“Cow Marlowe” rhymes with “Cow Hollow” in a sort of Emily Dickinson way, but if you should hail from New Zealand, it probably rhymes seamlessly. Restaurateur Anna Weinberg happens to be a New Zealander by birth, and her successor to the insanely crowded Eastside West space (which closed in late 2017) looks to raise the elegance quotient with a bit of her secret sauce.
The seventh endeavor for the Big Night Restaurant Group — the others being Marlowe, Petit Marlowe, Park Tavern, Leo’s Oyster Bar, and Marianne’s and The Cavalier inside the Hotel Zetta — Cow Marlowe is also the first one west of Van Ness Avenue. Once you step inside, it’s hard not to feel like this was an overdue development, particularly when you see cocktails with names like the Lululemon Drop or the Brad & Chad (which is a potent mix of tequila, gin, and Green Chartreuse. After two, you might mix Brad up with Chad, and not because they both played lacrosse).
Pitched at a level of opulence below Leo’s — and nowhere near the celebstagram loucheness of Marianne’s — Cow Marlowe’s interior is basically Eastside West with better wallpaper and herringbone tile, plus quips from celebrated drinkers on the walls. It doesn’t quite have that ineffable Parisian-bistro magic that makes Petit Marlowe feel so special, although it also doesn’t go overboard on the haute-mobster Ken Fulk look, either. (Fulk was probably busy turning a SoMa church into an art jacuzzi for the .01 percent, anyway.)
But what Cow Marlowe lacks in originality it makes up for in verve, and who can dispute the warm bath-like pleasure of slipping away for a dozen oysters and a glass of wine? Weinberg is a pro at creating the kind of environment where you want to be just a little bit bad. Her longstanding partner Chef Jennifer Puccio knows what to do, only here the menu is a notch healthier than at their other bistros. But the classics remain winners: All fries should be crispy and salty, but these fries (only $7) are a masterclass in where exactly to take that crispness. And yes, there are little gem salads and charred octopus dishes all over town, but this is the kind of place where you’re supposed to eat that stuff. Best of all, you can do it at an unusually advanced hour, since there’s a late-night menu (Thursdays-Saturdays, 11 p.m.-1:30 a.m., which is practically dawn the next day, by S.F. standards).
Most of all, Cow Marlowe is fun. One of the drinks is Jungle Juice, and apart from pineapple gum, it bears as little resemblance to that mom-and-dad-are-gone drink as it does to the brand of VHS head cleaners by the same name. The Bermuda Triangle — possibly a wink at the intersection outside? — is a tiki-mule made with rum, fernet, and some ginger beer. And the Country Lawyer is a white Manhattan variation that makes a sterling opening act to the burger that made Marlowe so famous a decade ago. Have a Cow, man. And a drink.
Cow Marlowe, 3154 Fillmore St., 415-508-5898 or cowmarlowesf.com
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Will the Marina Say Yes to Muni This Time?
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