I had been wanting to check out Straw ever since I first read about its carnival-themed concept. The menu seems to be made of everyday American dishes with a slightly carny-inspired twist. Things like donuts, pretzels and corn dogs make their appearance on the menu. I think the menu must have changed since it first opened, because the items look a little different than I remember, maybe a little less carnivalesque? Pdho and I met up with Mr. and Mrs. C Squared for an early dinner on a Saturday evening. I know you’re all probably wondering why I have so many “Letter-Squared”-named friends, but what can I say…. I know of a bunch of couples that seemed to find happiness with people whose name starts with the same letter as their own.
Expectations of the restaurant were fancier than it actually turned out to be. I had pictured an uppity kind of restaurant that would cater to yuppy types. I’m not sure why I thought that, but Straw was actually much more eclectic and funky. In fact, the restaurant was quite small with a very aged appearance. The decorations, wall coverings and furniture all looked like they were bought at a garage sale. It all seemed a little random while still appearing to go with the carnival theme. The twirl-a-whirl seat was kind of cheesy, but it definitely spoke to the carnival theme.
We ordered a few appetizers to share starting with the Fireball which were buffalo wings tossed in cinnamon and Sriracha sauce. Instead of blue cheese dressing, there was a cinnamon cream sauce served on the side. The wings were a little bit dry, but I really thought the mix of sweet and spicy was done quite well making the wings quite tasty.
I insisted on the Mac Attack which was macaroni and cheese with bits of apple and maple-glazed Niman Ranch bacon thrown in for good texture. It was definitely on the less cheesy side which allowed for the subtle sweetness from the apples and saltiness of the bacon to come through.
The Sweet Tots were essentially like regular old tater tots but made from sweet potatoes. I suppose the blackberry BBQ dipping sauce was supposed to be what made this dish a little bit different, but I don’t think I could really appreciate the fruitiness in the sauce.
I had been curious about The Ringmaster ever since I first read about it. It’s a Niman Ranch ground chuck beef patty sandwiched between two halves of a glazed donut. I thought the “bun” was supposed to be a Krispy Kreme glazed donut, so I expected this to be much more sinful than it actually was. It also wasn’t as tasty as I hoped it would be. The hamburger patty was quite flavorless and dry, and the donut was lightly glazed, but it didn’t really lend enough sweetness to give the Ringmaster any interesting flavor. Mrs. C Squared thought it was a Krispy Kreme donut, but I really didn’t think it was as sweet. So unless they scraped off the glaze, my guess is it was just a regular, albeit homemade glazed donut.
Mr. C Squared ordered the Fried Chicken-n-Waffle Monte Cristo which like the Ringmaster used a breakfast pastry in place of bread for the sandwich. Again, this wasn’t as sweet as you would expect given that the fried chicken was sandwiched between Belgian Waffles, but I think it tasted better than the Ringmaster. The chicken was hot and crispy and the raspberry jam added a bit of sweetness. I would definitely order this one in place of the Ringmaster.
Pdho ordered the Baby Back Ribs which were served a healthy helping of mashed potatoes and topped with cole slaw-like salad. The ribs tasted fine if not, a little bit on the dry side, but overall, it wasn’t all that interesting.
Overall, I was probably a little bit disappointed given my high expectations for the restaurant. I thought it would be a carnival concept that would be pulled through each aspect of the restaurant including the menu. In actuality, I realized that the carnival-theme mostly came through on the names of the dishes (i.e. Ringmaster, The Bearded Lady, etc), but the food itself, although some dishes did try to take on a carnival twist, was actually quite average tasting. It didn’t turn out to be as special as I thought it would be, but I was glad I was able to give it a try. I doubt I will probably come back there. It’s an interesting concept to check out once, but the food just isn’t good enough to bring me back. 🙂
203 Octavia Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94102
PAFO Ratings for Straw:
Ambiance 2½ stars
Food 3 stars
Overall rating 2½ stars