State Bird Provisions
It’s a strange name for a restaurant*, but apparently people don’t judge a restaurant by its name. Lines form around 5pm for a 5:30 opening. They take reservations, but only 2 months in advance, and the slots are all full.
The concept is interesting: lots of small plates served off of carts and trays, just like a dim sum palace. I love dim sum, and I also like the idea of seeing what my food looks like before I order it. That’s why I love sitting at counters in restaurants with open kitchens. It may also explain why my favorite restaurant as a kid was a neighborhood cafeteria called Ontra’s**. You know, the classy kind of joint where you point at the things you want to eat and carry them on a plastic tray to your table. I’m sure I liked it because I was only 5 or so, and it was hard to imagine your food from a description on a menu (especially since I just started reading too!)
So why wasn’t I delighted with the concept? Well, I grew up on dim sum and once you know your favorites, you know that you need to save room for them. But at State Bird they don’t give you a list of what they’re serving—you simply have to decide on the spot if it looks good enough to choose. As a result, we took some things early, and had to skip some things later, which actually looked tastier, but we were too full. Not really the fault of the concept. Turns out many of the plates made multiple rounds, so if we hadn’t been so hungry, we could have surveyed the options before choosing anything. But when the restaurant is packed and frenetic, you kind of feel like you need to be ordering while you can.
Anyway, they had some interesting dishes which you can see on my foodspotting site. Nothing completely knocked my socks off, but things were tasty. Yuba noodles are a new find for me (first tried at Eat Real), and I thought SB’s were pretty good.
Chili-spiced Yuba at State Bird Provisions
I don’t know that I’d line up to get in, but hey, if your nephew is kind enough to do so, by all means, check it out. And word to the wise: don’t just take the first things that come along. Good things come to those who wait!
*Yikes, I was just browsing the press on the State Bird Provisions site, and the SF Chronicle quote started with almost those exact same words! I didn’t poach them, honest!
** I can see I had remembered the name incorrectly, but one shouldn’t correct childhood memories.