Wedged between Rincon Park and the Transamerica Building and as far west as Kearny, just before Union Square and its department stores, San Francisco’s financial district has, in recent months, experienced a much-needed return to normal from its Covid-decimated streets, shops and office buildings. The once-again bustling bars and restaurants are filled with office workers and their friends, hanging out at lunch and after work. The city’s recovery remains uneven but sights such as a full lunchtime crowd at Credo filled me with hope that we – as a city, a region, a state and a country – are on the mend from the brutal realities of the past few years.
Credo sits in the heart of the FiDi, its busy outdoor tables splayed along Pine Street and onto the adjoining Leidesdorff Alley, part of an energetic lunchtime neighborhood fray. It’s a working lunch crowd – large tables of co-workers enjoying some team camaraderie alongside smaller tables where ideas and water cooler gossip are shared. Bestill my beating heart, it feels great to be among the chattering classes, overhearing snippets of conversation while reading the “credos” that make a kind of wallpaper for the space.
What to Eat
Chef Larry Finn built a menu of well-executed, Cal-Italian dishes that can be ordered, eaten and paid for in an hour. Funghi pizza, a Pine Street Cobb and vitality bowl are perfect lunch fare for the grab and go set, too. But if you have a minute to spare to enjoy a proper meal, order a glass of wine from the well-curated list and enjoy a repast as chef Finn’s thoughtfully composed dishes deserve – slowly.
Start with the whipped feta hummus. Updated with sweet potato and pineapple and served with taro chips, the dish casts an eye to the flavors of Hawaii, the pumpkin seed gremolata a reminder that you that you are sitting in Northern California. The hummus and a plate of braised beef short rib croquettes, brimming with beefy flavor before a swipe through the accompanying harissa crema, make a fine and fast meal. Add some veg with a plate of baby beets, the high heat of cardamon crema tempered by a swirl of green onion salsa verde.
A Belgian endive salad can be topped with salmon, tuna, chicken breast or avocado, the walnut vinaigrette unifying endive’s bite and the blue cheese’s tang into something better. Tuna, seared rare, adds bright coriander notes. Chef asked me to try the forest mushroom Bolognese, an earthy dish that reinforces its wintry character with kale; carrots add sweetness. Try it with a glass of Tablas Creek syrah/grenache blend – the team here earned a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 2020 for its finely tuned wine program and its worth exploring a glass or two at the U-shaped bar. A pomegranate sour nearly swayed me with its seasonal sass…maybe at dinner.
Is It Worth It?
Salads, pizzas and starters are all under $20 while mains, like the Bolognese land between $20 and $30. At these prices, I expected portion sizes to suffer, reduced to a few bites, but the team is all-in on creating a bistro experience that hews to a mantra: ample servings of well-made fare at a neighborhood price with unobtrusive service more expected at fancier places. Credo is a shining example of a well-run restaurant. Any neighborhood in San Francisco would be lucky to have Credo.