Herlen Place 334 Grant Ave./Harlan Pl., in the Financial District, 1 blk. S of Chinatown gate, (415) 391-0207. Daily from 8am-9pm.
Located just a few doors down from its sister restaurant, Cafe de la Presse, this small glass-box of a spot features giant windows to the street action (one entertaining sight is the double-decker tourist buses that ply this popular area). Sidewalk-side tables are available in front--perfect for the occasional warm weather--and assorted seating in the high-ceilinged interior includes couches, marble-topped high and low tables, and bar seating. The interior displays a selection of images by renowned French photographer Bénédicte Lassalle.
The short menu changes regularly, and on the evening I dined here it featured tasty vegetable-centric small plates. The also short but interesting wine menu presents complementary vintages along with a few beers and coffees. The space is primarily a wine lounge, and the staff is trained in assisting with selection. Our waiter led us to three wines I enjoyed very much. We ordered by the glass, and each vintage was served in a carafe making it easy to share our tasting. We settled on two pinot noirs, a 2014 Bouchaine from Napa Valley and a 2015 Cigar Box from Casablanca Valley in Chile. Both were very good, but we favored the more complex Cigar Box. When the waiter realized I am fond of earthy pinot noirs from Oregon, he suggested a 2010 Marchesidi Gresy Merlot from Piemonte, Italy. It was very, very good.
To enhance our wines and satisfy our hunger, we ordered a simple avocado hummus topped with pistachio nuts, a plate of vegetable tempura, and two empanadas--one beef with a spicy dipping sauce, and one chicken with a milder sauce. More veggie options included a whole roasted cauliflower with curry butter, a vegetable pickle board, and potato croquettes. Non-vegetarians can get their fix with buffalo chicken drumettes, a smoked salmon tart, and a charcuterie board. Coffee and breakfast items--croissants, potato-cheese galettes, egg dishes--are served until 2:30 p.m.
|exterior of Herlen Place wine bar in San Francisco, California|
|exterior seating at Herlen Place wine bar in San Francisco, California|
|bar at Herlen Place wine bar in San Francisco, California|
|table set up and view at Herlen Place wine bar in San Francisco, California|
|wine pour and small plates at Herlen Place wine bar in San Francisco, California|
|colorful empanadas at Herlen Place wine bar in San Francisco, California|
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images ©2018 Carole Terwilliger Meyers