The duo behind Leopold's on Polk Street has finally opened its second spot, Palmer's Tavern in Pac Heights. Though the competition is slim, it's easily the best place on Fillmore Street to bring a date for a drink.
Besides beer and wine lists a step up from what the word "tavern" still connotes, there are 10 cocktails, each for under $10. Start with an Adonis (sherry, Italian vermouth, and bitters) and move on to a Bohemian (rye, Cynar amaro, coffee liqueur, and sweet vermouth) or go all the way back to V-E Day with a Fillmore Fizz (gin, Fernet, pineapple gum, citrus, and egg white).
The menu, again a notch higher than the name suggests, is positioned at the intersection of hearty and elegant. From potato bread with bone marrow butter to pork cheeks to squid with trotters to a burger with house-made pickles and raclette, it's masculine without bro-ing out. Note: Palmer's doesn't take reservations.
Since the interior is so well-designed — and since it's been sitting there, complete, since the spring while the permits got figured out — it merits more than a cursory mention. (No Edison bulbs in Mason jars here.) Mahogany paneling, mirrors, quatrefoil grilles, double sconces, and flattering up-lighting, a marlin and a bison and two antelope heads, a 1940s mural of Fillmore Street, black-and-white tile, and a flower arrangement on the captain's station all contribute to an air of classic San Francisco without that twee-speakeasy thing. The tufted rear white wall is a bit out of place, but the servers in white coats evoke Tadich Grill and a tattoo visible on this or that staffer shows that Palmer's is at least cooler than Abercrombie's draconian "look" policy dictating staff hairstyles.
And it happens to be right across the street from the Clay Theatre, where Blue Jasmine is still playing. Cate Blanchett's character would totally have gone here while living in S.F.