San Francisco Restaurant Resolution: Week Three — Town Hall

The third week of our eatery exploration (read this first if you missed the original premise) found us celebrating our first monthiversary at a restaurant called Town Hall. I thought this would be an appropriate location for a special celebration, because our first outing as an “official” couple — the first time the Pirate Queen introduced me as “the boyfriend” to people she knew — was a company holiday party a year and a half ago at San Francisco City Hall. Since I didn’t think Mayor Lee would let us set up a candlelit table in his lobby, Town Hall — which, as it happens, is nowhere near City Hall — seemed like the next best thing.

Town Hall is located in SOMA (that’s “South of Market,” for you out-of-towners) in a building that I suspect was once a factory or warehouse. Due to the entire interior surface of the restaurant being exposed brick and glass, sound reverberates through the dining room like a colossal echo chamber. Dinner at Town Hall is, for this reason, a little like eating next to a jet turbine running at full throttle. It may be the loudest place I’ve ever taken a meal where there wasn’t a baseball or basketball game being played. (The noise pollution on the night we visited was exacerbated by a tableful of testosterone-fueled yuppie businessman types whose conversational volume level betrayed the quantities of adult beverage they had consumed during their stay.)

Fortunately, the food kicks butt.

I started with an appetizer of barbecued shrimp, served in a decadent Worcestershire-based sauce that perfectly melded sweetness and sharpness. A pair of old rubber galoshes, grilled and covered with this sauce, would be awesome. The shrimp, tasty in and of themselves, were exquisite. I was glad that the Pirate Queen talked me out of my first choice, buttermilk biscuits accompanied by prosciutto and red pepper jelly. (But we’re going back to Town Hall, specifically for those biscuits.) The Pirate Queen kicked off the festivities with piquillo peppers stuffed with blue crab and cheese, which she described as outstanding.

For my entree, I chose the buttermilk fried chicken. Now, let’s be honest — the best fried chicken comes from your grandma’s stovetop, not a fine-dining kitchen. Most restaurants that serve fried chicken opt for either of two extremes: crispy but blandly flavored, or deliciously seasoned but mushy and greasy. Town Hall achieves that rare split up the middle — a crust that’s light and crunchy but also redolent with spices. The meat underneath was done to a turn while still moist and juicy. It wasn’t the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten, but it reminded me of that one, which is about as good as you can find. I’d have taken a bucket home if they’d let me. The Pirate Queen loved her main course of bacon-wrapped trout — she said that her favorite fish arrived perfectly cooked, and you know… bacon. (Quite a few dishes at Town Hall feature bacon. I’m not saying that as though it’s a bad thing.)

In addition to the cuisine, we gave high marks to our server, who made a couple of spot-on suggestions, and was attentive without being intrusive.

To reference an old proverb:  You can’t fight City Hall, but you can fight hunger at Town Hall. This superlative eatery nearly pegs the Uncle Swan ratings meter with a lofty four tailfeathers out of a possible five. I’d have given them four and a half, as the Pirate Queen suggested, but I feel compelled to dock half a tailfeather for the excruciating noise level. Still, Town Hall delivered the finest flavors we’ve sampled so far on our summer tour. It’s definitely cleared itself a spot on our “must go back” list.

You’ll find Town Hall at 342 Howard Street, South of Market in downtown San Francisco. It’s an easy two-block walk down Beale Street from the Embarcadero BART and MUNI station.

Explore posts in the same categories: Food Glorious Food, Listology, My Home Town, San Francisco Restaurant Resolution, That's Cool!

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