Jardinière (300 Grove St., 415/861-5555, www.jardiniere.com, nightly 5–10:30 p.m., later on performance nights, $20–60) was the first restaurant opened by local celebrity chef Traci Des Jardins. The bar and dining room blend into one another, and feature stunning art deco decor (the light fixtures are particularly fabulous if you’re into that sort of thing).
The ever-changing menu is a masterpiece of French-California cuisine. Des Jardins has long supported the sustainable restauranting movement, and she creates her enticing dishes with a wealth of local, organic ingredients. And her staff, even the bussers and dishwashers, are paid above industry standard wages and are given English classes that help them to move into higher-paying positions.
Eating at Jardinière is not only a treat for your senses, it is a way to support the best of trends in San Francisco restaurants.
Be sure to make reservations if you’re trying to catch dinner before a show. If you’re dining before a performance, be sure to let your server know, and prompt service will be forthcoming. Or if you can wait until after the symphony or opera for dinner, Jardinière takes late-night diners on a first-come, first-served basis, so hit the exits at a run to get a good table.
Absinthe (398 Hayes St., 415/551-1590, www.absinthe.com, Tues.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–12 a.m., Sat. 11 a.m.–12 a.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., $23–28) takes its name from the notorious “green fairy” drink made of liquor and wormwood. The U.S. ban on absinthe was lifted in 2007 and Absinthe indeed does now serve absinthe—including St. George Spirits Absinthe Verte, the first domestically produced absinthe since Prohibition, made locally in Alameda by St. George Spirits.
It also serves upscale French bistro fare, including what may be the best French fries in the City. The French theme carries on into the decor as well—expect the look of a Parisian brasserie or perhaps a café in Nice, with retro-modern furniture and classic prints on the walls. The bar is open until 2 p.m., so if you want drinks or dessert after your show at the Opera or Davies Hall, just walk around the corner.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition