Total Eclipse of the Diner

Under Bruce Hill and Erik Lowe, Fog City has undergone a smoky-eyed makeover

When we heard that the iconic Fog City Diner was reopening as "Fog City," we thought the change would be merely superficial.

Whoa.

Gone are all traces of 1930s nostalgia. Also gone: most of the interior walls. A new U-shaped bar is topped with glowing alabaster and the open kitchen is on fire.

Or, as chef de cuisine Erik Lowe calls the restaurant's custom-built cooking apparatus, a "wall of fire." He enthuses, "It's by far the most awesome grill I've ever seen or worked on."

The former Bix chef de cuisine now uses fire and smoke the way most chefs use black pepper: as a primary seasoning. He roasts baby carrots ($12) in the attached wood-fired oven, serving them with a subtle black-garlic mole and micro cilantro. Albacore fillets ($26) are grilled over high flames and served with fat, creamy-centered beans and dashi spiked with Hatch chiles.

Carrots and the oven they're cooked in (Photos: Kristen Loken & Heimo Schmidt)

The only trait left over from the old Fog City Diner may be its culinary eclecticism, which Lowe and executive chef Bruce Hill have brought up to date.

Skip one heritage item, the Fog City burger ($14), and instead get the chicken for two ($29). Its spice-rubbed skin is rendered crisp in the wood-fired oven, and the meat is brightened at the table with a sprinkle of coriander-lemon salt.

Diner no more.