Americans have their own take on gastropubs. Some Bay Area gastropubs, such as La Trappe in San Francisco, match Belgian Trappist ales, saisons and geuzes with traditional Belgian food like moules fritte (mussels and French fries) and chicken Waterzooi, a traditional Belgian chicken stew finished with a light cream sauce and fresh herbs. Meanwhile, Monk’s Kettle and Pi Bar eschew geographical and culinary boundaries, complementing their fine selection of Belgian and West Coast beers with everything from burgers and pot pies (at Monk’s Kettle) to pizza and pasta (at Pi).
Then there are places like Pig and Whistle on Geary in San Francisco that hew closer to the “classic” British pub tradition, matching a fine assortment of English and American beers with fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, and bangers and mash. Although Pig and Whistle’s beer selection isn’t as extensive as, say, La Trappe’s, it is certainly adequate. Among the beers on tap recently were Fullers, Bass, Carlsberg Lager, Boddingtons, Guinness, Newcastle Brown, Spaten Munich, Speakeasy Prohibition, Anchor Steam Beer and Liberty Ale and Boont Amber Ale. Pig and Whistle also featured on tap “special beers”: Sierra Nevada’s delicious seasonal Celebration Ale and Drake’s IPA hand-pumped from a cask.
Pig and Whistle’s fish and chips were fresh and perfectly cooked, and not at all greasy, and a delicious match with the lower-carbonation cask Drakes IPA. The shepherd’s pie was equally tasty, and even better paired with Sierra’s hoppy Celebration IPA.
Pig and Whistle draws its customers primarily from the neighborhood and the inner Richmond District, as well as from students and faculty from the nearby University of San Francisco. As befits a true English pub, Pig and Whistle proudly features English Premiere League football on a couple of flat screen televisions. A pool table also beckons in the back room. Service from the bartender is relaxed yet efficient.
Pig and Whistle opened in 1991, right around the time the British began toying with the gastropub concept. Surrounded by Irish brogues and British accents, with Arsenal struggling to keep up with Chelsea on the telly, it’s not hard to imagine yourself in an authentic London pub. With reasonably priced, good-quality food well prepared and beer carefully chosen to complement the grub, Pig and Whistle is a welcome local take on the British-style gastropub idea.