I have traveled to San Francisco many times since I was a child. My uncle (and mentor) has been here since his long-haired hippy days on the Haight in the 70′s. My last trip here in ’06 brought me to his new digs in the Mission far from the encroachment of commercialization that iconic neighborhoods like the Haight (and the E. Village for that matter) have been sullied by. The Mission was still an identifiably Hispanic, primarily Mexican neighborhood. In four short years Uncle George went from slumming it in a marginal neighborhood to being in the center of a cultural integration of old and new.
The Mission is now, like the Lower East Side has become…home to the young foodie movement. The abundance of young professionals buying and renting prime pieces of real estate has lured restaurateurs to open establishments that play to the tastes of this new wine and cheese demographic. I attempted to get a table at Beretta on Valencia on Monday night and was shocked to see the place brimming with life, people waiting for tables at 9:00pm. The same was true at Flour and Water on Harrison on Wednesday. I didn’t have to wander too far to find Heirloom. Matt Straus, formerly the wine director at Wilshire Restaurant in Santa Monica opened Heirloom in a formerly dark space on the corner of Folsom and 21st.
At Heirloom the sparse menu was put together with careful and thoughtful combinations like the complex yet satisfying pasta dish both George and I ordered (although his variation was meatless). It was a fresh orrechiette with rapini, cannellini beans, cubed, roasted poblano chilis, English peas, bacon and sweet Italian sausage. Just as it’s ingredients suggested it was a successful marriage of European and California cuisines and the fact that it worked both with and without the meat hammered home that point.
I also began with a simple mushroom and bacon tart that I paired with a glass of Rioja that was earmarked on the prix fixe menu for the evening’s steak special. The gift of being able to select affordable, excellent wines to highlight the menu was obviously a strength at Heirloom.
The room was airy and light and I commented that the energy and the feel of the restaurant and it’s menu reminded me of Prune in NY. We sat at a large communal table that I was not really happy about at first but they were spacious enough to accommodate diners and their conversations in a comfortable way.
I have found no incentive to leave the Mission on this trip to my second favorite city in the world. Phil’z “One Cup at a Time” coffee, where I sit and write this has provided me enough of a caffeine jolt (and one damn good breakfast burrito) to continue my exploration of the food scene here on my last day. I will battle the raindrops and head out to see what other gems I can find today.