5 Reasons SF’s The Keystone is Crave-Worthy

Carrot & Red Quinoa Salad
Carrot & Red Quinoa Salad

Photo Credit: Kelly Puleio

Located at 68 4th Street in San Francisco’s busy downtown SoMa district, The Keystone’s diverse clientele is a perfect representation of its location. Business people, shoppers, museum-goers, couples, families and conventioneers convene day and night at this American tavern that serves contemporary, sophisticated dishes within its old-school San Francisco interior. Step inside and instantly you will ‘get-it.’ The appeal is a no-brainer. The haute interior with its Edwardian crown moldings, original marble floor, exposed brick walls and copper finishes is warm and welcoming. The large rectangular bar beckons. One can’t help but feel at home at The Keystone.

And though you may choose to visit based on this promised convivial atmosphere, it will likely be the seriously delicious food and drink that bring you back again and again. Though the interior space is a throw-back, the food is utterly modern, as are the cocktails. Here are a few reasons to crave The Keystone:

Food like Grandma used to make, with a twist:

Chef Banks White draws inspiration from his grandmother’s motto, “Through food, you can bring a little joy, a little happiness to those who need it most.” This Texas native offers soul-warming classics like a Braised Short Rib Pot Roast, but guests will detect a few unique touches. Chef White who has worked with numerous celebrated restaurants nationwide, infuses his creative dishes with inspiration from his world travels; discerning eaters will likely identify his particular fondness for Asia.

No meat main course?

Yes, please: Vegetarians and vegans, who often feel that restaurant menus pay them no mind, will love The Keystone menu. Incredible satisfaction can be found in the exotic Carrot and Red Quinoa Salad with cashew cheese, serrano chili, crispy ancient grain and berbere spiced citronette. Equally, the Roasted Cauliflower with pickled peppadew relish, ‘island of gold’ curry, parmesan and gremolata, and the Rugosa Squash & Chestnut Ravioli with black trumpet mushrooms, porcini redeye gravy and dino kale are so pleasurable that carnivores may denounce their meat allegiance.

Choices galore:

The Keystone menu gives you choices. Mix and match your meal with Bar Snacks such as crispy Brussel Sprout Chips or Pad Thai Chicken Wings. Throw in a few Shared Plates such as a Charcuterie selection or a Prosciutto & Pear Pizza. Move on to the Starters that include smoked gouda and white cheddar Mac N Cheese, or Collard Green Lumpia with pork and Filipino sawsawan sauce. Select your main dish from either the Mains portion of the menu (an incredible ‘Keystone Deluxe” Cheeseburger, for instance) or the dinnertime Cornerstone selections that include Herb Roasted Chicken, a Grilled Pork Chop or a 10 oz. ribeye. You also have a choice in where to enjoy your meal. Find privacy in a secluded corner, join the front and center reclaimed wood and cast iron communal table, or pull up a stool to the chef’s counter and chat with Chef White.

Save room for dessert:

Chef White recreates his favorite childhood dessert with his version of milk and cookies: a tiny whipped cream-topped milk bottle filled with toasted maple oat milkshake served with warm toffee oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Or try the Cranberry Crumb Cake, streusel and poached pineapple served in a small cast-iron pot with a warm tangy pineapple syrup. So good!

Porcini Negroni:

The Keystone is the home of the famed Porcini Negroni, the much social media-reviewed SF drink of the moment. Created by beverage director and self-taught mixologist Kelly Naughton, this porcini infused gin drink with Cappelletti aperitivo, sweet vermouth and eucalyptus is as drinkable as it is weird sounding. Naughton’s creativity leads him to craft approachable yet intriguing cocktails – each with a dash of humor. Ask him why he’s named his Bank Note scotch and St. George NOLA coffee liqueur drink the Braveheart. Oprah’s Favorite Thing needs no explanation – a Ketel orange, chai spice, aloo vodka and lemon concoction, it truly is her favorite drink. The Keystone also offers an excellent wine list with choices for every palate and wallet. Fifteen draft beers round out the bar selections.

The Keystone, 68 4th Street, San Francisco, is open daily from 11:30 a.m. until midnight and offers two daily happy hours: 4:30-6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.- -12 a.m. 415-777-1200.

Photography by Kelly Puleio