It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting on an island in the middle of nowhere or covering yourself in glitter at Burning Man knowing that it won’t all come off until the apocalypse happens: a vacation is a vacation. But you can’t hang out with your fire-eating friends in the desert or let an iguana take a sip from your margarita on the beach every week. That’s why it’s good to have some places lined up where you can escape for a few hours - places like Noosh.
When you’re at this Mediterranean spot in Lower Pac Heights, it feels like you’ve left San Francisco far behind. Noosh looks completely different than any other restaurant in this city with its tall white walls, rounded archways, and blue marbled cups that look like the result of someone’s first ayahuasca trip. The space is split up into different sections and each feels like a cool lounge you might stumble into off the coast of Greece - from an upstairs area that could be a stand in for the Star Wars cantina, to the main bar overlooking the big stone oven, to the deep-cushioned booth along the windows that’ll make you feel as relaxed as being at a swim up bar, but with way less chlorine.
The all-day Mediterranean menu has a lot of sections, and just like how it’s usually more fun to travel with a few people, it’s best to come to Noosh with a small group so you can order more of the North African, Iranian, Greek, and Armenian food to try. Things like short ribs in an herby but not too intense mint-yogurt broth; sweet muhammara made with almonds and peppers that you’ll wish you could bring with you at all times like your favorite lip balm; and Turkish flatbreads with kale and feta on crisp, fluffy bread that you’ll ask your favorite pizza place to start using as their crust.
And while a lot of things on the menu are traditional, some dishes have a modern twist, like the Istanbul wet burger - a Turkish street snack with a small lamb patty served with spicy tomato sauce soaked into the spongy bread. Or the Greek “po’boy” with super tender and lightly fried calamari and tzatziki with enough dill to brighten everything up, but never overpower the squid.
Noosh does share the one drawback of every vacation, though - travel logistics. They don’t take reservations, and you have to stand in a long line behind everyone else waiting for a table once you arrive, no matter your group size. Unlike customs though, they do take drink orders here while you wait, which helps to fight the urge for that 15 minutes to turn to the group behind you and start making small talk about where you’re coming from. When you finally get to your table, you’ll forget all about the pain of the line though, and can do what you came to Noosh for in the first place: to go on a mini-vacation from your everyday life.
Balls of delicious lamb that are good to split with a few people or keep to yourself if anyone looks the other way.
This is pretty much the sandwich-version of those meatballs. A well-seasoned lamb patty on a spongy bun soaked with tomato and pomegranate sauce. You could split this with another person, but you won’t want to.
The only underwhelming thing on the menu, and that’s only because you can tell the pita was made at the beginning of the day and reheated in the oven before serving. It can be a little stiff and a little doughy depending on when you get it, but it’s still a perfectly fine delivery system for all the dips you have coming.
The kale-tahini phkali tastes like spinach artichoke dip’s more sophisticated cousin, the hummus with ajika is spicy and good, and we want to put the sweet muhammara on everything we eat. They’re all great, and there’s nothing stopping you from getting any or all of them at once.
This flatbread has everything the pita is missing - it’s fresh, hot, crispy, and chewy. Our favorite is the one with smokey baba ganoush, lamb, and preserved lemon, even if it skimps a little on the lamb.
Not a traditional po’boy in any way, but this is still an excellent pita sandwich. The calamari is lightly fried and super tender, the tzatziki has the perfect amount of dill, and the pickled red onions brighten everything up. Order this.
Not as good as the Greek Po’boy, but this is still a great sandwich and loaded with carrots, cabbage, and pickles on top of everything else. If someone is your group is really hungry, recommend that they get this.
It’s listed as “broth,” but this is really more of an herby yogurt soup with super tender beef short ribs. It’s great to split with a few people at the table.
This is a really great tomato salad, and the charred tomatoes, in particular, make this way better than something we’d throw together before a backyard barbecue.
You can do a ‘Noosh’s Pick’ of five skewers for $19, and if you’re still hungry after a flatbread, it’s a good deal. We like the chicken with spicy ajika red yogurt sauce and the beef with intense charred tomatoes.
The best part of these sour cherry ice cream sandwiches are the cookies on the outside that are closer to raw cookie dough than anything else. Get this, and then dip it in the urfa chocolate sauce.