Citizen Cake, Elizabeth Falkner’s buoyant, artistic bakery-cafe and restaurant, has found a happy new home in Pacific Heights.
The other night I was having dinner at one of the small slate tables along a wooden banquette that runs the length of the narrow storefront — a glass pastry counter and a marble bar with seats take up the other side.
A threesome on our left had just worked their way through six different sweets with bowls of caffe latte. A young couple on our right were sipping Champagne and jockeying over three confections. They confided to us that they had walked over from Cole Valley after the baby sitter arrived, for their midweek night out.
Citizen Cake is becoming the dessert destination it always wanted to be in its former location in Hayes Valley near the Performing Arts Center, where parking was a nightmare on performance nights and the neighborhood simply was not as casually accessible to Falkner’s upscale fan base.
For her Pacific Heights Citizen Cake, she has fashioned light, stylish lunch and dinner dishes that always allow room for dessert.
In her version of frisee-lardon salad ($12), a warm, perfectly poached egg becomes the dressing for a chilled salad with smoky bits of bacon, minuscule croutons, shavings of watermelon radish and piercings of tarragon. A mustard vinaigrette lurks in the background. The whole thing delivers savory punch without the fat.
The same light hand works on an ingenious composition of halved baby beets separated by thin vertical slices of gamey cold beef heart, a semicircle of arugula and a swatch of horseradish cream ($11), all of which play off one another.
Made-to-order clam chowder ($13) with littlenecks in their shells in a creamy but not-too-rich clam infused broth, is a lovely way to start, or to be, a winter meal.
At dinner, look for crisp-skinned dorade on a browned pancake of cauliflower, lubricated with beurre blanc ($21). The execution is perfect.
A deconstructed beef stroganoff ($19) juxtaposes velvety, fork tender nuggets of kobe beef cheek with tiny carrots and turnips, and thick, housemade noodles on the side.
Drop-in lunch at the marble counter calls for a classic tuna salad sandwich on grilled bread ($10) with a haystack of fried vegetable threads.
Equally satisfying is the fried chicken cobb sandwich ($13) filled with a thick slice of crunch-coated breast and egg salad spiked with blue cheese, bacon bits and avocado, all on a soft little brioche bun.
All this sets the stage for sweets, which require deep and continuing research.
Here are my current faves: a new crisp/chewy coconut-peanut butter cookie; violet-cassis macarons; the signature chocolate cupcake with marshmallow filling; the ever popular passion fruit-coconut shag; butterscotch-miso pudding in a glass-like “verrine” and a chocolate mini-tart that oozes buttery caramel at first bite.
They are all amazingly priced to move: $1.50 for the cookies, $5.50 for the little cakes, verrines and tarts, $3.25 for the cupcakes.
Prices, in fact, are so reasonable, and the quality so high, the well-to-do citizens of Pacific Heights have been charmed, which is exactly why Citizen Cake has found so much love in its new ’hood.
Location: 2125 Fillmore St. (at California Street), San Francisco
Contact: (415) 861-2228; www.citizencake.com
Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays
Price range: $1.50 to $23
Recommended dishes: Clam chowder, beet salad, frisee-lardon salad, kobe beef cheek stroganoff, fried chicken cobb sandwich, cookies, cakes, puddings, custards
Credit cards: All major except Discover
Patricia Unterman is the author of the second edition of the “San Francisco Food Lovers’ Pocket Guide.” Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.