In keeping with its history as a former mess hall in one of the row of redbrick buildings in the Presidio known as “infantry row,” The Commissary has the wide-open feel of a dining hall, but in the best possible way. Dark Douglass fir tabletops are crafted from salvaged wood, lighting fixtures come from an old Presidio gymnasium, and the open kitchen with views from three sides are all showcased by the restaurant’s clean lines, glossy hardwood floors, pale walls, and ample windows and light. Much of the seating is at communal tables. But probably the most exciting thing about this modern, Spanish-inspired restaurant is its partnership between the Presidio Trust and celebrated San Francisco superstar chef Traci Des Jardins.
Des Jardins, best known for Jardiniere in Hayes Valley and Mijita in the Ferry Building and AT&T Park, has created a menu at The Commissary driven by sustainable, locally sourced ingredients that deftly blends Spain’s influence on California cuisine.
The menu, like many these days, is divided into small and large plates and truly meant for sharing. Appetizers ($8–$9, with the exception of the Fermin Iberico sausage with aged Manchego for $16 and marinated olives for $6) include savory bites like blistered peppers, salt cod fritters, and sweet pea and ham croquetas that literally burst in your mouth. Medium-sized plates ($11–$15) are creative and surprising — roast cuttlefish is paired with verde rice and squid ink; seared mackerel comes with cucumber, fennel, and marinated chickpeas; and clams are served with chorizo, aioli and grilled bread, reminiscent of paella.
Large plates ($19–$29) are just as inspired by Basque flavors. Lamb shoulder is accompanied by candied eggplant, faro and chermoula (a tangy mix of herbs, pickled lemons, olive oil, garlic, and salt), and roasted chicken comes with marcona almonds and dates. The vegetarian entrée is a chickpea galetta with summer squash and harissa vinaigrette. Desserts ($7–$10) range from seasonal granita to fresh churros and chocolate and a delicious olive oil almond cake with fresh fruit, caramel, and almond milk sorbet.
The Commissary has a full bar serving cocktails, beer, and a carefully culled wine list that offers up a nice mix of varietals from California, Spain, and Portugal. Some patrons have complaints about the restaurant’s small, juice-glass-like tumblers and small pours for the price by the glass ($7–$16), but pricey wine in scant amounts is pretty much par for the course in the city’s restaurants, and the tumblers are deceptive. If this is a concern, then it makes sense to order a bottle — usually a less expensive option — and take home what you can’t finish.
The Commissary is open for lunch, dinner, and coffee and light breakfast (pastries) service. Just walking up its front steps bordering the green of the Parade Grounds, the striking view of the bay, and the historic buildings is as much of a treat as the meal you’re certain to enjoy.
The Commissary: 101 Montgomery Street (Main Post in the Presidio), 415-561-3600, thecommissarysf.com; daily light breakfast 8–10:30 a.m., lunch 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m., social hour (with drink specials) 4–6 p.m., dinner 5:30–9 p.m. (Fridays 9:30 p.m.)