I’m happy to see some life back at the corner of Masonic and Geary. After years of speeding past Hukilau on my way home, ~THE CORNER STORE~ is giving me a reason to pull it on over. The neighborhood needed a place like this—the throngs of nearby USF students now have an affordable place to grab a burger for lunch or brunch on their spacious outdoor patio, and I now have a place to serve me Manhattan milk shakes. Life is good.
The American menu strikes a balance between using quality ingredients (like Mary’s for the roasted half chicken) and price, with nothing more than $20. The portions are generous, such as the Niman Ranch bone-in chop, which was a beast for $20—fortunately I had a hungry man at my table that night to help me with it.
Dishes are well executed and presented. When I ate here back in October, there were some things that were amiss, like an underseasoned (and underdressed) wedge salad and grit in the mussels. But here I am four months later, and finding a lot more to like about the show.
A shaved winter salad ($8) displayed some skills in the kitchen, with little puffs of celery root purée around the edge of the plate. My favorite appetizer, which has also evolved since the last time I had it, is the pork pâté sliders. For $10 you get two soft and fluffy brioche buns with a thick slab of country-style pâté tucked inside of each, plus thinly sliced cornichons or pickles—which add some good acidity—plus the kick from the generous swath of whole-grain mustard and crunch from thin slices of apple. The little drizzle of aioli almost has the texture of a ranch dressing—mmm, creamy. It’s one hell of a bite, very balanced in all its flavors and textures. Chompity chomp chomp.
For fun, you should try the buffalo sweetbreads ($10)—the fried nuggets initially look a little lonely on their big plate, but I totally dug this feisty redux of the classic buffalo wing flavors, with a celery-radish salsa verde and smooth blue cheese sauce.
The burger here is an excellent rendition for $13. You get a juicy and well-seasoned patty of Niman Ranch chuck on a brioche bun, with melted aged cheddar, pickled red onions, housemade bacon jam, bread and butter pickles, garlic aioli, and hot fries on the side. There are four other entrées, like a tower of Idaho red trout ($19) in a fragrant lemongrass broth, and that huge pork chop I mentioned. The food isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s not totally boring classic, comforting Americana either—chef Nick Adams and his team add a number of creative touches and flavors.
Cocktails are mostly well made and all $10, from the “Four Leaf” Clover, an aromatic spin on a Clover Club, to the spirituous Solstice Sazerac (you’ll note some “big ice” here). But yeah, the Manhattan milk shake ($10) is something you’ll want to try (share it!), a perfect nightcap. Beer lovers will find plenty to enjoy in the beer selection, and the prices on the all-California wine list are very approachable, especially with eight wines on tap.
There are some things about the experience that still need some polishing: the service has been inexperienced on both visits—exhibiting lots of little things that could be corrected quickly with some proper training—and timing can be off. The restaurant has some quirks: the arrangement of tables inside is close and awkward (a bench seat I was sitting on was far too high for our table), but there are some cool design touches, too, from the salvaged wood seats on the barstools and the midcentury room dividers. I like the music, but the place can get really, really loud at prime time, and I wish they’d turn the distracting TV off unless there’s really a reason for it to be on. It’s almost like the place is a bit of a teenage boy—a bit gangly, but overall he’s a pretty likable kid.
The Corner Store
- 5 Masonic Ave. San Francisco