Reliable Chow, good craft beer

Chow has been serving hearty local food at reasonable prices since 1997, when it opened on Church Street near Market. In addition to its sister location on Ninth Avenue near Golden Gate Park, Chow has also expanded to Danville and Lafayette, with the latter location also offering a food market. All of the Chows have six well-thought-out taps that match their rustic comfort food.
The tap lists vary by location, and the restaurant seems to touch all the bases, more or less, with beers mostly from Bay Area breweries. At a recent visit to Chow on Church, the choices included Trumer Pils, Marin Brewing’s Tiburon Blonde Ale, Speakeasy’s Big Daddy IPA, Deschutes Green Lakes organic amber ale and the Sless Stimulating stout from Iron Springs. Each location also features a rotating tap (Anchor’s excellent Our Special Christmas Ale in this case), as well as nine bottled beers.
Deschutes, from Bend, Ore., makes consistently good beer and the Green Lakes amber was no exception. It was very tasty matched with a pinto bean and pancetta soup. Hearty soups like this are a natural with flavorful beer.

Chow is the kind of place you can pop into on a whim for a quick bite and beer. Or while strolling the neighborhood, you can have a beer and some grub while the kids have a milkshake and a burger or a pizza from the wood-fired oven. Service is friendly and the restaurant has a nice warm feeling. When well-run, family-style, neighborhood restaurants like Chow offer several good taps, you know that craft beer has become mainstream.
Chow somehow manages to have something for just about everybody while remaining true to its mission of locally sourced products. The beer and food might not be the most eclectic or challenging, but that’s really not the point. You come away from Chow feeling satisfied without leaving a gaping hole in your wallet.

If you haven’t entirely slaked your beer thirst at Chow, you can pop in next door at the Pilsner Inn, which features a cozy enclosed patio at the back of the bar. Pilsners have gotten a bad name as a result of American macro brewers, sometimes literally. Available on tap at the Pilsner Inn is a pilsner called “Czechvar,” which is actually a Czech pilsner named Budvar from Ceske Budejovice of the Czech Republic. As a result of nearly a century of litigation with Anheuser-Busch/Budweiser, Budvar is distributed in the U.S., ironically by Anheuser Busch, under the Czechvar name.
The name is just about the only similarity between America’s Bud and Czechvar/Budvar, however. Whereas Bud has been methodically and painstakingly stripped of it natural malt and hops flavor to appeal to American tastes, Czechvar/Budvar remains refreshingly flavorful, even with restrained noble hops (though Pilsner Inn serves it a little too cold for my taste, even for a pils). There’s really no comparison, and anyone who thinks that Bud is a “true” pilsner should give Budvar/Czechvar a try.

Chow Church
215 Church Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 552-2469

Park Chow
1240 9th Ave
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 665-9912

Chow Lafayette
53 Lafayette Circle
Lafayette, CA 94549
(925) 962-2469

Chow Danville
445 Railroad Ave
Danville, CA 94526
(925) 838-4510

Pilsner Inn
225 Church Street
San Francisco, CA 94114-1310
(415) 621-7058

1 comment:

  1. Hey Chuck!
    Good post about Chow's. Sounds like a place that I would like.
    I checked the menu's at the other locations and spotted some very interesting beers.
    Drake's is on tap at a couple of the restaurants, and the bottled beer list has some good choices too, including Pliny The Elder!
    I'll have to check it out when I get the chance.
    Thanks for the tip!