After our morning at the museum, Caron and I met our mutual friend Amy for lunch at Bar Jules and a walking tour of the many pastry and dessert shops of Hayes Valley. The plan started with my desire to visit Paulette - the French macaron shop on Hayes Street that is an offshoot of the Beverly Hills store. Amy also guided us to Miette Confiserie, Christopher Elbow Chocolates, Citizen Cake and - after a short Bart ride - Humphry Slocombe.
Bar Jules is the kind of place you'd want to visit because it's in such a fun neighborhood - with an appropriately cute and quirky sensibility and decor - but thankfully it's more than just a pretty face.
The daily-changing menu is written on these enormous blackboards (I couldn't help but wonder, whatever will they do if the person with the cool handwriting ever quits their job?) and is available online in the morning. We were tempted by the duck breast panini with white bean puree and salsa verde, a wood-grilled shrimp salad with radishes, green beans and chervil dressing, and the Marin Sun Farms burger with a little salad. I also have it on good authority that their soups are fabulous, but it was a little too warm for soup that day.
The burger was served on thin toasted levain bread, a somewhat odd choice - but the grassfed meat was perfectly cooked and juicy, so we let that slide. They might have served it with a little more interesting side than the tangle of lightly dressed greens though - a little tomato or pickle or similar would have been a welcome addition.
The duck on the duck breast panini was a little tough and it could have used a little more of the salsa verde and white been puree - but the flavors that were there were good. It probably wasn't a very good choice with the burger since the bread and the accompaniment were identical, but we didn't know that when we ordered.
Truth be told, I wasn't sure if I was sold on Bar Jules' food until I tasted this salad. A good friend of mine evaluates restaurants on the basis of whether they make their own salad dressings and whether they're any good - I poke fun, but just like sauces and soups - dressings really are a telling indicator of a cook's abilities. This little salad of butter lettuce with crisp vegetables, grilled shrimp and a creamy chervil-spiked dressing was perfectly balanced, and really brought me around to thinking this place is something special. A bit of service confusion led to my being served an elderflower presse instead of the sparkling water I ordered, but I wasn't sorry when I tasted it. Caron even ordered one for herself when she tried it.
The daily changing menu, the locally focused ingredients and quirky, intelligent style of the place were enough to sell me on a return visit despite the small problems and slightly slow service we encountered. Based on conversations I've had with others and the reviews I've read online, it sounds like they serve a bit more interesting food at dinner than lunch - which might make that a better choice.
They serve only one dessert (at least at lunch) known as the "Chocolate Nemesis." I am always intrigued by the solo dessert option - the assumption being it must be good - but with a full afternoon of sweets planned, we weren't able to try it on this visit.
Stay tuned for the rest of our afternoon, coming soon!
609 Hayes St
San Francisco, CA 94199
Open for lunch and dinner Wed-Sat.
Dinner only on Tuesday and lunch/brunch only on Sunday.