One of my favourite restaurants in town, I’ve been going to Blue Plate since it opened in 1999 and began serving its wonderful, hearty neo-American fare with plays on old classics like Meatloaf and Fried Chicken. Today, it can still pack in a crowd, so that last-minute reservations on a Friday night yielded only a 9:15 opening, but we were able to get seated around 9 or so by arriving around 8:45 and waiting for a couple of the counter seats.
Long and narrow, Blue Plate resembles many small neighbourhood SF restaurants in that the space it’s housed in may have started out as a residence. A dark and narrow entrance is dominated by the kitchen and counter seats in the middle. My favourite tables are in the alcoves that flank either side of the door, directly under the restaurant’s two front-facing windows. During daylight hours the “Blue Room” in the back is pleasant as well – gorgeous and serene and able to accommodate a largish party.
But we had never sat at the counter before and this round enjoyed ourselves so very thoroughly. My one regret is not ordering the fantastic-sounding pork belly dish that came with a soft egg and fried capers – especially when we saw the garde manger station making several of them before us – but DD managed to help me stay good.
Like Nopa, Blue Plate has a menu that changes but retains standard beloved items over time. Their meatloaf, for instance, is a fixture, as is their macaroni and cheese – of late it’s incarnation as “drunken goat” mac and cheese has been quite popular with customers – every single party at the counter that evening at least, was making their way through at least one of the small crocks of cheese and pasta.
I will always want to order the grilled squid – it’s always sooo good and sooo well cooked, perfectly tender, with those great smokey grill marks and accompaniments of of black olive gribiche, meyer lemon, thinly-mandolined black radishes and upland cress. The meyer lemon came in the form of a gel – almost a nod to modern molecular techniques – which surprised and pleased us. Though this dish had been another of the reliable old standbys, the kitchen staff was not beyond tweaking and experimenting, it seemed.
Another seasonal salad, made of beautiful heirloom tomatoes, painted serpent cucumbers and a pecorino panna cotta, came with basil seeds, elegantly draped over the creamy ‘cotta.
I recall one visit where Pimentos de Padron were on the menu – they came artfully scorched and seared and served with great fluffy clumps of goat cheese and marcona almonds in a bit of a messy heap. This time, the goat cheese had been rolled into a log, smoked, and then covered with some chopped marconas – much better presentation, and even complimentary, as the kitchen wanted to apologise for keeping us waiting for our entrees too long (we didn’t notice the wait).
DD had chosen the Lamb Ravioli as his entree – and they came in an amazing concentrated broth that tasted like they had reduced several dozen pounds of bones to make one or two cupfuls of the sauce – it tasted so good, so very truly reflecting essence of lamb. The ravioli were large and stuffed, almost the size of meatballs underneath the almost cursory dough covers. The chefs thoughtfully provided bits of pickled fennel, fava beans, radishes and shaved rainbow carrots to help cut the richness and provide textural variation.
And I, well, I simply can’t pass up their fried chicken, though by the time the entrees reached us I was stuffed , what with the extra appetizer of pimentos de padron… The fried chicken is always well done and fantastic: 3 generous, well-seasoned and well-coated crunchy pieces of boneless chicken thighs accompanied by creamed corn, sauteed greens (that night it was chard), and a piquant jalapeno buttermilk ranch-style dressing. While the chicken definitely shone, the creamed corn also stood out since it was hot, but barely so, and it was still crunchy and crisp, as if it had just been shucked. I’m not always a fan of cooked corn since incorrectly done, the corn becomes tough and limp; not so with Blue Plate’s rendition. Two pieces of chicken and its fixins became a nice lunch for both DD and I the next day.
Like Outerlands in the Outer Sunset, Blue Plate may seem primarily accessible only to folks from the immediate neighbourhood, but believe you me – it’s worth the short trek to the Outer Mission to dine here.
3218 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94110