And down goes another long term restaurant in SF. Seems most anything over 15 years old these days is calling it quits. But Hayes Valley is a hub so I’m sure the space will be something else soon even in this costly competitive environment.
Choices, sometimes there can be too many. It's a problem I run into every now and then when I'm out wandering the city. I get hungry but am not always sure what I want to eat and I find myself staring at menus on windows waiting for anything to strike my particular taste buds. (It drives the SO crazy) Eventually I reach a point where I'm just like f**k it and I'll walk in someplace and get what I get. Sometimes this works out, sometimes it's nothing but trouble. (Again, this too drives the SO crazy) On a recent weekday off I had this particular problem when I found myself in Hayes Valley, which has a fair number of things to choose from and I've been to a lot of them. But I wanted a different place and didn't want to spend too much and wasn't sure what I was looking for and so on. That's when I walked by Arlequin and kept walking and then ultimately turned around and decided to give it a try.
It's a huge space with a fridge case up front for grab and go food, a patio out back and a hallway that connects to a wine bar next door. They also have a menu up on the wall to order food and then enjoy it at one of the vast array of available tables which is what I did.
It's a selection of salads, sandwiches, soups and baked goods and stuff. Pretty standard neighborhood cafe food, but on a slightly upscale, gourmet bent. I'm guessing they get a fair amount of opera/ballet folks stopping in before a show, so not exactly hot dogs and burgers. Though of course, as I thought this, my eye zeroed in on the lamb burger, sort of upscale ballpark food. And while I'm at, I'm getting it with fries instead of salad because IT'S A BURGER AND THAT'S WHAT YOU DO!
It's an Indian spiced lamb burger with onion tomato chutney and yogurt dill sauce on a brioche bun with crispy cut thin fries salt and peppered. My first though upon getting the plate was, oh, how cute! And I mean that in a "my how small the burger is" way. The patty as you can see doesn't even fill up the bun and would fit easily in the palm of my hand. But that's a negative, let's temporarily focus on the positive shall we. The burger was made to order so it and the fries were served hot and fresh. The chutney has some nice spicy kick to it that was balanced by the cool of the creamy yogurt--you know--very Indian--and a little Mediterranean too.
The lamb was cooked perfectly and very juicy with a hint of spice, kind of reminded me of a gyro on a bun. The bun was toasted but I do wish places would butter these things up to add some more flavor. Plus I could have used a little more yogurt sauce (though it looks like a lot) since the bun was bigger than the patty and there wasn't quite enough juice or sauce to keep some of the last few bites from getting a little dry. I had to implore the ketchup on it which I didn't really want to do, alas the things we are forced to do. Still, I did like the flavor and taste combo of this burger, though the big eater in me wanted it to be a little bigger.
I will say I did really like the fries--hot, crispy, salted and peppered, thin, just a touch of fryer oil, really well done. And all this for $11.50 which in the grand scheme of San Francisco sandwiches and burgers is considered a bargain I guess. Though $9.95 would have made me feel better due to size but I guess lamb is on the pricey side these days.
This being a bakery also I couldn't pass up trying one of their baked goods and while I perused the case I spied a brownie and asked the woman behind the counter if it had nuts and I swear she said to me "is no nuts is brownie". Ok then, with that ringing endorsement how could I not try it?
Yes, is brownie and is frosted. Thing is though it was coffee flavored frosting and, well, yucks to that. For some reason I don't mind the smell of coffee but I do not like the taste, which is why I don't drink it. (Judge all you want you coffee addicted San Franciscans, I don't care, never gonna drink it) So like any good dessert junkie I just scrapped off the frosting on top and ate the brownie underneath. I was going to take a pick but it looked like a giant poo smear on the plate so I passed. As for the brownie it was good. Thick, chocolatey and dense I'll say it was closer to fudge than brownie but it was a semi-sweet chocolate so it didn't taste too sweet and my teeth didn't ache after eating it. Though at $3.50 a pop I'm gonna ding 'em again for size--objects in picture are not as large as they seem. It was another thing that fit in the palm of my hand--$2.75 or $3.00 tops.
Regardless of size I will say what I had was tasty in it's small portion. And as a neighborhood drop in cafe joint I think Arlequin fits perfectly in the Hayes Valley hood. I won't say this is something I'd go out of my way to eat at but if I was wandering around the area or taking in the opera or symphony nearby, they'd be a decent option to run in for a pre-show snack without too much fanfare. You can just save that for the show you're about to attend.