Open just a week, one of San Francisco’s newest restaurants, Wayfare Tavern, has already received a lot of attention. Not surprising considering the chef is none other than celebrity chef and Food Network star, Chef Tyler Florence. We were lucky to get a reservation for Friday night and let me tell you, the entire restaurant experience lived up to all the excitement.
The atmosphere was a lot like what I was expecting based on reading a previous interview with Tyler Florence posted by EaterSF. I guess the posted pictures also helped me out. The exterior of the building is commanding and inviting at the same time. The green of the old Rubicon place has been painted black, and the black and white awnings add a classic flair to the brick building. At night the lanterns offer a welcoming, warm glow.
Inside it looks, well, tavern-like. But a grand tavern with a high ceiling, stately animal taxidermy mounted to the walls, deep wood floors from an old Kentucky tobacco farm, hand crafted wood tables, and historic brick walls. A giant fireplace commands attention at the back of the first floor with a mantle full of beautifully lit lanterns and a wall with classically framed paintings in deep, warm earth tones. The second floor offers a billiard room with a red billiard table and additional seating, ornate wallpaper covering the walls.
The interior design of the restaurant complements the menu. In the EaterSF interview Chef Florence makes reference to the book, Bohemian San Francisco by Clarence Edwords, which is about the culture of San Francisco as told through the restaurant scene in the early 1900s. I happened to download this book back in April from Librivox. Having listened to the book, it’s very clear the book, along with the historic location of the building, gave Chef Florence great inspiration, which he used to great effect in the décor and the menu.
As a party of four we were able to try a lot of dishes, which was great, but still difficult narrowing down our order to an appropriate amount for just four people. We started the evening with the soft, warm popovers that are brought out to the table. The popovers are an excellent change from the large bread rolls you get at every other restaurant. They also help introduce you to the old world charm of the restaurant décor and menu.
Three appetizers followed our popovers – Deviled Eggs with Mustard Yolks and Crispy Anchovies, Baked Avocado with Smoked Bacon, Dungeness Crab and Louie Dressing, and Oysters Rockefeller. The Deviled Eggs were nice and creamy with a great salty crunch from the anchovies, which paired beautifully with the mustard yolk. The baked avocado offered a unique change from the usual Californian appetizers and everyone at the table agreed immediately to order the dish. Avocado, crab, and bacon…you cannot go wrong! And the classic dish, Oysters Rockefeller, with a perfect balance of fresh oyster, breadcrumb, spinach, and Parmesan.
For entrees we ordered the Crisp Pacific Halibut with Green Beans in Fresh Crushed Tomatoes, Organic Fried Chicken Brined in Buttermilk with Garlic and Herbs, and Steak and Eggs. The halibut was nice and tender – perfectly cooked, and the green beans in crushed tomatoes offered a nice side dish. The dish was also topped with about six clams. The Fried Chicken was served with five pieces! The chicken was tender and moist, with a great garlic flavor. The garlic was placed underneath the skin to really infuse with the meat. The classic steak and eggs had an excellent twist, with the addition of crab, asparagus, and top with a béarnaise sauce. The steak was tender and juicy. And of course the egg cooked to order.
Our sides consisted of Creamed Corn, Roasted Summer Squash, and Braised Chard. All were amazing. The favorites were split between the creamed corn, which had an amazing smokiness from the oil, and the roasted summer squash…so tender and sweet.
Of course we had to get dessert. The desserts definitely continued the old world theme. Many classic desserts are offered, but with slight twists. The Pineapple Upside-Down Cake was awesome with a sweet, candied black cherry on top and sweet and crunchy macadamia nut brittle on the side. The Baked Alaska was a delicious classic with a soft Genoise cake as the base, vanilla and chocolate ice cream and berry sorbet! Finally the Chocolate Cupcake with Chocolate Buttercream provided our chocolate fix. The buttercream had a bit of a tang and the sea salt provided an extra pop to the flavors.
Finally, a small cookie for each guest was brought with the check. Little extras are always a nice surprise. And it’s all the extra details that make this restaurant unique.