Move over, small plates. SF’s menus are now touting oversized, Ameri-sized, shared platters of food meant to be served family-style for the table. In addition to these eateries below, prepare to share big plates at the upcoming Sessions in the Presidio and at Oakland’s forthcoming Salsipuedes.
Chef Ryan Pollnow brings a taste of Spain’s Basque region to the former Swedish American Hall. Among the pintxos and the small plates that have long been the hallmark of the regional cuisine, the large cazuelas also make a showing: think chorizo, cuttlefish and tortilla Espanola fried rice (pictured); lamb meatballs with romano beans, chickpeas, and yogurt; or a seasonal farmer’s market paella.
2174 Market St.; 415-471-2977
Here the dining room only serves a seasonal, prix fixe meat or vegetarian meal family-style. The table is served a starting picnic of bread, cheese, pickles and spreads, a large entree like smoked pork loin with grits, escarole and horseradish or arctic char with corn pudding, mushrooms and green beans, as well as shared sides and dessert. Note that weekend menus are more intricate and priced at $65 per person; midweek is $49. While the dining room is prix fixe only, those seated in the lounge can order single plates of pasta and other bar food anytime.
Jack London Sq., 44 Webster St., Oakland; 510-663-4440
The chef team behind the ever-popular State Bird Provisions has this big plated, “choose your own adventure” dining hall in the old Progress Theater on Fillmore Street, giving diners another chance to relish sublimely fresh ingredients of local provenance. $65 per person will award you with five shared dishes and your very own personal dessert. Choose from an evolving menu with the likes of Riverdog Farms chicken with eggplant vinaigrette and cranberry bean salsa verde; potato and sauerkraut dumplings with Blenheim apricot preserves; roti with smoked soubise, vinegared squash and chrysanthemum; or dashi-pickled sockeye salmon with avocado and cucumber.
1525 Fillmore St.; 415-673-1294
Take a seat on a plush leather sofa in the communal lounge and let the large plates fly. An entire section of the menu at this eclectic, protein-forward mega-lodge in the Twitter building is devoted to sharing. You and your tablemates can tuck into geoduck over amaranth, a bone-broth stew of beef cheeks, potatoes and eggs; dirty greens with apple and pecorino; and pig ear fritto misto with fried lemon.
1355 Market St.; 415-792-5101
The restaurant takes its name from a friendly neighborhood block party — the embodiment of the joy of sharing food. And, says the ethos of chef Ravi Kapur, the Hawaiian-Californian main courses are ample enough to be shared, and it would be criminal not to do so with the people you love. The generous slab of beef ribs with kimchi chile sauce, red onion and cauliflower are a thing of tangy beauty, as is the twice-cooked pork belly with sweet pineapple, bright Thai basil and earthy fennel.
871 Sutter St.; 415-440-5446
The namesake restaurant of Chef Mourad Lahlou (Aziza) features Moroccan cuisine that’s found its home in California. Those seeking to sink into their dining experience will certainly want to review the slow-paced la’acha portion of the menu—large family-style meals for two to six complete with sides and sauces. The chicken with preserved lemon and green olives is unforgettable, as is the hearty lamb shoulder with greens and cumin salt.
140 New Montgomery St.; 415-660-2500
Not only are these dishes at the spacious, colorful Valencia outpost of this authentic East Bay eatery meant to be enjoyed by everyone at the table, but many Thai Isaan street foods are best eaten communally with your hands. The head-on shrimp with nam jim, a Thai chile dipping sauce, will disappear as quickly as the hacked grilled chicken spiked with lemongrass and turmeric. A ball of sticky rice is the best vehicle to absorb every drop of broth in the catfish jungle curry with lime leaves, galangal and fried shallots, or the Laotian chile relish of caramelized galangal, shallots and dried shrimp.
680 Valencia St.; 415-400-5699