In terms of hot places to eat, State Bird Provisions in San Francisco is showing no signs of cooling down.

Not having been able to secure one of the few reservations available of an evening service, the only way to get a spot at this quirky eatery on Fillmore is to line up outside before the 5.30pm opening. The last time Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband were in the city, we joined the queue just on 5pm – it looked disturbingly long. Drat and darn, we missed out.

This time, leaving nothing to chance, we started to queue at 4.30pm. Even in the late spring, San Francisco can be a very chilly spot – the whistling wind has no mercy as it cuts through layers of clothes and several pre-dinner cocktails we’d imbibed, trying to warm up from the inside.

Unlike the first queue, we were fifth in line and, this time, the line snaked past the restaurant’s windows. We were able to watch the team of chefs prepping which helped pass a bit of time, although Greedy Girl was heard to mutter darkly on a semi-regular basis that ‘this better be worth it’. The last time she’d queued for any length of time to get into an eatery was, ahem, the Hard Rock Cafe in London, rather too many years ago. In those days the term ‘foodie’ had yet to be invented and certainly didn’t apply to her.

State Bird Provisions is an unusual restaurant – a cross between dim sum and tapas with some French influences thrown in. One of its feature dishes (which you can order from a small menu at your table or bar stool) is the ‘state bird’ – the California valley quail. Here, it’s served breaded and deep-fried combined with a heavenly tangy lemony sauce. But Greedy Girl is getting ahead of herself.

As we continued to wait, a second, shorter line started to form. Gluttonous husband was getting a bit antsy, until he realised this was the line for people who actually had a reservation. Still, being towards the front of the walk-in queue was no guarantee. We found out the woman in front of us was actually a placeholder – standing in for a young woman in exceptionally high heels, who arrived via Uber just before the restaurant opened. Way to go! It turned out she wanted to claim space for a party of five but, when told they couldn’t seat her without everyone being present, she opted to come back with her crowd later – and that’s an option here. You can take a chance on coming back after the first rush at 5.30, or be recommended a time to return. On our first, abortive attempt to get in, we were told we could come back ‘around 9pm’ – that didn’t really work with the need to get to the airport early the next morning.

Walk-ins generally have the option of bar seating or a big share table; the other tables on the floor having been reserved by those lucky enough to get into the system. We had a spot for two at the bar, at an angle from the main counter, overlooking both the kitchen and the bar tending area. Happily, we chatted with Ben, the sommelier/bar tender and looked around excitedly as dishes were brought past.

The dishes are at various price points. Some are wheeled around on trolleys and others borne on trays. You can take them as they’re handed around, or make a mental note and request them later. We were happy to take them as they came but a word of advice – there are lots of different items. Choose wisely lest you fill up too quickly.

Our first dish was marinated octopus, presented in chunks on a skewer. It was very tasty and had just the right amount of resistance to the bite, without being chewy.

State Bird Provisions, San Francisco

Marinated octopus

Then were savoury puffs with a duck liver mousse. Greedy Girl really got into these, happily double-dipping her puffs into this creamy and smooth confection. Delish.
State Bird Provisions, San Francisco

Savoury puffs with duck liver mousse

We then took fried morels with a Parmesan veloute. Morels must be in season as almost every restaurant we’ve been to on this trip has featured them. These were quite delish as well – crunchy exterior, hit of flavour from the morels and the cheese was a good foil for them.
State Bird Provisions, San Francisco

Fried morels

Next was probably Greedy Girl’s favourite for the evening – Guinea hen dumplings with preserved lemon, steeped in an aromatic broth. The flavour was intense and the dumplings steamed and then finished on a hot plate to give them a slight crust.
State Bird Provisions, San Francisco

Guinea hen dumplings

We also chose the garlic bread, topped with lashings of a creamy burrata. We watched this being prepared for another run around the restaurant, with the dough pulled apart and fried on the top of the grill plate.
State Bird Provisions, San Francisco

Garlic bread with burrata

Another of the dishes of the evening was next and one we’d watched being prepped from the ‘wrong’ side of the restaurant windows while queuing – avocado, covered with black and white sesame seeds, espelette pepper and cumin, served with kale and lime. This was pretty special and enhanced the avocado flavour and texture.
State Bird Provisions, San Francisco

Coated avocado

Gluttonous husband took one of the oysters, topped with fermented turnip. He enjoyed it but felt the oyster flavour was lost. Later, he asked Ben for a natural oyster, which he pronounced one of the best he’d ever had. He’d already eaten a power of food by that point but found it incredibly refreshing in the mouth. Greedy Girl is happy for him …
State Bird Provisions, San Francisco

Oyster with fermented turnip

State Bird Provisions, San Francisco

Au naturel

Next up was a dish Greedy Girl didn’t warm to – a combination of potato, seafood (mainly razor clams) and quinoa. The texture was very gritty so most of this was left to gluttonous husband to devour.
State Bird Provisions, San Francisco

Potato, seafood and quinoa

We then had the restaurant’s take on steak tartare – presented with togarashi (a Japanese spice mix), soy fermented turnip, dashi-poached mushrooms and wasabi wontons. Another triumph – just the right combination of flavours that didn’t overwhelm the meat.
State Bird Provisions, San Francisco

A Japanese-inspired raw steak

Seriously starting to struggle, we took another item from the menu proper – a croque Madame made with duck (pictured at the top of this post). It looked great, but Greedy Girl felt it was dominated by the cheese. It was followed by amazingly soft cubes of pork belly served with a citrus salad.
State Bird Provisions, San Francisco

Pork belly with citrus salad

And finally, we had the ‘state bird’, masterfully prepared quail with crunchy breading and a very light sauce. Generally neither of us are into deep-fried dishes but this was very enjoyable.
State Bird Provisions, San Francisco

The ‘state bird’

And we were done – Ben did his best to talk us into a dessert but it was in vain. He did present us with a little glass of peanut milk slightly sweetened with muscovado sugar. OMG. What an intense flavour – a peanut milkshake? I’ll take a large to go please.

We happily settled up – costing us around A$290 (including a tip) for all that food and a couple of glasses of very acceptable red for Greedy Girl and some IPAs for gluttonous husband.

This was a treat – great food and a fun environment. There are not many things Greedy Girl would willingly queue for, but this is definitely one.

State Bird Provisions

The Foodie World star rating
1529 Fillmore Street (Western Addition)
State Bird Provisions Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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