Thursday, December 15, 2022

Toronado (San Francisco, CA)

Toronado Pub
547 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117
Thu 12/15/2022, 11:50a-12:15p

Toronado Interior

I began really getting interested in craft beer around a decade ago, and one of the legendary beer bars that I'd always wanted to visit since then was Toronado (yes, named after the Oldsmobile model), situated in San Francisco's Lower Haight neighborhood. Given that I recently found myself in the City during the middle of the day, I finally had the opportunity to pay the spot a long overdue visit.

The brainchild of owner David Keene, the dive-ish bar opened its doors in August 1987, and though the place got off to a slow start, Toronado eventually became one of the most important beer-focused establishments in the country. Its success resulted in the debut of two other locations: San Diego, opened in May 2008 by Ian Black (a former employee of Dave Keene's), and Seattle, opened in August 2014 by Matt Bonney. Sadly however, in February 2020, the SD location announced that it was closing due to declining sales, while Seattle shuttered in March that year because of the pandemic, so unfortunately, we're back down to just one Toronado.

Toronado Tap List
Pictured above is Toronado's tap list, which features around four dozen options, and of course, there's a healthy bottle selection as well. Do also note that this is a cash-only business, so be prepared.

2021 The Lost Abbey Cable Car Kriek
A French oak-aged wild ale with cherries, the beautifully ruby-hued, Toronado-exclusive 2021 The Lost Abbey Cable Car Kriek [$90] was the main reason for my visit today, a revival of a near-mythical beer brewed back in 2011 that I'd been wanting to try for the better part of a decade. The nose here was classic, familiar kriek, with the advertised cherry commingled with sweet, warming spices, touches of citrus, and faint funk. On the palate, I found the beer tart, acidic, a bit puckering, but never overwhelming, its dry-ish cherry syrup flavors joined by that aforementioned cinnamon-y spice, hints of barnyard, and oak. I'm glad that I finally got to taste this!

Firestone Walker Parabolita
And for something completely different, I also sampled the Firestone Walker Parabolita [$7], a bourbon barrel-aged stout/milk stout blend with Madagascar vanilla beans, cocoa nibs, and sea salt. The beer smelled intense, with boatloads of what seemed like hazelnut commixed with coffee-esque elements. This was silky smooth on the palate, though its flavors weren't as heady as its aroma would imply; I found it generally bittersweet, roasty, nutty, and cacao-forward, with the vanilla being a bit muted.

I'm happy that I made it out to Toronado at last, though I'm a bit bummed that I didn't have the time to sample more beers here. I can see why the place is an institution, and hope it can avoid the fate of its San Diego and Seattle brethren and can keep going for years to come. I wish we had a bar like this in LA (well, I guess we did), so I could slowly work my way through all the great beers on offer.

Shokupan | milk toast, toro, golden kaluga caviar
After Toronado, we headed over to Akiko's, a semi-nearby Japanese spot. Given that I had a big dinner planned later, I didn't eat much for fear of filling myself up. Now, my dining companion did enjoy the restaurant's lunch omakase, and I was given the chance to sample some of the courses, with this unabashedly luxurious take on shokupan being a standout.

Kawahagi [$10.00] | trigger fish
I also tried three orders of nigiri. Thread-sail filefish is an uncommon find at sushi bars, so I was glad to see it offered today. The fish had a generally firm, satisfying consistency, while its mild taste was amped up big time by the richness of a creamy sauce made from its liver.

2022 Koshi No Kanbai Chotokusen 'Pinnacle of Perfection' Daiginjo
To drink, we had a bottle of the 2022 Koshi No Kanbai Chotokusen "Pinnacle of Perfection" Daiginjo [$250], from Niigata Prefecture. Aromas here were super intense, with massive amounts of honeydew melon combined with tropical banana nuances. Taste-wise though, the sake wasn't nearly as in-my-face, offering up a zippy acidity and a generally dry disposition, offset by distinct bubble gum-esque flavors.

Akamutsu [$12.00] | deep sea perch
Blackthroat seaperch arrived with a marriage of brine, smoke, and fat on display, though it wasn't nearly as revelatory as some other preparations of nodoguro I've had.

Tarabagani [$20.00] | hokkaido king crab
Last up was the king crab, which demonstrated a great kanimiso-fueled depth to go along with its inherent saline-sweetness.


Blogger Megan said...

Hey Kevin - Just a head's up that something funky happened when publishing the Toronado review - there's a line break and then a couple delightful looking sushi pieces with no restaurant listed. Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 22, 2022 7:22:00 AM  
Blogger smb12321 said...

Big foodie here with Southern Meat & Three roots. I was showing two grandkids your site and the boy started laughing. I asked what was so funny. "It's like babies with little bitty food on big people plates!" His sister chimed in with "It's silly, Papa." Of course they wanted to eat a grape or strawberry or cookie on a platter.

Then I took a second look, thought of a recent 10-course meal of tiny portions on gigantic forks and bowls and had to agree. It is silly when a smaller more practical plate would do. Love the photography and description.

Friday, December 23, 2022 9:20:00 AM  
Blogger Daniel Sacilotto said...

You need to check out Southland Beer in LA, and The Glendale Tap.

But above all things, you need to go to Homage Brewing. They are one of the best breweries in the nation currently. Their barrel aged saisons are as good as anything out there.

Friday, December 23, 2022 1:33:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Megan: Ah, thanks for the heads up Megan, but that was actually intentional. I only had a couple bites at Akiko's, so the experience didn't really warrant its own post. Thus, I just appended it to this one. ;)

smb12321: Haha I wonder if your grandkids will change their tone when they get older. But I actually like the "big people plates;" I find them more "comfortable" since I don't have to worry about food falling off the plate!

Daniel: Oh yeah, I've definitely been to Homage in Chinatown and have really enjoyed their beers--great stuff! I've also put Southland and Glendale Tap on my list of spots to try. ��

Saturday, December 24, 2022 6:57:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home