Neighborhood Precita Park Cafe Offers More than Good Food
By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri Krasov
The San Francisco culinary scene is rich with neighborhood establishments that quickly become destination restaurants. An understated Precita Park Cafe on a residential street corner in Bernal Heights is one of them. Chef Tu David Phu—a forager and an inventor of new dishes—will put on your table a number of seemingly uncomplicated creations of such subtle beauty you won’t believe you are sitting in a casual all-day café frequented by mommies with kiddies and laptop junkies, and not in an upscale establishment in the Financial District.
For his California bounty-driven cuisine Chef Tu forages wild fennel and rosemary; makes his own mozzarella, ricotta, and mascarpone; and creates a new kind of creamy, finger-licking risotto every night. House-made is a key word on Precita Park Cafe’s menu, and you can’t go wrong with any of its offerings.
House-made flat bread, chewy and cheesy and excitingly crackly around the edges, is fragrant with specks of foraged rosemary and is a great companion to an antipasti plate filled with fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, and hummus. Not just hummus, mind you, but an elaborate combination of garbanzo bean puree, preserved kumquats, pumpkin and pomegranate seeds, and olive oil and balsamic sprinkle.
Among the handcrafted pizzas, Champignon pie is king, made with fresh mushrooms, goat cheese, parmesan, truffle oil, and arugula. Corn meal crumbs at the bottom—a sure sign of an in-house, from-scratch creation—add a nice crunch to the thin yet deliciously soft crust.
On the night we dined, the chef’s selection of risotto contained diced Fuji apples, shaved Parmesan, parsley leaves, and black truffle oil and was positively addictive. By the time this little masterpiece of a muted color palette arrived at our table I was feeling rather full, but after consuming my first forkful I just couldn’t stop eating it. Good that my dining companion demanded his share; I had to reluctantly pass the plate over to him.
In exchange, I got his plate of succulent corned beef short ribs—house-made, of course—with butter-braised cabbage, red onion, and Dijonnaise, a deeply satisfying main course for a chilly night.
House-made Tiramisu for dessert—the creamiest I’ve ever tried—was rivaled only by a sophisticated affogato served in a bowl of cinnamon ice cream flanked by two tiny ceramic cups, one with a strong blooming espresso, another with sinfully dark hot chocolate to pour over ice cream.
A well-selected wine list with great by-the-glass choices and an array of California micro-brews rounds up the menu at Precita Park Cafe.
Perhaps, its most satisfying feature in this day and time is the value; the quality of food, drink, and extremely friendly service here far exceeds the prices—no dish more than $16. There is also a Just for Kids menu with all the kiddy staples at $3 each.
The ambiance is clean, unpretentious, and very accommodating. There is a “living room” corner at one end of the dining room, with sofa, love seat, and a coffee table, and a row of cozy two-seaters by the bar/open kitchen. A vintage red Monark bicycle tops the blackboard that lists healthful drink specials and healthy business principles the establishment lives by.
Precita Park Cafe is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday. It is located at 500 Precita Avenue in San Francisco. Call (415) 647-7702 or visit the website for more information.