photo credit: Krescent Carasso
The Financial District is home to a lot of things, like mostly-empty banks, packed cocktail bars, and shade from tall buildings. But one thing that’s harder to find is a place like Verjus - somewhere that makes you want to actually prolong your day in FiDi and hang out for a while. This wine bar and French restaurant is one of the most versatile spots around Jackson Square. And whether you need a place to grab a glass of wine and some croquettes with a date after work, or want to recap the wedding season with some friends over a spread of pate and charcuterie, Verjus has you covered.
Verjus has two equally large and packed rooms, one with seats for walk-ins at high communal tables, and another with more private tables that you’ll have to put your name on a list to sit at. There are tall white walls, a steady stream of vinyl playing, and a shiny red ceiling that would make the Queen of Hearts want to invade SF so she could claim this place as her own. It feels like you’re in a private club, except instead of ordering whiskey drinks with a member number and choosing cigars out of a case, you come here to drink wine.
Natural wine is the main focus at Verjus, but they have traditional options too if you’re less worried about how many sulfites are in your glass, and more interested in how many famous producers from Burgundy you can try in one sitting. If you don’t feel like committing to a whole bottle, they have a few wines by the glass that typically range from $10 to $20, and are a small but good representation of what you’ll see on the full wine list. You can also buy a bottle to take with you, but if you decide to stick around for a while instead, Verjus charges a $20 corkage fee to open anything that you pull from the shelves.
The menu here is a mix of French/Spanish small plates and larger dishes that allow you to order as you go. If you’re only here for a glass or two, stick to the small plates, which are still pretty substantial, like the pate en croute with pistachios and cherries and morel mushroom ragout with fava beans and egg yolk that’s rich without being too heavy. If this is the main stop for the night, or you end up splitting a second bottle and want something more filling, larger plates like the duck confit and the steak covered in salsa verde are both worth ordering.
While there’s nothing on the menu that you’ll regret trying, there are a few things that you won’t remember by the time you get home. For every bright pea salad or well-spiced merguez sausage, there’s a burrata you can get at any place in SF or a boring frisee and porcini dish that you’ll forget is on the table after you try it. Still though, keep this place in mind when you need a spot for after-work drinks that could turn into a multi-hour meal. There are a million places you can go for a margarita Happy Hours in FiDi, but there aren’t a lot of places like Verjus.
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This isn’t reinventing the wheel, it’s just a good Spanish omelet. Get it if you want just want something small to nibble on.
Pate En Croute
Pork, chicken, duck, pistachios, and cherries all wrapped in pie crust and served with cherry coulis and soubise. This will convince your friends who think they don’t like pate that they’re very wrong. Order this.
Crispy on the outside, porky on the inside, and served with tartar sauce. These are a good snack if there are three of you sitting at a table.
This salad is made up of three types of peas with yogurt sauce and red onion. It’s so bright and green that the only way you could match the taste is by spending 10 years living in a garden - or just by ordering it again.
It’s hard to tell that it’s manchego inside this sausage and the sauerkraut it comes with is pretty mild. If we were in an airport, this would be really good, but here it’s just OK.
Douglas Fir Gravlax
Even though this is tasty, it’s a tiny portion with only a few small pieces. Get it if you’re only here with one other person.
Burrata, Eggplant, & Apricot
This is good, but it’s really just filling the burrata-shaped hole that’s on pretty much every menu in the city.
The morel ragout is the best thing on the menu. It’s simple, with mushrooms and ramps mixed with fava beans and served with an egg yolk. It’s rich and earthy and the fava beans lighten it up. Get this on your table.
Frisee & Porcini
The fresh porcini mushrooms are really mild and you won’t remember this when it’s gone.
This lamb sausage is heavily spiced and one of the things you should split with anyone you come here with.
Make sure to mop up the juices on the plate with both the meat and whatever complimentary bread you have left on your table. This is about as tender as duck can get before it disappears into the ether.
Steak Maitre D’Hotel
A really great strip steak covered in a bright, lemony salsa verde and served with super crunchy and not-greasy onion rings. If your table is starving, order this.
The french toast is served a la mode and with a ton of caramel sauce. It’s one of the best french toasts we’ve ever had and a complete night ender - there’s no chance you’re going to get anything done after eating this because the only thing you’ll want to do is take a nap.