803 Cortland Ave, San Francisco, CA | Directions 9411037.738982 -122.414468
Neighborhoods: Bernal Heights, Central East
Ok...Not memorable – Husband Says - We (2) went to Tinderbox on a Wednesday night. We walked in and were not even aknowledged by the DJ spinning at the front of the restaurant. Nonetheless, we were seated quickly an the music for the evening was good. We perused the menu and noticed the prix fixe "keeping it Bernal" -three courses choice of any appetizer, entree and dessert for under $40. I ordered the sardines for appetizer and aged rib eye for entree. At that point the waitress said "Oh, the rib eye is not included int he bernal menu selections". I pointed out that this was not mentioned on the menu anywhere. She said "No it wasn't, but that it was an unspoken understanding". I again said that this wasn't mentioned on the menu, and she refused to oblige my menu selection. Sadly, the rest of the dining experience was somewhat lost upon me. I ended upw/ the sardines...quite good albeit bony, and the squash gnocchi w/ crab meat. Tasty, but just not much of it.
Wife Says- We were seated quickly and were given our choice of several different tables. We chose a cozy corner upstairs with a view of the kitchen. With the exception of the prix fixe issue (not cool!) the rest of the evening was OK. The waitstaff was attentive, our food and drinks were brought to us in a timely fashion, and the food was OK to good. The over-riding issue for me was that it simply lacked excellence, and was thus quite forgettable. Nothing was awful, but nothing was inspired. I ordered the potato salad, tri-tip, and blue cheese chocolate cake. The potato salad was so so, the tri tip was good, but the side dishes lacked contrasting flavor notes, and (to their credit) I quite liked the chocolate cake...although it may not be for everyone. The pre-dinner popcorn, palate cleanser, and homemade candy (brought with the check) were thoughtful touches. But it wasn't enough to redeem the night. Try NoPa instead!
New American inventions bring Bernal locals to this upbeat hangout. – The Scene
Electronica tunes set a high-energy mood in the intimate main room, where groups of gal pals dish hot gossip from booths. Meanwhile, black-clad waitstaff balance the upbeat tempo with relaxed, personable service. Tangerine walls adorned with upholstered brown leather decorate the chef's room, where bird's-eye views of the kitchen give behind-the-scene glimpses of the tireless preparation.
Diners are treated to parmesan-sprinkled popcorn as they flip through a creative menu peppered with local ingredients. Giant grilled sardines pair well with the tomato sop--a creamy yellow gazpacho garnished with edible flowers and goat cheese. The juicy game hen is a marvelous entree covered in crisp flash-fried plantains, served with a sweet banana-chili dipping sauce and milk-poached garlic mash potatoes. Dishes are appropriately portioned, allowing room for desserts like the bizarre but brilliant dark-chocolate cake oozing with a gooey blue-cheese center.
Hits: The restaurant stays true to green-friendly ideals, all the way down to reusing Whole Foods take-out containers to shake up the complimentary popcorn.
Misses: The music may be too loud and energetic if you're looking to unwind with a quiet meal in the 'hood.
A Definite Standout – In a city full of restaurants claiming to be different but ending up just being the same ol'-same ol', this place is truly unique. Yes, it's definitely not cheap (a $25 steak in Bernal Heights? Who'd have thunk it?!), but if I'm going to fork over that much money, the meal better be memorable -- and in a GOOD way! The flavor combinations were uniquely delicious and everything was prepared perfectly. Our waitperson, Natalie, was great! We walked away happy, full, and satisfied that we didn't just have a so-so dinner at the latest new "hip" place. This is both a neighborhood spot AND a destination restaurant for sure!
Small Portions, High Prices – Come on guys! While the service was great, the food was pretty, barely filling, and way overpriced. There were a few highlights like the drinks but thats it. Also, there was no concept whatsoever. And dont tell me, sustainable Californian is a concept. It certainly didnt translate into taste.
Perfect night out! – What a great find! My girlfriends and I have made a pact that this restaurant is now our official girl's night out place. Yep, that's right Chef Russell, I'm ordering that chocolate & cheese cake thingy, all to my own next time. Bwahahaha!
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