Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Breaking from the Crowd: Peninsula Chefs

As San Franciscans, we are very proud of our local culinary talents. "Big-box" and francises are frowned on and openly blocked at times. The irony - as you leave the city, folks assume all you have is McDonalds and second-rate chefs who couldn't "make it" in the city.

An interesting trend says the opposite: some chefs have tired of the city or come down the peninsula to do things their way, to find less expensive locations and to take root in smaller, growing downtowns.

My favorite example: The Refuge in San Carlos. The menu: burgers, pastrami, belgian beer, foie gras. Eclectic to say the least, but the shining stars are the beer and the pastrami. I can't say I was a huge fan of pastrami before - it was one of those "meh" things. However, I clearly had never had REAL pastrami - anything pastrami-based on the menu is stunning. The foie gras is always amazing and the seasonal changes to the menu give enough variety that if I ever wanted to try something else, I could. Vegetarians are not left out - there are usually a couple of vegetarian dishes and steamed veggies on the menu. But wait - it gets better! They have a nice covered outdoor area with heat lamps and they are dog-friendly!

In San Mateo, 231 Ellsworth boasts their chef left Masa's in San Francisco to join the peninsula crowd - and clearly, this has worked well for both the chef and the restaurant. They are both Michelin recommended and won the Opentable 2011 Diners' Choice award.

Do you have a favorite peninsula place that highlights an escapist chef? Please share it!

-- Happy Eating!


  1. SF sounds a lot like Portland in the aspect of looking down on franchises and big boxes.

    The Refuge, though, sounds like my kind of place. We have a place in Portland - Kenny and Zuke's - that makes fantastic pastrami, but they don't serve foie gras. :)

  2. Jason - you would love the Refuge. A certain dog owner we both know who was visiting a few months ago LOVED it. Pastrami, beer, foie gras. Really, do you need much more in life?