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Presidio Social Club

A Good Time at the Barracks

Walk into Presidio Social Club and step back in time. Set in a historic barracks building a century old, this spacious meeting/drinking/dining spot charms and promises a good time as easily as it could have sixty years ago. Of the three just-opened Presidio establishments, including La Terrasse and Pres A Vi, Presidio Social Club is the newest and most casual of the national forested bunch. The restaurant serves classic American fare -- solid comfort food with an occasional departure -- and offers a relaxed and convivial ambiance, attracting the neighboring Presidio/Pacific Heights and Marina clientele.

Complementing its airy, window-filled structure, the interior tastefully exudes a retro-40s/50s decor with a hint of modern style, demonstrated by old medicine cabinets showcasing liquors behind the bar, stainless steel ceiling fans, and a massive L-shaped marble bar running almost the full length of the dining room.

Owners Ray Tang and wife Shawn Kearney-Tang bring extensive experience to their first San Francisco establishment, having worked with noted chefs such as Daniel Boulud and Wolfgang Puck.

The Dungeness crab "cupcakes" ($8) immediately caught our eye. Served in mini cupcake liners, these little morsels packed with crab tickled our appetite, although there were only three to an order. If I didnít have guests, I would have easily devoured all of them in a flash.

Though shrimp cocktail ($7) is an old-school favorite, it was a disappointment here -- a few bay shrimps sadly drowning in a pool of watery cocktail sauce reminiscent of a Bloody Mary. On the other hand, the house chopped salad ($8) was stellar. Perfect for sharing, the romaine and radishes were tossed delicately with a green goddess dressing that gave a nice, flavorful kick to the crunch.

Having all the signs of a signature dish, the Sloppy Joe ($13) is given a little sophistication with Kobe beef; it is tender and delicious without being too sweet. Paired with crispy fries and a cabbage slaw, this dish was visibly popular at many tables around us.

It was a difficult choice between several of the beef entrees, but we opted for the Club Flat Iron Steak ($19). Cooked a perfect medium-rare, the steak was prepared just right, simply grilled with a dollop of peppercorn butter adding texture and a little heat.

From the choice of sides, we decided on a few including the horseradish spaetzle, a standout on the menu; however, it was lifeless on the plate, with barely a hint of horseradish. We much preferred the mashed peas, which not only possessed a beautiful grass-green hue, but also imparted a delicious, bright flavor. And the gluttons in us couldn't help but take on the three-cheese macaroni ($15) as well. The rich concoction was elevated with a blend of Parmesan, Gruyere, and blue cheeses.

Keeping with the theme, desserts ($6) are nostalgic and whimsical. The three mini-chocolate cupcakes, matched with a cup of thick whipped cream, resemble Hostess crumb cakes, except these are surprisingly topped with cocoa crispies. A more adult dessert would be the brioche beignets, delightful puffs of joy, dusted with sugar and cinnamon, paired with maple syrup for dipping.

For beverages, there are plenty to choose from on the Libations list, with a throwback to strong, classic cocktails. The 40-bottle wine list is also a good read, diverse and reasonable, offering good finds from Austria, Spain, Italy and of course California.

Though our server was pleasant, she was a bit hard to find most of the time, while plenty of bussers buzzed non-stop around every table. However, service from the attentive manager, like setting us up with silverware and share plates after the courses came out, somewhat made up for her negligence and lack of attention to detail.

The very new Presidio Social Club is not quite complete yet with ambitious goals for Spring 2007 -- including a private party room and outdoor dining veranda in the making, and Weeknight Suppers featuring nightly specials such as suckling pig. By then, the few kinks should be worked out with service and the few sub-par dishes. It will certainly be exciting and entertaining to see what happens with the space, but in the meantime, Presidio Social Club is still guaranteed to be a good-time place for sipping a Manhattan, good classic fare, and socializing.


Reservations essential? Yes