Two months ago, the Fi Di got a farm-to-table lunch spot called Harrow, a stylish outlier in the high-rise hinterland.
It certainly isn’t the first place in the neighborhood to name-check farms, use artisan bread and strive for “organic when possible.”
But most of Harrow’s competitors (Urban Picnic, Boxed Foods Company, etc.) feel sterile, almost corporate. They may have gotten the memo about well-sourced ingredients, but no one taught them how to be cool.
At Harrow, Edison bulbs hang from vintage barn-light fixtures. Walls are casually scuffed white brick. The kitchen is open and airy. Chalkboards display a seasonally shifting menu. Besides all the tucked-in shirts and pleats (khaki party!), Harrow’s vibe is more Berkeley than business.
Does this make you cynical? It shouldn’t. Harrow might appear to be a contrived business model, baldly cashing in on the farm-to-table mystique. But the owners are legit: two Ferry Building vets with a clear love for ingredient-driven cooking. Their location may be strategic, but Harrow is no more devious than Outerlands or Heirloom Café.
Most worker bees get lunch to go, but much of Harrow’s rustic fare — not to mention beer and wine — is better suited for a sit-down. For my visits, I made office-worker friends leave their desks for an hour to share communal, family-style meals. No BlackBerrys!
We started with the roast chicken leg. Its meat was moist and tender, and everyone vied for pieces of the savory thyme-and-sage-rubbed skin.
On the side, roasted asparagus spears had the perfect snap, topped with crushed almonds and a spritz of lemon. Sage butter pooled around the bowl’s edge in a grana padano cheese-topped polenta, lending the dish a fragrant depth.
Three local cheeses went into the mac and cheese — Rumiano cheddar, Bellwether Farms carmody, Vella mezzo secco — with a little sweetness balancing the cheddar’s mild bite. This one was sprinkled with toasted bread bits and micro-chives, served with a small arugula salad.
Soups came in deep bowls with lemon-sized teardrops of epi bread. The Moroccan carrot soup came alive with cumin-spiced Greek yogurt and cilantro, but the staid white bean soup could have used more pizzazz.
Even the sandwiches channeled a hillside picnic: crusty, fresh-baked Della Fattoria bread filled with artful and subtle ingredient combos. The best option was the meatloaf, with a sweet rind of slow-roasted Roma tomatoes, stone-ground mustard, green garlic aioli and pickled onions.
The Farmer’s Market sandwich combined fresh and house-pickled veggies (pea shoots, summer squash, fennel) with Bellwether ricotta and an English pea-mint spread.
Only the roast pork disappointed. It didn’t deliver on promises of pork cracklings or belly; I only got slices of lukewarm pork shoulder.
The pork’s temperature highlighted a similar issue found in many of Harrow’s offerings. Nearly every cooked item — polenta, soup, asparagus — was a bit shy on warmth, a likely casualty of long lines and limited kitchen space.
But this was a forgivable (and fixable) offense; overall, Harrow succeeded. And cheaply! Nothing was more than $10, a steal when you consider the ingredients’ fine pedigree.
Considering the dearth of nearby options, the owners could certainly gouge a bit more. Instead, they’ve provided a small gift to the downtown office worker weary of overpriced box salads and artless wraps.
Harrow almost makes me wish I still worked in the FiDi ... well, no, not really.
Location: 357 Kearny St. (at Pine Street), S.F.
Contact: (415) 956-2540
Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday
Price range: $4.50 to $9.75
Recommended dishes: Roasted chicken leg ($9), mac and cheese ($9.50), meatloaf sandwich ($9.75), creamy polenta ($4.75)
Credit cards: All major
Reservations: Not accepted