Mac and cheese with a tower of power of onion rings (and pancetta).
Fried chicken with red-eye gravy and a biscuit.
Butterscotch and chocolate pudding.
Interior photo by Jennifer Yin.
To misquote Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.” Build an amazing burger, and they will definitely come. It might as well be the motto for ~CITIZEN’S BAND~, a groovy little upscale diner holding it down on the corner of Folsom and 8th Street. That stretch of SoMa wasn’t really top of my dining destinations list, nor is it for many people… Well, until this place opened (and the cheerful Pinkie’s Bakery next door).
Chef-partner Chris Beerman is a North Carolina boy who has worked locally in kitchens like Boulevard and CONDUIT—hence the “fine diner” spin on the menu here. To start, he’s doing dirty, dirty things to mac and cheese ($8). You get a hefty square of baked macaroni and Fontina, resting in a gut-busting pond of Sonoma dry Jack fonduta, topped with a flurry of grated pecorino, and a leaning tower of some of the best damned onion rings you’ll ever have. (The secret to their puffy, shattering exterior? PBR, baby.) Make sure you get an order of the mac and cheese to share for your table. Do not attempt it alone—no one wants to get the defibrillator paddles out.
The salads are a hit, from the classic wedge ($8) with buttermilk ranch dressing and Pt. Reyes blue cheese, to a winter “chicken” salad ($9), with beautiful winter chicories, duck confit, supremes of winter citrus, toasted almonds, and pecorino. I just wanted the dressing to be a bit creamier against the bitter chicories, but otherwise the ingredients were fresh and top notch. I had to try the shrimp and grits ($10), but this one stumbled a bit: the sweet shrimp were cooked just right and the dish had good, peppery seasoning, but the bowl wasn’t warm and the grits were thick and pasty.
I know, I know, yet another amazing burger in this town? But it’s true! It rocks. Total breaker-breaker 1-9. This bad boy ($13) features a juicy grind of rich Snake River Farms American Kobe beef, grilled to perfection and topped with thick slices of housemade pickles, roasted garlic aioli, and tomato marmalade, all sandwiched in a fluffy Pinkie’s challah bun. Oh dear lord. I added Fontina to it—and deliciousness, thy name is Citizen’s Band burger. It’s not one of those behemoth burgers—it’s just the right size. Yeah, the right size to add an egg on top, oh you know it! The house-cut fries came out piping hot, while the salad option was all about fresh greens, dressed just so.
Further dementia: the Shake and Bake ($22). Beerman takes Berkshire pork shoulder, sous vides it, then slices it, dredges it, and fries it into meaty perfection. So wrong, but so right. There was further meatiness on the plate with a side of molasses-sage sausage (Fra’Mani) and (slightly tough) pork cheeks, plus some mustard greens and a medley of turnips and winter squash. Really generous for $22. (This was a bit more of a wintery dish—items rotate often on the menu.)
The fried chicken ($19) is a juicy, buttermilk-battered California poussin, with wilted greens and a dense biscuit on the side. I loved the red-eye gravy, with a feisty coffee kick, but next time I would request it on the side so it doesn’t wilt the chicken’s flaky and flavorful exterior.
Just next door is Pinkie’s Bakery, the domain of baker extraordinaire (and total sassy pants) Cheryl Burr, the other “CB” and partner in this venture. So save room for dessert, ya hear? The thick, creamy butterscotch and chocolate pudding ($6.50) was a winner, and the peanut butter cookie that came with it was spot on (I really heart her cookies). You also get stoked with some complimentary cookies with the bill, sweeeeet. If it’s open, take a peek at the adjoining bakery counter before you leave—there’s plenty you’ll want to cart home.
I’ll just say it: I really wish this place had a full liquor license. It would be such an industry clubhouse. That being said, there isn’t any Fernet, but there sure is some PBR. And a good selection of wines—managing partner Boris Nemchenok (Uva Enoteca) has done a deft job assembling some well-priced domestic wines, with very fair by-the-glass (and by-the-bottle) pricing, from Skylark to Scholium Project. You also can get beers like North Coast Brewing Company’s Le Merle Saison, and Dale’s Pale Ale from Colorado.
The place is definitely cool, with some crankin’ music and an edgy SoMa crowd, plus friendly female servers rocking a Holly Hobbie look. Lauren Geremia’s design is a cheerful one, which includes a wall covered with vintage postcards and old magazine pages. Chris Beerman did a ton of the work himself, from covering the tables with concrete and glaze, to the tiling at the counter. Oh yeah, and check out the stacks of CB radios above the bar and front door. Citizen’s Band is a great place for guys to hang out, bromance style, since the lighting from the suspended globes is pretty bright, and there’s zero trace of anything romantic going on.
It’s a tiny spot (40 seats), and seems to only be gaining in popularity—so I recommend making a reservation for dinner, especially since there’s nowhere to really hover. There are fixed metal counter seats and a few window seats that look onto the street, plus tables along the wall with a banquette (the tables at each end of the banquette are good for groups). I swung by for a midweek lunch, and the place was hopping. It’s nice to see. Also, all items on the lunch menu are $10, from the burger to a Reuben to a chicken sandwich.
Weekend brunch packs ‘em in for corned beef hash ($11) and eggs Benny ($10), and there’s also a simple (and affordable) Sunday supper from 5:30pm-9:30pm, with spaghetti and meatballs ($14), chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes ($14), and a rotating special of “breakfast for dinner” ($10).
Oh, and a fun side note: when you need to use the restroom, you’ll have to go through the Icon club next door—and if it happens to be a weekend, get ready for a serious booty clapping scene. I even heard of one diner who stayed in the club to dance to a few songs, hilarious. Hey, anything to burn off some of that dirty mac and cheese.