photo credit: Sarah Park
Let’s say your idea of relaxing after a long day is sitting on your couch with a glass of wine and watching 11 episodes of a reality show about cat makeovers. Someone texts you to hang out, and you reply, “I’m already in sweatpants.” Maybe a potato chip falls to the floor on its way from the bag to your mouth. With no one else around you, if you eat the potato chip, did the floor predicament really ever happen? It’s tough to say. Either way, this is not the only way to relax, and you’re better than eating floor chips. Comstock Saloon, on the border between North Beach and FiDi, is the perfect place to unwind - and eat some very good food while doing so.
Walking into Comstock is like walking into a different era. Plenty of other places have wooden booths, live jazz, and old-school bars tended by well-dressed bartenders - but at Comstock, it all comes together without making you feel like someone’s trying to shove an aesthetic in your face. Depending on your group size, preference, and how busy it is, you can hang out at either of the two bars, a high top table, or in a booth. There’s a great menu of classic cocktails that aren’t too expensive (for SF, at least), and the bartenders are all very knowledgeable about what they do - so if you ask them to make something that suits your taste, you won’t be disappointed.
photo credit: Sarah Park
Like the cocktails, the food here is excellent. But it doesn’t stick to the throwback theme. There are standard bar dishes like a burger, but also more ambitious ones, like the rather aggressive color-changing unicorn tuna tartare (not the best thing on the menu) and the lo mein cacio e pepe (definitely worth ordering). Whatever you do, we recommend getting the brussels sprouts - they’re perfectly crispy and cheesy, with a vinaigrette you’ll wish you could hook up to your showerhead, and they’re our favorite thing here. Comstock even proudly serves their staff meal (the meal that the cooks, bartenders, and servers eat before service hours) to paying customers - a sign of a certain amount of confidence in what they’re preparing.
This spot is ideal for a laidback weeknight catch-up with a few friends, a low-key date, or a first stop on a busy Saturday night when you’ll still be able to tell the difference between a good cocktail and well tequila. The drinks are made with care, the food is way better than you might expect from a place with a vintage-saloon theme, and the scene is lively but still relaxing. So save episode 12 of Cat Transformations for later, sweep the stale potato chips under your couch, and check it out.
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White Cheddar Chexx
Homemade, super cheesy snacks that happen to be addictive. These are on the menu with caviar and creme fraiche, but you can also ask for them on their own. They make your mouth a little dry, but we suspect the goal of this is to make you order another cocktail (or four).
Unicorn Tuna Tartare
This one requires some explanation. Your server brings the tartare and applies a few drops of mystery liquid to the plate. Some kind of reaction that we may or may not have learned about in fifth grade occurs, turning the sauce around the tartare into something that resembles a lava lamp. This seems like it was designed more for social media than taste purposes - stick with the other things on the menu.
A really solid burger that comes topped with a few potato chips. If you’re the hungriest person at your table, get this.
Lo Mein Cacio E Pepe
A new excuse to order a classic pasta dish. The lo mein noodles add a different textural element that works really well here. Very tasty.
Somehow these get better every time we eat them. They’re roasted, tossed in dressing, and topped with cheese. We could write a book about how much we love these sprouts, but instead of reading that, trust us and just go try them. If there is one must on the menu, this is it.