State Bird Provisions
One for the Books
Picking the best meal you’ve eaten is a little like picking a favorite kid. You love them all; and in a city like San Francisco, every kid is on the honor role. But sometimes — with meals, anyway — it’s good to choose, to whittle down and pick one meal that, you know, you just connect with that much more. It’s good to find where your culinary affinity lies — to identify what it is that moves a meal beyond an expert articulation of food and into the realm of lifetime culinary memory.
State Bird Provisions fits my bill. It’s an exemplary place, on paper: In 2012, Bon Appétit recognized it as the Best New Restaurant of the year; in 2013, the James Beard Foundation did the same; in 2014, it earned a Michelin star. It’s been a good three years, but that’s not why it resonated with my taste buds; food’s not about recognition. It’s about landing flavors on the palate, and creating a spirit that celebrates good cuisine. Technically, chefs Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski’s food achieves an elite level of precision. Refreshingly, the spirit that surrounds it is playful, inventive and unpretentious.
The spot, situated on a rather non-restaurant-centric block of Fillmore, is a playground for food geekery. There are pegboards on the walls, and a large open kitchen at the door. You’ll be more at home entering in a chambray shirt than a Thom Sweeney suit. When we dined, we showed up a few minutes early and were compensated with champagne. It was unnecessary, but bubbly cordiality never hurts.
Once seated, the carts roll table side. The “Provisions”, small plate treats, are dished out dim sum style. Take it on good authority that you should choose generously — or take one of each. A meal at State Bird is not about restraint; it’s about looking, liking, and eating. And if you miss something the first time, fear not: the carts come back around.
The garlic bread with burrata has remained on the menu from the start, which no one questions. Pancakes and toast, along with the Commandables (more in the main plate vein), are ordered from the kitchen. Follow conviction with the cakes and toast: sourdough, sauerkraut, pecorino and ricotta pancakes hit the mark. Then move to the restaurant’s namesake, the California state bird: deep fried quail, equal parts crispy, salty panache and savory, buttery bird. It’s a rite of passage, but don’t let it limit your scope. Eat widely and broadly; this is the full-palate candy shop.
Brioza and Krasinski are a husband-and-wife duo, and it complements their cooking. Brioza leads off with substantials, and Krasinski cleans up with the desserts. It takes a certain resolve to continue on at this point in the meal — as a two-top, we’d tackled five Provisions, a Pancake, and three Commandables — but we weathered the gastronomical storm. This is a meal (and a reservation) that doesn’t circle back often, so don’t deny the sweet tooth: finish with a chocolate olive oil cake with roasted strawberries and caramelized honey yogurt.
Most respectable meals will stick with you. You won’t soon forget that sense of revelry, flavor combinations that arrive as quiet, unsuspected surprises. The food at State Bird Provisions does that, but it also cultivates a charm beyond pitch-perfect dishes. The whole restaurant resonates with a rich celebration of eating, and it asks you in a sophisticated, unostentatious way to come and sit, eat, and enjoy the best meal of your life. Matthew Ankeny
1529 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115 ⇱ | 415.795.1272 | statebirdsf.com | Directory