Hazel Southern Bar & Kitchen Looks to Serve Mid-Market with Casual Comfort Food

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The interior of Hazel Southern Comfort (Kelly O'Mara)

You could almost walk right by Hazel Southern Bar & Kitchen on Market Street, near Van Ness. But behind the plain bright-colored door, and past the bouncer in front, inside is a surprising spot with 16 TVs, two pool tables, a retro vibe, and tasty enough food to bring in the neighborhood crowds.

Over a dozen TVs line the walls
Over a dozen TVs line the walls (Kelly O'Mara)

It's been hard for restaurants to survive in the mid-Market spot. Hazel is in the location of the former short-lived Cadence. In nearby spots, AQ, Bon Marche, and Oro have all had to shut their doors too.

What owner Jamie Boatner, previously the partial owner of Sutter Street's Sugar Cafe & Lounge, is betting is that a more casual, fun space can succeed where others have failed. Judging by the soft opening on Friday night, it's not a bad bet. The place was packed with groups snacking around the communal tables, playing pool, and enjoying the well-stocked bar. The three communal tables and booth draw the bulk of the large crowd, but there's also a bar in the back of the space, and a separate section with lounge-like chairs and small tables. In the far back, behind the co-ed bathroom, Hazel's supplies the food for the local jazz club, Mr. Tipple’s Recording Studio.

There are still some service kinks to be worked out, as is to be expected somewhat for a soft opening. Most of the crowd, though, seemed not to be high-end food tourists come specifically for the opening, but rather locals who had wandered in looking for good food and a good time. If the service can deliver, the tasty Southern comfort plates will keep drawing them back.

The inside of the southern restaurant is done in a retro-style.
The inside of the southern restaurant is done in a retro-style. (Kelly O'Mara)

The restaurant is named Hazel after Boatner's mother, who ran a bar in Cheyenne, Wyoming for most of his life. The recipes are nominally her's, but have been updated by executive chef Casey Hatwig (from the Lark Creek Restaurant Group and Taste on the Fly). These include things like fried chicken, tater tot nachoes, hush puppies, macaroni and cheese, and collard greens. The bar is also well-stocked, with over 100 whiskeys and a handful of specialty cocktails and punches, and it's open even after the kitchen closes a 1 a.m.

Hazel's fried chicken
Hazel's fried chicken (Kelly O'Mara)

Ordering a large entree plate came with two side, which added up to lots of plates spread across the table. We tried small orders of both the BBQ ribs ($17) and fried chicken ($15) -- both signature dishes of the restaurant and both with larger versions available. The ribs were slightly spicy sweet and tender on the bone. These are the kind of ribs you could go to town on, picking every bit of meat clean.


Of the two, though, I preferred the fried chicken. The batter was salty and perfectly fried. Yes, I used up a pile of napkins between the BBQ sauce and the fried chicken, but that's why you come here: for tasty and comforting food. Though there were bits of gristle as I got down to the ends, the chicken itself was juicy and not to be missed.

BBQ ribs at Hazel
BBQ ribs at Hazel (Kelly O'Mara)

Part of Hazel's appeal is definitely the Southern sides and appetizers, everything from gator bites to biscuits.

Actually, you really want to try the gator bites ($16). The deep-fried alligator and okra, with a tangy marinara sauce, made the perfect appetizer.

Gator bites and okra
Gator bites and okra (Kelly O'Mara)

For sides we went with classics: collard greens, mac n' cheese, the cheddar & poblano biscuits, and the green beans with caramelized onions.

The green beans were crisp and maybe the healthiest tasting thing on our table, while the collard greens were spicy with a bite. And the mac n' cheese comes in a small bowl with baked cheese on top -- creamy once you let it cool down. While there was nothing exceptionally unique about the cheddar & poblano biscuit, the dense slightly sweet biscuit was exactly the kind of southern nibble I was looking for to offset everything else on the table. All sides are $6 if you order them on their own.

Green beans, chicken, gator bites, and biscuit plates
Green beans, chicken, gator bites, and biscuit plates (Kelly O'Mara)

The cherry on top of all the food is the reasonably priced drinks ($6-15). Along with over 100 whiskeys, there are a dozen beers on tap, a handful of wines, and specialty cocktails and punches, like the apple crisp moonshine ($9) -- which tasted like a very well-done sweet apple cider.

However, as has been noted by a number of visitors during the soft opening, there were some definite service kinks to be worked out. Management had a mix-up with tickets not printing in the kitchen early in the evening, which meant that servers and food tickets were going unassigned and unfilled. It caused a back-up and quite a wait between sitting down and ordering. Ultimately, though, after we were accidentally over-charged for the sides, a large discount was thrown on top of our bill for the trouble.

It was fun. It wasn't too expensive. And it was delicious comfort. It could work in a spot where others have failed.

Hazel Southern Bar & Kitchen
1446 Market St., San Francisco [map]
Ph: (415) 851-8562
Hours: Kitchen: daily, 5pm-1am; Bar: daily, 5pm-2am
Facebook: Hazel Southern Bar & Kitchen
Twitter: @hazelbarsf
Instagram: HazelBarSF
Price range: $$ (entrees $15-26)