Peg boards and colorful yarns are common staples in almost every kindergarten class. State Bird Provisions, the year old SF eatery, does peg boards and yarn better than any kindergarten class that I have ever encountered. This tiny restaurant’s colorful yarn artwork starkly contrasts the exposed concrete wall on the opposite side of the room.
Named the Best New Restaurant in America by Bon Appetit, State Bird has developed quite a devoted following. A line forms outside every single day at around 4:00. If you do not have a reservation, get in line and start praying the to provision gods that they will be able to fit you in. For us, we snagged a reservation by waking up at 6 am (yes, that’s 6 in the morning—aka an hour before the sun wakes up) and setting a date two months out. Let the wait begin. Rave reviews are coming out daily for State Bird Provisions, making the wait that much more difficult for me. That “patience is a virtue” thing is so overrated.
Finally the day arrived and we were seated at 5:30 on the dot by the friendly hostess. The large crowd did not rile her one bit; she’s probably used to it by now. The menu is broken up into two parts: provisions, which are appetizer sized dishes that are pushed between tables on dim-sum carts and serving trays, and commandables, which are larger meal sized portions. My biggest concern as I glanced over the menu was how to taste everything listed without needing to undo the top button of my jeans and be rolled out the front door. Our foursome was ideal because each dish was divided into bite sized tastes.
There was one thing that I wasn’t excited about on the menu: pancakes. While I may offend a few people in my life by saying this, to put it bluntly, I hate pancakes. I had read the raves about State Bird’s savory pancakes and felt like my experience would be incomplete if I didn’t at least try them. Blew. My. Mind. We had two of the three: smoked sturgeon with horseradish and sourdough with sauerkraut, pecorino, and ricotta. Then came the provisions cart, unfortunately in need of a restocking but we got the last of the seafood salsa and the oysters with kohlrabi kraut & sesame. The oysters were velvety and smooth, a perfect contrast to the crunchy tangy kraut on top. Other highlights of the night were the sweetbread meatballs and the hamachi-avocado nori crostini.
I am a bit sad to say that the quail, State Bird’s signature dish, was not a standout for me. The dessert, however, was something to write home about. The shot of peanut infused milk was the perfect night cap. Creamy, nutty and slightly sweet this little shot was a perfect balance of simple ingredients and complex flavors. As we stood up to leave, I glanced towards the entrance and the line to be seated had not died down one bit. It was exciting to see the patient faces of the devoted people waiting to get in. As we squeezed passed the line, I wanted to tell each and every one about what I loved and the must tries. Obviously that would be obnoxious, so I restrained myself. It was that good.