The Elite Cafe: Reviews

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The Elite Cafe: Reviews | restaurant info + video | full episode video |

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Alexia Smith-Payne
Name: Alexia
Occupation: Elections Technician Supervisor
Location: Oakland
Favorite Restaurant: The Elite Cafe
Reviewed The Elite Cafe: Saturday, May 28, 2011

Love, love, love, The Elite Café! It was recommended to me about five years ago, and I have not been able to stay away. It is located in the upper Fillmore district. The area is filled with a variety of restaurants and boutiques. Parking can be an issue, however, Elite Café does offer valet. The ambiance of this restaurant is super cozy. The walls are lined with private dining booths that come equipped with coat hangers. When going there I highly suggest requesting a booth. This place is drenched in mahogany: a mahogany bar, booths, and floors. The restaurant offers an extensive wine list. The food is always delicious from the starter to dessert. One of my favorite characteristics of Elite Café is the way they add their own unique spin on Southern comfort food.

On my latest visit to Elite Café, our party started with the California Seafood Gumbo, Meetinghouse Biscuits, and “down-home” cornbread. The gumbo is one of my absolute favorite items on the menu. What I enjoy most about the dish is it is the perfect mixture of an authentic New Orleans-style gumbo with California flair. Being a California girl that loves Southern food, I adore this dish. The roux of the gumbo feels very authentic New Orleans. However, the scallops, oysters, and bell peppers feel very California. This dish also includes shrimp and crabmeat. It is filled with seafood; Elite does not skimp on the ingredients. Another item not to be missed: the Meetinghouse Biscuits. These biscuits crumble at the touch and melt in your mouth. My mouth waters at the thought of them. Elite Café offers them frozen to take home too. However, I’ve never done that -- I don’t have enough self-control! My main course, the red wine-braised beef brisket, was accompanied by spring green garlic grits and braised greens and fried okra. The beef was seasoned perfectly and so tender I didn’t need to use a knife. The grits were one of my favorites of the plate. I’m not sure why they are called "spring green," but I do know they were delicious. There was definitely garlic in the taste, but they were not too garlicky, which was nice. I also tasted my honey’s jambalaya. This is another dish that Elite Café added a nice spin to. The jambalaya included duck confit. Duck is not a very common protein to add to jambalaya. This dish was delicious as well.

We ended our evening with freshly made beignets, and espresso ice cream. The dessert was not only beautiful to look at, but it was equally tasty. The light and fluffy beignets tasted as though they were delivered right out of the oven. The espresso ice cream was a great match because it was equally as light. Service was great. We were seated early for our reservation, and the waitress took time to answer all of our questions.


In conclusion, I would highly suggest this restaurant to anyone who enjoys Cajun/Creole food. The prices are not cheap. However, for the level of service and the quality of food that is offered, the price is fair. The Elite Café is one my favorite restaurants in San Francisco for many reasons: great service, great location, consistency, and excellent food. Having dinner at Elite Café is like getting a nice warm hug from someone you love after a long cold day.

Matthew Eshoo
Name: Matthew
Occupation: Real Estate Appraiser
Location: Rohnert Park
Favorite Restaurant: Risibisi Italian Restaurant
ReviewedThe Elite Cafe: Friday, May 27, 2011

The Elite Café is located in one the best neighborhoods in all of San Francisco. There is an abundance of unique and upscale retail stores offering hard-to-find and one-of-kind designer clothing and other items. The small restaurant, situated in the heart of this eclectic neighborhood, was constructed in 1928 and, true to its original design, features a lovely Art Deco style. There is no artwork on the wall as to distract one's eye from the architecture. There are private booths, sidewalk dining, and a nice central bar, as well. My wife Kate and I attended the Elite Café on a Friday night, and the restaurant was bustling. Clearly this is a very popular restaurant, as it was crowded and required near shouting to have a conversation. One couldn’t help but feel transported back in time to the 1940s or 50s. Everyone was excited to be there and having a great time. Unfortunately, my online reservation with Open Table was not transferred to the restaurant, and we were both worried for a bit that we would not be able to get a table. The sweet hostess said she would do her best and get us a table in about 45 minutes. So, I headed over to the bar to order a Citron and tonic for myself, and a dirty martini for the missus. Despite the large crowd, the bartender noticed me within seconds and made two perfect drinks. The two well drinks cost $18.50.

My wife was delighted to taste her drink so quickly. I decided to use the bathrooms, which were unfortunately but understandably, due to the large crowds, unisex. The architecture cried out that these bathrooms should be separate, and Kate, later in the evening after returning from the bathroom, remarked that no lady wants to use a man’s bathroom. When I returned from my trip to the bathroom, the hostess approached us and said that she had a table ready and it was a highly sought after booth, as well. Now that’s excellent service.

We settled in to enjoy our New Orleans-style dinner, so I ordered a half dozen oysters, a bowl of mussels, and Kate ordered the crab and artichoke fondue. I honestly felt that the oysters were delicious, but at $3.25 to $3.50 each, they were a bit over priced. The mussels on the other hand, at $11.00, were an exceptional value. This could have been a main course, and I could easily see coming back to the Elite Café just to have this alone. The mussels were served Cajun style with spicy sausages and a saffron broth. Yummy! Kate’s fondue lacked the cheese that one would expect from a fondue, in fact it had surprisingly little cheese, but I liked it.

The main courses arrived, and Kate enjoyed the house specialty jambalaya with fresh shrimp and duck confit. This tasted very fresh and hearty. Interestingly, or maybe by accident, it was made with very little rice and served in an iron skillet. I thought the skillet downplayed the dish and assumed it was chosen by tradition. I ordered the Alaskan halibut, and it was served natural-style with little seasoning. It came with crispy polenta that was creamy moist on the inside and also a grilled vegetable ratatouille that, unfortunately, was overpowered by balsamic vinegar and not eaten; a rare event. We also had a side of buttermilk-mashed potatoes, which were light and tasty. These certainly made up for the ratatouille.

For dessert we ordered beignets served with coffee ice cream and chocolate sauce. Beignets are a traditional New Orleans dessert, and we both really enjoyed them with our coffees.

In the end, we both enjoyed the Elite Café and appreciated both the service and its location. It offers a throwback décor and New Orleans cuisine. The popularity of the this restaurant speaks loud and clear, and while a couple dishes were a bit less than expected from a restaurant of this level, we had a wonderful overall experience and will return again.

The total bill including four well drinks, tax and tip was $185.50.

Nino Manuel
Name: Nino
Occupation: Systems Engineer
Location: Oakland
Favorite Restaurant: Grand Oaks Restaurant and Sports Lounge
Reviewed The Elite Cafe: Friday, May 27, 2011

Only a friend and I went this time, and we went right after work on a Friday night. I called earlier that day to make a reservation for 6:30 PM. We arrived 15 minutes early and were seated right away. We were given a choice to be seated outside, in a booth, or at a regular table. We decided to take the booth. The booth was hard to get into, unless you had twigs for thighs. Once in, we felt isolated from the rest of the restaurant, except with the occasional contact with our waiter.

Our waiter was very helpful, but it was getting to the point that he was starting to get pushy. He would ask us almost every two minutes if we were ready or if he can help us with anything else. Maybe it was our fault, because my friend and I were having a conversation and would glance at the menu from time to time. While looking at the menu, my expectation of the place was getting higher and higher. With a place called "The Elite," the prices, and names like, "Elite's Infamous Deviled Eggs," you're expecting to be blown away by every item on the menu. My expectation of the place became overly exaggerated.

We started with a couple of cocktails. My friend had a Ketel One Dirty Martini, while I wanted to try something new, so I tried the Bananas Foster. My friend liked her martini, while I thought I ordered my cocktail too soon. It was sweet and would have served better as a dessert, and it also happened to be on the desert menu. It was dairy-based with three dried banana chips floating on top. It was very banana-e, it was good, but nothing special. The waiter came a couple minutes later, and we started our order.

We ordered Elite's Infamous Deviled Eggs. You have the option of ordering three, six, or twelve. We ordered the three, and they came on a long narrow serving dish peppered with paprika. I was expecting to be wowed, but I didn't see anything special with the presentation or the flavor. I'm not saying that the eggs were bad, they were good. They were very creamy and had just the right amount of mustard, and the paprika gave them a nice kick, but I was expecting to be blown away since they were labeled "infamous." I've had better deviled eggs served as hors d'oeuvres at weddings. A couple minutes later, our waiter came back and asked for the rest of our orders.

Our waiter, even though I found him pushy, was very helpful. We had several questions about the menu, and he helped us understand what we were going to order. For her entree, my friend ordered the grilled Niman Ranch pork chop with slow-cooked collard greens, red beans and rice, and caramelized shallot jus, and I ordered the hand-cut tagliatelle with local Dungeness crabmeat, asparagus, and saffron and shrimp sauce. We also ordered the Meetinghouse Biscuits, which gave us the option of four or seven pieces; we ordered the four pieces. We also ordered the fried okra and mashed potatoes. We were given a choice of buttermilk or goat cheese mashed potatoes, and we chose the goat chese. My friend and I complemented our entree with a glass of Hawk Crest Cabernet by Stag's Leap and Cakebread Sauvignon Blanc respectively.

The biscuits came first, and I was disappointed with the size. I was expecting the typical round biscuits, but these were baked brown, rather than golden brown, and were rectangular. They came with hand-whipped butter, and I took a bite with some butter and I found it surprisingly good. They had a nice sweetness to them, and the shell was nice and crispy while it was light and a bit dense, but not too dense, it was almost creamy inside; it melted in your mouth. The rest of our dishes arrived.

My friend's pork chop was a nice portion. It had a cut of pork and it had a good amount of greens and red beans and rice on the side. I was disappointed with the portion of my entree; I was expecting a bit more for the price. Aside from the portion, the presentation was really nice and clean. The fried okra with a spicy aioli, and the mashed potatoes came along with our entrees. The okra was cut lengthwise and battered lightly. I dipped one and took a bite and I was surprised by its creaminess; it was really good. The mashed potato was also very delicious. My heightened expectation of the place was deservingly put back up there.

I tried my entrée, and my expectation was put back in place. I found it a bit bland and I really had to try to get as much of the sauce in every bite to get some flavor. Unfortunately, I didn't think there was enough shrimp and saffron sauce. The crab added a bit of texture, but not much flavor. I wasn't fully disappointed with my dish, but again, for the price I was expecting more. My friend's dish didn't fare any better. She gave me a taste, and we pretty much agreed on what we thought about it. The pork chop was excellent; it was moist and tender, although, the greens were undercooked. They still had some toughness to them, and they tried to be fancy with the red beans and rice by adding some sort of mango salsa that they could have left out. We did finish our entrees, but we kept going back to the fried okra and mashed potatoes; we could have ordered seconds.

We decided against ordering a second serving of the sides and went for the dessert. We asked for the dessert menu and we were deciding between the beignets with triple espresso bean ice cream and fudge sauce or the Maker's Mark pecan pie with spiked whipped cream and cinnamon ice cream. We decided on the beignets and were delighted with our selection. I was again surprised with the presentation. The beignets had a darker color than what I'm used to and they were dusted with confectioners' sugar. We dug into the triple espresso ice cream first and were floored by the flavor. It was probably the best coffee ice cream I've had so far. I thought the best way to eat the dessert was to take a piece of the beignet, a portion of the ice cream, and dip it into the fudge sauce. My friend agreed, and we cleaned up the plate, fighting for the last bite of ice cream. It was a nice way to end the meal.


While we were eating our dessert, the waiter dropped off the check. We took a look and were not too surprised with the total amount, considering the amount of food and drinks we ordered. The total was $137.04. While waiting for our waiter to return our card, my friend and I were observing the atmosphere. I was taking a peek out of our booth and found that the place had gotten more crowded; the concierge had a pack of patrons waiting to be seated. We also commented that I will probably only return on special occasions. We were joking that it's probably too pricey for a first date place, it's more fitting for a second anniversary.