The Rambler Serves Inspired California Cuisine With a Mediterranean inflection

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The hostess station at Rambler
The hostess station at Rambler

Photo Credit: Kelly Puleio

The Rambler, the fourth restaurant from the Hat Trick Hospitality Group, has opened in downtown San Francisco inside a storied space at the Hotel Zeppelin. Andy Wasserman, Adam Snyder, Justin Roja, and Hugo Gamboa are the owners of three popular SF bars and restaurants—The Brixton, Redford, and Sabrosa—but with Rambler, the Hat Trick team is upping its game. For one, the food is more serious: It’s not just upscale bar fare, but elevated, thoughtful cuisine, perhaps because the space has a legacy to live up to. Rambler is housed in the old Postrio, Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant that was the city’s most popular eatery in the 1990s. The Rambler team pays homage to the legendary chef with a vignette in the dining room’s back corner that includes a stack of Puck’s cookbooks and a framed portrait. The original pizza oven remains and was refurbished; chef Robert Leva puts it to good use now making crisp, thin-crust pies and other savory wood-fired cuisine.

The sexy dining room
The sexy dining room

Photo Credit: Kelly Puleio

Leva has more than 22 years of culinary experience—his résumé includes a handful of respected restaurants: Jardinière, Auberge du Soleil, Redd, and Salt House—and his cuisine is casual yet elegant. Take the little gems salad, for example; it’s a salad, yes, but with the big flavors of charred broccoli, pickled chilies, walnut croutons, and creamy anchovy manchego dressing—so much more than the standard restaurant’s riff on little gems. Other standouts include gooey, rich potato croquettes oozing with melted tomme de savoie cheese and a seasonal fall salad with pears, persimmon, chicory, blue cheese, and candied hazelnuts. The beef short rib is served with a delicious creamed spinach, tender carrots, and buttery cipollini onions. It’s a homey and classic flavor profile that brings to mind mom’s pot roast, but it’s more refined and sophisticated than anything you’d find in your childhood kitchen.

Intricate metal work adorns the walls
Intricate metal work adorns the walls

Photo Credit: Kelly Puleio

Designer Lori Yeomans has outfitted the two-room, 100-seat restaurant with chic masculine decor. Dark wood, black-and-white tiled floors, tan leather banquettes, bubble-glass chandeliers, and cutout metal panels in a geometric, Spanish-inspired design endow the bar with a sense of exotic mystery. An exposed brick wall and a black ceiling give the space an industrial vibe. The back dining room has an atmosphere reminiscent of a private club, with large booths, gray linen banquettes, a chevron-patterned wood floor, and plush printed pillows. Metal panels cover the walls, this time in a circular design. In the middle of the dining room, a four-seat bar that seems destined to become one of the hottest seats in town anchors the space. A gallery wall features illustrations and black-and-white prints of old San Francisco.

The back bar
The back bar

Photo Credit: Kelly PuleioSimone Mims created the establishment’s signature cocktails, which include a rotating list of seasonal libations made with freshly pressed juice and homemade tinctures. The Mele incorporates gin with fresh Granny Smith apple juice, fresh fennel, ginger liqueur, and apple ginger foam. The wine list offers a selection of local varietals like Sequoia Grove’s Chardonnay and international bottles such as Bodega Septima’s Argentine Malbec. It’s obvious that the chefs paid a lot of attention to detail at the Rambler, right down to the sensational desserts. The salted caramel pot de crème with its brûlée top, sugar tuile, and espresso meringues is a revelation.

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