Many people assume hotel restaurants aren’t very good. Yet in cities like New York, Los Angeles, and certainly, San Francisco, some of the best food in town can be found in hotel restaurants.
A case in point is Urban Tavern. It opened in 2008 and shares space with the San Francisco Hilton (although you wouldn’t know it unless you go to the restroom located in the hotel lobby.) Executive chef, Colin Duggan, runs the kitchen at this sleek, contemporary gastro-pub, and it’s been popular from the start. Duggan has always showcased American cuisine prepared with seasonal ingredients obtained from farms and purveyors within reach of the Bay Area, and his new fall menu reflects this focus with the addition of several hearty dishes perfect for a chilly autumn day or evening.
Fall menu highlights include chili made with grass-fed, all natural beef from the Painted Hills Ranch ($10 for a starter); venison tenderloin with a puree blanc, wild mushrooms, barley, and a Madeira wine reduction ($32); and “upside down” shepherd’s pie — buttermilk mashed potatoes and English peas topped with two lamb patties ($18). A vegetarian option is the barley risotto with pumpkin and celery root ($15).
These are some of the most delicious sides I’ve ever eaten — cauliflower gratin, Brussels sprouts with bacon, and roasted pumpkin with brown butter and sage, all for $6. Don’t miss the “potted egg,” featuring baked Bellwether Farms ricotta cheese with a free-range egg in the center topped with sautéed chanterelle mushrooms ($6 as a starter). It’s the ultimate warm, rich comfort food. Fall soups include French onion with a cave-aged Gruyere crouton and potato leek ($9–$10).
In addition to the new fall menu, Urban Tavern has also unveiled a custom-bottled Zinfandel produced by Napa and Sonoma winemaker, Jeff Morgan, priced at $48 a bottle or $12 a glass. General manager and sommelier, Steven Kleinfeld, describes the wine as “full and rich, fruit forward with an earthy complex nose.” I would simply say it’s ripe with berry and plum flavors, fruit heavy without being sweet, jammy, and immensely drinkable — a wonderful match for the new fall menu items.
Urban Tavern also boasts a lively bar and extensive wine, beer and cocktail list. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily and has several spaces available for private functions.
Urban Tavern: breakfast 6:30–11 a.m., lunch 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m., dinner 5:30–10 p.m. 33 O’Farrell Street, 415-923-4400, www.unrbantavernsf.com