One of my favorite weekend city pastimes is to just pick a direction, wander aimlessly (get it? Winston Wanders), and see where my feet take me. This is also one of the many ways I find new places to eat – I just walk unfamiliar streets and routes and see if I can stumble across something new and interesting.
On this particularly long wander, I started at home in Lower Nob Hill, headed down to Hayes Valley, then over across the Panhandle, through Haight-Ashbury, up Divisadero, across Alamo Square, and down to Lower Haight before I finally decided on a place to sit down for a quality brunch with my buddy, Corey.
Right on the main Lower Haight drag, there was a very nicely decorated, upscale-looking place called Maven that immediately caught our attention and drew us in. So, we headed in at around 2 PM for a late brunch and grabbed seated at their beautiful and well-stocked bar to look over the menu and make our meal selections.
Now, I’m a huge fan of Bloody Marys and I’m always on the hunt for a good one. And I’ve gotta say, The Maven Bloody was absolutely outstanding and very unusual in its composition. The menu listed a variety of standard bloody ingredients such as tabasco and horseradish along a couple rather unusual ones like basil, balsamic, and house pickles.
But, I could sense that there was still one more out-of-the-ordinary thing going on in this drink, so I asked the bartender what the deal was. Sure enough, instead of the usual Bloody liquor choice of vodka they use gin! I’ve never even heard of a gin-based Bloody before, but it totally worked and this drink really blew me away. You better believe I’ll be back for another.
For my main course, I went against my usual overindulgent plan of action and picked something on the healthier side. Now, I don’t usually order salads when I’m out and I certainly don’t get excited about salad very often, but there was just something truly intriguing about their Smoked Trout Salad that I just couldn’t resist. I think a big part of my attraction to the dish was the interesting sounding ingredient list that included kohlrabi yogurt, black olive, chili, crispy quinoa, and smoked trout.
Now, I bet you think I’m being facetious, but I’m not lying when I tell you that I was absolutely obsessed with everything about this salad. Yes, salad. Not since I first experienced Burmese salads at Burma Superstar and Rangoon Ruby have I been so overwhelmed with joy from what is usually a completely uninspiring menu item.
First of all, this one at Maven was plated beautifully. Seated amongst large, dark leaved lettuce were massive hunks of cold, pink, smoked trout and the tender texture of that fish contrasted wonderfully with quinoa and crispy, crunchy black bits sprinkled throughout. The fish also paired particularly well with the creamy, refreshing kohlrabi yogurt and chili oil based dressing that was spread throughout.
But, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what the crispy black bits were so I asked the bartender what the secret was. “Olives” was the answer. Honestly I’m not sure if they dehydrated minced black olive or deep fried them or if they were even actually olives, but whatever it was was a seriously impressive and unique touch. This really was an outstanding and memorable salad worth getting!
And finally – since this was brunch after all – I had to order a plate of their bartender-approved breakfast meat called Billionaire’s Bacon. This was absolutely some of the best bacon I’ve ever tasted and I’ve had my fair share of the stuff. It was right on par with the incredible stuff I recently had at Huertas in NYC.
It was thick-cut, but not so thick that it would be more accurate to call it pork belly. And it was cooked to the exact right level of crispness, but the most remarkable thing about it was that incredible sweet glaze that coated every piece. It tasted like they coated each piece with caramelized maple syrup and it was an absolutely amazing sweet and savory combination.
So, I think it’s safe to say that my aimless wander led me to a pretty outstanding brunch meal. Everything at Maven from my Bloody Mary to my Trout Salad to my Billionaire’s Bacon went above and beyond my expectations. Everything was just outstanding and very special. I’m definitely planing to return to Maven for more brunch visits very soon and I’ve got a feeling that their dinner service is probably just as impressive.
Got another great brunch spot in San Francisco that I should check out? Let me know in the comments below.
598 Haight St. San Francisco, CA 94117