The epitome of a great neighborhood restaurant


My friend Steph raved about the fried chicken at Firefly in San Francisco’s Noe Valley neighborhood, so I leaped at the opportunity to go when my boyfriend Andy was in town.

We recognized the establishment by the gigantic firefly hanging above the entrance. As I walked into the restaurant, I was blown away by the warm, buttery smell of truffles. I did some investigating and soon learned it was the brussels sprouts appetizer. My nose could tell that they would be wonderful, so I made a mental note to order them, even though Andy doesn’t care for brussels sprouts, a fact that I’ve learned when cooking them at home. (At another time, I will have to tell you about the time I made “brussels sprouts two ways” — not his favorite meal.) To his surprise and my delight, it didn’t take long for him to experience a change of heart. Post-roast, these notoriously bitter greens were soft and sweet on the inside, and sported a crisp outer shell with a deep caramel flavor.

The true standout of the night was the fried chicken. Were I to have closed my eyes and taken a bite, I would not have been able to discern breast from thigh. Even with my eyes open, I did a once-over to make sure I was in fact eating a piece of breast meat. It was as succulent, juicy and tender as a piece of thigh meat, but sans the high oil content.

When I asked our server how Firefly was able to make chicken so juicy, she came back from the kitchen with her answer. “Our chef says it’s a combination of two things,” she explained. “Frying temperature, and — more importantly — the high-quality chicken that we use. He can’t recall the name of the farm, as it’s changed, but we always use organic, free range, local chickens, and that’s really what makes the chicken so juicy.”

The peas and carrots were cooked fresh, as the peas possessed an unusual “pop” to them when I bit into each sphere. The buttermilk biscuit was flaky but not at all greasy — a rare combination. Did I mention that I wasn’t even the one who ordered the chicken?

The maple-glazed pork chop that I got was nicely paired with bacon-laced farro, braised escarole (to offset the sweetness of the maple) and a grain mustard sauce. Nonetheless, the pork chop was slightly overcooked, and I was far too enraptured by the chicken to give anything else attention. Still, I was impressed when, at the end of the meal, a busboy brought out my leftovers in a small box that had been dated and labeled “Firefly Pork Chop.” The staff had struck a balance between casual professionalism, culinary knowledge, friendliness and cooking skill. That, to me, made it the epitome of an exceptional neighborhood restaurant.

I left the restaurant a little heavier in the stomach, but a little lighter on my feet.

Firefly, 4288 24th Street, San Francisco, Calif. 415.821.7652

What do you think is the mark of a great neighborhood restaurant?

4 Responses to “The epitome of a great neighborhood restaurant”

  1. frugalfoodie Says:

    The mark of a great neighborhood restaurant is a general sense of warmth…one where both local residents those coming from farther away are treated with the same geniality. Where your service seems to care about making a personal connection with the customers – whether if that is by the chit-chat or if they go the extra mile to help you find out what made that fried chicken so damn good. I felt all those things at Firefly, and that’s why it is one of my favorite SF restaurants!

    Great review!

  2. Such a good point. I obviously owe it to you to pointing me in the direction of this fabulous restaurant! I only take direction from the best…

  3. My baseline is still Popeye’s Fried Chicken. And from what I know, the fried chicken at Firefly’s did not disappoint. My only gripe is the fact that the entree did not come with hot sauce – the proper way to eat fried chicken.

  4. You know, I have to agree. And everybody knows that my baseline for hot sauce is the Tabasco green kind. However…the house made red sauce at Maverick did not disappoint, either!

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