There is a lot of controversy about the ongoing gentrification of San Francisco’s Western Addition neighborhood. This once poverty-stricken ghetto of a neighborhood has gradually turned into a highly sought after up-and-coming hot spot, where the rent has drastically increased in the last two years alone. But if you ask me, this revamping of the neighborhood (where I lived for the first three years of my life in San Francisco) has brought some tasty new businesses to this stretch of Divisadero. Some of my favorites include NOPA, Nopalito, Ragazza, The Little Chihuahua and of course, Bar Crudo.
In the spring of 2009 Bar Crudo relocated from a small spot north of the Union Square area to their current two-floor, mid-sized restaurant and raw bar on Divisadero and Grove. It’s almost always packed, the bar lined with eager diners waiting for a table (they take reservations). They also have one of the best happy hours in the city, where you can get a good glass of wine and a cup of their signature seafood chowder for only $10.00, amongst their other special deals offered from 5 to 6:30pm.
Not only is the chowder filled with a hefty amount of seafood (fish, mussels, squid, shrimp, plus potato and applewood smoked bacon), but the slightly spicy tomato-based broth is creamy and beyond delicious. It’s the best seafood chowder I have had West of Massachusetts, and I absolutely must get a cup every time I go (I’ve got a bowl once or twice, but it’s best to stick to a cup as it’s rather heavy).
But really everything on the menu is fantastic. Bar Crudo features an extensive selection of fresh oysters and shellfish, along with some raw, cold or hot options. One of my favorite cold dishes is the San Sebastian: a large array of tuna confit, asparagus, roasted red peppers, soft boiled egg, Castelvetrano olives, caper berries, Manchego and tomato bread. It’s big enough to share with one or two people, and has a deconstructed presentation so it’s easy to pair different ingredients together in one bite. I’ve also dined on the baby octopus salad with large white beans, potato, mint, and chili threads with a sherry vinaigrette. If you’re less than adventurous about eating octopus, not to worry! The squid is grilled perfectly and is not chewy at all.
The raw crudo sampler is a great appetizer to share before diving into a cup of seafood chowder. And if you get my favorite server, Drew, he will let you switch out one of the sampler options for the raw tuna. My favorite crudo dish is the arctic char, topped with horseradish crème fraiche, wasabi tobiko and dill – I could eat the tobiko by the spoonful.
They change the crudo selections based on what is available and the season. For example, the other night I had some ono with pomegranate seeds, chive, cucumber and some sort of spicy aioli. It’s clear that the chef makes an effort to prepare the crudo delicately with simple ingredients and beautiful presentation.
The ever-changing wine list is also something that should not go unnoticed. Whether you’re looking for a crisp white to go with some oysters or crudo, or you need a red with a little bit of bite to match up to the seafood chowder or Louisiana head-on prawns, there is something for every palate. And the price isn’t too bad either, especially if you’re there for happy hour. And if it’s beer you like, then you’re in luck because their beer list is actually larger than their wine list, featuring many local and Belgian brews.
I’ve turned on lots of friends to Bar Crudo, but the one who is most obsessed is GGD. She has been known to go more than once in a week, and at least once a month. In fact it was GGD who let me in on a little secret that Bar Crudo will be opening up a new spot in my beloved Russian River Valley next March. Looks like I’ll have to plan another long weekend in Healdsburg this Spring.