I’ve been keeping you posted about the opening of chef Anthony Strong’s PRAIRIE in the former Hog & Rocks location in the Mission, and now I have a firsthand update for you since I was invited for an opening night meal last week!
He’s done an impressive remodel of the space, sporting a crisp look with white ash tables and natural modern chairs, and the walls feature wood panels dyed a deep indigo. Add in the modern light fixtures, groovy scene at the eight-seat bar, retro artwork, and eclectic, upbeat soundtrack, and you’ve got a fun scene happening here. Oh yeah, and a madonna at the door to greet you (nothing like sourcing some South San Francisco statuary to add some Neapolitan vibes). You’ll also notice that the infamous din that was at Hog & Rocks has disappeared—they added some sound-dampening panels, and even more should be coming soon.
Your server will check in with you, but it’s pretty much up to you to grab a red pencil on the table and start selecting what you want to eat off the menu. While Strong is known for his years of making Italian food, at Prairie, he’s showing his love of Japanese cuisine and ingredients, along with Chinese influences, and some other items he’s pulling from his food lover’s pantry. It’s freestyle, creative, and meant to be shared.
Start with the guanciale-wrapped mochi ($4 each), nestled inside radicchio, with some nori and a few dollops of syrupy aged balsamic. Another bite you’ll need to indulge in while you can is the pane distrutto ($4), a craggy piece of olive oil-toasted bread soaked with early girl tomato juices—it’s basically a total mouthful of end-of-summer bliss. I also stepped a foot into fall with the chicories salad ($11), with a dressing that nods toward a Caesar, but of course we added some hot guanciale on top ($4). The menu has plenty of vegetarian and vegetable-focused dishes, and there is even a keto designation on dishes.
Pastas include plump Gulf shrimp and burrata tortelli ($19), and buttered tagliatelle with a rich sugo of chicken bits and Parmigiano ($18), almost like a satisfying Italian stroganoff that you mix into the noodles, but with chicken.
The kitchen’s two charcoal grills (a Josper from Spain and a J&R Woodshow Broiler from Texas) are the masters behind half of the menu, giving a smoky kiss to dishes like meaty Berkshire spare ribs ($25) with a Calabrian XO rub (it’s almost like you’re eating in an awesome Chinese restaurant in Italy), and the platter of lamb blade chops ($27) with arugula and lemon at the table next to us looked like something I’d have at a dream grigliata for Ferragosto in Italy. I’ll be coming back for the marrow bones ($22) with a sherry luge, which are right where they should be: in the “fun” section on the menu.
The cocktail list features some fabulously carbonated highballs, thanks to the Suntory Toki highball machine (I was way into my Suntory Toki with grapefruit, so refreshing alongside the smoky ribs). Becky with the Good Hair ($13) is a beaut, a golden-orange gin cocktail with lime and a turmeric-sea buckthorn shrub that almost tasted healthy (I fell in love with sea buckthorn while traveling in Russia).
The Italian-leaning wine list has all kinds of food-friendly selections available by the glass or bottle (Anthony worked with LA-based Lucid Selections on it), and there are five beers on draft, with some Japanese beers by the bottle. Be sure to check out the “Not-A-Flamethrower” on a back bar shelf (it’s locked!), released in limited numbers by Elon Musk’s Boring Company. (Don’t worry, they won’t be using it on any drinks or customers.) There’s also some outdoor seating, and brunch is coming soon. Dinner served Tue-Sun beginning at 5:30pm.
Note that an 18 percent service charge will be added to each bill in lieu of tips (this allows them to provide better wages and benefits to every member of the team), plus a 4 percent surcharge for SF employer mandates (“Healthy SF”). 3431 19th St. (between Valencia and Mission), 415-483-1112.
The dining room at Prairie. Photo courtesy of Prairie.