The Broken Record in San Francisco – Sets a High Bar For Dives

I was recently in San Francisco for the International Wine Competition and I wanted to try something a little off the beaten path fro dinner. My wife suggested that I try The Broken Record (she had recently seen it featured on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives). I called an old college friend and we made plans to try it out.

From the moment my buddy and I walked in until we stumbled out, we had a blast. This is the kind of bar-come-gastropub that I wish we had in DC! The bar is just dive-ish enough to be hip for the not-so-hip and the restaurant is tasty enough to be taken seriously.

We got to the bar at 5:30 pm on a Saturday and at first thought we were at the wrong spot. It was empty. We asked the bar tender – a genuinely nice guy bespeckled with tattoos – what the deal was. He told us that we were “just early enough.” Suggested that we order something to drink and grab a table in the back while there were still tables to be had. The beer selection – both on tap and in bottle – was impressive. But even more impressive was the whiskey selection… on tap! I have never seen whiskey on tap. But now I have. I opted for one of their exceptionally wonderful local brews and headed down the hallway to the back of the bar were the restaurant is located.

We grabbed a table and checked out the menu (chalk) board  while we waited for the kitchen to open (it usually opens right at 6:15 pm) and went into paralysis from all of the amazing choices we were facing.

At 6:00 pm, the restaurant was filling up quickly and we noticed a few people starting to queue up at the order window (you have to place your order and PAY CASH ONLY at the window – but they will bring your dinner to your table).

We decided to jump in line and use the time to try to decide between the Crawfish and Grits, the Lobster Mac and Cheese, the Short Rib Dip Sandwich and the Crispy Pork Loin Sandwich. Then we noticed that the prices were – and I am NOT making this up – only $10 per item, so we said, f-it and ordered all four items. Silly? Maybe. Worth it? Ab-so-f’ing-lute-ly!

The food came out as it was ready. The first dish to hit the table was the Lobster Mac and Cheese. There were huge chunks of lobster meat tucked among the bowtie pasta. The sauce was rich without being too cloying – a perfect balance that let the delicate flavor of the lobster shine through.

Next came the Crispy Pork Loin sandwich and the Crayfish and Grits. The pork was crispy and tender, but the spicy mayo sauce and the brioche-style bun made the sandwich sing. The Crayfish and Grits was very good (and plentiful), but the butter-laden grits were just too rich to have more than a few bites (alright – I had more than a few bites, but I paid the price later…).

Last up was the Pièce de résistance: The short rib dip. Ahhhhh, now this is a sandwich. The short ribs were lean and cooked to perfection and served on a toasted roll that brought a smile to my tongue. It was served with a ramekin of au jus and a ramekin of horseradish cream sauce. Both were perfect accompaniments.

The only thing I wished we had ordered were the sweet potato tots. But not to worry. The wonderful thing about the Broken Record is the communal atmosphere that infuses the place. We had soooo much food on our table that we started to share it with other tables around us – and they shared their orders with us as well. After a few more beers, it felt like family dining! Two young women who were visiting from Louisiana came over to our table to sample a little bit of everything we had before they placed their order. You got to love a place that brings that kind of community out in a dining experience.

Only one tale of caution – bring cash. The Broken Record doesn’t take credit cards.

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