|Jardinière; Photo by Frankie Frankeny|
Jardinière: “No opera is complete without dinner” “before the curtain” at Traci des Jardin’s “classy” “glitterati” “hangout” “just a minute” from Civic Center write our surveyors, but reservations for the high-end, locally sourced Cal-French dinners book up early. Doors open at 5 PM, and the servers are pros at getting you in and out in time without compromising a lick of service. A tip should you try to drop in à la minute? Head to the downstairs J Lounge for a quick bite off its bar menu. Or hold your hunger until after the show - the kitchen serves dinner until 11 PM on Friday and Saturday. 300 Grove St., 415-861-5555.
Rich Table: The latest entrant to the Hayes Valley dining scene, Evan and Sarah Rich’s new dressed-down yet serious contemporary Northern Californian restaurant and bar is located just a few blocks from the concerts halls, though there’s plenty of theatrics taking place right in the restaurant’s kitchen where the husband-and-wife team whips up the nightly fare. They hold seats for walk-ins, but your best bet is to reserve ahead of time either by phone or online via Seat Me. Reservations are available from 5:30 PM-10:30 PM on Fridays and Saturdays, so you might be able to catch a late bite as well, depending on how long your show runs. 199 Gough St., 415-355-9085.
Absinthe: This belle epoque boîte that anchors bustling Hayes Valley provides just the right amount of swank for enjoying a pre-concert affair: gorgeous decor, retro cocktails and luxe Cal-Med fare. The garçons get you to the show on time, while the high-energy bar stays buzzing until late, should you want to drop in après-theater for a nightcap and a plate of oysters. 398 Hayes St., 415-551-1590.
Hayes Street Grill: The go-to favorite for ticket holders for over three decades, local food writer Patricia Unterman’s petite, sustainably sourced seafood brasserie isn’t splashy, and the menu rarely changes (don’t miss the fries), but it’s “packed to the gunwales before curtain time.” So if you’re looking for a quiet, can’t-fail spot to take your mom or aunt, this is it. Just get on it; it books up ridiculously fast. 320 Hayes St., 415-863-5545.
Zuni Cafe: Judy Rogers’ iconic Cal-Med brasserie on the edge of Hayes Valley is still the see-and-be-seen spot for ticket-holders of every age, gender or persuasion. You should probably skip the whole roasted chicken (which takes at least 45 minutes to prepare), but you if you book an early table, you can still enjoy a great meal and plenty of eye candy before you need to head to the theater. Better still, stop in after the show, and enjoy their limited-access Zuni Burger (only available at lunch and after 10 PM). Dinner is served from 6-11 PM Sunday-Thursday, 6 PM-midnight on Fridays and Saturdays and 5-11 PM on Sundays. 658 Market St., 415-552-2522.
Boxing Room: Who says pre-show dining has to be serious or quiet? Let down your hair and fill up your belly at this midpriced Louisiana-inspired Southern spot serving up alligator, étouffée and crawfish in a funky postmodern, let-the-good-times-roll setting replete with a zinc-topped bar slinging beer and wines on tap. Equally good before or after the show - the dinner menu is served from 5-11 PM Sunday-Thursday, and 5 PM-12 AM Friday and Saturday. 399 Grove St., 415-430-6590.