Occupation: Web Marketing Manager
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Broken Record
Reviewed Broken Record: Wednesday, February 3, 2010
At first, and probably second, glance, The Broken Record doesn’t seem like much of a destination. Located out in the Excelsior District on a strip featuring a Laundromat and a convenience store, it is a bit of a hike from Balboa Park BART, although MUNI does run down Geneva Ave. There is plenty of parking, though, a rarity in other parts of San Francisco. Don’t be deterred by the neighborhood or what looks like a typical dive bar when you walk in the door. Head straight for the unpretentious back room and be greeted by a menu that features gourmet twists on a typical bar menu. I don’t know of any other dive bar that has duck confit potato skins and specials, like French toast topped with seared foie gras!
I’ve been there several times, and have noticed that kitchen is kept very clean, even if the dining area and tables are a little worn around the edges. It can get a little chilly when patrons are going in and out of the back patio to smoke, so be warned. Peruse the menu that is written on a large chalkboard over the kitchen. After you decide what you want, order and pay for the food at the counter, then wait for your order to trickle out to you when it is ready.
The Broken Record is good for groups (just call ahead and warn them if you have a lot of people, they can get overwhelmed pretty easily, like when we ambushed them with thirty people one night), because everyone orders and pays separately, including for the bar. The service is always friendly, although it can get a bit erratic if the place is busy, as it often is. It certainly isn’t a four-star restaurant experience, but that isn’t what you come here for. You come for good, decently priced, proto-Southern food that features lots and lots of bacon. They also have quite a few vegetarian options, like the portobello burger, tomato soup, and macaroni and cheese. This really isn’t a good place for a diet!
We ordered the Crispy Broccoli, which is fresh broccoli that is deep-fried and topped with grated Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes. Even though it is fried, it isn’t greasy, and the combination of caramelized broccoli, salty cheese, and spicy pepper is delicious, and certainly isn’t something I’ve seen anywhere else.
The bacon burger is, in my opinion, one of the best burgers in San Francisco. The chefs grind the bacon into the beef and hand-form the patties before cooking. The burger is juicy and full of bacon flavor without being too greasy. It is worth a trip to the restaurant to try it, especially if you want a unique twist on a bacon cheeseburger. We ordered a side of bacon fries with the burger, and they are also good. Thin, crisp french fries are topped with, you guessed it, chopped bacon. Yum.
I have always wanted to try one of their desserts, but I’ve always been so stuffed that I couldn’t manage it. The waffle with ice cream always looks good, though. The bar has about five beers on tap, and they carry a nice selection of whiskeys, if that is your thing.
So, if you are looking for something different and off the beaten path, or have a hankering for bacon, I’d recommend a visit to the Broken Record!
Occupation: Pharmaceutical Sales Rep
Favorite Restaurant: Chez Spencer
Reviewed Broken Record: Tuesday, February 16, 2010
It’s a HAUL to get here, and the Broken Record is a TOTAL DIVE; edgy, raw, loads of "tats" on the patrons -- maybe that’s I why I LOVED the actual bar! There seemed to be a fun, edgy crowd, and I would definitely go back if I were ever in the neighborhood (doubtful) -- and/or if it were magically transported to my neighborhood -- for drinks, pool, and the cool music and/or the DJ, who began spinning halfway through our meal.
Bang for the buck…? Yes, definitely for the food, satiation factor, and quantity-served. I’m not sure if one would factor in long-term health care costs in eating this type of food regularly though…just a thought!
I found on Yelp that the menu always changes, which was interesting to me. There were some fun things that I wished I could have tried that weren’t on the current menu. One orders and pays CASH (thank god we had enough) at the cash register after perusing the evening’s offering on a large chalkboard hanging over the kitchen -- two cooks within, hard at work! As far as enjoying a good meal AND conversation, my dining partners and I could barely talk during our meal, but that’s not the point, right? This is the type of place where you go for a good fried, cholesterol-laden, balls-out-not-so-good-for-your-waist-line-or-diet-eat-after-too-much-drinking…kinda meal!
For appetizers, we ordered the french fries, and if you like fries, which most of our group did (four adults and two kids, 8 and 10-years-old), these were definitely good, perfectly crunchy, just greasy enough, and satisfying!
The Crispy Broccoli was one of my favorites; crunchy and a tad charred with chili flakes and cheese sprinkled on top. I could’ve eaten this all day and clogged all of my arteries in the meantime!
As for the "famed" duck confit potato skins, we thought, "Way toooo much goin’ on." Also, we thought that the actual skins were rather soggy. The ingredients -- which equaled overkill in our minds -- were: Gruyère cheese, buttered truffle, scallions, ranch dressing, and duck confit. I vote to skip the ranch or something, or make it a more benign creamy topping.
My pulled pork sandwich was delicious! This was the second of my three favorite items from the meal. The pork was tender, juicy, savory, and the sauce tangy. The toasted, buttery bun, on which it came, topped off a really tasty sandwich.
My friend Julie had the roasted mushroom sandwich -- huge portobello mushrooms with warm mozzarella, roasted red peppers, a balsamic aioli, and fresh basil. This was also very good and cheesy!
The two men in the group had the bacon cheeseburger, which was OK. It was a tad salty, and the bacon was actually mixed in with the ground beef, so one missed the "crunchy, smoky-baconess" of it all.
Lucy, the ten-year-old in the group enjoyed her creamy tomato soup, and I thought it was good as well. Rich and creamy, with just a little kick of something, not sure if it was sour cream, curry, or what. Lucy said the grilled cheese sandwich, which comes with the soup, was also yummy. It looked really great! Thick buttery, toasted bread with gobs of cheese oozing out the sides.
Ian, who is eight-years-old, seemed to enjoy his finger-licking-good chicken wings. I didn’t try them, but they looked picture perfect with a thick, crunchy batter, and deep-fried to a toasty brown. They come with two dipping sauces: blue cheese and Buffalo sauce. I didn’t try these either, but supposedly the trick is to double-dip in both sauces with each bite!
Let’s talk about my favorite course: DESSERT! The Toho Brownie was OFF THE HOOK! Warm, gooey, and topped off with a delicious vanilla been ice cream. Lucy turned to me and said, "I don’t eat much for dinner, but LOOK OUT when it comes to dessert!" A girl after my own heart! We both put our spoons in our separate bowls and did not come up for air until we were finished. Lucy turned to me again, when were both done, and said, "I think I ate that too fast!" Again, a truer statement had ne’er been told, but I wouldn’t trade a sticky-spoonful of that brownie with ice cream for the world!
The other four in our group shared one waffle with banana ice cream (yes, Lucy and I were selfish in each having our own dessert)! Ian and Julie loved the waffle, but my boyfriend Chris thought it was just "OK," and, trust me, he considers himself a waffle connoisseur! I thought it was delightfully light and buttery, but who am I when in the company of a waffle expert?
I did have to laugh, because on the way home, my boyfriend Chris accused me of forcing him to eat/order the bacon cheeseburger, which, along with the rest of the meal, would render him a "whale" all within a few hours time! Unfortunately, he did put on a few pounds after weighing-in the next day. I attributed it all to the high-salt content/water retention of the previous evening’s meal.
Although I enjoyed this once-in-a-blue-moon, soul-food experience, I would probably not go back for the food (and for the sake of my cholesterol). I would however, happily go back for the bar, pool, and music if ever in the neighborhood (doubtful) and/or if this bar/restaurant were ever magically transported to the East Bay where I live. I dug the atmosphere and thought the food was OK; definitely GOOD for bar food and/or if you are in a decadent mood.
Occupation: Executive Recruiter
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Marnee Thai Restaurant
Reviewed Broken Record: Thursday, February 11, 2010
Broken Record sits on a wounded section of Geneva Avenue in the far southeastern corner of San Francisco. Loud 80s hair metal music thumps incessantly in the front room. The bar is on the left with an array of 250 whiskeys shelved above. Three or four boozy patrons sit around shouting over the music. A lonely pool table is on the right.
Food is available straight back through an unadorned interior tunnel with the bathroom on the right. A cursory inspection reveals no cover on the toilet tank, no switch plate near the light, and duct tape around the switch box.
The concept becomes clear: "dive bar," the term of art for a no-frills place to get serious about drinking. What appeals to a serious drinker is salty, fried food. A dive bar with good bar food is the expectation.
The food area blares another kind of rock at volume. We experienced Beck ("Odelay" or "Guerro") and Howlin’ Wolf. The kitchen area on the right sits behind a counter where one orders. The bill of fare is scrawled on a chalkboard above the kitchen. A Bruce Lee kung fu movie plays silently on the opposite wall. The dimly lit room is filled with an odd assortment of oversized, institutional tables.
Self-service is the MO. One returns to the bar to get a drink. One beer on tap is "F--- You, Stupid Wheat Beer." The friendly bartender explained Broken Record was known as the "F--- You, Stupid" bar before they had the wheat beer specially crafted for them. Tee-shirts with that proud slogan are available for sale. Only one kind of red wine is available in a single serve, airplane-style bottle.
We sampled four items. First was the deep-fried crispy broccoli with crushed red pepper flakes. The flowers were overcooked and left an acrid, burnt taste.
Next came the duck confit potato skins with Gruyère cheese and fried pieces of duck skin, which had the saltiness and mouthfeel of bacon. Pungent garlic competed with other ingredients for attention. Pressing a fork on the potato forced translucent grease to escape and pool on the plate.
Then the fried clams appeared. The industrial strength breading was too thick and hid the clam flavor. The monkey dish held an interesting garnish of fennel with skinned grapefruit segments, a nice touch indicating some intention or plan to the food. Last was the beef and bacon burger with avocado, a hockey puck-sized portion (about four ounces) of fluffy, salty meat served on a singed bun.
The service staff was friendly and attentive. Their attitude was great. There was soap and paper towels in the restroom.
Otherwise, the whole experience was lost on me. I understand the "dive bar with great food" concept, but this execution didn’t work for me. I left with an upset stomach. I did not have enough drinks to enjoy the atmosphere or food. Unfortunately, I will never have enough drinks at one time to enjoy Broken Record.