To those on the Westside searching for a bad-ass neighborhood spot, your prayers have been answered. Owned by Jeff Weinstein (of burger chain The Counter) and helmed by acclaimed San Francisco chefs Jeremy Fox (a 2008 Food & Wine Magazine Best New Chef) and Charlie Parker (a 2011 SF Chronicle Rising Star), Freddy Smalls is the ultimate laid-back gastro-experience. The vibe? Chill as hell. The cocktails? A nice balance of the masculine and feminine. The food? Really fun and solidly executed, with flashes of brilliance. We visited about a week after opening with friend Aaron (The Savory Hunter), and the tiny bar and kitchen seems to have already found its stride.
The sign outside remains unchanged from the previous tenant, El Sarape. In fact, the restaurant's name was taken from an old piece of stained glass on the premises that said 'Freddy'. And, in embracing the theme of Freddy, when you walk through the front door, you are greeted by the wall of Freddys (No Freddie Mercury? C'mon people!). The pre-requisite soundtrack of 90's hip-hop thumps throughout the course of our meal.
We sampled a handful of cocktails from the bar where Manager David Fleischer (formerly of Seven Grand) is also slinging wine and nine craft beers on tap. The Stumbling Cowboy tempers a manly dose of Wild Turkey Rye 101 and homemade sarsaparilla with a candied ginger and lemon garnish. The Planter’s Peace aims for the same balance with a sweet and fruity twist, combining aged rum with lemon, orange, pineapple, house grenadine, soda, lime & cherry garnish. The Mayberry Smash, maybe our favorite of the night, pairs the distinctive flavor of Death’s Door Gin with fresh berries, sage honey, lemon, and a mint leaf garnish.
For eats, the chefs have concocted a menu of elevated bar food. Think reasonably priced comforts like BBQ cashews peppered with spices and candied bacon, or fried brussels sprouts with goat cheese and apple cider glaze. When it comes to entrees, Freddy's offers fun fare like a playful 'remix' on the classic chicken parm- served en casserole, with fall-apart, dark meat chicken, confit garlic, tomato sauce and of course a smothering blanket of cheese (an item to try on our next visit).
For our first selection this time around, we were curious to try the flash-grilled steak tartar, which, mounded under a slow-cooked smoked egg yolk, was one of the most flavorful versions we’d ever tasted. The Worcestershire potato chips with which it was served gave a nice tang and crunch.
The deviled eggs smashed together bold Point Reyes blue cheese and hot sauce, along with bits of crispy chicken skin for a texture contrast. We really liked these little mouthfuls, though we wouldn’t have complained about a touch of acid to cut through the richness.
Richness wasn’t a problem with the beautiful beet salad with red quinoa, fuyu persimmons and pistachio. Really the only lighter dish we had that night, it was really refreshing and played subtle sweet and nutty notes on our tongues.
We dived back into decadence with a dollop of smooth chicken liver mousse, served with a sweet red wine and shallot marmalade and violet mustard.
We would bet money that the luxurious mushroom and farro porridge can be attributed to Chef Jeremy, who took vegetarian cuisine to new heights at San Francisco “vegetable restaurant” Ubuntu. Almost too rich for our palates, the meaty mushrooms, hearty farro and unctuous broth combined in a way that made the lack of animal products a non-issue, even for near-carnivores like us.
The house-smoked trout with roasted baby turnips, pear puree, mussels and turnip top salsa verde is a dish for those with a real love of seafood. Lightly dressed in a creamy sauce, the intensely-flavored trout was the shining star of the plate.
The aptly-named Reuben’s Gluttony made our jaws drop. Every element of the dish, from the hefty portion of bone marrow and pile of thick corned beef slices to the piping hot hunks of Yorkshire pudding, glistened with (almost literal) heart-stopping goodness.
And we finished strong. The crispy-on-the-outside, doughy-on-the-inside Belgian waffles with soft, intensely sweet slices of Pink Lady apples and bourbon-maple syrup were pretty darned good on their own, but honestly? We viewed them more as a socially acceptable delivery system for the fantastic bacon butter.
We’re not West LA-ers, but even so, we’re tempted to claim Freddy Smalls as our new spot – the place is just so damned cool. Actually…forget you read this post. Freddy Smalls is OURS.