Brave New Menu

Huxley reinvents the idea of a neighborhood spot

We're all about the neighborhood joints, from charmingly dingy diners to always-packed destination restaurants (here's lookin' at you, Nopa). The key is a warm vibe, a welcoming staff and a desire on your part to actually become a regular.

Huxley is just that kind of joint. The pocket-size restaurant opened in the Tenderloin this fall; it's the debut effort from Kris Esqueda (formerly of Saison and Sons & Daughters) and executive chef Sara Hauman (Bar Agricole), with menu consulting from superstar chef Brett Cooper (Outerlands).

But chef cred is just the icing on the cake at this cozy restaurant. Huxley seamlessly fits into its colorful neighborhood, breathing fresh air onto its stretch of Geary without dismissing its spirited roots.

Clams in tomato broth with fennel and mint and pork belly confit with citrus

Most significantly, nothing feels forced, from Biggie Smalls thumping in the background to the thoughtful wine list and the rustic, comforting menu. Sure, phrases like "locally sourced" and "made in-house" dutifully appear, but what really comes across is the genuine feeling that this is where Esqueda and crew want to hang out.

Fittingly, the most memorable dishes are the ones that feel most effortless but taste magnificent. Take a simple starter of fresh crusty bread from neighboring bakery Jane on Larkin served with smoky whipped lard ($3). The presentation is dead simple, but the two components dovetail so perfectly you'll find yourself tempted to order a second round.

Speaking of good things on bread, our order of nettle toast ($8) would be a worthy contenders in the ongoing fancy toast trend. The molten topping was a pesto-like mix of nettles, Gruyère cheese and nutmeg, rich and satisfying enough to eat with a spoon (though we wouldn't skip the thick slab of bread beneath it for the world).

Our ample plate of corned beef tongue ($10) offered ultra-tender slices of salted tongue cut nicely with sharp mustard and cool kohlrabi. A substantial short rib pot pie ($20) similarly evoked classic American flavors; the oversize entree stood apart, thanks to its impeccable golden, flaky crust.

When we ate there, the standout was the simplest looking dish of all—sunchoke soup ($10), laced with fenugreek and topped with a swirl of creamy yogurt. The deeply savory, earthy soup features flavors in perfect, subtle balance—we swiped the last of it with our fingers.

The menu is seasonal, meaning some favorites might be fleeting affairs. But it's not worth worrying about—this is the kind of place you'll want to revisit regularly.