Restaurants & Bars 5

Q on Clement

Stanley Stephan | Jul 20, 2003 06:40 PM

“The best fried chicken in San Francisco” said the 95 pound woman whose favorite breakfast spot is Home Plate on Lombard.

So I tried Q to prove I am not prejudiced against the ultra thin with flawed tastes in terms of breakfast places. (Although the devils in the back of my mind were thinking that anyone that small didn’t eat much. I do have a knack for potentially inciting a flame, eh? ;-).

Well the fat person is also singing that Q is ok. The food is like the décor, sort of cheap and interesting. I’ll go back and would recommend it to others.

The chicken was ok, but the star was the baked beans … smoky sweet and loaded with enough real bacon that even the few bites without bacon carried the taste. The best that this New Englander has had on the West Coast.

The interior goes beyond industrial with its concrete floor, second-hand store furniture and open stainless steel kitchen. It’s more of a junkyard, used auto parts shop, chic. A huge piece of corrugated metal (called a sculpture in some reviews) covers half the ceiling. Some faded red, white and blue checked table cloths covered with heavy clear plastic grace other tables. Other tables are hollowed out and contain knickknacks and games. A string of red chili pepper lights dangle over a few tables.

The crowd is mostly in their 20’s and 30’s. It’s a great place to bring kids and have a decent meal. First of all, they can’t cause any damage to the thrift store décor. Then one wall has a magnetized blackboard where the specials are written and the tots are given chalk to create their own art work or play with some magnets. If four walls can’t contain the energy of the little ones, there are two outside tables.

I had breakfast and brought home the chicken for my once-a-summer fried chicken picnic splurge.

For breakfast, I had a bacon, blue cheese and red onion marmalade omelet. The sweet, smoky caramelized onion marmalade brought together the flavors of the bacon and creamy blue cheese. Worth a heart attack and addictive (it IS Atkins friendly). The one nit was that the omelet itself was on the verge of being overcooked. The outside was too dark to be called golden brown. The filling more than compensated for this flaw.

I had a bite each of the chunky red potato hash browns and the thick whole grain bread. Neither was worth the calories. The problem with the potatoes might have been a fluke. They had an off flavor that they might have picked up sitting in the refrigerator prior to being fried.

The friendly young wait staff was quick to fill an empty coffee cup which always adds points to a breakfast joint in my personal rating system. It was good coffee.

I’d compare the fried chicken favorably to Powell’s. The caveat is that while I like Powell’s fried chicken, I don’t think it rates with the best chicken dishes in the city. It was a bread crumb / flour type coating, not too thick and not too salty or spicy. The chicken itself was without pedigree. Not your free-range, hormone-free, politically correct birds, but more of your $.59 cents on sale at Cala birds. It is a fine chicken but not top of the class. It WOULD be kind of cool for a downscale type of place to put on their menu that they proudly feature Foster Farms chickens or Dole salad mix.

The mashed potatoes seemed to be Yukon gold which gave them more of a gummy rather than fluffy texture. There was nice spicy gravy that dressed the potatoes with restraint and didn’t flood the plate. The veggies (yellow & green squash with carrots) were fresh and perfectly cooked, not too soft of too undercooked.

The shocking bright pink spicy slaw was red cabbage. It was more like a German cabbage side than a creamy cole slaw. It is tasty, but not what I was expecting.

This was a VERY vegetarian friendly place for breakfast with about half the dishes printed in green (green usually = veggie. The woman next to me was asking why the banana pancakes weren’t identified as vegetarian). Lunch only had one veggie entrée – mac and cheese with tater tots. This dish gets high marks in a few reviews. There were some veggie appetizers and salads.

There is a interesting and large wine list for the size of the place. Next to each wine is a suggestion of which dishes would go well with the wine. Some of the Merlots were suggested for the fried chicken).

Desserts were pretty standard - strawberry cheesecake, chocolate mousse, and apple crisp. The one desert that looked interesting – grilled banana with whipped cream, chocolate syrup, caramel sauce and caramelized walnuts – had a negative review because the banana wasn’t ripe or sweet enough. It may have been a one time thing.

Besides the usual breakfast items they had a bowl o spuds and eggs with white cheddar, salsa and sour cream.

The Benedict family included Florentine, grilled salmon, grilled portabella and black forest ham.

There were a number of scrambles including one with grilled corn, peppers, cilantro, and white cheddar.

The pancakes get high marks in reviews. They are served with warm syrup. The syrup dispenser is placed in a two cup Pyrex measuring cup filled with hot water.

Specials this week included French toast stuffed with cream cheese and strawberries with a strawberry compote and caramelized walnuts.

There was Mark’s applewood smoked corned beef has with poached eggs. The guys next to me ordered this and said “MMMM”.

Another special was Lisa’s vampire cure – roasted garlic, grilled chicken, tomato, basil and mozzarella omelet.

I wouldn’t rate this place as good as say Judy’s, Bechelli’s, Towns End or Mama’s. However it is way above Home Plate or Mel’s. Actually it reminded me a bit of Mel’s when it first opened and served decent food. Sort of diner comfort food, but for the new millennium.

In the internet age, never name a restaurant Q. How do you search on that and get meaningful results? Fortunately chef/owner Andrew Gillan had his name on the wine list which helped in the search. When the place opened, it was a barbeque joint, but when Gillam took over, he made the focus on comfort food. Occasionally Smilin' Andy's barbecued pork spare ribs from the original menu appear and they seem highly recommended.

If you are interested, there are reviews on CitySearch (7.9) and in SF Gate (two stars. It seems the place took some of this review to heart and made changes accordingly). Here’s a review from SFstation.

I’ll probably stop by again when I get tired of my usual breakfast places. It’s a nice alternative. Not the top of the line, but a high medium with fairly good prices.

Link: http://www.sfstation.com/restaurants/...

Image: http://a104.g.akamaitech.net/7/104/33...

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