Haute Cuisine And Inclusive Comfort At SF’s Hillside Supper Club

Hillside Supper Club
Hillside Supper Club’s confit duck leg with fennel, orange, foie gras sauce and Lyonnaise potatoes

Photo Credit: Daniel Morris

Joiner or non-joiner, Hillside Supper Club is a club you’ll want to be part of. Warm, welcoming, and always inclusive, this San Francisco haute spot is the kind of place to return again and again. And that is exactly what customers do once they get their first taste of Nonna’s Meatballs, or the Liberty Farms Duck Liver Mousse.

Hillside’s general manager and beverage director Austin Ferrari points out the regulars on a busy weekend night. “They were here recently,” he says nodding at the group of four at a nearby table. “And they come every Saturday night,” he says motioning towards a hip young couple. But there is always room for more at this ‘club’ that is dedicated to promoting new friendships and new food experiences.

The restaurant, at the corner of Precita and Folsom Streets in Bernal Heights, serves as the area’s unofficial living room. It’s a communal spot, born of its two chef/owners’ enjoyment of the camaraderie of eating and drinking together. Tony Ferrari and Jonathan Sutton originally started the place as a pop-up called Bernal Supper Club, where they shared space with Cozzolino Italian restaurant. The popularity of their small venture led them to take over the location full time.

They remodeled the 49-seat space to create a cozy dining room with white walls, a wood-beamed ceiling, stained glass windows, and charming wall sconces with aquamarine Ball canning jars as shades. The exterior paint shade of semi-neon teal provides a not so subtle hint at the culinary creativity within.

Ferrari and Sutton use local, sustainable, seasonal ingredients in developing their market-driven menu. They strive to surprise as well as keep old world traditions alive, such as Nonna’s Meatballs, made from grandma’s original recipe in a light tomato sauce and served with a thick slice of house made focaccia. Other ‘starter’ options among the eight listed included an artful Grilled Acorn Squash with Xacuti spiced yogurt and pomegranate seeds, and the incredibly delicious and creamy Duck Liver Mousse (alone worth a visit), served in a small canning jar with a huckleberry gelee glaze. A soul-warming Roasted Parsnip Soup with crispy chicken skin and sage brown butter was deeply satisfying.

The five ‘mains’ included a pasta dish with pig ragu and toasted hazelnuts, Roasted Mary’s Farm Chicken Breast with butternut squash puree, Braised Beef Cheek Fondant, Seared Local Black Cod, and Liberty Duck Pot Pie. Hillside is known for its haute pot pies served with a buttery crust in a cast iron skillet. Fillings might also include venison or rabbit, and a vegetable option is always available on request.

Evening specials are written on a chalkboard high above the bar, as are a list of low octane cocktails. The wine list is extensive for a small place. Three whites, four reds, a rose, and a sparkling chenin blanc were offered on this visit. Customers are also invited to inquire about the ‘off menu’ list for special/allocated wines.

And save room for dessert – specifically the TCHO Chocolate Panna Cotta with espresso sauce and peanut butter mousse, or the saucer sized Warm Double Chocolate Chip Cookie – so simple and so good.

Ferrari and Sutton – both chosen for Zagat’s 2014 ’30 Under 30 San Francisco Rock Stars Redefining the Industry’ list – met in college at Johnson and Wales University in North Miami, Florida and bonded over their shared passion for cooking. Each has studied with some of the world’s most respected chefs at some of the hautest eateries in the world. They bring their varied culinary experiences together at Hillside Supper Club, where they share a simple, engaging philosophy: ‘Come as strangers, leave as friends…Enjoy!’

Hillside Supper Club
300 Precita Ave
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 285.6005

Brunch: Saturday and Sunday: 10am – 2pm
Dinner: Sunday: 5pm – 9pm, Monday: 6pm – 10pm, Wednesday/Thursday:
6pm – 10pm, Friday/Saturday: 6pm – 11pm. Closed Tuesday.

Photography by Daniel Morris