You can always go – downtown.
Okay, so that song really is better suited to New York – at least in my mind (there’s not much neon here, and downtown SF – especially the T-loin isn’t the place to forget all your troubles, forget all your cares).
When good things do come to the neighborhood, however, I like to support them (see my previous post on the market).
A few years back, McAllister Street welcomed Soluna Cafe. I know what you’re thinking. “A few years back? So it isn’t new, why blog it.” Because, the metroblog didn’t exist back then. Duh. And life is hard for restaurants – especially in that ‘hood. Now, if you don’t mind . . .
Soluna Cafe, at the corner of McAllister and Larkin, is a nice, almost reasonably priced venue providing the perfect refuge from the hard grayness of the Civic Center and “Civic Center Adjacent” areas. I’ve been there for lunch and dinner, and for my fair share of early morning coffee and bagel breaks. Today was my first lunch after an 8 month absence – so it’s possible dinner and morning offerings have changed (because my student discount certainly has. Dammit. That was a nice feature).
They describe their menu as “California Cuisine” – which calls to mind the scene in L.A. Story and basically means they serve, uh, food. With, you know, like, a salad and balsalmic and stuff. I’ve heard the dinner dishes described as “small plate” – though the price belies that shorthand for Americanized-tappas-order-and-share mentality that goes with the small plate trend.
Their website touts a 3 course “pre-performance” prix fixe menu for $23.95 – something I haven’t tried – but it gives an indication of their target clientelle. Soluna also offers after-dinner dancing and DJ’s – something I’ve noted on late nights on campus, but have yet to enjoy (they are frequently reserved for private parties, as well – something to keep in mind). Thursdays they offer “Twilight” from 6 – 10pm – a “type of dinner theater – a consortium of DJs and visual artists who come together to create delight for the eyes and ears while the kitchen, the bar crew, and service staff take care of the rest.”
Lunch is good – the menu is pretty standard – salads, sandwiches, etc. The burger is great. So is the BBQ pork sandwich. All are served with tasty garlic fries and a green salad (sparing you that awkward “I want the fries but I should order the salad” noontime decision-making agony). They have a limited selection of beers, but a full bar and coffee service almost make up for it. Lunch ranges from $8 to $15 and our lunch-for-two came to about $42 with tip (a bit pricey for the fare and setting).
Most servers I’ve encountered are friendly and helpful. We had a bit of a snippy waitress today, but not worth too much of a complaint.
Soluna isn’t the best value in the area – but the food is tasty, served efficiently, and it beats the pants off most everything else on the street (for those lacking time or drive to get to Hayes Valley). And from a social consciousness perspective, it’s a small business coming into an economically depressed area in an effort to build a tax base and keep opera, theater, and museum goers from taking the road more traveled to Chevy’s. For that alone, they deserve your consideration.