Hayes Street Grill is a fish restaurant in San Francisco's Civic Center district, across the street from the Performing Arts Center --- opposite Davies Symphony Hall. a block from both the Opera House and City Hall. Patricia Unterman recalls, "Richard Sander, Anne Haskell, Robert Flaherty and I opened the grill because in 1979 there simply wasn't a good choice for dinner before the opera, ballet, or symphony. We wanted such a place ourselves, so we created a restaurant that would prepare unfussy food, casual enough to work before a performance, but substantial and tasty enough to be a main event. We drew inspiration from old San Francisco grills like Tadich and the old Jack's, but we took the grill concept a step farther by seeking out local ingredients and cooking them in a modern style." Currently Dick Sander runs the dining room and selects all the wine. Patricia Unterman oversees the kitchen with chef Rob Zaborny.
How we work
First thing in the morning, the grill chef calls the fish man (Paul Johnson or Tom Worthington of Monterey Fish) to find out what looks good that day, and we base our daily menu on that.
The Hayes Street kitchen is divided into three areas: a pantry or salad station, the mesquite grill, and a sauté station. The cooks collaborate on dishes to make a balanced and tempting menu. We assign our fish order among the three stations, so that big meaty fish like wild local king salmon or buttery swordfish will come off the grill, while local sand dabs, petrale sole with chanterelles, or braised California white sea bass with artichokes are under the sauté chef's jurisdiction. The grilled fish comes with a pile of crispy French fries cooked in peanut oil, a signature dish, and a choice of six sauces and salsas. From the salad station comes Dungeness crab and Delta asparagus salad in the late winter and early spring; or an Indian-style scallop, mango, and cucumber salad with papadum (which are crispy lentil wafers); or grilled baby leeks in vinaigrette. The whole menu benefits from the stunning array of seasonal produce we get directly from the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market two times a week.
Many inspirations, a simple result
We use an international mix of recipes, unified with a theme of fish and seafood. Above every other consideration, we want the freshness and pristine quality of the fish, produce, and naturally-raised meats to speak for themselves. Though our dishes may be inspired by Southeast Asian, Italian, French, Mediterranean, American, Indian, or Latin American recipes, they are always simple, allowing the ingredients to shine.
True to its roots
Many of the cooks, waiters, and maitre d's have worked at the restaurant for twenty or more years, and a good portion of our customers have been coming regularly for just as long. The Hayes Street Grill's walls are covered with autographed photos of the artists who consider the restaurant their club. Though we've remodeled since our opening 32 years ago, the original brass coat hooks along the walls remain, as does our founding philosophy of cooking only the food we would serve at home to our families, albeit dressed up a little, with a religious dedication to wholesomeness.