What makes a neighborhood place a neighborhood place? My neighborhood has a lot of good and even some great restaurants but 1550 Hyde is a classic neighborhood place. Here's why I think it qualifies. It's cozy and warm and the staff greets you as if you are a local even if you're not. It's very small so service is good even when the place is packed. Perhaps most key, it's within walking distance of my house. On Russian Hill finding a parking spot can be a nightmare, but 1550 Hyde is on the cable car line making it a good pick for those looking for a place where the locals go.
I can't remember all the names of the restaurants that have once been at the 1550 address, let alone how many I've tried. Thankfully the current incarnation is a real winner. It's yet another restaurant I've been meaning to try that I chose this past week based on it's participation in Dine About Town. The menu had so many tempting choices I ended up ordering a couple of things a la carte instead of prix fixe. Good thing too because the portions were enormous.
To start Lee had a split pea soup with ham that was smoky and thick, just the thing on a chilly night. I had the rabbit liver and hazelnut terrine ($8) which was as decadent as it sounds. It came with a crisp and refreshing pea shoot and pear salad. For a main dish I can never manage to pass up rabbit. It's not something you find in the supermarket so I have never even attempted to make it. Famous for it's reproductive proclivity, rabbit is considered a more "sustainable" food. Personally I just like the way it tastes braised. This version came with some aromatic vegetables--kale and carrots and a rich reduction of pan liquid and a most unusual polenta. The polenta was slightly fluffy and speckled with rosemary. It had a rustic feel to it and was a perfect compliment to the rabbit. I literally could not finish the portion which is a rarity for me.
Lee had the chicken "under a brick" ($18) that 1550 Hyde is known for. It came with a most creamy almost nutty potato parsnip puree that was to die for. It also came with lemony sauteed broccoli. Let me just take this opportunity to say that I support restaurants that serve entrees with vegetables instead of charging you extra should you decide you want one. Making a chicken juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside is the goal of chicken under a brick, and they succeeded.
For dessert we had a Chantenais carrot and pine nut cake with cream cheese frosting ($6.50). What makes it Chantenais I cannot say, but it was served warm and dripping with a super rich and creamy frosting that could win over even those who hate frosting. It was a huge portion, though reasonably priced, which when it comes to warm carrot cake, is a very good thing.
1550 Hyde Cafe & Wine Bar
1550 Hyde St. @ Pacific
San Francisco, CA 94109
Open Sunday 5:30-9:30
Tuesday - Thursday 6-10pm
Friday & Saturday 6-10:30 pm