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Opens Second Restaurant on Union Street

This past summer, the owners of Home on Market moved into their second Home on Union Street. The Marina sister to the Castro mainstay carries on the successful comfort-food theme and adds a contemporary infusion, appropriate for its neighborhood clientele. On the same page with the infamous meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, and pot roast are listed lighter dishes like tuna carpaccio, mahi mahi, and a handful of salads and pastas -- creating an ideal menu for a pescetarian and meat-and-potatoes pair.

The winding path leading to the front door is residential in feel; and the glass windows and airy atrium make you feel welcome at once. The interior, designed by the same architects as Lime and Sydney's, uses open space and color to its advantage. Although it is a long, narrow strip of a space, it feels spacious and can seat about 150 people indoors, on the sidewalk, and at the bar.

Home's signature red appears as an accent in the tiles and on leather banquettes, while the butter yellow walls and wood tables add a soft touch. The stainless steel of the open kitchen adds shimmer and energy to an already buzzing dining area, where you'll find locals ranging from thirty-something scenesters to sixty-somethings and even young families.

There are about a dozen signature cocktails ($7.50-$9.50) on the menu, including a seasonal pumpkin martini, although a safer bet would be the cucumber cosmopolitan or even the ginger mojito. The by-the-glass list ($7-$13) is extensive and reveals the expert knowledge of Christie Dufault, formerly wine director at Gary Danko. While the list represents California well, it also covers all regions around the world from Europe to Australia.

For the uninitiated, chef-hat icons indicate the house (or "Home") specialties, and the friendly servers are at hand to offer their expert advice on everything from drinks to dinner to dessert. My first bite was the smoked salmon starter ($9). This signature appetizer features smoked salmon layered on top of a nutty wild rice pancake with a smear of crème fraiche in between. The texture and flavors are unique yet complementary and make this a dish I'd order again and again. The other chef-hat specialty is the duck and vegetable spring rolls ($9) with spicy chili dipping sauce.

Another appetizer we tried was the Asian-fusion Ahi tuna carpaccio ($11) with a Vietnamese vegetable salad and crispy shallots. Its undeniable contemporary flair and lightness make it a perfect starter to what might soon become a decadent meal. Speaking of decadent, the ever-popular, super cheesy mac and cheese ($6) comes to mind. It looks innocent enough when it arrives, but three cheeses with toasty breadcrumbs on top make it a meal in itself.

The roasted Fulton Valley chicken ($16) deserved its chef-hat designation, although it would be better if the bones were removed. Without the bones, the dining experience would be more graceful and less messy. Bones or no bones, there is no doubt about the talent of executive chef Jeff Banker (Auberge du Soleil, Postrio, Acme Chophouse). His flair with vegetables is evident in the accompanying slow-cooked-but-still-crisp carrots and creamy smashed potatoes. Although overshadowed by the other dishes, the mahi mahi ($21) with coconut and black sesame rice was tasty; and the presentation was elegant. The fish was stacked over rice and topped with tropical fruit salsa, and a drizzle of cilantro oil decorated the plate.

A meal consisting only of side dishes would be a hit. In addition to the mac and cheese, two hard-to-forget sides are the spinach and the spaghetti squash (all $6). Slow-cooked onions, currants, and pine nuts add sweet flavor and crunchy texture to the sautéed Bloomsdale spinach, which could just about melt in your mouth. And the brown sugar glazed spaghetti squash is scintillatingly sweet -- a side that could easily serve as dessert.

But don't slow down before the "real" dessert. While Jeff cooks the savory food, wife and pastry chef Lori Banker whips up the sweets. Coming from Postrio, Bix, and Fifth Floor, her skills will not disappoint die-hard dessert fans. To be honest, even the squash can't compare to the black and white molten chocolate cake ($7). The inside is warm and oozes a little white chocolate, and the "Home" made cookies and cream ice cream adds crunch and coolness. Months after my first taste, I still talk about it! Another sure-fire selection is Lori's killer banana bread pudding with bourbon sauce and whipped cream.

Home on Union Street is also open for brunch on weekends, when you can start your day with eggs, quiche, salads, or more. Weekday lunches feature salads, sandwiches, roasted chicken, and flat iron steak, as well as the mac and cheese and Lori's cornbread.

American Contemporary
Marina/Cow Hollow
$$

Brunch: Saturday and Sunday 8:30am - 2:30pm
Lunch: Weekdays 11am- 2:30pm, takeout too
Dinner: 5:30pm- 10pm, Friday and Saturday to 11pm

Editor's Note: Home on Union is closed. The location at Church & Market is still open.