Ready for a scrumptious dive into Urban Tavern, a modern and hip gastropub and bar in San Francisco’s Union Square. Located in the Union Square Hilton in the center of the city, they offer a seasonal American menu, with a couple of great steak options, specialty cocktails made from indigenous spirits, Bay Area craft beers and 50 wines from within 50 miles.
Some of the more adventurous options on the menu include Candied Pork Belly, Ahi-Salmon Hamachi Poke, Devil Fried Duck Eggs, Wild Mushrooms and Blackened Cauliflower, to name a few house specialties.
Above, the candied pork belly – photo credit: Urban Tavern
A meal isn’t a meal to me without a salad, so we tried a couple of them, starting with the lightest first, the Little Gem salad with citrus, marcona almonds and black olives (below). This was followed by the oh so scrumptious Shaved Brussels Sprout salad, which they prepare with hericot vert, candied bacon (oh yeah), blueberries and pistachios. They top it with a blue cheese vinaigrette, although I spiced things up a little by adding just a little of their citrus-yogurt dressing, which they serve on their Spring Veggie salad. Both salads were divine!
For starters, I’d recommend our favorite dish of the night, which was their Braised Spanish Octopus, which they make with Chorizo, charred spring asparagus, wild mushrooms and a complete surprise in the concoction — small sweety drop peppers. LOVE THESE! The combination just worked.
If you’re not an octopus fan, imagine chicken wings with blue cheese sauce BUT in the form of a meatball. Their Chicken Meatballs appetizer tasted a bit like chicken wings; the chef prepares them in a spicy fresno sauce with gardiniera and whipped blue cheese. The 30% Italian in me loved it but note that it isn’t what you’d expect, so if you want meatballs like your Italian grandmother used to make, I’d skip this starter and order their Bolognese Pasta instead.
Above, the chicken meatballs.
Above, the Garganelli Pasta Bolognese, which we did not try. They prepare it with grilled tomatoes and micro feathered aged goat cheese. Sounds delish right? Credit above: Urban Tavern.
They also offer burgers and a Roasted Cauliflower Steak with marinated olives if you’re a steak lover. The largest and most decadent steak on the menu is their Brandt Beef Bavette Steak, which we tried. They serve it with crushed marble potatoes, wild mushrooms, blistered toy box tomatoes (we love these) and a scrumptious steak sauce. (below)
We paired it with the perfect red wine choice on the menu (by the glass that is), which was the Rutherford Ranch Cab from Napa. If we went with a bottle, I probably would have gone with the Freemark Abbey Cab, also from Napa.
While the steak was tender and we both loved it, I preferred my Smoke Kissed long and Bailey Pork Chop, which comes with garnet yams (one of my favorites), brussels sprouts, rhubarb relish and cracklings. It was incredibly tasty and I’d definitely order it again.
If we had more room, I would have opted to try their Spring Pea Soup – I mean, after all, who doesn’t love pea soup? There’s a twist to theirs in that they prepare it with puffed wild rice and mint creme. Yes, really. If you want something lighter and don’t want a big dog and pony meal, you can order a simple Shio Ramen bowl with soy pickled eggs, seaweed and yellow miso.
They’re apparently known for their cocktails and have another bar on the top floor that boasts sweeping views of the city. We arrived too late to take advantage of it, so we hope to return to check out the bar scene and late night scene, so stand by for a future update.
They have lots of local craft beers worth exploring if you’re not a cocktail or wine fan, including staple regulars most people would know like Sierra Nevada, Corona, Heineken and Budweiser. For the more adventurous however, try the Goose Island Urban Wheat Ale, the Lagunitas Aunt Sally dry hopped sour mash or the Napa Smith Pilsner.
After all of this decadent food, I hope you’re ready for dessert? We were surprised that we went for it, but the options sounded so delicious not to make an attempt. They also have dessert cocktails, like a classic Hot Ginger Toddy with Eagle Rare bourbon, liquid alchemist ginger syrup, honey meyer lemon bitters and hot water.
We skipped the after dinner drinks and dove right into coffee and sweets. If you have kids in tow or are simple a serious chocolate fan, they have Cookies and Milk which is berry n’ cream, chocolate fudge pecan, and a ginger lemon cream sandwich – whoah Nellie right? On the lighter side are seasonal gelatos and sorbets and if you’re a cheesecake lover, definitely order their Cotton cheesecake, which is made with pistachio granola and huckleberry jam, which I have loved since childhood.
We tried the TCHO Chocolate Budino (below) – I am a huge fan of the TCHO chocolates and the founders, who I met years ago at TED and who are local to the Bay Area. It is made with a stout spice cake, milk jam and a whipped mascarpone. The presentation is lovely too.
If you’re there for a special occasion however, I’d definitely recommend the gorgeous Berry Bomb, which is almost too pretty to eat. They whip it up with strawberry and ginger beer consume, yuzu creme brulee buttons and a raspberry chantilly. Wow right? We thought so. And, it tastes as good as it looks. Anthony polished it off.
The ambiance is very modern and well, urban…..but with antiquated wood fine touches throughout. Even on the walls……
Two thumbs up!! We’d definitely return. An added bonus to the evening was the staff. It’s hard to find really great service and a team that works well together to ensure you have a seamless evening without any glitches. They do it in spades.
Note: we were guests of the restaurant but all opinions expressed are entirely our own.