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SF's Best Steaks

A Cut Above

With increasing public awareness of grass-fed beef, opportunities for whole beast dinners, and butcher celebrity, beef is experiencing a second coming in San Francisco. The only question that remains: Where do meat-loving diners saddle up?

Bourbon Steak
The child of legendary restauranteur Michael Mina, Bourbon Steak has racked up points with hotel guests and locals alike since its opening in late 2010. Housed in the Westin St Francis in Union Square, Bourbon Steak boasts a fine dining thrust, hearty portions of red meat, and attentive service that does not miss a beat. The restaurant interior is classy, with muted beige and browns in a spacious dining room with a full bar.

The servers pamper you with exceptional service, a la folded napkin set in lap and a set of glasses that never reach empty. Instead of the run-of-the-mill bread basket, Bourbon serves a trio of French fries and sauces — yuzu, ketchup, and housemade aioli.

I start every meal with a salad, and the little gem lettuces dusted with bleu cheese and pancetta did not disappoint. The bleu cheese is not overwhelming; instead it perfectly complements the crisp pieces of romaine and the sweet cherry tomatoes. Step out on a limb and order the crispy bone marrow, which resembles a lightly fried egg roll. Upon cutting into it, the soft fleshy marrow oozes richly out onto your plate. The bright green spinach soufflé drizzled with parmesan crème echoes fresh eggs and savory earthiness.

The true star of the meal is the beautifully plated Brandt Farms 18 oz bone-in ribeye ($42); a healthy enough portion to split between two people. Bourbon Steak dry ages its beef for 48 to 60 days, wrapping the meat in its own lifter fat to prevent it from drying out. The meat is perfectly cooked to medium rare, soft and red on the inside with crispy outer edges. Use the last few bites of steak as a sponge to scrape up the flavorful sauce artistically smeared over a clean white plate.

If rib eye is not your choice cut, Bourbon has you covered with a 14 oz NY Strip, 9 oz filet mignon, 28 oz porterhouse or smaller cuts of Kobe beef. Don’t be surprised if you exit Bourbon Steak with your share of meat sweats.

For my first four years in San Francisco, Boboquivaris was my go-to for steak. The location is a bit random for this two-story restaurant that sits on the busy street of Lombard, in between Franklin and Van Ness.

Deep crimson red with interspersed black-and-white accents and Italian marionettes decorate the space. The downstairs dining room is a bit small so I recommend the upstairs area, which has a few booths that come with an accompanying curtain. The scene is a bit kitcshy and thematic for my tastes — I was not sure whether a clown or a waiter was going to emerge — but I can attest that the steak makes up for the odd ambiance.

The slogan is “The Steak. The Crab” but I think it really is all about the steak. Bobo’s is one of the only SF steakhouses that dry ages its beef for four to six weeks.

“When we discovered that there were no restaurants on the West Coast that offered steak dry-aged for more than twenty-one days, our mission became clear,” says chef and co-owner Andrea Froncillo.

There are five types of steak at Bobo’s: petit filet mignon, filet mignon, filet mignon bone-in, New York bone-in, and porterhouse. The filet mignon bone-in sometimes runs out so call ahead to ensure you have it as an option. I personally prefer the New York bone-in, a bit more rugged and hearty with the same level of tender, dry-aged beef and buttery flavor.

All steaks are served a la carte, sending the message that Bobo’s steaks stand up on their own with no need for sides to entice diners. However, the a la carte declaration should not stop you from trying the twice-baked potato or brussel sprouts with pancetta. One of the best parts about Bobo’s besides the killer steaks? Free valet parking. Yes, you have found the one spot in SF.

5A5 Steak Lounge
The moment you walk into 5A5 you might think that your body has transported to a glitzy spot straight out of Las Vegas. An oval, light fixture spans over the open, modern dining room with lightly-colored, low booths. Thia Japanese-American steakhouse is sleek and contemporary, but don’t believe for one second that you will sacrifice flavor for style.

I had the luck of attending a holiday party at 5A5, which doubled as a beef tasting (perhaps my new favorite type of event). The tasting allowed me the opportunity to try a variety of offerings. I sampled the traditional filet mignon and bone-in ribeye before ending with the grand finale of wagyu beef imported from Australia and Chile. 5A5 boasts A5 grade wagyu steak (yes, the inspiration for the name). The wagyu beef is priced by the ounce and has a buttery, marbled richness that is arresting — in a good way.

The best part if you have never been to 5A5? It is one of the restaurants featured in this year’s 2011 Dine About Town so you can catch a meal without breaking the bank. There are a number of tempting appetizers and side dishes like hamachi shooters, shishito peppers with shaved bonito flakes, and potato au gratin with a mix of Yukon, sweet potatoes, and purple potatoes. Chances are after a few ounces of wagyu your body will reach never before experienced level of satiation. Well, almost never.