Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Locavore, Bernal Heights

I love beer bars. Love them. I love brewpubs, too. But what I'm really drawn to are local neighborhood spots that really care about the beer that they serve, even if they don't have thirty taps. If you have thirty taps, I'm probably a fan - but I can only drink a few beers in a night, you know? Variety is perfect, but sometimes I just want to walk into the place on my corner and find some really great beers.

I happen to live in an area of San Francisco that has just blown up with places like this. It's not really my style to write about restaurants, but I think it's worth highlighting places that are really making an effort. South End Grill & Bar, at the corner of 26th & Valencia, is one of my newest regular hangouts. Seven taps of good, local beer, affordable food, and a Warriors game on the television. I live on the same block as Pi Bar and have considered it my regular spot for over a year. Front Porch is my favorite restaurant on this end of town, and last night they had Double Daddy on cask. I'm really, really lucky - and even though these places (with the exception of Pi, perhaps) aren't "beer bars", they're worthy of very serious discussion.

The newest kid on the block for me is Locavore. Locavore (3215 Mission St., Bernal Heights) has been there for a few months now, but somehow its opening just passed me by. It's right at the corner of Mission and Valencia, next to the southern instance of Taqueria Cancun. True to its name, the idea behind Locavore is locally sourced products. They're a little behind the curve on this one: who isn't turning to local farms these days? It's pretty elitist to say, and for every local, sustainable restaurant there are probably twenty more that aren't - but local ingredients are nothing new, and it's a little surprising to me to see yet another restaurant opening whose entire selling point is based off of regionalism.

Criticism of mission aside, I think Locavore is a very good neighborhood spot, and I know I'll be back. I ordered a burger (medium rare) with cheese (I was told it was a "white American cheese") and a side of sauteed rapini. The rapini was a very good choice - sauteed with a whole garlic clove in what appeared to be a little olive oil and red pepper flakes. Not terribly inventive or challenging but very, very solid, and a hearty portion for the $3 side cost. The burger was cooked to my specifications, came on a fresh roll and was quite tasty. Very simple, so if you prefer a loaded-up burger, make sure you're adding extras.

This isn't a restaurant blog, though, is it? It isn't. It's a beer blog, and their beer list is a fairly extensive one. Four taps currently include Trumer Pils, Lagunitas Lil' Sumpin', Anchor Liberty, Bison Organic Gingerbread (incorrectly listed as "Bison Organic Ginger Beer" on the menu) and 20+ bottles give you quite a few options. True to the name of the place, everything is local. Sudwerk, Blue Frog, Moylan's, Black Diamond and Anchor are all included here.

Even with such a list, I have a few complaints - while the selection is good, it really feels like it's just meant to be a combination of local beers without much thought put into it. There are so many breweries within a 100 mile radius of this restaurant, and it's clear that they limited their choices to certain distributors and missed out on some really great opportunities. Speakeasy is two miles from Locavore. Russian River would have filled a couple of key holes on the menu. Four Blue Frog beers, three Sudwerk beers, five Moylan's/Marin beers - this is not to say that any of these are bad, just that the list looks really scattered and feels like it was whatever the distributor told them to buy instead of a carefully curated list.

It also doesn't feel like we're seeing much of a seasonal focus, which is too bad considering the theme of the restaurant. I know it's nearing the end of winter and this is sort of a transitional time on seasonal beers, but it's also the week before SF Beer Week and it would have been really nice to see a place that boasts 26 beer selections get more involved.

I am terribly grateful for the opportunity to be this choosy, however. To have so many options and get to say "why not them?" instead of whining that they aren't focusing locally at all is pretty great, but since we HAVE those opportunities, I just wish a little more attention was being paid to things. Kudos to the nod to Bison Brewing, whose products are quite in line with the idea of Locavore. I'm hopeful that this restaurant ages well and comes into their own, and I'm also hopeful that bottle list rotates and includes some more truly local options as they figure out their place in the community.


  1. From the folks at locavore:
    Thanks for including us on your beer blog and for offering your suggestions. Since your original blog, we have added to our draft lineup Linden Street Brewery and Drakes. We have also added Rabbit’s Foot Meadery’s Diabhal—although that’s mead and not beer. We are also working on adding new names to our spring lineup including a very, very small San Francisco brewery. Again thanks for writing about us.

  2. Great review, and good to see the restaurant responding in the comments. I'm a neighbor & Pi Bar regular, as well - haven't been to Locavore yet, but definitely on the list.

    Keep up the blog - just discovered it through Bay Area Beer Bloggers. Looking forward to more posts.