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Spork

Spoon + Fork = Spork

It was a night of puns and post-modernized American favorites. We had tickets to see the Austin band, Spoon, who were playing Thin Lizzy-tinged, Jam-inspired tunes at tiny Café Du Nord. And what better way to start the evening than by enjoying another slice of sensory pastiche in the form of Spork, a hip slice of refurbished Mission gentrification that serves up twists on American favorites.

Funny how the word “spork” makes one think about places like, say, KFC -- bucket meals, plastic utensils and fast-food. But put those thoughts out of your mind -- despite their digs in the former home of a KFC, there’s nothing pre-packaged about Spork except its name. The atmosphere is sleek and quirky, with a keen attention to detail throughout, including large modern paintings of fingers, and a sleek bar with seating reminiscent of that found at a coffee shop, only cool, modern and in slate grey and chrome.

Other details include old-school, orange-handled coffee pots used as water pitchers, and your bill arriving with the tiniest of chocolate hamburgers. But the food is where the new and old truly converge -- where Chef Bruce Binn, previously of the Slow Club and Delfina, creates a menu as fun and cheeky as his setting.

The rotating menu includes just six “firsts” and five “seconds”; the wine menu is comprised of a few well-chosen wines by the glass, including an Artazu Artazuri Rose ($6) and a Bodegas Martin Codax White ($5). We started our meal with the upon-request Pull-Apart Dinner Rolls and Honey Butter. Fluffy and still warm from the oven, these were a lovely complement to Peaches and Cream ($7), fresh summer peaches with whipped goat cream, lamb’s lettuce and Moscato vinaigrette. We also ordered Smoked Trout Croquette and Beets ($11), a lightly fried trout and potato cake with thinly sliced pink Chiogga beets garnished with horseradish and trout caviar.

The seconds included pasta, steak au poivre, and the sole spork-centric item, Mussels and Pork with a Spork ($15). We ordered the Cast Iron Pacific Seabass ($19) and the In-Side-Out Burger ($14). The seabass was grilled to perfection and served on a bed of sweet corn with bright yellow saffron and beet puree with sliced cherry tomatoes and cherry tomato vinaigrette, the combination a clear reference to summers and barbeques.

The In-Side-Out Burger was another reference to an American barbeque favorite, though reinvented as a “fork and knife burger” with two natural, grass-fed beef patties, a slice of Tillamook cheddar and a caramelized onion relish with a thin “bun” in the middle. With its funky, stylized plating, we laughed when it arrived, and savored every bit of this tasty combination. The burger was accompanied by "Smashed potatoes": cooked potatoes, skins still on, smashed with a spoon and fried until crispy.

The dessert menu included a Root Beer Float ($5), Cheesecake ($6), Pot Brownie ($6) and Beignets ($6). We were tempted by the Pot Brownie -- not the Dolores Park sort, rather a brownie served in a pot -- but decided on the Petite Cheeseplate ($10) from the firsts menu, and the beignets. The cheese plate included small selection of cheeses along with a delicious apricot chutney, olives and sliced baguette -- we found the portion size perfect for two people to nibble. The beignets were small, warm, and covered with cinnamon sugar -- perfect when washed down with a cup of Ritual Roasters French press coffee.

Spork doesn’t take reservations, and on a Saturday night we found the restaurant packed by 8 pm. And I can see why -- Spork is definitely one of my new favorite places. With its unpretentious, fun setting and interesting take on summer classics, Spork is truly fork- and knife-worthy.

Cal-American
The Mission
$$

No reservations accepted.