The Front Porch - 65 A 29th St @ Misson - San Francisco
Southern Style Food to Feed Your Soul
Last week my friend Penny and I were looking for a cheap place place to eat with a relaxed vibe so we could catch up after not having seen each other for far too long.
The Front Porch is a new place headed in the kitchen by Sarah Kirnon whose food we had previously found interesting at Emmy's Spaghetti Shack. I'd gotten wind of the opening on Chowhound and since it was in my friend's locale we decided to give it a try.
No reservations are taken for parties of less than 5, so when we arrived at 8pm we weren't surprised that we had to wait a while at the bar for a table. Since the bar tender was a fun, friendly and engaging guy, there are coat hooks (hooray!), the stools were comfortable and the drinks were pitched at a budget-friendly level, this was no hardship. One of his angles is to serve wines by the 'deuce', a name inspired by the fact that the carafe the wine is served in, is the perfect size for two people to share. We opted for Three Thieves Pinot Noir, which is an easy, drinkable wine that you can look upon as a bargain ($9 for the deuce) in a restaurant setting and if you forget how cheap it is retail. As you might expect from the name of the restaurant, there is also a front porch where guests can sit with drinks pre or post dinner.
After a wait of more than 30 minutes we were shown to a great 4-top up a couple of steps in the back section of the restatuant with a view both into the kitchen and also across the main part of the restaurant below. For those sitting against the wall in this section, the very comfortable banquettes are fashioned from what appear to be car seats with seatbelts still attached, although anyone facing the other way will have to make do with a regular chair.
I like that the tap water is brought in recycled wine jugs and that there is a bottle of homemade ketchup on the table. Since I am English, and not a cornbread aficionado, I am not going to judge the dinky little ear-shaped cornbreads served with jalapeno butter except to say they look cute.
We started with the ceviche with traditional bajan 'tings' $5 presented with a side of crisp, salty chips. This was a fresh, crunchy, mainly cucumber version, sparsely populated with little bites of seafood. It was spicy hot to the extent that we couldn't pick out the flavours of any individual ingredients since they were universally overwhelmed by the too persistant heat.
Deep-fried chicken livers with onion gravy on toasted brioche $6, were the antithesis of the ceviche, contrasting its sharp, bright flavours with a soft, luxurious palette of textures. A thick slab of brioche toast played backdrop to four large, succulent chicken livers and was the perfect vehicle for mopping up the sweet, soft onions and gravy. The overall lasting impression was of caramel, butter and comfort in a dish that could contend to convert the normally offal-shy.
The heady aroma of frying chicken wafting through the restaurant was enough to tempt us, a pair who seldom eat chicken, to order miss ollie's organic fried chicken with choice of a side $11.00. Presented in a basket, the two fat pieces of moist tasty chicken, were coated with a thick, crunchy savoury crust that we both enjoyed a lot. We selected the green leaf salad with a sugarcane mustard dressing as our side. It was a generous portion of large, pale butter lettuce leaves but I found the dressing rather too thick and cloying because of its sweetness.
Our other order, a bowl of dungeness crab and sweet white corn grit porridge with habanero, lemon and scallion 11.50, was my favourite item on the menu, although after a few mouthfuls Penny decided it was too rich for her tastes. This dish, intensely flavoured mainly due to the vibrant lemon component, delivers a hefty blow to your pleasantly surprised tastebuds which end up reeling from the shock of not quite knowing what hit them. Texturally, the porridge is soft and fluid so splitting dishes, as we did, is a good idea. That way you can choose to contrast the crunch of the chicken coating with the smoothness of the grits.
Although the wait staff seemed a little bit rushed off their feet, they were nevertheless friendly and pleasant throughout the evening. The Front Porch has a lively, relaxed atmosphere, so much so that it almost felt like being on a timeless vacation for a few hours. And since it was a bargain bucket kind of holiday - the check was only $45 - The Front Porch is a destination I'd definitely return to, given a choice.
= 1 visit. This review was a First Impression.
Current Menu | The Front Porch: 65 A 29th Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
PS - Not everyone has been having such good times during the opening weeks at The Front Porch. Initial reviews found online at Yelp and Chowhound, for example, report on a wide-ranging mixed bag of experiences.