If you live in Cole Valley, or you work at UCSF, there's only one real choice for a glass of wine after dinner. Tucked snugly into the foggy waistband of Cole Valley, EOS Restaurant and Wine Bar (separated by a wall in common) has been setting the standard for wine bars in the city since 1995.
EOS, which is actually is the parent restaurant to Bacar, benefits from the same competent wine direction at the hands of Hector Osuna. A more intimate space than the good-sized Bacar, EOS also has a more limited wine tasting menu, with around 20 wines at a time available for tasting in half pours or full pours, but generally there is not a single loser on the list.
Nicely arranged in groups with cute labels like "Fistful of terroir" and "Chardonnay Deathmatch" the wine menu also offers the possibility of flights covering all the wines in a given section. The by-the-glass list changes regularly, and offers a great selection of small producers spanning the globe, with very few of the usual (and tiresome) California suspects on offer. I'm always making discoveries. Prices are reasonable, ranging from $3.50 to $8.50 for a half glass, $7 to $16.25 for a full glass. The bottle list is also svelte rather than exhaustive, and offers more excellent values than exorbitant luxuries.
One of the nice things about EOS is the restaurant next door, which provides wine bar patrons the option of some of the best food available at a wine bar in San Francisco. The menu is eclectic and Asian influenced, which doesn't always make for the best wine pairing (though there are usually more than a few Rieslings on the list if you are feeling like snarfing some Green Curry Coconut Freshwater Prawns), but there are always some great, wine friendly dishes to be had. The gourmet burger I had last time I was there was excellent.
The atmosphere is casual and quiet, especially during the week or on a particularly cold, foggy night. You can sit along the bar or at one of several low tables that fill the small space opposite, and listen to nice downtempo house music as you feel the MUNI streetcars rumble by, all the while enjoying a great glass of wine. Because it is a small space, when it's busy it can be a bit cramped and a bit loud, but unlike other venues elsewhere in the city, its location keeps it from ever becoming a major madhouse.
I find the servers somewhat knowledgeable about the wine -- they've at least tasted everything and can talk to you about what they're like -- but some don't know much more than whether it's big and tannic or light and fruity. Typically the folks behind the wine bar know the most, but that is not always consistently the case.
Overall, its the sort of place that I love to hang out with a couple of friends, but not a group of ten. Though perhaps not as comfy as other wine bars in town (after all, there are no couches) the quality of the wine list and the intimacy of the space make it one of the better wine bars in the city, even if its location makes it easy to forget as an option on a night out.
EOS Restaurant and Wine Bar
901 Cole Street (at Carl)
San Francisco, CA 94117
Open Sunday to Thursday, 5:30 p.m. - 10:00p.m., Friday and Saturday, 5:30 p.m. - 11:00 p.m. Casual dress.
Street parking can be had with some effort in the neighborhood, but can be rough on Friday's and Saturdays. Public transportation options include the N Judah Muni streetcar line and the 43 Masonic Muni bus line.
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