The Front Porch and Range [SFBC Ride]

When I was approached by the San Francisco Bike Coalition to come up with an auction item for their annual Winterfest fundraiser event, I was like, right on, let's do a progressive tablehopper dinner! I wanted to start somewhere for a cocktail and a bite, and then figure out a second place for the main course, and room willing, dessert. Obviously both spots needed to be bike accessible. And, of course, fun and delicious. I decided to start at ~RANGE~, and then follow up with ~THE FRONT PORCH~, an easy cruise down the bike path on Valencia Street in the Mission.





After being foiled by the weather and our busy schedules a couple times, I was finally able to join the winners, the charming Frances and Greg. We started at one of the high bar tables at Range, and ordered the Walnut Grove (walnut-infused Buffalo Trace bourbon, Averna, old fashion bitters), the Third Rail (Bulleit Bourbon, Lillet Blanc, lemon, orange bitters, honey), and the Zyzzyva (Miller's Gin, yellow chartreuse, lime, apricot brandy), cleverly named after the last word in the dictionary, and a spin on the Last Word cocktail ($9.50 each). The winner of the three was the refreshing Third Rail, a name that was fitting for the evening's theme.

We shared the pink ocean trout crudo ($13) with kumquats, daikon, and peppercress, a fresh and bright contrast to the decadent dish of creamed leeks topped with a perfectly poached egg ($14) and black truffle butter. The little gem salad with bacon, avocado, and aged cheddar cheese ($8.75) wasn't transcendent, but what can we say, the leeks were a tough act to follow.

The bar is a primo destination to meet up with a friend over a well-made drink, or definitely for one of those "getting to know you" dates. The lighting is on point, the space is well designed, the staff is attentive, and the whole vibe is chic yet comfortable. Props to Range for having handy hooks under the tables for our bike bags (the one downside to cycling--the constant gear schlep).





Time for our next destination... (It was hard to ride away without having at least one of Michelle Polzine's outstanding desserts--I gotta come back.) We gloved, helmeted, scarfed, and blinky-lighted up and pedaled over to The Front Porch. Our route included a fun little cut-through: the Tiffany Street bike boulevard off Valencia, which conveniently dead-ends right into 29th Street. We luckily scored a precious table as soon as we walked in. See, if we'd driven a car, we would still be circling in this notoriously parking-challenged neighborhood, and would have missed the open table. You see my point.

Anyway, the place was bumping, per usual, with a slew of customers sippin' sangria at the bar, and munchin' on fried chicken with friends at the tables while trying to have a conversation over the rotating turns of mariachis who pass through (yo, be sure you have a couple dollar bills on you or you will get some stink eye when the hat gets passed).

Now, it's not fair to review this spot since the new chef, Michael Law, just got started. But we will pass along some props on his (heads on) BBQ shrimp and grits, which had a ridiculously tasty spicy butter sauce ($11.50), although the grits need some fine-tuning. Found out the Gulf shrimp are too legit to quit: they're flown in daily. How's that for freshy fresh?

The real show stealer, however, is the freaking fried chicken. Oh lordy. It's brilliant. We ordered the three-person portion ($31), which equates to nine pieces charmingly served in a popcorn bucket, plus bowls of garlic mashed potatoes and savory collard greens on the side. Let's just call it: this chicken is some of the best I have tasted in the City (although Town Hall's butter-and-hot sauce injected bird is hard to beat).

The Front Porch's chicken was super juicy (it's Rocky Jr.), served piping hot, seasoned perfectly, and man, what a wonderful coating. It wasn't a super-crispy one--it's more of a crumbly kind, made with flour and cornmeal, and there's a little lemon zest. I also liked how the kitchen cut the breasts in half, so they are a manageable size that fried well. We were going nuts over this chicken. Clucking. The true test: it was even just as good the next day cold. The only thing I was missing was a few shakes from their house pique sauce, made with a sweet and mild vinegar and pineapple skin.

The staff is friendly and strikes that delicate balance between easygoing and efficient--but our over-vigilant busboy was a little, uh, over-vigilant. The Front Porch has all kinds of good quirk, like the car backseats as chairs (seatbelts included) and King Cobra on the beer list (but there's also Duvel). Yup, this down-home place puts the fun in funky.

(Speaking of funny, in case you're wondering about the wacky pricing, like the $15 7/8 for the single serving of chicken, it's a holdover joke from the opening period, when one of the owners got a little lost in construction-related numbers and figures.)

This place is thoughtful too, offering complimentary cornbread shaped like little ears of corn, awwww. I dig the black-and-red checkered floor, dim lighting, eclectic music, and the corner booth tables are primo. There are also some clever wine bevvies that you can enjoy at the bar until midnight (although the kitchen closes at 10:30pm).

A big thanks to Frances and Greg for making the winning bid on the dinner (it was such a treat, because they were basically taking me out to dinner!). And without the generous gift certificate donations from Range and The Front Porch, this wouldn't have been possible!

Frances and Greg also take pictures of their food (see, I was in good company), so you can check out their photoset of the evening here. (Greg also told a wild story of eating cobra in Vietnam, like, whoa. You can check out the photoset here.) And in conclusion, it was a good thing I had a nice ride home to the Western Addition, so the Wiggle could help combat my jiggle.

Range
842 Valencia St.
Cross: 20th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

415-282-8283
website

Mon-Thu 6pm-close
Fri-Sun 5:30pm-close

Apps $8-$14
Entrées $19-$25
Desserts $8.50


The Front Porch
65A 29th St.
Cross: San Jose Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94110

415-695-7800
website

5:30pm-10:30pm nightly
bar until 12am

Apps $7-$11.50
Entrées $15-$31

Cuisine

Features