Spruce is currently one of the troop leaders of sophisticated, honest and locally sourced restaurants in San Francisco. The bay area had been in our modern times the pioneering US city for farm-sourced ingredients in casual as well as fine dining. Today as the farm-to-table movement infected most of on high-quality focused chefs around the globe, the term may sound a bit worn out, yet sourcing locally from small farms is a sound, first step towards more sustainable dining out. It tends to taste better too. The produce is the king and the chef is its intuitive right hand.
The self-taught and by experience formed art of the Spruce’s chef Mark Sullivan was appraised by the Michelin guide, awarding the restaurant one star in its guide each year since 2011. Sullivan’s personal relationship with local farmers and ranchers translates smoothly into the seasonal menus. Most of the ingredients are sourced from the organic SMIP Ranch and the restaurant, being a loyal fan of CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), lets the customers pick up their pre-ordered vegetable boxes (presented on the SMIP Facebook Page) at Spruce. Squashes, sunchokes, pole beans, beets and other root vegetables feature on the menu now in the autumn.
The ambiance has it all. A pompously welcoming Baccarat chandelier sets a high dining tone, while a chic cocktail bar with a special reduced menu offers the Spruce Hamburger, a coveted treat of many locals including the Asian-American founder of Song Tea & Ceramics located nearby. The large main dining room allows a glimpse of the youth-meets-nonchalance bar scene, but the restaurant facilitates rather a more fine dining experience. Bolstered chairs and faux ostrich coated sofas contrast with a barn style roof supported by wooden beams, just to remind you that the farm cuisine takes the leading role and the elegant setting is just a co-star. On the walls, charcoal sketches from the Parisian street artist “Bard” and a rotating collection of art bring in a more youthful breeze.There are three private dining spaces. From a small Shiraga (seats 14) room through the Library (up to 20 guests) to the Laurel room for big parties (up to 40).
Comforting feelings are evoked while scanning the menus. “Just-baked Coffee Cake“, “Warm Banana Cake“, “house-made gravy”, again in contrast with french gourmand rhetoric from crèpes, crème anglaîse, hollandaise to bèarnaidase sauce old-world attempt to fluff in some sophistication. If you do not have time to dine in or the restaurant is packed, right by the entrance pick a freshly baked panini, cookies, salads, and take-away artisan coffees at the adjoining Café.
If Sunday Brunch fits into your lazy weekend schedule than Spruce is the right place to go. Located in the residential hood of Presidio Heights means booking ahead is highly advisable. Even simple plates like fruits with your brunch are impeccably chosen not just for their make-up but also the substance that unveils itself on your palate. Such a beautiful presentation is hard to copy at home.
The term local can have a greater span than one might assume. Local does not necessarily mean that everything is sourced from a garden next door or a farm just out of town, local in the US can mean that the lobster comes from Maine, because Maine lobster is the best. Nevertheless, it still comes from the US and is not shipped from France. The brunch French Omelette served over SMIP Ranch Greens and layered with truffled Brie from Marin is an erotic foreplay to a ravishing sensual experience while you are filling your mouth with each morsel. One of the best omelettes I have ever had. Exquisite! You can also lux up your first Sunday meal with California Osetra Caviar or succulent Maine Lobster served atop soft-scrambled eggs on brioche. Both of these sumptuous plates are also available for lunch.
A dinner at Spruce starts with a stone tile and two buttery French baignettes. Warm, cozy and luscious introduction to your evening. Off the menu are daily or seasonal specials highlighted by the word of mouth of your server. In October, we were offered Pan-seared Maine lobster for two served on a large pan with fresh rosemary branches. The waiters partially plated some of the giant lobster, potatoes and autumn vegetables, while leaving the rest with the sides on our table for an additional indulgent self-help.
The desserts are surely as delicious as the savory courses, but a selection of artisan cheese from all over the US won us over. The menu changes but can include the well-known milk and cheese producing areas in Vermont and Wisconsin, but also picks from the New York state and even goat’s Sophia from Indiana. We had to order a “taste of all” six, although a single or a selection of three are also available. The quality was impeccable and for cheese connoisseurs like ourselves tasting less-known, handcrafted produce was utmost satisfying.
The wine list at Spruce is worth a special visit since it is rare to find older vintages of American wines anywhere outside the private collections. It cannot rival to Dean and DeLuca’s cellar (purchased by Napa-based entrepreneur Leslie Rudd) at its adjacent restaurant Press in Napa Valley (over 10.000 bottles), but its breath, over 2.500 selections, is exciting for any serious wine connoisseur. Awards showered its merits as the Wine Spectator has recognized their wine list for years. From 2007 to 2014, Spruce received their “Best of Award of Excellence”, and in 2015 the magazine’s highest honor, a “Grand Award” landed on the restaurant’s name. A massive international selection of wines by the glass, by the spoon for the syrupy Tokaji Essencia includes centenaries of Madeira (starting with 1907 vintage!!).
It does not mean though that you can pick the wrong bottle as we did at first. The sommelier omitted to inform us that the two-decades-old California Pinot Noir we ordered was already fading, in fact, it was in the decomposing stage of becoming a vinegar. As expensive it was (about $250) we complained to the sommelier and got another, younger bottle. A sigh of relief, we liked the three years old Pinot enough to enjoy it with your lobster main course and the American-only cheese plate. A great cup of tea for better digestion erased the vinous disappointment and the sweet chocolates served with it restored our wide smiles. Spruce is now affirmed on our to-go-list when visiting San Francisco.
🕗 Mon-Fri: lunch 11:30am-2:30pm & dinner 5-10pm (Fri 11pm).
Sat: dinner: 5-11pm
Sun: brunch 10am-2pm & dinner 5-9pm.
☏ +(1) 415 931 5100
✉ 3640 Sacramento St, San Francisco, CA 94118, US