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Traci Des Jardins Expands in the Presidio 

Wednesday, May 20 2015
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George Lucas might still be the most influential figure around the Presidio, but he's got competition for supremacy, as Traci des Jardins unveiled her third restaurant within the former military complex. After tackling Californian cuisine by way of Spain at the Comissary and developing her take on Mexican cuisine at Arguello, Transit Café goes the fast-casual route. The Presidio is about as far, far away from most public transit routes as you get in the city, but excellent wood-fired oven Neopolitan pizza is quite a draw.

Four of them anchor the daytime menu, including a margherita, a spicy Italian sausage number, and an intriguing Caesar pizza bolstered by pounded anchovy and garlic oil. The mushroom pie ($13) blends a trio of Parmesan, pecorino, and asiago into a tangy base for the flurry of wild mushrooms. I'd guess they were mostly oysters — a significant step above the typical bland mushrooms that adorn pizzas (as well as a clear des Jardins influence). The crust itself is exceedingly puffy, beautifully charred, and with a few scattered massive air bubbles. I don't think I've ever tasted a more sour crust, almost as if the base is meant also for sourdough loaves and the yeast goes to sour beers. It's different, and might be an acquired taste.

What does seem strange is that vegetarians don't get a little more love. However, the grain salad ($9) proved to be a tabouleh-Greek salad hybrid, with parsley and mint powering a generous ensemble of cherry tomatoes, olives, cucumber, crumbled feta, and a hefty hand of quinoa. Yes, it's virtuous to have a quinoa-something salad everywhere. But more importantly, the salad is downright enjoyable.

The café has a fun National-Park-lodge feel, with new wood, a wall with sketches of different wheels channeling transit methods, and an exposed air duct. The open kitchen and its pizza oven take up much of the intimate space, as do the general store and grab-and-go case. Be the savvy happy hour-goer who knows to have some wine or beer on tap when the sunset is early enough. (Transit closes at 7 p.m.) 

The Presidio used to only be known for forest walks, being the entrance to Golden Gate Bridge, and the only place to legally consume foie gras during those dark goose liver-free days of 2012-2014. It's much more now. If you can find some transport to get out there, Transit Café awaits with superb pizza, patio views, and fortifying warmth after a chilly hike.

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Trevor Felch

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