By our last night in San Francisco, we couldn’t bear the thought of eating more seafood, or really anything else. We were in one of those funks where we couldn’t decide what to have, but we didn’t want crap. I know, woe was us.
Jason vaguely said, “I want something casual. With beer.”
I remember lying on the hotel bed, going: “Pub food? Indian? Go back to Tadich Grill? Pizza? Chinese? Thai?”
As I listlessly surfed the internet, I somehow found the Thirsty Bear. For the lack of agreeing on anything else, we headed that way, and boy am I glad we did. Thirsty Bear is an organic brewery in a brick building that tries to serve only hormone-free meat, and local produce.
We had no problem getting a table in the cavernous space, filled variously with stagettes, families, businessmen, tourists, sports fans watching some game in the bar, and couples.
Jason started with their nine-beer sampler, which is a hell of a deal at $9. The seven they usually have on-tap are:
- Polar Bear Lager: golden, pilsner-style
- Valencia Wheat: a hint of coriander and Spanish orange peel in a Belgian white
- Brown Bear Ale: classic British style brown ale with caramel overtones
- Golden Vanilla: infused from whole vanilla beans
- Meyer E.S.B.: extra special bitter
- Howard Street I.P.A.: India pale ale
- Kozlov Stout: dark, dry, Irish stout
Then you also get two of their specials brews. On our visit, one was called Elixir of the Damned; I can’t remember the other one. Uncharacteristically, Jason’s favourite that summer night was the Golden Vanilla.
Our server was fabulous. We weren’t starving so we told her we wanted to sip our drinks and order a few tapas at a time. She never rushed us, and was always perfectly timed. In that pace, we ended up eating a lot more than we thought we could.
The lamp empanadas ($10) were also fab, hot and flaky, filled with spinach, idiazabal cheese, peppers, potatoes and cilantro mint sauce. The pastry was a lot thicker than I was used to, but the three pieces still disappeared quickly.
We also got one of their flatbreads ($10) with chorizo, asparagus, piquillo peppers, rosemary and queso fresco. It was nice, especially with the asparagus — even if it makes your pee smell funny after.
Second round, we got the patatas bravas ($6.50) and the albondigas ($9.50). The fried potatoes were not bad, but the Spanish meatballs were better in a sofrito tomato sauce with a sprinkling of fried onions.
Third round was my favourite of the night. The kokotxas ($9), panfried halibut cheeks in sherry and olive oil, were kickass with a big squeeze of lemon over top.
Finally, for dessert, I could not leave without having churros ($7), those delicious deep-fried sticks of pastry dough, rolled in sugar and cinnamon.
Thirsty Bear’s cinnamon churros came with a mug of thick Spanish hot chocolate and whipped cream for dipping, which zooms it to the top of my list as the best churros I’ve had so far — not counting my very first time at Disneyland when I was 10.
Thirsty Bear Brewing Company, 661 Howard St., San Francisco, (415) 974-0905. Open Mon.-Thurs. 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday 11:30 a.m.-midnight, Saturday noon-midnight, Sunday 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Menus and more info here.