It’s in a somewhat seedy part of west L.A., SF Saloon is. No, not a scary part of town, mind you, like you wouldn’t want to leave your car parked on the street for an extended period of time, but seedy, more like...you probably wouldn’t want your boss to recognize your car in the parking lot of nearby *ahem* shall we call them “dance” clubs, Fantasy Island or Plan B. Strangely enough, seedy neighborhoods sometimes have the best places to eat – right across the street from our precious metered parking space on Pico, I spy the name-less lime green sign with only a line drawing of a fish – Mori Sushi. But that’s for another day. This is Act I of my two-part play for Thursday’s Bar Fly: Eat at the Bar.
There’s no way to miss SF Saloon because it seems to jut right out onto the street, situated on an extremely angled intersection of Pico Blvd and Gateway. It’s painted in a bright mix of canary yellow, kelly green and fire engine red, and not-so-modestly shouts its own name, San Francisco Saloon & Grille, all the way across the top of the building. A bit of a dive, or a biker bar, or something like...a saloon.
It feels somewhat like many of the old-school seafood restaurants on Fishermans’s Wharf, with dark walls, dark wooden tables and chairs, high-backed booths and huge picture windows that, in SF restaurants, open up to stunning views of the Bay, but here at SF Saloon, provide close-up views of Pico Blvd traffic whizzing by. A faded mural of the Golden Gate Bridge across the back wall of the low-lit dining room side is about as close to a “waterfront view” as it gets.
Neon beer signs adorn the walls near the ceiling in the bar area; the colorful Corona parrot is in my field of vision, as well as tv screen showing an early-season Dodger game. Even though they have a full bar, it didn’t feel quite right to order my personal poison, citron/soda. No, SF Saloon is definitely a beer place, so I ordered a Hefeweizen. A thorough squeeze of citrus is quite necessary, as it’s usually a Corona with a generous juicing of lime.
Though it’s in a seedy area, though they don’t seem to spend any money on advertising or upkeep, SF Saloon’s food doesn’t reflect it, both in taste and price. Burgers, what SF Saloon is somewhat famous for, are almost $10, and even with a discount at Happy Hour, aren’t cheap. They’re at least a third of a pound – I may even go so far as to say a half pound. Our burger, with an SF-y sounding name that I can’t remember – was it the Cable Car Burger? – was $8.95.
I was at first a little worried because the meat of the very thick burger was still a faint pink – okay for beef (which I normally order rare anyway), but we ordered a turkey burger! No matter, as it seems the Hefeweizen was getting the better of my senses. Lettuce, tomato, mayo the usual suspects, and just for us, Jack cheese trying desperately to keep a gang of sauteed mushrooms from escaping onto the plate, guacamole squish squooshing out the sides, all together delicious. Yes, definitely worth it’s weight in 49er gold, especially with half a plate full of fries perfect for a moody french fry foodie – some crisp, some soggy, all delicious dipped in Ranch dressing.
Yes, Ranch dressing, and that is where, sadly, I was a momentarily disppointed with SF Saloon, as it was Ranch dressing that they served with their Buffalo wings. *sigh* Have they no regard for tradition? Don’t they know? Wings are suppsed to come with bleu cheese dressing. *eh* but my indignation lasted all of a nanosecond before I bit into wings that were red hot greasy meaty, dripping now with Ranch, delicious. Who knows how celery sticks ever got into the Buffalo wing game. I suspect that it was either 1) a better utensil to use for blue cheese dressing than just picking up the cup and drinking it like soup, or 2) a natural floss easier to use than waxed dental floss slippery with wing sauce all over your hands. Garnish, in my opinion, but I ate them anyway.
Other than the missing blue cheese dressing, I really like SF Saloon. Service, too, was a little slow. Not slow moving, as our waitress zipped around the place pretty fast, just slow, as it appeared that she was the only one serving the entire restaurant. But since the food is good and they're open late, it’s also a decent cover-up if you’re ever accused of visiting those other places ;)
San Francisco Saloon & Grille
11501 W Pico Blvd. (@ Gateway)
Los Angeles, CA 90064