Ostler says he wants to focus on the wide range of Southern food — all-American food, actually. That means he plays no regional favorites when it comes to barbecue, though the Texas in him is strong enough to ship post oak (a Southern species common in many Texas smokerooms) to San Francisco for his brisket. I didn't get to try the brisket — the menu changes frequently — but his pork ribs ($15), smoked over a combination of applewood and oak, were positively glamorous. Thickly rubbed with spices, their smoke flavor present but not ashy, the ribs had been smoked long enough to melt the collagen, but short enough to leave the meat tender and glistening.

Not surprisingly, considering that the cooks met on the pastry team at Boulevard, any dish that begins with a lump of dough comes out tasting the most refined. Flecked with green chiles, the hush puppies ($5) had the delicate crumb of a just-fried cake doughnut. The puff pastry on an Indian-spiced vegetarian pot pie ($12) broke apart in the finest, downiest flakes. And after my first meal, I learned that when the server set down the oven-gilded biscuit ($2), everything else on the table should be pushed aside. The hot biscuit had a supernatural lightness, and the seemingly hard crust dimpled at the touch of a thumb. I spread honey butter on each chunk I pulled off and downed it greedily, recognizing that at any moment the biscuit would cool down and re-enter the mortal realm.

Brisket with onion rings and pickled green tomatoes on a house-made bun.
Jen Siska
Brisket with onion rings and pickled green tomatoes on a house-made bun.
Ryan Ostler and Katharine Zacher.
Jen Siska
Ryan Ostler and Katharine Zacher.

Location Info

Map

Bruno's

2389 Mission
San Francisco, CA 94110

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Mission/ Bernal Heights

Details

643-5200, www.brunossf.com, www.twitter.com/gypsy_kitchen. Dinner 6-10 p.m. Wed.-Sat. Reservations: large parties only. Parking: street. Muni: 14, 49. Noise level: quiet weekdays, loud weekends.
2389 Mission (at 20th St.)

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Straightforward American food doesn't need to be backed up with gingham tablecloths and "Don't Mess with Texas" posters. Nevertheless, the food and decor charm in different ways, like casting Clint Eastwood in a Rob Marshall musical. Ostler says that he and Zacher are happy to be thought of as Bruno's chefs instead of their own, independent operation. But the success of this particular venture depends on just the opposite: that San Franciscans are so enamored of eating upscale food in downscale places that we'll also be willing to do the reverse.

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