photo credit: Krescent Carasso/Flour + Water
Flour + Water
It takes a lot to transition from flavor of the week to living legend. The thing or person in question has to not only be great from the very beginning, it has to keep being great, and eventually become something that all else in its class is compared to. We’ve reviewed Flour + Water before, and since then, it has continued to be one of our favorite restaurants in SF. Much like Michael Jordan or Velcro, this place has stood the test of time and watched the surrounding landscape change because of it.
Flour + Water opened in the Mission in 2009, and quickly became popular for their pastas made with interesting flavor combinations, like corn and chocolate or lobster and fig. Eating here required giving up an afternoon to wait in line so you could hopefully walk-in to get a seat at the bar, or even to just tell your friends you smelled the inside of the dining room. Years later, it’s not hard to find restaurants making creative pastas in San Francisco, even within walking distance of Flour + Water. But no matter how good the other places are, no one else makes pasta like they do—they’re always pushing what pasta can be a little further than everyone else. You won’t see a tagliatelle al ragu or “grandma’s special bolognese” here. Instead, it’s a menu full of things you’ve never heard of or imagined. On top of that, almost everything on the menu is delicious to the point where after you eat here, it’s what you’ll compare all other creative pastas in SF to from then on.
The menu changes regularly, but there are always eight or so pasta dishes to choose from. Or you can go for the $125 pasta tasting menu. There’s also pizza and a variety of appetizers, like a little gem salad, roasted eggplant arancini, and crudo, all of which are a little more traditional than the pastas, but still great before the main event. The pizzas have interesting toppings like eggplant crema, but you can find similar quality pizzas elsewhere in SF. It’s not a necessary order, but even Jordan wasn’t amazing at baseball.
As for the restaurant itself, this is still a cool place to hang out. It’s a relaxed space with warm wood everywhere and a great soundtrack that they print nightly onto sheets of paper for you to take home—something we wish more places did so we wouldn’t need to awkwardly Shazam songs from under the table. When it all comes together, it’s no surprise that this spot is still so popular. You still need to get a reservation a few weeks out, but if you don’t, you can always hop in line. On a random weeknight, it’s not as bad as it used to be, but like most living legends, people will always line up to be sure and witness it for themselves.
Little Gem Lettuces
Some salads are expensive because you can easily grab them and get back to your desk, and some are expensive because they’re actually great salads. This one—with charred pluot, pickled zucchini, and fried almonds—is the latter. There’s enough for two or three people.
Corn & Crescenza Cappelletti
Just like the gum Violet chews in Willy Wonka, you taste both a main course and a dessert in each bite of this dish. First, you get a sweet-corn-and-cheese-stuffed pasta, before a hit of mild chocolate and mint flavor comes in after. It’s delicious, and even better, you won’t turn into a blueberry after you eat it.
Squid Ink Paccheri
This has braised squid, pork sugo, fennel, pole beans, chili, and squid ink pasta. With this many moving parts, there’s a lot of room for error, but it’s one of the best things we’ve eaten here. Every bite is a little bit different, but equally amazing.
Eggplant crema, cherry tomatoes, treccione, ricotta salata, and mint. Just like all of the pizzas here, it’s good and different, but not necessary. You can find similar quality pizzas elsewhere in SF.
Heirloom Corn Tonnarelli
Essentially a vegetarian cross between carbonara and cacio e pepe, with smoked lobster mushrooms that add the meatiness you would otherwise miss. You won’t want to share this with anyone.
Paprika & Eggplant Tortelli
This one doesn’t quite add up, but even Apple put its mouse’s charger on the bottom that one time.