First Look: Rambler in San Francisco's Union Square

A legendary space gets a gorgeous redesign, Cal-Ital food and craft cocktails
October 12, 2016
by Trevor Felch

The gist: Union Square's dining scene took a big hit when the acclaimed Postrio, Wolfgang Puck’s foray into the city, ended its two-decade run in 2009. Thankfully, the dining space attached to the Hotel Zeppelin is back as Rambler, and it's bringing a Postrio-like energy to feed the locals and tourists who need a break from the bustle of the city's prime shopping, entertainment and hotel district. It’s the latest establishment from Hat Trick Hospitality, the group behind popular bar/restaurant hybrids Sabrosa, Redford and The Brixton. With a sleek California modern design, the space is split into two distinct areas, and there's a substantial menu channeling San Francisco’s beloved Cal-Ital cuisine, complemented by impressive cocktail creations. 

Kelly Puleio

The food: Rambler’s executive chef Robert Leva (previously at Salt House and Napa Valley’s Redd and Auberge du Soleil), has rooted his opening menu in California with many Italian and American comfort cuisine accents. Diners can start with the "Snacks" section, really spruced-up bar bites like crispy fried sunchokes or cantal and potato croquettes, and baked or raw oysters from the "Shells" category. About 10 items make up the "Smaller" choices, like charred Little Gem lettuce and broccoli, cured salmon with hearts of palm, avocado and pomegranate, and spicy brined chicken wings with chile de arbol and lime crema. Expect toasts, topped with chanterelle mushrooms and a poached farm egg for the opening, and pastas like tagliatelle with lamb sausage and tomatoes for other starters.

Zejian Shen
​Cured king salmon

Zejian Shen
Salmon main course with basil and shelling beans 

Roughly seven to eight dishes make up the larger plates, ranging from ling cod and manila clams in red wine shellfish jus to heartier fare like braised rabbit pot pie and a pork chop and belly with Swiss chard gratin. The house burger features a red onion–bacon jam and white cheddar. Leva will also use Postrio’s famous wood-fired pizza oven for various pizzas, something to be very excited about. Larger parties can opt for a wood-grilled rainbow trout or giant bone-in rib eye with bordelaise sauce from the "Shared" portion.

Zejian Shen
The Zeppelin martini

The drinks: Cocktails are a key part of the Rambler experience with drinks created by Simone Mims. She has quite the pedigree, having worked at the bars of Rich Table and Foreign Cinema, a pair of esteemed restaurants that also have outstanding cocktail programs. Fresh-pressed juices and housemade tinctures abound on a menu that satisfies all palates on the citrus-driven to spirit-forward drinks spectrum. On the lighter end, Mims has a fun play on a Moscow mule with a Miyata mule, adding Japanese whiskey to the ginger beer classic. It’s rounded out by a yuzu-kaffir lime-lemongrass purée and shiso. Martini fans will gravitate to the Zeppelin martini, given a slight tweak with cucumber bitters. One of the more intriguing cocktails is the gin-based Mele with Granny Smith apple juice, fennel, ginger liqueur and apple-ginger foam — the perfect autumn flavored–sipper for this time of year.

Kelly Puleio

The space: Like when the venue housed Postrio, the design is striking and split into two levels: a streetside 48-seat brasserie and a rear, sunken dining room that can hold 63 guests. Designer Lori Yeomans channels the same modern and industrial concepts like she did a few years ago with the gorgeous FiDi restaurant, Wayfare Tavern. The brasserie’s casual vibe is reflected in its taller ceilings, custom metal work and exposed brick, but there is also a refined element from the beautiful bubble glass chandeliers and quirky black-and-white wall art (take a picture of the cameras taking pictures!). Downstairs, the dark and intimate dining room has a distinctive midcentury clubby vibe dominated by flannel banquettes and a neat collection of photos and lithographs from the era.

Kelly Puleio

There are two bars in Rambler, one for each room. The brasserie sports a lengthy 18-foot bar, while the dining room has an intimate four-seat bar with shimmering zinc bartop and a mirrored back bar that makes the dining room look far larger than it is. One more fun nod to its predecessor: The zinc bar's decor includes a framed portrait and vintage cookbooks from Wolfgang Puck.

The details: Rambler accepts reservations and is open for dinner nightly starting October 13.

545 Post St.; 415-549-8008

theater district
hotel restaurants
california cuisine
wood-fired pizza