Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Croquer: Starbelly

Blind dates are funny.
Especially platonic ones (that spring from successful romantic ones).
While in San Francisco for Foodbuzz Blogger Fest, my new beau's best friend (who lives in the Mission) and I decided we should most definitely meet, if independently. She suggested lunch at Starbelly in the Castro. For some reason the name to me conjured pho or vegan fare. Thus I was happily surprised by the casual modern pub known best for their pizza.

Our server asked if this would be a boozy brunch. Laura and I exchanged a thin-lipped smile, before blurting out drink orders. Day drinking is nicely disguised with a little lemonade, so I went the shandy route. But Laura's spicy michelada was something serious. I was happy to learn right away that in addition to tending several bars in such a serious cocktail city Laura is also an aspiring blogger (goose!).

My weekend was to be filled with big meals, sampling rich gourmet products and boozing hard, so I voted for veggies and Laura heartily agreed. We started with the little gem caesar with avocado and buttery croutons and a side of broccoli tossed with garlic, chile and lemon. Despite their simplicity both dishes were pleasing and wholesome, and exactly what we wanted.

But this is a pizza place. We ordered a seasonal special, painted with black garlic puree and embellished with smooth ricotta, roasted butternut squash, fried sage and pine nuts. The thin toasty crust and mellow, warming flavors were perfect for a chilly afternoon respite. We devoured our slices, but not without a second beer cocktail. Our server said he was shocked to [over]hear this was our first meeting, and snapped our picture with Laura's camera. Of us, and an old Polaroid snapshot of our meeting-sake, of course.
The sun was starting to slowly disappear behind the townhouses of the Mission walking Laura back. She turned suddenly toward a storefront and I mistook it as a step toward a divey pizza joint. But I was ready to follow her in for another beer and slice. I suppose that makes a good first date - willingness to relive it. Or at least to try.

3583 16th St. San Francisco, CA 94114; 415.252.7500
Starbelly on Urbanspoon

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