Despite the small size of San Francisco, most residents won’t hesitate to tell you how far away the Sunset is. They’ll lament, “It’s all the way out there” and moan, “You’ll spend forever getting there” but what they neglect to mention is that it is totally worth the “trek” if you’re going to visit Outerlands.
Situated only four blocks from Ocean Beach, with no obvious signage, Outerlands is discovered by the congregation of drooling people outside, braving the sandy winds just waiting to be seated. The menu is updated daily and posted on a clipboard next to the front door. I visited on a Tuesday morning, but there was still a waiting list, so I hurried to mark down my name. As I looked the list up and down, I was surprised to find the number of solo diners that had passed through.
After only a few moments waiting in the elements, I was beckoned inside and escorted to a bar stool opposite the open kitchen. I poured over the menu and its descriptions, dismissing the waitress twice before making my final selections. With the most stressful decision making out of the way, I took in my surroundings. Seated next to me were lunching ladies, an older man fully absorbed in his newspaper, and a fellow foodie made obvious by her incessant picture taking. I reveled in the momentary kinship I felt with her and her desire to capture the homey ambiance of the tiny restaurant. The walls, floor, tables, chairs, and bar were all constructed of wood panels and the effect was that of eating lunch in a log cabin, or better yet, a treehouse. The sunlight filtered through the branches of the trees outside as the wind whipped them back and forth.
I began with a salad filled with all the signs of the season: snap peas, spring chicories, cherries, with a lemon-honey vinaigrette. It embodied spring. Next came the wild mushroom and asparagus tartine. Served on a hearty slice of bread with a béchamel-like sauce, it was not fully complete until I put an egg on it, of course! What else would you dredge the crusty bread through?!
When I finally came up for air, there was one new customer seated next to me. He looked around excitedly, glancing from his menu to the chefs, until his eyes finally rested on me and my empty plate. Having been in the difficult position of making decisions earlier, I commiserated with his momentary stress. It was at that moment that he turned to me, a fellow food-lover who had made the journey to Outerlands for the pure enjoyment of good food, and asked what I would recommend to a first-time diner. I had been mistaken for a regular, a regular at one of the most sought-after brunch restaurants in the city. I was honored.
I beamed as I pointed out a few things on the menu and walked out the door triumphantly, brownie in hand.