One of the most appealing aspects of life at Fulton 555 is the rich variety of food and drink options within easy strolling distance. Restaurants steeped in culinary traditions from around the world, with options both elegant and casual, always seem to be offering something new. A few Hayes Valley standouts are sure to become destinations for Fulton 555 residents, with something distinctive to tempt every palate.
Little Gem | 400 Grove Street
Little Gem, whose name is a pun on the tiny versions of romaine leaves that yield a perfectly tender and crisp salad, is indeed a local jewel. The food here is savory and sumptuous, and though you might not realize it, free of refined sugar, gluten, and dairy. In other words, for patrons with food sensitivities, Little Gem provides that rare restaurant experience where everything on the menu is fair game. Increasingly aware of the kinds of food challenges that hamper the enjoyment of some patrons, Little Gem’s founders, including Eric Lilavois (the former CFO of Thomas Keller Restaurant Group) and Chef Dave Cruz, decided to design a menu around the region’s finest ingredients. They get chicken from Marin Sun Farms, beans from Rancho Gordo, and beef from Five Dot Ranch. Produce is seasonal, so the menu shifts from month to month. Using ingredients like almond flour and quinoa, brown rice, eggs, and sweet potatoes, brunch is a sweet and savory treat on weekends. Though it’s become a mecca for those with food sensitivities, the fare at Little Gem is designed to appeal to everyone. Tempted by salmon tartare, spiced hanger steak, and bibimbap with seasonal vegetables, you’ll find that the few ingredients that aren’t included will be the furthest thing from your mind.
Petit Crenn | 609 Hayes Street
Chef Dominique Crenn has become a San Francisco culinary superstar in the last few years, having starred in an episode of Netflix’s acclaimed series Chef’s Table and won two coveted Michelin stars for Atelier Crenn, her bistro in Pacific Heights, among other accolades. But none of this attention has changed the way Crenn cooks or thinks about food, and her Hayes Street restaurant Petit Crenn is where she gets back to her culinary roots. Crenn was brought up outside Versailles in France and spent summers with her family in Brittany, the region where her mother’s family is from. Brittany is on France’s northwest coast, and Petit Crenn’s menu reflects this with an emphasis on seafood. With just 28 seats and an unpretentious all-white interior, this restaurant is different from Atelier Crenn, which serves complex dishes that are sometimes plated with bits of bark or moss for aesthetic effect. There’s no extra decoration here: fresh anchovies in olive oil, savory omelettes, grilled chanterelle mushrooms, and fresh razor clams are about as close to French comfort food as you can get in San Francisco.
Pläj | 333 Fulton Street
Just up the block from Fulton 555, a cozy yet modern restaurant called “Pläj” (which is pronounced “play”) offers a contemporary twist on traditional Swedish food. Densely floral Josef Frank wallpaper, dark wood paneling, and a cozy fireplace give the interior a rich sense of history, though the restaurant itself is barely five years old. Chef Roberth Sundell, a native of Stockholm, opened Pläj so that he would have a place to combine the Scandinavian ingredients he loves—herring, salmon, cloudberries—with the bounty of Northern California produce. Sundell’s interpretation of traditional white fish offers some surprising flavors: pickled onions, ginger, shallots, and hot dill oil. A sunchoke and beet salad is accompanied by hazelnuts and watercress as well as a Swedish cow’s milk cheese called Västerbotten. The Pläj burrata is truly multicultural: heirloom tomatoes and tender cheese are garnished with an aquavit vinaigrette. And if you come to Pläj with a craving for the traditional, the Swedish meatballs won’t disappoint: lingonberries and pureed potatoes with gravy accompany this surprisingly light and delicate main course.
Smitten Ice Cream | 432 Octavia Street
The name is no exaggeration: you’re apt to fall a little bit in love with the seasonal flavors of Smitten Ice Cream, home of the made-to-order scoop. Smitten is the brainchild of Robyn Sue Fisher, who began selling flash-frozen ice cream out of a Radio Flyer wagon in 2009, using liquid nitrogen and an ice cream machine she built herself. With each cone a kind of science experiment, Fisher’s style caught on, but what really hooks Smitten devotees are the flavors—fresh mint chip, Earl Grey with milk chocolate, mascarpone and strawberry, or brown sugar and cinnamon shortbread—none of which you’ll find in any supermarket freezer aisle. A visit to Smitten is akin to ordering at a cocktail bar: frozen treats are made right there, just for you. Smitten’s Hayes Valley location on Octavia Street (which happens to be the company’s very first) is situated just four blocks from Fulton 555, conveniently adjacent to Patricia’s Green and the colorful murals on Linden Street.