Point your finger at the jobless rate or the housing bubble's bust: We're living through a moment of intense repurposing. And while we may not be at the point of sock darning, we're seriously digging restaurants that manage to remake the familiar into something convincingly modern. The SOMA restaurant Ironside (680 Second St. at Townsend) scores a double hit in that regard, rehabbing both a former industrial machine shop into a darkly chic loft, and a roster of mostly American classics into unfussy stylishness. SF Weekly critic Matthew Stafford probes the makeover this week, eating through more or less appealing takes on roasted apple and turnip pizza, seafood stew, and the brownie sundae. It all pretty much works, especially as an open-all-day destination for the neighborhood's office cube denizens. Read Stafford's full review later today at SFWeekly.com. Till then, glean a taste of Ironwood's hits (and misses) in SFoodie's extended excerpt (after the jump).
Mac 'n' cheese is a test case of New American cuisine, and whereas most attempts are oily or gummy or soupy or Cheez Whiz-y, Ironside's rendition delivered all the flavor without the excess goo, draping (not submerging) the soft noodles in smoked Cheddar and Gruyère. A ramekin of the stuff arrived at the table still bubbling, thick shards of bacon adding chewy heft and smoky savor. Another dish that has been popping up on retro-moderne menus is roasted game hen, not the tiny Cornish varietals we used to stuff with wild rice on special occasions, but big, meaty birds ideal for sharing, family (or post-work happy hour) style. The house version was on the dry side, a practical inevitability when it comes to game hen, but its skin was crisp and tasty in an upscale-KFC sort of way, and its accompaniment, braised escarole braised in a jus du ham hock, was velvety, bittersweet, and yummy.