—La Fabada—that includes braised Iacopi fava and gigante beans, longanisa sausage, pork and saffron.

The friendly staff has excellent command of the beer selections and is ready and willing to provide fun recommendations and parings. And if beer isn’t your thing, the wine list is good too. Buffalo Theory is open daily for dinner.

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Tartine Manufactory Some breads take longer than others to rise. After nearly two years in the making, Tartine Manufactory is now open inside the Heath Ceramics factory and showroom at 595 Alabama Street on the corner of 18th.

The 5,000-square-foot space houses a full spectrum of experiences, from a coffee shop (Coffee Manufactory) to an ice cream shop (Tartine Cookies and Cream), an expanded Tartine bakery and a full restaurant—all of which share seating.

The cavernous space was designed by LA-based design studio Commune and SF architect Charles Hemminger (Cala, State Bird Provisions) who thoughtfully integrated elements reclaimed from the original structure such as white marble, oiled Douglas fir and a ceiling filled with Noguchi paper lanterns. Japanese teahouses, Alpine lodges and Danish cafes all served as inspiration for the design.

All of Tartine’s breads are available throughout the day, multiple times, thanks to the expanded facility. The Coffee Manufactory serves pastries, Liège waffles, doughnuts, loaves of bread and breakfast sandwiches starting in the morning. The coffee beans from Verve Coffee are roasted in Berkeley and are available for purchase to take home. The restaurant offers grain bowls, salads, sandwiches, Roman-style pizza by the slice, porchetta and roast chicken. Dinner service with an expanded large plate format will begin soon.

Unlike the long, out-the-door line and cramped quarters at Tartine Bakery, a visit to the Manufactory is like entering an artist’s Zen workshop. Guests can see everyone at work and the additional space leaves room for more experimentation. Expect new types of bread and other fun goodies as the staff ramp up production. Pro tip: Don’t miss the warm porchetta and salsa verde panino.

James Stolich’s cookwithjames.com provides regional Italian and Spanish dishes for all occasions. He has been featured in urbandaddy.com, agencyspy.com and Jenn Garbee’s book Secret Suppers, about rogue chefs and their little-known culinary lives.

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