Wayfare Tavern is a handsome American brasserie in the former Rubicon space in San Francisco's Financial District. The new restaurant is owned by chef Tyler Florence, a Food Network staple, and opened in June. The multilevel space includes both a traditional bar and a chef's counter with seats looking into the open kitchen. I sat at the "chef's counter" last week with a friend as we created a three course menu of beef to sample Florence's menu.
Meals at Wayfare Tavern begin with a complementary popover (above), which was warm and puffy. We had a lot of food coming so didn't do much damage to these, as they were fine, but nothing to jump up and down about. We began our beef adventure with the Steak Tartare (below), which is described as containing "French mustard dressing, shallots, capers, organic egg yolk, Tabasco." This was a well executed version of the standard. It was served with toasts (not enough, although they promptly brought out more upon request). The meat had a real beefy flavor and the Tabasco sauce provided a kick. It was both attractively presented and delicious. We ordered the half order; I'd be very impressed if a single person could eat the whole order by themselves.
We followed that up with “THE BONE”, organic beef bone marrow, rutabaga jam, soft herbs, pickled shallot. I love bone marrow and so was excited when this dish arrived at our table. It was cut lengthwise, so it was like a long trough rather than a narrow cylinder; so no need for marrow spoons. However, "the bone" tasted more of the crust of bread crumbs than it did of the marrow. The ratio of breading to marrow was just too heavy and it didn't have the rich finesse a dish like this should. Disappointing.
To finish up the trio of beef, we split the Wayfare Burger “Le Grand" - grass-fed proprietary grind, Mt. Tam cheese, roasted onion, smoked bacon, brioche. We asked for the bacon on the side and they graciously accommodated. They split the burger for us in the kitchen, which was very much appreciated. In addition they provided us each with a serving of french fries so we didn't have to share a communal portion. The burger was good but did not earn a place in the upper echelon of San Francisco burgers. Florence should walk a few blocks to Bix if he wants to see how to serve an amazing burger. We had asked for our burger medium rare and it came out medium, but even a few seconds less on the grill would not have made the difference.
Overall while no dish was poor, we were one for three in dishes as to whether we'd order them again. The service was gracious and efficient and the kitchen was thoughtful in splitting the burger in the kitchen. It is a comfortable room; I just wish the food had been better. The prices were also very fair, especially considering the "celebrity chef" ownership. I have never seen any of Tyler Florence's programs, so I wouldn't have recognized him had he walked through the dining room, but don't expect him to be cooking, he is a media personality with several projects in Marin & Napa in addition to his television commitments.
Reservations are highly recommended although you can snag seats at the bar or chef's counter without them. Lastly although I did not have them, I don't think I could order the deviled eggs after seeing them being filled out of a gallon size pastry bag that seemed to have endless amounts of egg yolk filling.
Wayfare Tavern: 558 Sacramento Street, (between Montgomery & Sansome), San Francisco. Phone: (415) 772-9060. Website: www.wayfaretavern.com