For my friends that live in the city (or even venture out when you’re up here occasionally), you know that going out on a Saturday night can be tough if not planned in advance. I’m not talking about the dive bar night out, complete with $5 canned beers, BuckHunter/Shuffle Board/etc, and pizza at the end of the night. I’m talking about an actual night out, they way the girls and I like to do it.
A few weeks ago, my girlfriend R texted us in the afternoon on a Saturday, to find out if we wanted to go out in the Mission with a few people in our group. If you do it right, a night out in the Mission includes a fantastic restaurant (typically with major hype or a Michelin star rating), and a few cool drinking spots before or after. R and I are on the same page about these kinds of things, so naturally I coaxed the man away from the TV and into a cab a few hours later, and we headed to the Mission without a reservation of any kind (read: this would likely turn into a walk-in dinner at midnight – yikes).
We all met up at a very cool pop-up bar in a loft space, and the next thing we knew, we were at Trick Dog Bar down the block (20th and Alabama, for those keeping track at home). Let me start by saying that I tend to hate bars with hype, particularly in SF – too many people, artisanal drinks take 20 minutes each to make, and by the time you’re finished with one $20 cocktail, you’re exhausted from defending your personal space and listening to hipsters talk about coffee and The Black Keys. Trick Dog is none of those things. Its loud and fairly large, and super rad – the inside looks like a Chinese restaurant. I had a fantastic glass of pinot in a vintage glass in hand within five minutes, and our friend group had a great time huddled in a circle in the middle of the eccentric space. Definitely recommend Trick Dog over most of the other spots in the Mission – check it out.
Let’s talk dinner: as you know, I’m a huge fan of Italian and bistro food, so we had put our names on waiting lists at both Beretta (a favorite of mine, you HAVE to try their pancetta gnocchi) and Flour + Water (“Can you come back at 10:30 and we’ll see if we can get you a table, please?”). Our group wasn’t interested in waiting another 2-3 hours to eat, no matter HOW good the menus looked – so we got creative. Many people are familiar with Universal Cafe (19th Street, between Florida and Bryant) for their brunch scene – but have you ever been there for dinner? Given that it was so close to the bar, we decided to walk over and see what the wait time looked like. We were excited to walk in and wait less than twenty minutes – and the food ended up being pretty extraordinary, as well.
They sat us at a long marble table, and we tucked into a series of appetizers (like buratta and sunchokes, steamed mussels and grilled mushrooms) and mains (the roasted pork tagliatelle was the winner). We then finished with the best dessert I’ve had in recent memory. Have you ever had a pluot+strawberry crisp a la mode? Swoon-worthy. R and I almost ordered another before leaving! Though I’m a marina girl at heart, I have to say: the next time you find yourself in the city without a reservation, check out both Trick Dog and Universal Cafe for a perfect night out in the Mission.