Wayfare Tavern is a new restaurant from celebrity chef Tyler Florence that opened earlier in the week. It is located in Rubicon’s old Financial District location. He is also opening Rotisserie & Wine in Napa and El Paseo in Mill Valley. Michael Thiemann is the chef de cuisine by way of Merriman’s in Hawaii and the Hapuku Lodge in New Zealand. They focus on local and sustainable ingredients for their American cuisine.
Decor, Vibe – They retain Rubicon’s multi level layout with dining areas on two floors. Wayfare Tavern has decor out of the Barbary Coast era with dark wood floors, old school lightbulbs, lots of hunting trophies, counter seating, rustic booth seating, billards room upstairs, and old-fashioned decor. Place was loud and packed with foodies and Food Network fans eager to try this new restaurant. Waiters have a unique uniform of black apron and jeans.
Wayfare Tavern Menu focuses on California cuisine with mid priced fare. They offer a wide variety of appetizers and entrée’s along with raw bar items. Not a lot of options for vegetarians.
Signature Dishes – Burger, Fried Chicken, Salmon
Nice Airy Popovers were served instead of bread.
Dutch Plum Shrub ($11) Bols Genever, Plum, Black Tea Shrub was a robust cocktail with strong flavors. The Plum flavor reminded us of preserved Chinese plum candies.
MONTEREY BAY CALAMARI ($10) grilled with olive oil and lemon was a large dish full of fresh and well cooked calamari, including a good amount of tentacles.
BAKED AVOCADO ($12) smoked bacon, Dungeness crab and Louie dressing had a good-sized half warm avocado filled with a scoop of fresh crab with a light dressing.
PICKLED WHITE MONTEREY ANCHOVIES ($12) Chardonnay vinegar, horseradish, carrots, fennel and bay sound scary but was excellent. The delectable not too salty and slightly vinegary small fish came in sealed ball jar, included some burnt toast, and tasted great.
ORGANIC FRIED CHICKEN ($22) buttermilk brine, roasted garlic, crispy woody herbs and lemon was excellent. Not overly battered, cooked perfectly, and featuring strong herbs flavors. The dish could have included some side items though.
WOOD GRILLED ALASKAN SALMON ($25) roasted leeks, Marge’s potato salad, sea bean salsa verde, purslane had a perfectly cooked, good size fish on top of a bed of vegetables slathered in a little too much olive oil.
CRISP PACIFIC HALIBUT ($26) tomato braised romano beans, Tomales Bay clams, chili, lemon thyme bread crumb, arugula was also a good sized portion of perfectly cooked fish, with lots of tiny but delectable clams below.
SMOKED SONOMA PORK RIBS ($24) roasted corn on the cob, pot of beans, potato salad and coleslaw was the daily special and a must get for a ribs fans. The meat was super tender and featured a nice stiff crust. A messy dish it worth the bother. The beans were a bit watery and had a lot of bacon flavor.
Peach Pie ($12) goat’s milk ice cream and rosemary sugar was a huge dessert, enough for several people. The not too sweet peach filling was perfect, while the crust was flaky and not too buttery. Top notch homemade ice cream too.
Chilled Organic Watermelon ($11) sweet picked radish, ricotta salata, kalamata olives, fresh fennel, basil oil featured a weird combination of sweet watermelon and cheese flavors. This dish just didn’t work.
Service – They just got started a couple days ago, so we were amazed that service went so smoothly. Clearly this is a professionally run restaurant with experienced folks.
Value – Pricing was very reasonable and easily could have been higher for a new celebrity chef venue.
Verdict – Wayfare Tavern impressed us with its combination of classic American fare in beautiful surroundings with solid service. This restaurant should be pretty popular for a long time. Above average large one page wine selection with glasses from $8, bottles of wine from $37. They add a Healthy SF Surcharge.