What is in this article?:
It’s quite simple: Customers are drawn to cool restaurants because it makes them cool by association. What gives a restaurant that “it” factor? Check out these five concepts that have taken cool all the way to the bank.
State Bird Provisions, San Francisco
Principals: Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski, chef proprietors
Concept: Creative food using local ingredients in an industrial space.
Hook: Imaginative presentations served dim-sum style.
• Quail (the restaurant’s namesake, the state bird of California) deep-fried in a buttermilk batter and served on lemon-stewed tomatoes. $9/$18)
Prices: Most items on the dim-sum carts are under $5.
Why it's cool: Rolling dim sum-style carts allow guests to make choices throughout their meal. “The place is friendly, full of vitality and everyone sits and waits to see what the next rolling dim-sum cart will carry,” writes John Mariani of Esquire. Although there is a traditional menu as well, “It is very hard to go wrong with anything from those carts,” he says. The servers are knowledgeable and well taught, describing State Bird Provisions’ elaborate offerings to rapt diners.
The restaurant, from owner-chefs Nicole Krasinski and Stuart Brioza (both of the former Rubicon) has earned wide praise. Zagat named it one of the Ten Hottest Restaurants in the World; Bon Apetit and the James Beard Foundation each called it the “best new restaurant in the country.”
The small restaurant opened so strongly that it quickly took over the vacant space next door to expand by 12 seats for a total of 60.
The bare space, with unfinished cement walls, 1970s-era peg boards and simple, utilitarian chairs, provides the perfect setting for Brioza and Krasinski’s complex offerings. State Bird Provisions is serious food in a playful package.
The menu changes all the time, but examples include roasted bone marrow with chanterelles and pink peppercorn; deep-fried spicy cauliflower with blue cheese and fermented green tomatoes; a half-dozen cast iron quail eggs on apples, sunchokes and Mount Tam cheese; and rabbit and fontina croquettes served like lollipops on wooden sticks.
The couple loves to cook versions of pancakes found in every culture. They serve as a perfect canvas for all sorts of sweet and savory flavors, including black cod with paprika sauce, or duck ham-maitake, pecans and kumquat mustard.
Michael Bauer, in the San Francisco Chronicle, said he thinks the food has actually improved since the restaurant’s stellar opening. He adds, “It seems that just about everyone in the food world is showing up at the door. It’s the type of place that makes chefs stand up and take notice: The food and the entire concept are original.”
One last lesson in cool: Borrow an idea from one style of restaurant (the dim-sum cart) and offer it in a completely surprising way. Something old can seem so new.