Restaurants and Nightlife
Bambino's Ristorante: 945 Cole St., (415) 731-1343
The highlight of this family-style restaurant is the consistent Italian fare. Pastas like spicy linguini with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and mushrooms, or grilled salmon with leeks, mushrooms, capers and dill, are easy on the wallet, especially considering the large portions. Bambino's thin-crust pizzas are also popular, and it serves a variety of salads and tasty starters. Basic Italian wines are available. A large floral display on the bar and photos of an Italian food market on the walls give Bambino's an upbeat air.
Boulange de Cole Valley: 1000 Cole St., (415) 242-2442
In Parisian café style, Boulange is Cole Valley's people-watching, socializing center. The bakery and patisserie, owned by the same folks who run Boulangerie Bay Bread on Pine Street, specializes in pastries like croissants, éclairs, tarts and brioche, as well as sandwiches, soups and salads. Tartines, open-faced sandwiches, are popular, with choices ranging from the Canard (smoked duck with prunes) to the Jardin (béchamel sauce, eggplant, tomato, and gruyere cheese). Wash it all down with an espresso drink or an organic tea.
Burger Meister: 86 Carl St., (415) 566-1274
What was once a crepery as well as a taqueria is now home to Burger Meister, decorated with whimsical painted burgers, hot dogs and fries on the walls. The Meister serves Niman Ranch beef, meaning there are no nasty hormones or antibiotics used, as well as garden burgers and a grilled-chicken salad. All come with basic fries, though it's worth trying the lemon-garlic fries. Top it off with a beer or an old-fashioned milkshake. The food is not gourmet, but it is filling.
Café Cole: 609 Cole St., (415) 668-7771
Sitting right on the edge of the Haight, Café Cole offers healthier treats than just coffee and pastries. The café serves shots of wheatgrass juice and fresh fruit juices and smoothies like the Hurricane, with banana, cinnamon, mango and apple juice, or the Flamenco, with tomato, carrot and red-pepper juice. Vegans can find cookies, sandwiches and calzones prepared especially for them, though the menu has meat options too. Internet access costs about $7 an hour.
Cole Valley Café: 701 Cole St., (415) 668-5282
One of the newest additions on the block, Cole Valley Café took over where Jammin' Java used to sit. This café has a more substantial menu than its predecessor, with basic deli sandwiches like corned beef or turkey, or more catered fare like lox sandwiches with avocado, onions, arugula and capers or veggie falafel wraps. There are some custom drinks like the Arctic Tundra (blended white chocolate with raspberry syrup) and the Java Blast (espresso, milk, vanilla syrup and whipped cream).
Crepes on Cole: 100 Carl St. (at Cole Street), (415) 664-1800
Make sure to come here with a sufficient appetite. Portions spill off the sides of the plate, whether you've ordered a mammoth green salad or a savory crepe with house potatoes. Crepe flavors are complex: a tofu crepe with vegetables in peanut sauce, or the cannelloni, with cheddar, cream cheese, cottage cheese, onions, mushrooms and marinara sauce. Dessert blintzes and crepes are filled with fruits, jellies, Nutella, the works. On weekends, Crepes on Cole, which was once The Other Café, can get quite packed at brunch time.
Padrecito : 901 Cole St. (Bar at 101 Carl St), (415) 742-5505
This is the newest addition to the Cole Valley neighborhood. The trio of Nate Valentine, Sam Josi, and Stryker Scales, who are behind Mamacita, Tipsy Pig, Blue Barn and Umami, has moved into the former EOS space and serve Mexican inspired dishes and drinks. The menu includes lamb meatballs with guajillo mole, duck carnitas, a wide range of tacos, including braised bacon and goat barbacoa. No dish is over $15, with drinks ranging around the $10 mark. Drinks are agave-inspired with lots of margarita varieties.
Grandeho's Kamekyo: 943 Cole St., (415) 759-8428
The friendly service and high-quality sushi rank Grandeho's as a favorite among connoisseurs. House specials are varied, including the shrimp clay pot, the sesame chicken and the Dynamite Roll -- tuna unagi and asparagus, deep fried. Sushi selections such as the Spider Roll -- fried soft-shell crab -- can be ordered at the bar, and sometimes the sushi chef will concoct a special creation on request. Grandeho's also offers grilled dinners such as beef teriyaki and salmon fillet, all of which come with soup, salad and rice. Finish it all off with plum wine or warm sake, of which there are several varieties available. The restaurant is small, so be prepared for a wait. (Chronicle Review)
Hama-Ko Sushi Restaurant: (CLOSED OCTOBER 2012) 108B Carl St., (415) 753-6808
There's no sign outside to even hint that this spot is open for business, but Hama-Ko has built a loyal following since opening in 1983. The small sushi restaurant, considered by many to serve the best sushi in San Francisco, specializes in traditional sushi and sashimi -- no tempura or teriyaki, as proprietor Ted Kashiyama points out. Sea-urchin roe, Dungeness crab, toro (tuna belly), yellowtail and monkfish liver are all offered, and Hama-Ko also presents the traditional kaiseki, an artfully arranged array of exotic sushi choices.
Kezar Bar and Restaurant: 900 Cole St.; 770 Stanyan St, (415) 681-7678; (415) 386-9292
Though the casual décor and neighborhood clientele lend the Kezar a pub atmosphere, the food here surpasses pub-quality provender. Appetizers like baked portabella mushroom and main dishes like broiled ahi-tuna steak are reasonably priced. Behind the bar there is a selection of microbrews, as well as Italian, Californian and French wines by the glass or bottle. Photos of Cole Valley from the early 1900s, when dairies stood where houses and shops are today, hang on the walls in each of the two dining rooms. Kezar has a full bar open past dinnertime.
North Beach Pizza: 800 Stanyan Street, (415) 751-2300
A staple of San Francisco for over 20 years, North Beach Pizza is definitely a great alternative to the larger franchises. Using the local SF flavor as inspiration, the special pizzas such as the San Francisco Special (clams and garlic) and the Cable Car (creamy garlic sauce, chicken, bacon pieces, tomatoes and green onions) definitely give this pizzeria a flare all its own.
Reverie Cafe: 848 Cole St., (415) 242-0200
This place is famed for its Rosetta latte, a marbled mix of coffee and cream. The morning menu consist of muffins, scones, croissants, bagels and carrot cake. Nooks and outdoor seating in the garden allow for a peaceful, somewhat private setting. Indoors, Chet Baker plays, and there's subdued lighting from artsy lamps, but it's sufficient for reading. A small bookshelf toward the back holds novels, art books, encyclopedias and games like Scrabble, chess and backgammon. Seats out front are usually filled on weekends.
Say Cheese: 856 Cole St., (415) 665-5020
This is one of the premier specialty cheese shops in the Bay Area, amd the list of cheeses available reads like an international who's who in the dairy world. More common fare like havarti is offered, as well as more specialized flavors such as pesto pine-nut brie and the award-winning Humboldt Fog chevre. Ask Daniel for advice about which wine to serve with which cheese. Aside from cheese, Say Cheese offers sandwiches (fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil and olive oil, for example), plus an eclectic selection of wines and an array of condiments, pastas and dried fruits and nuts.
Taboun: 203 Parnassus Avenue, (415) 566-9696
A middle eastern flare in Cole Valley. One of ColeValleySF.com's favorite quick bites to eat in the area. The wraps are affordable and easy to share between two people. The meat is always fresh and savory and the atmosphere is just right (not too pretentious and comfortable to hang out for a little bit). Stop by here for a quick lunch or treat yourself to a dinner that will be both satisfying and filling.
Tully's Coffee: (CLOSED SEPTEMBER 2012 >> PEETS COFFEE AND TEA to open sometime 2013) 919 Cole St., (415) 753-2287
Where Spinelli's, Cole Valley's favorite coffee stop, once stood, Tully's has taken over, serving espresso coffees, smoothies and fresh-squeezed orange juice, along with breakfast bagels or pastries. With just about five stools inside, a bit of room on the windowsills and a few tables and chairs set up outside, this is not the kind of café where patrons linger. Try Tully's special iced or hot caramel-macchiato coffee indulgence.
Zazie: 941 Cole St., (415) 564-5332.
Named after the 1961 Louis Malle comedy, Zazie has a longstanding tradition as a brunch venue, with gingerbread or buttermilk pancakes a favorite. The rest of the menu is extensive -- ostrich burger, vegetarian Mediterranean plate and fresh goat-cheese ravioli basquaise with red, green and yellow peppers, garlic and herbs. There's also a prix-fixe option for less than $20, including one of the restaurant's decadent homemade desserts, like the Zazie brownie with raspberry sauce or carmelized-apple bread pudding. Lattes are served in ceramic bowls, and there is a good selection of wines. For late risers, breakfast is available until 2:30 pm. There is often a wait for brunch, either for a table inside or in the garden setting out back. (Chronicle Review)
Finnegan's Wake: 937 Cole St., (415) 731-6119
This neighborhood bar attracts sports fans who gather to watch big games on a large-screen television, as well as regulars to listen to Elvis or Iggy Pop on the jukebox, sidle up to the bar for a brew or play ping-pong on the outside patio. Patrons are likely to meet many of the old-time locals who remember when Finnegan's Wake was located in Noe Valley and the current location was a woman-owned bar that attracted a lesbian clientele and was featured in the documentary "Last Call at Maude's." Finnegan's tends to get crowded after concerts in nearby Golden Gate Park, as well as on Thursday nights. It's also a good place to hang while waiting for a table at Grandeho's.
Adapted from Marlene Golden, Special to SF Gate (12/01)
For more Cole Valley restaurants, check out these Chronicle reviews.