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The Insider's Guide to State Bird Provisions

By Tamara Palmer
January 27, 2014
Photo by: Russell Jackson

The two-year-old State Bird Provisions recently expanded and remodeled its dining room, which certainly hasn't put a damper on the demand. Get the lowdown before you go with these professional tips.

  • Photo by: Tamara Palmer

    The New Look

    If you've never been to the Bird or haven't dined there since last summer, take a look at the remodeled front of the restaurant. Unlike before, the name is gone so you'll have to look for the red light or - if you arrive around 5 PM - the line. Inside, they've expanded the dining room slightly into the space next door, so everything feels roomier.

  • Scoring a Seat

    More than 30% of the dining room, including the chef's counter areas, are reserved for walk-ins, so don't let the lack of a reservation intimidate you. "It's not as hard to get in as people make it out to be," says general manager Ryan Anderson.

    If you're walking in, a line forms outside every day during the 4 o'clock hour with people looking to get a shot at the first seats, but you can also swing by early, put your name down and head off to a movie at the nearby Kabuki or shop in Japan Center. Reservations, which are made on the restaurant's website, disappear in a flash, but they always post cancellations as they happen, so get into the habit of refreshing the page often if you want a better shot at a reservation. We'll be providing more advice very soon on how to get a table at this perpetually packed restaurant.

  • Photo by: Tamara Palmer

    Large Parties

    The old incarnation of the restaurant could only seat parties of four, but two new alcove tables each seat eight people. They can be combined for a party of up to 16. If you have at least six in your party, you can make a special reservation to sit there and enjoy a set four-course menu that will draw from current offerings and a few surprises.

  • The Music

    The Bird is loud and lively, so be prepared for a few extra decibels during your dinner courtesy of a custom Spotify playlist. Artists like Drake, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Bell Biv DeVoe, Rolling Stones and Lou Reed are in heavy rotation at the moment.

  • Photo by: Russell Jackson

    The Namesake

    The restaurant's namesake is this buttermilk fried quail dish, aka California's state bird. It's served with onions stewed in lemon and Parmesan. The batter has croutons and pepitas in it to give it an extra-addictive crunch. The dish is served in whole- or half-bird portions.

  • Photo by: Tamara Palmer

    Provisions

    There are usually about 16 different dishes that come around the dining room and that can be ordered on a whim. Most are carried on trays, save for a new rotating collection of raw seafood bar specials that are on a cart. This includes items like a recently released Dungeness crab dip with tomato vinaigrette and potato chips, and longtime favorites such as raw oysters with kohlrabi kraut and sesame, and a nori cracker with hamachi sashimi and avocado.

  • Photo by: Tamara Palmer

    Pancakes for Dinner

    There is always a section devoted to savory pancakes on the menu. They dip into adventurous territory, including a version with Mendocino sea urchin and one with duck ham and pecans. Yes, that's ham made out of duck.

  • Photo by: Russell Jackson

    Commandables

    The 'commandables' section of the menu features larger dishes to share. These must be ordered from a server - as in, they do not come around the dining room for impulse buys. There's typically a cast-iron quail-egg dish available here; the one at the moment features a half dozen eggs with apple, sunchokes, Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam cheese and mixed greens.

  • Photo by: Tamara Palmer

    More Commandables

    Another new dish from the commandables section of the menu is this curry rabbit roti, served with creamy lentil dahl and hedgehog mushrooms. All the goodies are hidden underneath the roti bread, which is best eaten with your hands.

  • Photo by: Tamara Palmer

    Sex on a Plate

    This fried bread oozes with green garlic and burrata. The staff has informally nicknamed it the "sex bread," and it's one of the staples that almost never come off the menu.

  • Photo by: Tamara Palmer

    Sweet Endings

    Desserts are artful and usually relatively diminutive so you never have to feel guilty about saving room for them and they won't necessarily throw you over your consumption limit. There is usually some incarnation of an ice cream sandwich on the dessert menu. The current rendition absorbs the flavor of genmaicha, a green tea with roasted brown rice.

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