The epitome of a great neighborhood restaurant
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?