Just before I left town, I had the chance to check out a preview of the updated ELITE CAFÉ, and let’s just say you should be pretty pleased that they are now open!
The 78-seat space is all spiffed up, with a fresh gray-blue paint job on the historic mahogany booths (which were extremely weathered), lots of Carrara marble tabletops (reminiscent of classic New Orleans eateries), a new penny tile floor (which is more like how it originally was in the 1920s), and plenty of shiny brass. Everything has a crisper look, instead of the previous tones of brown.
I have covered a lot of details in past pieces, but let’s talk about the menu from chef Chris Borges, a New Orleans native. It’s full of flavor and fun touches, like vadouvan with the lightly fried okra, and there’s a muffaletta chopped salad with ham, mortadella, salami, smoked provolone, Gruyère, giardiniera/house pickled vegetables, and Little Gems. There are plenty of classics, like a crawfish étouffée made with plump Louisiana crawfish and uni butter, and a duck gumbo with a pleasing thickness and house-smoked duck sausage. Stewed okra makes for a fab vegetarian dish, but meat lovers will be pleased with the house-pickled pork and grilled andouille in the red beans and rice. And there’s Southern fried chicken, oh yes (it’s buttermilk-soaked Mary’s chicken).
The bar program got a nice update from Kevin Diedrich (Pacific Cocktail Haven/P.C.H), with a spirituous spin on a Sazerac (made with Cognac). You’ll be tempted to walk out the front door with the frozen Irish coffees and Hurricanes in their plastic go-cups, but don’t do that, you’re in SF.
Hours are Mon-Fri 5pm-10pm, with a bar menu that’s served through midnight; the bar is open until last call (or 2am, if the party doesn’t want to stop). Brunch starts at 9am Sat-Sun and just keeps going into dinner. Welcome back to the Fillmore! 2049 Fillmore St. at California, 415-346-8400.
The updated dining room and booths at Elite Cafe. All photos: © tablehopper.com.