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Comfy, Funky, Cool

Clement Street's Q Restaurant Redefines Comfort Food

If Q Restaurant were a student, it would be the laid back but approachable quirky kid with curious good looks to whom everyone flocks. Tucked away on Clement Street, just a few blocks off of Arguello, Q is identified by a simple letter situated above the doorway. Everything about the Q dining experience is warm and welcoming -- in that 'toasting marshmallows in front of a fireplace' kind of way.

On a recent weeknight I was able to sail right in without a wait, but weekend nights are another story. There's a tiny, crowded bar, and, I guess, no more than twenty tables. Weather willing, most people grab a glass of wine, sangria or a microbrew and congregate outdoors. Q attracts couples of all ages, families, and celebratory revelers, and is well suited to those dressed to impress or swinging by for a quick bite.

Q's reasonably priced, innovative "funky American comfort food" and extensive vegetarian offerings have made it a fixture in my favorite restaurant line-up. Appetizers include the usual suspects (fried calamari, grilled wings, fish tacos), made exceptional with additions of papaya salsa, chili-lime aioli, and tropical fruit-habanero dipping sauces and many other creative offerings. Other not-to-be-missed appetizers include the spinach salad with caramelized walnuts, apples, blue cheese and smoked onions ($7.50), Grilled corn on the cob with jalapeno-lime butter ($3.50), and a recent special of tender black mussels steamed in Pilsner with chipotle, garlic, and butter ($6.50).

Entrees run the gamut of "Down Home Favorites" (including beer battered catfish with corn relish, garlic fries, and chili-lime aioli at $9.00 and Smilin' Andy's BBQ Pork Spare Ribs with Mom's baked beans, garlic fries and spicy slaw at $7.50). Sandwiches include the Slammin' Salmon burger on focaccia with chili-lime aioli, served with garlic fries or mixed greens for $7, and "The Journey Grill" (you pick a main, sauce and side). Sides of childhood favorites like tater tots, garlic fries, spicy slaw, and baked beans run for $3.00 each.

Desserts are what desserts should be -- delicious, uncomplicated and sizable. Brad's Labor of Love Chocolate (a recent special): bread pudding with port, dried cherries and crème fraiche is priced right at $4.50 and large enough to share.

In addition to dinner, Q also serves brunch and lunch. Brunch highlights include scrambles served with toast and home fries ($7.00), Florentine Benedict with spinach and tomato served on focaccia with home fries ($8.00), and hangover staple; Bowl-O-Spuds-N-Eggs with white cheddar, salsa, and sour cream ($6.00).

Q owners Brinn Riley and Andrew Gillen (a.k.a. Smilin' Andy) have successfully filled a niche in dining that I've yet to see matched anywhere in the city. They've created a funky, feel-good atmosphere (perfect for a casual first date or a night out with the kids), serving updated American comfort food while still keeping it simple, managing to make every diner feel like part of the family. Which, when you think about it, is really what comfort is all about.