State Bird Provisions might seem like an odd name for a restaurant, but it makes sense once you learn that this James Beard Award winning eatery is known for their preparation of California’s state bird: quail. When I decided to accompany Charles on his last minute business trip to San Francisco several people told me that I needed to dine at State Bird, and it proved to be one of the best meals I have had in a long time – expect to see it on next January’s list of best things I ate in 2016. Yes, that is a bold statement to be making this early in the year, but the food was that good.
I love a James Beard Award winning restaurant that isn’t pretentious. The staff at State Bird was welcoming and so enthusiastic about the food. The space itself is more casual than you might expect, it has that laid back San Francisco charm. My friend Cait joined me for dinner and we sat at the counter with a view into the kitchen were we could watch all the action. The atmosphere and style of menu is similar to Chicago’s Avec.
I would describe the food at State Bird as modern American meets dim sum. This is because the kitchen cranks out food that is offered to tables, dim sum style, in addition to the menu. The servers come around, efficiently explain each new dish, and you can take if it you like, but there is no pressure.
State Bird’s menu is designed for patrons to try 4-6 different things, all of which are reasonably priced. Smaller bites are just $4, while the larger items called “Commandables”, come in at about $20. While the small plate trend can be a bit overdone, State Bird does it exceptionally well, and the dim sum service is a fun twist that makes the kitchen more efficient while surprisingly and delighting guests.
Cait and I ordered a few items off the menu, and tried a handful of the dim sum style offerings. The garlic bread with burrata was a standout, it was more like brioche meets a popover than your usual garlic bread. It was lighter in texture and more flavorful. And burrata makes everything better. This is not on the menu, but I am told that it is a very consistent off-menu offering.
The menu has a section of “Toast and Pancakes.” While the sourdough, sauerkraut, pecorino, & ricotta pancake wasn’t much to photograph, it was excellent. The combination of ingredients was unexpected, but successful. Apparently this was the brainchild of the chef who once found himself in a situation where he had these limited ingredients on hand and had to get creative.
Seafood is well represented on the menu and in the dim sum style specials. We tried the tuna crudo and the grilled octopus. I have come around to really loving tuna, and this was very fresh and very good.
State Bird’s take on gnocchi is Butternut Squash Mochi with brussels sprouts, savory oats & black truffle. The squash mochi had a fantastic texture that walked the line between chewy and melting in your mouth. The crisp brussels sprouts and hint of black truffle proved to be a perfect compliment to the squash. This is on the menu and I highly suggest that you order it.
The thing that everyone needs to order at State Bird is, not surprisingly, the state bird. When I told people that I would be dining at State Bird they launched into telling me about how much they loved this dish, so expectations were high, but they were exceeded.
The quail is perfectly fried – it’s not overly battered or greasy. It achieves crispy skin and tender juicy meat. We ordered a small portion, but a larger portion (twice this size) is also available.
I love that even though Cait is a fashion blogger, she eats like a food blogger. She is adventurous, excited, and has a healthy appetite. Sometimes when I eat with girl friends I order twice as much as them… and feel a little guilty about it. Cait and I ordered two desserts and State Bird then sent out a third. You can never have too much dessert.
We didn’t order the four barrel coffee-lemon panna cotta, apricot jam & cardamom crisp, but I was glad that State Bird gifted us with this dessert that creatively blended flavors. The coffee and citrus combination is something that you rarely see outside of Italian restaurants, but these tastes work well together, especially in a thick creamy panna cotta. The large cardamom crisp had a mild favor, but added a contrasting texture.
The genmaicha “ice cream” sandwich, cocoa nib macaron, milk chocolate coulis was beautifully presented and was lighter than I anticipated. It wasn’t overly sweet either.
The ‘world peace’ peanut muscovado milk tasted like a peanuty milk shake. It was rich, creamy, and incredibly statisfying. This is served by the “shot” for just $2, definitely of the best things you could possible do with $2.
Our bill came in at $132, including 2 glasses of wine. It felt like a deal for one of the best meals I can remember. I owe a massive thank you to my friend Emily who got me this reservation!
State Bird Provisions‘ address is 1529 Filmore Street. They do accept reservations, but plan ahead, they aren’t easy to get.