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Early Critics Weigh in on Heirloom Café

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Former Jardiniere and RN74 wine guy, Matt Straus opened Heirloom Café almost exactly seven weeks ago, meaning a good amount of public and professional opinion has been filed to date. On a stretch of the Mission saturated by taco and street food vendors; this simple, California-style, wine-driven concept certainly stands out. But it still remains to be seen if it can differentiate itself among San Francisco's multitudinous rustic, ingredient-driven restaurants with reclaimed wood inside. Aside from one suspiciously shillish review, the Chowhounders have been radio-silent to date; still there are some encouraging words out there.

The Very Good News: For what it's worth, Mission Loc@l granted its first perfect review rating of five out of five to Heirloom. Reviewer Viola says: "Maybe the best meal I've had in the Mission District for a while." And she also lauds the chef/owner saying, "When he's not in the kitchen as chef, Straus wanders around talking to diners and has a sort of quiet, self-effacing-Sam Mogannam-of-Bi-Rite-affect. How can you not like a guy who starts his blog bio 'Matt Straus has been working in food service for the past twenty-three years, beginning with a stint at the neighborhood McDonald’s when he was fourteen'?” [Mission Loc@l]

The Pretty Good News: Paul Reidinger of the SF Bay Guardian has this review, well-summed up here: "The cooking is as elegant and understated as the interior design." Though Reidinger notices a few faults: "On occasion, the magic ingredient goes missing, as with the mussels ($10). These were served with a classic white wine broth, which was a little sharp and sour." Overall, his report is overwhelmingly peppered with praises such as: "A nice illustration of knowing when to leave well enough alone involved the poached halibut ($22), which turned out to be nearly as rich and creamy as the potato purée it was served on." [SFBG]

Some Bad News: All in all, the Yelpers are on board with Heirloom as well. However, a few complaints do pop up, like t. w.'s issues with comfort: "The hardwood benches around the periphery are (literally) a pain after sitting for any length of time." Keegan M. has some veggie-related gripes: "Limited menu with not very much diversity. I don't eat red meat and all three main dishes were with red meat." [Yelp]

The Wine News: And Lady T-Hop is all about the wine. She imparts the exciting news regarding Straus' list: "Heirloom will have 150-200 labels, with 21 available by the glass. But if you are game to explore deeper, what you’ll want to do is request his list of older wines. Hello, verticals of Qupe, Havens, and Hanzell, plus six vintages of Vieux Telegraphe. There are also lots of Burgundy and Bordeaux selections—but he’s holding some bottles from the 2005 vintage for at least another five years, so don’t ask." But Yelper Troy T. begs to differ: "For a place that seems 'wine positive', the pours are TINY; when you pay $20 for a glass of rhone wine, you expect enough to get you through the entree!" [Tablehopper, Yelp]

Some Beefy News: Back to Reidinger here, who calls out the off-menu Epoisse burger: "...the dominant reality was the epoisses cheese, whose ripe pungency gave pause. At first bite I wondered if the meat had spoiled — the cheese was that strong. I continue to question the French-style cheeseburger, I must say. High-quality beef generally doesn't need much support, let alone interference." Meanwhile the Hambauer appears to like/dislike the same combination: "The pungent cheese probably isn’t for every taste but to me, the earthy flavor gives the burger character and it’s tamed by the arugula that paves the bottom bun and the onion jam slathered on top."
—Christy Jovanelly

After reading these points of view, we do encourage your contributions here in the comments or straight to the EaterWire dome.

[Photo: Justin Lewis]

Heirloom Café

2500 Folsom St., San Francisco, CA