We were thrilled when offered an opportunity to review The Dorian in the heart of San Francisco, because it is an artsy and hip establishment that brings you back in time while adding the comfort of modern frills and cocktails. An ode to a bygone era, think of The Dorian as a modern day parlor for bohemians, libertines and freethinkers.
The fare is delicious but the ambiance is what will have you at hello when you first walk in the door. If you’re the kind of person who loves fine whiskey and craft martinis while sitting among a turn-of-the-century Victorian manor, then The Dorian is a must visit for you.
While old fashioned cocktails are a big thing here, they also offer fifty or so wines by the bottle (both domestic and imported vintages) as well as locally sourced craft beers.
Cocktails at The Dorian
The Dorian appears to attract the young and the trendy of San Francisco’s dining clientele. Smack in the middle of Chestnut Street, there’s no shortage of chic bars, restaurants, cafes and shops up and down the street.
Start with a cocktail because they’re known for them or a classic Gibson Martini. “Cocktails are quite popular here,” says current general manager Ryan Young, who brought us two watermelon slush drinks when we sat down at our cozy square booth table against the wall in the main dining room.
Anthony loves Pina Coladas (anything with coconut really), so had to order the Pina Marina, which is the clear version of a Pina Colada really….it comes with white rum, Kalani coconut, pineapple de Caribbean and coconut foam.
I started with the fairly strong tasting Skinny Dip, which they make with tequila blanco, watermelon, port lemon and IPA. Yes, really — they top if off with a l’il IPA beer. After oysters and apps arrived, I quickly moved onto the San Fran Summer, which they make with tequila, mezcal, cucumber juice, agave, and serrano tincture. Yup, I’m a tequila fan and well, it was so beautiful to look at as well.
One additional note for oyster fans — they have Happy Hour $1 oysters from Tuesday to Friday between 4:30 pm and 6:00 pm.
Food at The Dorian
The Dorian has a great bar scene that opens up into the street, where there’s also a few outdoor tables as well. We went in August and while it may seem like a warm time of year for other Americans, those who know San Francisco well know that August tends to be one of the chillier months of the year because of the city’s micro-climate.
Because it’s the kind of place you’d spend an evening “out” rather than grab a quick meal, you could try it as a “date night out” (hang out at the bar before or after your meal for drinks) or actually sit at the bar and order their famous Dorian burger, which comes with fancy sauce, white cheddar bacon-onion jam and fries. If you’re not watching your diet, this is a great option, especially with a friend at the bar.
Did I mention that you can add bacon, fried egg or avocado to your burger?
There’s no shortage of beer and plenty of European and American wine options by the glass and bottle. While we didn’t opt to do wine pairings for this review, they did offer a wonderful Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay by the glass, both from Sonoma County which would go well with either the oysters or the Ahi Poke Tacos which I had to try right out of the gate. They’re made with Crispy Wonton, Avocado and Sesame Ponzu.
I knew Anthony couldn’t get out the door without diving into their Grilled Artichoke, which is apparently fairly new on the menu. The added caper garlic aioli is a special treat.
While we didn’t try it, they offer a Devil’s Egg under their Snack menu. Here’s why you may want to order it even though we were too full to indulge: they serve it with applewood bacon, crispy shallots and chipotle (wow, right?) Apparently their white bean hummus is also a popular snack, which they make with roasted red pepper relish.
It seems as if Anthony and I can’t get out of a restaurant without devouring an entire plate of brussels sprouts if a restaurant has one on the menu. What’s odd is that I’m not really a huge fan of brussels sprouts, however it’s a great measure of what a chef can do, because it’s not easy to make them melt in your mouth.
Of course, they caramelize them here, but not with maple syrup like a recent one we tried, but with orange-honey glaze and toasted hazelnuts. There’s so much wow here and a definite recommend!
For vegetarians, go for their California Stone Fruit & Quinoa, which they make with smoked almonds, fine herbs, shallots and compressed cucumber. How healthy, right? If you’re a meat lover, then the Writer’s Block Artisan-cured meat and cheese plate is a must or their Liberty Farms Duck Wings, which we must try next time! We saw several of them in waiter’s hands flying by us heading to other guests’ tables.
On the Saturday evening we were there, they offered two seafood options so we ordered them both: Summer Cioppino and Campfire trout. The chef wanted us to taste the Cioppino and boy are we glad we listed to the recommendation. The sauce was so heavenly, it was hard to put our forks down. The compilation consisted of prawns, little neck clams, pei mussels, and roasted fennel. We love that they included some grilled San Francisco sourdough bread to absorb all of that delicious sauce.
Lastly, the Campfire Trout is both grilled and smoked (smoked afterwards btw) and you can smell the aroma as they lift the decadent silver cover from the plate. The pearl onions that accompanied the dish just melted in our mouths.
Coated in a buerre blanc sauce, they paired it with cauliflower and red bliss potato sides. The dish ended up being our favorite, which quite frankly surprised both of us, especially after the Cioppino, which we thought would be the one to win the evening. My recommendation: order both! You won’t be disappointed.
The Dorian Themed Events
They also have unique events throughout the day which are themed, like Rocks & Rose Tuesdays (half off Rose and oysters), Bourbon Burger & Brew Wednesdays, and Night Owl Thursdays featuring old fashioned drinks.
They like to say that it’s “the kind of place where Oscar Wilde might’ve dropped in for a drink or Jerry Thomas would have tended the bar.” Think quintessential San Francisco meets old world and culture.
Event Update: The Dorian will host a Mimosa Mayhem Brunch Party on Saturday, August 18 from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. with live music, plus Mimosas being served for just $5.00 each from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.
Behind the decor and design is Shelly Amoroso. Think Victorian with rich colors and textural wallpapers, mixed with brass and concrete surfaces. There are built in-panels with hand-sourced antique artifacts and art, and a chandelier in the middle. The main bar has brass accents with beautiful rich teals and purples and upstairs, the study incorporates leather and dark woods. Depending on your mood and the time of day, you can opt for a banquette, booth or a round settee.
The Dorian is open Tuesday through Sunday and offer brunch on the weekends. For more details and their latest menu, be sure to visit their website. Also be sure to visit our Food/Wine section as well as our Restaurant reviews.
2001 Chestnut Street
San Francisco, CA 94123
Note: we were hosted by the restaurant but all opinions expressed are entirely our own.