I say "relatively" because the kitchen takes orders until 1 a.m. (11:30 p.m. on Sunday), and you can drink until 2. San Francisco, despite its cosmopolitan facade, is something of a desert if you want to eat well in the wee hours -- and by well I mean something more ambitious than burritos or diner/coffee shop fare under harsh fluorescent light. (And by diner/coffee shop fare, I mean, alas, mediocre diner/coffee shop fare, in the few places open 24/7. I would kill for a 24-hour delicatessen that served good pastrami, corned beef, and brisket, but so far I haven't found one that even serves good pastrami, corned beef, and brisket during regular hours.) When my friends and I exit a play, concert, or movie around 11, hungry for something tasty and not too far away, a brief discussion usually ends up with us heading to Yuet Lee for salt-and-pepper fried shrimp and sautéed squid, forgetting it's cash-only, and making a run to the ATM across the street.
The last time I'd tried to go to Globe, the place was unexpectedly closed due to some damn holiday or other, and we ended up yet again at Yuet Lee. But on this chilly midweek night, when Hilary and I show up without reservations, we're greeted with alacrity and immediately shown to a table for two, from which we can see the entire dimly lit, crowded, and noisy place: the open kitchen at one end, the compact zinc-topped bar near the entrance, the wooden floor and exposed-brick walls hung with a few big paintings. The décor seems generic, but not so the one-page menu, which lists, in slightly eccentric order, nine appetizers, six sides, nine entrees, and four pizzas. Our slightly eccentric hungers lead us to bypass the entrees and choose two starters each, augmented by a vegetable side.
Hilary's Chioggia beets "cold cut style" (i.e., thinly sliced rather than in chunks) are strewn with a mint chiffonade and crumbles of goat cheese, which I would like more of. My salad lardon, a massive bowl of curly, chewy frisée, is laden with a warm vinaigrette so full of bacon hunks (as well as two cold poached eggs) that finishing all of it would also finish my appetite. We continue with a lusty, garlicky, homemade pork link sausage -- whose spiral fills the iron skillet in which it's cooked and brought to the table -- and a plate of rarely seen grilled lamb riblettes, satisfying little bones laden with crusty meat and fat paired with strands of sharp pickled fennel. We also enjoy a dish of Mariquita Farm broccoli de cicco, the sturdy green quickly sautéed with garlic. Not only are we fond of the deeply flavorful, rustic yet sophisticated food, but it's also fun to be surrounded by a roomful of happy diners enjoying a good meal after midnight.
Before I return to Globe, I make a hopeful stab at discovering additional places for late-night dining. One rainy evening, after an unsettling double bill of Crime Without Passion and The Scoundrel at the beautifully programmed Noir City film festival, the Brazen Head (3166 Buchanan, 921-7600) seems perfect, both because of its proximity to the Palace of Fine Arts and because of its ever so slightly seedy dining room -- dark, low ceilinged, wood paneled, dominated by a long bar. We're in the mood for meat and Manhattans. I go straight for the place's specialty, pepper steak; its ingredients, including cream and brandy, remind me of a long-ago Steak Diane I used to love at a vanished frog pond. Jeremy chooses a portobello-topped filet mignon when the special rack of lamb proves unavailable. My steak is not the best cut of meat and its sauce disappoints; Jeremy is happier with his steak, but "[i]t's like the talking dog," I say. "It isn't what he says -- it's that he talks at all. This is what you're reduced to after midnight." A better meal would have drawn us back, but after the next double bill, of films by Naruse at the PFA, we head for Original Joe's (144 Taylor, 775-4877), whose Tenderloin location is out of a Pat O'Brien fever dream and whose too-brightly-lit, high-ceilinged, leather-boothed, Formica-tabled '40s décor is noir itself. Tradition leads me to the Original Joe's special, a tasty heap of sautéed ground chuck, spinach, onions, and (very little) egg that would easily feed two hungry people or three of normal appetites, for $9.95. Jeremy's veal piccata, swimming in oil and topped with lots of capers, is made with what a butcher would disparagingly call "baby beef"; his side of soft, precooked spaghetti is in a meat sauce harsh with dried oregano and garlic powder. But we spy a plate of fat grilled lamb chops on another table that look pretty swell.
Entirely swell, however, is the supper Anita, Peter, Stewart, and I enjoy at Globe after catching City That Never Sleeps at Noir City. I'm surprised that none of them has ever been here before; they're surprised, I can tell, at the delicious food that issues, at somewhat irregular intervals, from the kitchen. We start with a superb pizza, the puffy, thin crust topped with melty mozzarella, excellent soppressata, and the benediction of two sunny side up eggs with still-soft yolks. (I devour three pieces, helplessly, despite knowing that a lot more food is coming.) When the tuna tartare turns out to be finished for the night, we order outstanding salads, one made of large chunks of radicchio with sliced Bosc pears, lightly candied pecans, and a maple-and-balsamic vinaigrette, the other, somewhat daintier, sparkling with shaved fennel and black radishes with ruby grapefruit. These are joined by a baker's dozen of freshly shucked Hog Island Sweetwater oysters, so briny and sweet that I find the accompanying mignonette unnecessary.
The mains really shine. These foodies are happy -- with their pale-green house-made nettle linguine and garlic topped with salty, fishy botarga di tonno (dried tuna fish roe); with a lovely piece of rosy wild salmon nestled under a lively, freshly chopped salsa verde on top of house-made boccacino (fat, spaghettilike tube pasta) in aglio e olio, plus strands of bright green rapini; and with an exciting stew of tender pieces of monkfish, clams, and mussels still in the shell, in a fiery tomato broth, all three dishes appetizingly served in different ceramic bowls from which waft wonderful aromas. But the star is my thick Niman Ranch pork "porterhouse," a big grilled chop still pink and juicy. It's amazingly flavorful, and sided with baby turnips and mustard greens faintly sweet from caramelized onions. This is what pig should taste like, and rarely does.
No one is as thrilled with dessert: a resilient lemon upside-down cake that's startlingly sour, an undercooked apple tart redeemed somewhat by house-made thyme ice cream, and the best of the lot, a creamy crème brûlée darkened (if not noticeably flavored) with Guinness. But we exit glowing from the good food, which would be delightful at any hour but is especially welcome after midnight.