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Friday, July 30, 2010

Citizen's Band: After Two Weeks, Two Dishes

Posted By on Fri, Jul 30, 2010 at 3:04 PM

click to enlarge Horseradish-capped pot roast. - JOHN BIRDSALL
  • John Birdsall
  • Horseradish-capped pot roast.
Ghosts of Folsom's leatherman past still haunt the corridor between Fourth Street and Eighth. But these days ― after a recent surge of bakery and restaurant openings along the central SOMA corridor ― the area's on the verge of being better known for brioche than for blow jobs.

One of the latest new-Folsom eateries is Citizen's Band, the restaurant wing of the partnership between Chris Beerman, Patience Elfving, and Cheryl Burr. The trio became the food-biz equivalent of flatmates last year, when they shared a production kitchen and retail counter for Burr's Pinkie's Bakery, and Beerman-Elfving's Bento 415, a takeout business (and catering company) that offered box lunches organized around the theme of S.F neighborhoods. Totally cute, plus we loved Beerman's chile-braised carnitas sandwich (centerpiece of Bento's Mission box) so much, we named it one of our SFoodie's 92 favorite dishes. We called it a fully formed classic.

Then in April, like some series-ending episode of Three's Company, the Pinkie's-Bento household lost its lease. When they resurfaced, it was at the corner of Folsom and Eighth, site of Ideal Deli, plus and adjacent storefront. Pinkie's reopened first. And then, two weeks ago, Beerman and new partner Boris Nemchenok (formerly of Uva Enoteca) unlocked the doors to the remade Ideal. Though a loose collaboration between Beerman and Burr remained, Bento 415 was gone (along with Elfving). In its place: Citizen's Band, which captured a populist resonance in its thumping echo of 1980s CB radio cool.

click to enlarge The room's been designed to look anything but designed. - LAUREN E./YELP
  • Lauren E./Yelp
  • The room's been designed to look anything but designed.
There are a couple of shelves of CB radios at Citizen's Band. They coexist with other totems of American nostalgia, in an urban diner homage that makes you think of Dennis Leary's Canteen, only not so crisply edited. More like Canteen crossed with Kate's Kitchen, as if the room had been designed to look anything but designed.

The wall running along the tables is a mosaic of paper nostalgia, from vintage postcards and magazine tear sheets to curled, shiny snapshots. The counter (bumped out and widened since the Ideal days) is clad in freckled galvanized steel ― nothing so sleek as stainless ― and the open kitchen looks so much like Leary's at Canteen that you think it couldn't be sheer coincidence. It occurs to you that Beerman and Nemchenok designed the line to stand as an homage to a chef regarded by his peers as a master of Patricia Unterman's "post-California cuisine": pristine ingredients, configured in dishes that register as urban, scrappier, not so knee-jerk Mediterranean.

Beerman and Nemchenok's menu hits damn near every mark of the reinterpreted diner: fried chicken, mac and cheese, even franks and beans, a wink-wink signifier for Fra'Mani sausage and Iacopi Farms butter beans. Our starter last night: fried green tomatoes ($7), two slices stuccoed up in cornmeal breading, resting on a potato-chip ruffle. They'd been sauced with a lithe, onion-breathing white sauce (a soubise, in fact ― Beerman once worked as Boulevard's saucier). They were sprinkled with bacon in teensy dice, and a tangy micro-relish of more green tomatoes. Nice, even though the pale blond tomatoes at the heart of the thing lacked much flavor.

click to enlarge Fried green tomatoes with bacon and sauce soubise. - JOHN BIRDSALL
  • John Birdsall
  • Fried green tomatoes with bacon and sauce soubise.
Next, pot roast ($20), a slaggy, triangular hunk of boneless short rib, under a cap of vinegar-spiked fresh horseradish. Your fork could shear the flesh into dark, pink strands lovely on their own, magical dragged through Beerman's gorgeously tannic red wine braise. Slightly too-stiff mashed potatoes shared a footing with baby carrots, Romano beans, and long pieces of king trumpet mushrooms, together a sort of modern take on the diner's veggie medley.

By the time we asked for the check, the room had filled, the counter stools next to mine taken by a grizzle-haired guy couple. Though they were dressed in jeans and sweaters, it wasn't hard to imagine them in leather halters and black jockstraps at last Sunday's Up Your Alley, which reeled along nearby.

Even Folsom Street's ghosts get hungry. And anyway, who doesn't like pot roast?

Citizen's Band: 1198 Folsom (at Eighth St.), 556-4901; 5-10 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

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