Sally’s After Dark: American Comfort Food at a Great Price
Sally’s After Dark
300 De Haro St. Ste. 332
Saturday evening, Sally’s After Dark opens quietly in Potrero Hill. But for those of us who were lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the menu this past week, Sally’s After Dark won’t be a secret for long.
A restaurant within another restaurant, Sally’s After Dark serves dinner Wednesdays through Saturdays from 6-11pm in the same space that houses Sally’s, the brunch joint that has been in Potrero Hill for decades (and is still operating).
Before I start espousing the joys of the food, I’ll also say that the ability to find parking easily beforehand kept me in high spirits as I sat down at the table.
The creation of native San Franciscan, Francisco Sanchez, Sally’s After Dark serves up American comfort food in a casual setting at extremely reasonable prices (especially when you see the portions). Aided by former chefs from La Mar, Delfina, and Chez Mama, among other local establishments, this place turns out some impressive on-site focaccia and pastries too. The slightly different takes on some classic comfort food options (like the short ribs and polenta souffle) made me appreciate the dishes more than, say, similar comfort food options at something like Chow. But with bigger portions.
A prix fixe “Celebrated All Inclusive Dinner” gives you a choice of starter, entree, and dessert for $24. What starters did we like?
Market Salad: Arugula with seasonal fruit, blue cheese crumbles, candied pecans in a balsamic vinaigrette. Something extra in the vinaigrette made this salad pop.
De Haro Sliders: Sliders grilled to a perfect level of medium rare-ness, with patties of a decent diameter, between delightfully light and buttery buns. Yes, the patties actually almost match the diameter of the buns! And for those of you wary of pink burgers, you don’t have to fear these. Our sliders were cooked to perfection and even those usually shy about medium-rare beef eagerly responded to the taste and texture of the slider.
Regional Cheese Board: For once, servings of cheese that don’t insult my intelligence or wallet. (Yes, the portions of cheese that Sally’s After Dark gave me were more than the insulting 1-2 skin thin slivers that other places provide…at a fraction of the price).
For entrees, a quadruple thumbs up:
Wild Ahi Tuna: Again, decent cuts of the tuna, seared to perfection. This came with a “Pan Asian” peanut slaw with some kick that was a good twist on the traditional slaw recipe.
Seared Scallops: Wonderfully flavored, not rubbery at all, on a mound of fresh meyer lemon pasta with arugula and prosciutto.
Braised Beef Short Ribs: The quintessential comfort food, the short ribs had fall-off-the-bone meat, but the most distinctive take on this dish was the polenta souffle that served as the light ‘n airy bed for the short ribs. We couldn’t bribe the recipe out of the chefs, so if you get it, let me know!
Yes, I still had room to pack in the desserts. In addition to the flavor, I’m especially impressed by the portions. Shame on other restaurants that skimp here, too, because you can serve up basic desserts that taste great and don’t cost a fortune (to make or eat).
Flourless Chocolate Pecan Torte: Topped with a ganache, paired with raspberry sorbet. It was like two desserts in one.
Housemade Brulee’d Pound Cake: The poundcake is bruleed (that means there’sa a nicely toasted caramelized sugar topping) served with seasonal fruit and whipped cream.
Cookies N Cream: Fresh baked cookies (chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and ginger) served with vanilla bean gelato. Again, normal-sized servings. Now that’s what I’m talking about!
Little Bites Surprise: Weekly surprises from their own pastry chef, I got to sample shortcake, profiteroles, coffee rum balls, orange coconut macaroons, and homemade peanut brittle. (And I probably missed some other items!) More than enough for 1, possibly even 2 mouths.
Vegetarians also have a prix fixe option. And if you don’t care for prix fixe, the entrees still provide decent value in the mid-$10s range.
Hm, and I haven’t even started on Francisco’s Sangria. Or the wine list of different-but-affordable options. You’ll just have to check it out yourself.
So now that you’re planning a visit, should I prepare you for any areas that need improvement? No complaints about the food or the eager-to-please wait staff. The only two drawbacks would be related to Sally’s After Dark sharing its digs with its daytime counterpart, Sally’s, but we realize they can’t help it. (We fondly remember those humble days of Slanted Door…and then quickly hope we get to enjoy Sally’s After Dark for a while before it skyrockets to fame.)
The daytime-oriented decor and casual seating (think, light wood chairs with vinyl seat cushions) will detract some snootier eaters looking for a sexier evening ambiance. But hey, comfort food should be eaten in a casual setting, so get over it. Also, multiple doors lead into the restaurant; they’ll probably end up locking all but one set of double-doors to siphon walk-ins through one specific entry that doesn’t involve snaking foot traffic too closely around dinner patrons.
I just hope that Sally’s After Dark succeeds without becoming too discovered (at least for a while). That way, I can continue to get my comfort food with great portions and prices without them getting TOO trendy. 😉