When thinking of palm trees in San Francisco, the Embarcadero immediately comes to mind. But the state’s oldest Canary Island Desert Palm sits right on Union Street, in front of a Victorian building that most recently housed Nettie’s Crab Shack and is now home to Palm House. This lively new spot brings together tropical flavors of Cuba, Brazil, Indonesia, Hawaii, and the Caribbean with its menus and airy vibe.
Palm House is led by an impressive team of restaurateurs: Bruce McDonald (Bergerac, Foreign Cinema), Benson Wang and Gayle Pirie (Foreign Cinema), as well as chef Lea Walker (also formerly with Foreign Cinema) and Anthony Parks (Bergerac and Audio) to direct the bar.
The restaurant is divided into several dining areas, including an atrium and a bar; the latter features LED-lit birdcages hanging from the ceiling. Pastel floral print cushions enhance the casual island feel.
There are many classic and new cocktails ($11), including the Island Monitor with spice-infused rum, lychee puree, coconut water, pineapple, and lemon; and a pina colada with white rum, coconut puree, pineapple juice, and lime. The Palm Daiquiri, their signature frozen drink, can be made with prickly pear, strawberry, or passion fruit. Shareable punch bowls ($65) that serve five to seven people are another highlight.
The dinner menu features Tropical Tidbits ($5.50–$12) like chips made from plantains, taro, and corn; fries made from hand-cut Kennebec potatoes with malt vinegar salt and spices; and sweet-and-sour baby back pork ribs, and more. Soups ($7.50) are a spiced carrot and cauliflower and gazpacho — just right for a warm evening. Salads ($12) range from butter lettuce with Valencia oranges, fried almonds, and pickled red onions with an avocado vinaigrette to a spinach and quinoa salad.
Entrées ($13–$26) include seafood such as poached rock shrimp tostadas and West Indian jerk-grilled mahi mahi with okra-tomato sauce and basmati rice. Other dishes to try are kalua shredded duck tacos with pickled cabbage and grilled Scotch bonnet pepper; tri-tip steak with red jalapeno flatbread, garlic onions, and beans and rice; and the Trade Wind burger and island fries. Sides ($4.50) are as simple as rice and beans but also include Cuban-style black bean hummus. Desserts ($8) include cardamom-scented crème brûlée and flourless chocolate cake with caramelized bananas.
Forget about the fog and take a trip to the islands — stop by Palm House this summer.
Palm House: 2032 Union Street; Wednesday–Thursday 5p.m.–midnight, Friday 5 p.m.–2 a.m., Saturday 10:30 a.m.–2 a.m., Sunday 10:30 a.m.–midnight; 415-400-4355, palmhousesf.com,