So this afternoon, we decided to try the much-touted Local’s Corner, (2500 Bryant St. (at 23rd Street), San Francisco; (415) 800-7945. localscornersf.com). I guess my expectations were colored by the name, which led me to expect someplace, I don’t know, where those of us who consider ourselves Mission locals would feel comfortable. So I was more than a little taken aback by the $18 prix fixée menu placed in front of us, as I sat down with my daughter. Taking the afternoon in stride, we immediately decided to share. What was more telling, perhaps, is that the fact that I felt compelled to ask if this was OK (the sharing, that , is). Perhaps it was the small size of the place…I am not sure if there were more than 6 tables.. but, more than that, it was something about the atmosphere that made me wonder whether there might not be some minimum, or an extra plate charge… seemed a little over-the-top pristine, haute country, if you will. My daughter immediately told me that she wasn’t comfortable in places that are “too much just for rich people, Mommy” (she’s fifteen).
The food was really, really good. The portions were really, really small (why some restauranteurs seem to feel these two need to go hand-in-hand is beyond me). The presentation was beautiful, the produce all organic, the dairy from local producers and clearly, they run a sustainable kitchen. While we were there, a couple came in with a crate and a huge plastic bag of produce and the chef came out to great them, obviously one of Local Corner’s suppliers and they genuinely seemed like friends, the three of them. Pretty cool! That felt distinctively “Mission”y- the whole urban farming, small producer, we’re all a family feeling.
Besides the plate above, we shared housemade whole grain sourdough bread served with creamery butter and apricot preserves, a delicious waffle, maybe the most delicious waffle I have ever eaten (and one of the smallest) with strawberries and whipped cream and a housemade syrup. But we still left without either of having the intention of returning.
I looked around at the other diners (at noon on a sunny Saturday the place was not full, not by a longshot). There was a middle-aged man dining alone, a young couple, and a couple of friends with a small baby, and us. I couldn’t help but wonder whether there was enough “wealth” in the neigbhorhood to sustain the place over time… enough single people who regularly treated themselves to an extravagant brunch, enough young couples who were still at that stage in their romance where one was trying to impress the other with his (or her) choice of dining venues, enough friends who could drop twenty dollars casually, like that. And, in a way, I really hope the answer is “no”. Not that I want Local’s Corner to fail, I wouldn’t wish that on any entrepreneur, much less a food entrepreneur, being one myself. And just because I choose not to spend $40 on brunch for 2 doesn’t mean I begrudge others the experience. But the gentrification of the Mission is a touchy subject. And in order to support a place like Local’s Corner, my gut tells me that this inevitable process will need to either continue on pace or speed up. The problem is, gentrification is sort of like an avalanche- at some point the forces become overpowering and suffocate everything in their path, with just a lucky few surviving to dig themselves out. This is definitely not the future I hope for for my Mission.