[Photos: Patricia Chang]
It's been over a month since Fog City came in on little cat feet, and Bruce Hill's complete remodel of the iconic Fog City Diner has old-school fans and newcomers alike talking. Does the absent diner vibe leave old regulars cold, or has the new look charmed its way into people's hearts? What about that chicken, those crullers, and the much-vaunted burger? Before the official reviews drop, we check in with the peanut gallery to hear about favorite dishes, pricing gripes, and more, with the latest installment of The Early Word.
The Vibe News: Shaking up an old classic means dealing with the gripes of opinionated locals, but most are digging the new look. "I really like what they did to open up the dining room to the Embarcadero and the way the bar wraps around," said Chowhounder Nocharge. Yelper Scott M. is "very happy" with the new look: "I'd describe the decor as 'industrial chic'...clean and modern, but comfortable." But not everyone likes the change. "I was disappointed to find how radically different it was," admitted Yelper Tim B. "I would use the word 'trendy' to describe the interior now."
The Chicken News: The star of the show is the roast chicken for two, which Jay Barmann of SFist calls "as juicy a chicken as you'll eat...the flavors that roast into the breast meat are complex but not overwhelming, and the thing is impressive to behold." "I don't think I've had [a chicken] quite so juicy in a very long time," concurs Carolyn Jung of Food Gal, who's "betting that, before long, it will become as famed as the one at Zuni Cafe." Carolyn Alburger of SF Magazine calls the chicken "glistening," and we're assuming that's a compliment.
The Burger and Fries News: "While the à la carte burger was fresh and tasty, as expected, it reminded me of something from In-N-Out," said Yelper Tom L. Nocharge reports that "it had a much more modest thin patty that they cook medium. Still, while arguably overpriced at $14 (w/o fries), it worked pretty well...a nicely composed burger that I could easily eat many times a week, unlike the truffle burger at Bix." Barmann particularly likes the "Japanese-inflected, hand-cut" furikake fries, which he deems "addictive," but at $6 to the burger's $14, some are crying foul at the $20 combo: "For the price, I expected something more," said Tim B.
The Other Food News: "I am still thinking about the grilled beef tongue dish, and I had no idea how good the combination of pickles and housemade ranch dressing would prove to be," reminisced Tablehopper's Marcia Gagliardi. The wood-oven-roasted clams were a "a mélange of flavors with broth" that almost made Yelper Yvette F. weep, and the spicy pole beans had Yelper Quinn B. longing to go back. Same goes for the lamb skewers, which were good enough to encourage other diners to share the secret unprompted: "A lady even grabbed my arm as I walked in and she walked out, and she whispered, 'lamb skewers' in my ear."
The Custard News: Fog City's dessert specialty is their frozen custard, which Carolyn Jung called "really silky" and "incredibly smooth." She also loved the French crullers: "Tear one open and watch the steam waft out from its airy, eggy tasting interior." Yelper Melissa N. agrees. "Their salty rich creamy caramel paired with rich frozen custard is pretty hard to beat. Even better when you dip your cruller into each item."
The Cocktail News: "The cocktails were the real thing, with unique, yet clean and classic flavors and presentation," gushed Yelper Lauren O. "Make sure you try the Fog City Milk Punch cocktail," advises Yelper Steve B. "I had no idea what to expect based on all of the ingredients (bourbon, rum, brandy, citrus, milk, etc.), but it's a delicious sweet drink that also packed a good punch."
The Service News: "The service was very warm and inviting," said Melissa N., and Diane K. called it "great" and "attentive." But not everyone agrees: "Our waiter was careless and often combative," reports peeved Yelper Bryant W. File that one under "inconclusive."
The Value News: Food was good, said Yelper Melita S., "although on the pricey side," and that opinion seems widespread. "While the food was not awful, I don't think it was a good value at that price," said Tim B. The burger in particular "does a great job of convincing people that the new place is every bit as overpriced as the old one," says Nocharge. "Very comforting, should you have a bout of pricing nostalgia."