203 Octavia Blvd | 415.431.FOOD (3663) | website
I find myself irresistibly drawn to the whimsical foods of my youth and was excited to hear about Straw Restaurant which serves carnival-inspired comfort food, then doubly so when I saw the Blackboard Eats deal of $35 for lunch/dinner for two. My friend and frequent dining partner DebbieG joined me there last month, just before the deal expired. The first thing I noticed when I walked in, was that the tables were mostly occupied with kids, which seemed so appropriate for the setting. Although I am decades into adulthood, there are times when I still feel more comfortable sitting at the kid’s table… The back wall encourages one to dream big, happy thoughts!
The dining room is small and cozy, like a low key coffee house but with a festive carnival motif. We passed on sitting in the vintage two seat Tilt-o-Whirl booth mostly because the high back would have blocked the natural light from the window and it just didn’t look too comfy…
We munched on a bowl of popcorn drizzled with truffle oil while we perused the menu and took in our surroundings. There was a ladder heading up to the attic and black and white photos hung on the wall that evoke memories of strolling down the midway. I loved their joie de vivre both in the restaurant and on the website, where they urge you to join them in their attempt to turn back time by getting that proverbial brass ring from the carousel, on the same horse. Together.
The menus are all tucked inside of festively doctored kids books, a lovely touchy of whimsy. There were restrictions to the Blackboard Eats deal that limited the entrees to skewers, so we couldn’t order any of the sandwiches as part of the deal, which was a bummer because it is the sandwiches that sounded the most intriguing… a Bearded Lady sandwich, fried chicken-n-waffle monte christo, the Ringmaster – a burger on a donut. Our server said that they were trying to promote the less glamorous skewers…
The meal started off well with the Great Expectations ($8) app of mini corn dogs with chile ketchup, buttermilk ranch, and nacho cheese dipping sauces which was excellent, I liked the range of flavors paired with the fresh from the fryer mini dogs.
The meal tilted from that point on. We were both disappointed by the Sweet tots ($6), which are made from sweet potato and served with a blackberry bbq sauce, which was just too sweet. The texture of the tots was not crispy enough, and the interior was thick and not fluffy, which did not compel me to ingest as many and as quickly as possible, my usual reaction to tatertots…
We enjoyed the sticks well enough, these were adult friendly and nutritionally sound. Debbie had the Napoleon Dynamite ($15) two skewers of cajun prawns with chunks of red pepper, onion that were drizzled with lemon butter, served with a big scoop of delicious scallion mashers and a well proportioned green salad.
I had the Dragon Boat ($15) made with tri-tip, skewered with mushroom, zucchini and red pepper that came with the blackberry bbq sauce that I still found too sweet. The scallion mashers and salad were fine accompaniments.
We could not resist ordering the Ringmaster ($12) a ground chuck burger served on a home-made glazed doughnut with cheddar & jack cheese with a fried egg for an extra $2 and bacon for an additional $1.75. The best thing about the dish was the house made chips, which were thin and addictively crisp and well seasoned! The burger on the other hand was not seasoned very well, the egg was dry and rubbery and the donut was a bit dry and rough… With all of the hullaballoo going on, it was strangely dull. We marveled at how non-compelling it was, perhaps it needed additional sauces, pickles, or zippy crisp vegetables such as tomato, lettuce or onion? Despite our un-enthusiasm for the donut burger, it is definitely one of the most popular dishes on the menu as I saw the donut burger dish being brought to almost every table.
We both loved the Flying Saucer dessert ($7). It is a rich and decadent peanut butter mousse that had just the right balance between sweet and salty, drizzled with house-made chocolate fudge and caramel and topped with candied bacon. The SFBG rated it in the Best of the Bay 2011, Best Pork Dessert.
We ended our meal with the Oklahoma ten ($7), an assortment of bite sized battered and fried Mars candy bars, sprinkled with powdered sugar. Inside the fried poofs the tiny bite-size chocolate bars were melty soft and gooey. I liked the Milky Way best, milk chocolate, nougat and caramel….
This looks like a bite of Milky Way, chocolate covered nougat…
Overall, we thought the restaurant had enough charm to warrant a return trip, there are definitely other dishes that caught my eye, hello chicken and waffle monte christo… Since I loved the potato chips so much, I’d definitely want to try their version of potato chip nachos, and yes, I want another one of those Flying Saucers!