Some of the most endearing American cooking starts with baking, and the bakery restaurant — Ahern’s, Neldam’s, Marie Callender’s — is literally as American as apple pie.
In the case of Citizen’s Band, a contemporary south-of-Market diner connected to the excellent Pinkie’s Bakery, the ingredients may have been rethought, but the menu still embraces old-school comfort, affordability and the goodness of freshly baked goods.
Here, the food is as American as warm peach and berry cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream — from Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous in Dogpatch.
Citizen’s Band chef Chris Beerman and Pinkie’s baker/owner Cheryl Burr — who happen to share initials with their restaurant — have a good thing going in this collaboration.
The diner has a tiled coffee shop counter with fixed stools, fabricated concrete tables, a cushioned banquette, and a basic, do-it-yourself kitchen. One whole wall has become a push-pin collage. CB radios are stacked in the transom above the front door. The diner is connected to the wood-countered bakery next door.
Beerman has cooked in many restaurants around town from which he has distilled dishes that give a diner menu cachet.
His version of Frank and Beans ($8) turns out to be Fra’ Mani Italian sausage and fresh butter beans from farmer Louie Iacopi. It is an Italian ragout of impeccable pedigree.
Playfully deconstructed corn chowder ($7) comes on a white porcelain tray arranged with a square bowl of velvety corn puree, a little glass jar of the tiniest chanterelles, potato cubes and corn kernels, and a condiment bowl with two puffy corn and crabmeat beignets. Mix them all together for a three-star chowder at diner prices.
His take on Cobb salad ($8) is light, delightful and chicken-less, a melange of sweet and bitter lettuces tossed with sliced pickles, bacon, cherry tomatoes, Point Reyes blue cheese and avocado in a bright vinaigrette. Don’t miss it.
An otherwise exemplary wedge ($8) of quartered Little Gem heads (like a baby romaine), gets a buttermilk-ranch dressing made with smoked blue cheese that is just too odd for me.
But no new twist diminishes the old fashioned pleasure of flaky-battered Beerman’s fried chicken ($18), very moist inside and perfectly seasoned outside, served atop sweet and tender braised escarole, with chicken-y brown gravy and a crumbly biscuit from Pinkie’s. Now, this is good eating.
I loved CB’s hamburger ($13) as well, a thick, juicy patty of fat-laced American Kobe beef raised in Idaho, on a small brioche like, poppyseed challah bun from Pinkie’s. This already rich burger gets sweet mayo sauce, sliced pickles and grilled onions for lusciousness in every bite.
Big pours of food-friendly California zinfandel ($6.50) and pints of small-batch California beer ($4-$6) were made for this food.
No matter what precedes, dessert ($6.50) beckons. Besides that perfect cobbler with crumbly biscuit crust, don’t miss butterscotch and chocolate pudding, one on top of the other, with whipped cream.
Key lime pie has plenty of tart, fresh lime filling on a thin graham cracker crust.
Crisp, buttery peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies — one for everyone — arrive with the check, a gesture that echoes the gentle, accommodating service. Citizen’s Band takes the bakery diner concept to exciting but not scary heights.
Patricia Unterman is the author of the “San Francisco Food Lovers’ Pocket Guide.” Contact her at email@example.com.
IF YOU GO
Location: 1198 Folsom St. (at Eighth Street), San Francisco
Contact: (415) 556-4901; www.citizensbandsf.com
Hours: Lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays; dinner from 5:30 to 11 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays
Price range: $5 to $24
Recommended dishes: Fried chicken, hamburger, Cobb salad, corn chowder, butterscotch and chocolate pudding, peach and berry cobbler.
Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, Discover