Ode to The Blue Plate

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I quietly crossed The Blue Plate off my To Try List about a month ago without posting a word because I thought my meal there must have been a fluke. It has gotten universally positive reviews: 4.5 stars on Yahoo! Local, highly recommended by Citysearch, lots of glowing snippets on OpenList, comments that sound worthy of more than 13/20 on Gayot, and a 22 for food on Zagat. All that aside, it was just too amazingly good for a place it seems like no one I know has heard of. I only found out about it from a friend who thought it was great when he went years ago(!). We, on the other hand, went back at the first opportunity and had an equally impressive meal. One review on Yahoo! Local mentioned that The Blue Plate is where chefs and restaurant workers go to eat on their off nights--trust them, they know good food at a great value.Though we're usually a shared appetizer, shared dessert kind of couple, the food at Blue Plate was so compelling and we felt such a strong need to make sure our positive opinion was well-earned that we each held our own and couldn't resist of a side of grown-up mac and cheese on both visits. The grilled hearts of romaine salad with applewood bacon and other garnish is surprisingly delicious for something that sounds so basic. Grilled Monterey Bay squid with Meyer lemon and parsley seem to be a seasonal staple on the menu. They had a great flavor and weren't too chewy, despite their fairly large size, but weren't my favorite thing either. Marinated chiogga and gold beets with satsumas and watercress, however, were fantastic. The wedge of grilled ricotta salata was a nice change from the usual soft goat or feta.Entrees offer creative California updates to classic European dishes and American comfort food. Pan roasted Ling cod with escarole, autumn royal grapes, salt-roasted purple fingerling potatoes, and rosemary, served in a broth, was visually arresting, hearty, and inspiring. Although I was skeptical about the Dungeness crab stuffed trout amandine with white beans, red bor kale, and preserved Meyer lemon, this dish was another knockout, though too big to finish. Although the nightly pasta (always vegetarian) sounded great on both occasions, but no one in the kitchen is actually vegetarian and, though there are exceptions, apparently the fish and meat dishes are usually better. Our waiter commented that he never orders chicken in restaurants, but he felt the chicken and buttermilk biscuit with baby white turnips, crimini mushrooms, and scarlet wonder carrots was worth an exception. We agreed. Oren had no complaints either about the menu fixture meatloaf with mashed potatoes and blue lake green beans. Although you won't need more food, order a side of macaroni and drunken Spanish goat cheese, even if you don't think it goes with your entree. It's perfect to share and not to miss.The appetizers, entrees, and sides are all stellar, but save room for dessert. The sugar pie pumpkin bread pudding with crème anglaise and pomegranate is the best dessert I've had anywhere in a long time. The Guinness stout ginger cake with Meyer lemon custard and candied ginger was a close second. Although the warm chocolate baby cake with cold foamy sauce tasted like some salt might have been spilled in the pan before baking, it might be worth trying again, even though Gambardella's has set my molten chocolate cake standard is pretty high.I love the waitstaff at The Blue Plate. They're fun and all seem to have edgy playfulness that we enjoy, though we're not looking to be coddled. Trust their recommendations: they're not a crew to shill for a lame dish, if they ever had one. Plus, why bother at a restaurant that sells out their food by the end of the night? The ambiance is also fun and cool, with dark walls and funky art. They serve dinner at the bar in the front room and, while there can be a long wait for walk-ins, we've had no trouble making same-day reservations.Prices, especially for organic and responsibly farmed cuisine of this caliber in San Francisco, are surprisingly low. Appetizers are $7-10 but entrees are mostly $16-20. Sides are $4-6 and desserts are all $7. There are about fifty mostly lesser-known wines on the list, of which about ten are poured by the glass. Wine list prices are average and corkage is $15.Appropriate attire: It's a small space and usually warm, so leave your four-play cashmere at home. Jeans and a funky top would be perfect. (The satin bridesmaid's dress someone wore in looked a little out of place.)The Blue Plate3218 Mission Street, San Francisco415.282.6777