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Causwell’s on Chestnut Street combines bar and bistro in style

Causwell combines modern design with classic feel. photos: Causwell

It’s not easy for a restaurant to combine a lively bar scene and excellent food and table service in a small space, but Causwell’s, which took over the old Bechelli’s spot in the Presidio Theater building, is an example of how to do it right. With only 40 seats in the main dining room, 10 seats at the bar, and 16 more outdoors (weather permitting), this new spot feels both stylish and cozy. And the small menu and well-chosen beverage list offer up many treats.

Founded by Alvin Garcia and Tom Patella, Causwell’s’ kitchen is headed by Adam Rosenblum, former sous chef at Flour + Water in the Mission. The Bon Vivants Design-Build team kept some of the building’s Art Deco influences, including teak, highlights, antiqued mirrors, handmade light fixtures, natural stone, and a façade featuring a panel using the colors and geometry of the Golden Gate Bridge. More modern touches include bar tops crafted from white quartzite, and concrete floors stained to evoke coffee and wine.

Causwell’s is open for dinner, lunch, and weekend brunch, and its menus include snacks, small plates, “heartier fare,” sides, and sweets. Meant for sharing, each dish is made in-house down to the rye Parker House-style rolls with cultured butter ($4.50) and the rich, creamy ricotta with rosemary honey and lavash ($9.75). (I was coveting this on the next table, and the cheerful waiter brought one for my guest and me on the house.)

Smoked trout and avocado enliven a seemingly typical snack like deviled eggs ($6.25), and charred shisito peppers ($7) are tangy with lime and sea salt. Grilled octopus with garbanzo beans, fennel, and chili ($15.75) is succulent and abundant with texture and flavor. Other not-to-miss small plates include steak tartare with garlic, caper, shallot, and quail egg ($15); and seasonal heirloom tomatoes with pepper and a melon vinaigrette ($12).

Heartier fare in the form of larger plates varies from meal to meal, and includes fish, chicken, a vegetable entree, and meat. Simple roasted trout ($21.50) is prepared with brown butter, lemon, and herbs. For dinner, there is grilled steak ($22.50) with “baby spuds” and salsa verde; while at lunch it’s a grilled petit filet ($14.75) with fresh horseradish, pickled red onion, and dry jack cheese. A burger ($14.50) is on both lunch and dinner menus, and brunch entrées range from a buttermilk biscuit with sausage gravy ($11) to several omelets ($10.75–$11.75) to pastrami hash with a fried egg ($12), and French toast bites with brandy sauce ($11.50).

There are three desserts at Causwell’s, but one really stands out, and that’s the All-Star donut bread pudding with spiced milk ($8.25); not just decadent but actually made with donuts procured from the longtime Chestnut Street shop, All Star Donuts.

The wine list blends a select sampling of varietals from California, Spain, Portugal, and France, and the beer selection is hand chosen with both domestic and international selections.

On a recent weeknight evening when the bar was hopping, the adjacent dining room at Causwell’s was noisy, and conversation was a bit strained. But as the evening wore on, things settled down, and the overall experience was delicious in every way.

Causwell’s: 2346 Chestnut Street, 415-447-6081, causwells.com; Monday–Friday 11 a.m.–1 a.m., Saturday–Sunday 9 a.m.–1 a.m.

Chicken and Dirty Rice (credit Charlie Villyard)
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