There are tons of wonderful restaurants in San Francisco, and The Progress is one that we wanted to try ever since the chefs, Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski, won the James Beard Award for Best Chef West this year. First of all, realize that you’re looking for a place with no sign. After we were dropped off, we saw a sign for Progress Dry Cleaners down the street (not related) and thought our iPhones led us to the wrong Progress. Then we noticed people working in a kitchen across the street through a window. We walked in and it turned out to be State Bird Provisions, the sister restaurant to The Progress. The host directed us to the other unmarked door next door. Arrived!
We walked into a beautiful modern space, yet warm, soothing, and lively all at the same time. They used a ton of light wood mixed with retro fixtures in the design. The bar is made of cypress from the Presidio – gorgeous!
We snatched two seats at the bar. There were plenty open around 6:15 p.m. but by 6:45 p.m. the place was crowded. We started off with some cocktails, then moved into the food and wine, and ended up way too full for dessert.
What’s great about sitting at the bar here is that you can pick and choose any number and combination of small plated versions ($5 or $10) of what you would get in the seated menu, which requires the entire table to agree on 6 courses served family style for $65/person. It is like a night of amazing tapas.
While we decided what to order, we enjoyed a Sunny Jim made with gin, lemon, vanilla, pineapple, kaffir lime leaf, soda and The Progress Cocktail made with gin, aperol, plum and apricot syrup, and riesling.
You’re handed a menu and a pencil to bubble-in your order. Make sure to get your menu back once the order goes through so you can a) order more and b) refer back to what you’re eating once it arrives. You dishes will come out in roughly the order the bartender requests them or however the kitchen likes.
We started our food with the sliced heirloom tomatoes with sweet corn and Cowgirl Creamery Mount Tam croquettes.
Next was super-fresh ricotta with carine nectarines, rosemary almonds, garlic chips, and kohlrabi. The flavor of the rosemary contrasted well with the sweetness of the nectarines. This is an idea we’d use at home.
One of our top picks was the ocean beach ‘boquerones’ with lemon cucumber, basil, padrons! For those of you who don’t know, boquerones are anchovy filets (and they are delicious).
Another favorite was the raw local Half Moon Bay halibut with turnips, ‘ikura’, and crème fraîche. This is served with squid ink crackers.
Next was the ‘everything’ roti with smoked soubise, vinegared squash, and chrysanthemum. This reminded us of an Indian dish, almost like a samosa. It was fun to rip the soft thin bread – almost like a crispy crepe.
Black rice fried Hog Island Sweetwater oysters with kimchi ‘piccata.’ This surprised us since we thought the oysters would be on top of rice but they were actually encrusted with it. The kimchi was tasty and spicy but we didn’t finish it.
Another favorite was the lamb merguez with yellow eye beans, and crispy octopus. In hindsight, we should have either stopped here and ordered dessert or a second order of this. The octopus was perfection – crispy yet tender and not chewy. Full of flavor!
Tempura of broccoli with stout-fiscalini cheddar ‘fondue.’ This was a fun idea but pretty heavy (in hindsight this shouldn’t be surprising; it’s fried, with cheddar and stout beer).
Then we had spiced Don Watson’s lamb tartare with sesame rice crisps. This was good, but the crisps are delicate, so handle carefully!
You must visit the bathroom while you’re here. You’ll walk into a golden room that sparkles like crazy from floor to ceiling (we are told they used 500 pounds of glitter in the construction). The classical music that is piped in drowns out the noise of the restaurant.
This would be a great place either to pop in and enjoy a cocktail and snack or for a whole meal. It’s a fun and fresh place. The bar staff is great! Our recommendation is to try it and sit at bar.