301 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA
One of the newest restaurants in Hayes Valley, The Grove probably wins the award for being the swankiest. Entering The Grove, I felt as if I was inside a log cabin or Aspen ski resort lobby with the hardwood floors, chairs around a stone fireplace, thick rough-cut wood tables, and wooden log walls. The décor eludes modern success and a richness I often don’t find in many other cafes.
Make no mistake that this IS a café, meaning the menu selection isn’t large enough to make it an entrée restaurant. Those looking for the full course meal or banquet of appetizers, entrées, soups, and deserts will have to look elsewhere because The Grove doesn’t offer a lot of choices. They do have a couple of chicken, steak, and pasta dishes to satisfy the dinner crowd, yet think of this café more as a place to grab a good hearty and healthy lunch or snack and the occasional dinner. The food leans towards the healthy California faire, a mix of gourmet-style lunches with traditional breakfast items and dotted with some chicken, steak, and pasta dishes. For those with food allergies, do read the dish ingredients carefully for spicy ingredients or nuts. (One could customize or remove of the ingredient(s) by telling the cashier).
I went to The Grove during lunchtimes and often ordered the salads—the Berkeley Bowl or the Tuna Salad. For the Berkeley Bowl, one gets a huge wooden bowl of greens, avocado, cucumbers, sprouts, and described ingredients. The Ranch dressing comes in a container on the side and I ask for more dressing as the bowl has a lot of fresh raw ingredients. The Tuna Salad has a Champagne wine dressing that goes well mixed with the shredded tuna on top. Both salads come in good large portions to make a grown man full.
I also order the Arnold Palmer or lemonade which in my opinion has the correct mix of sweetness to tartness. Best of all, when I take-out, the size of the drink in the cardboard cup matched the glass size I get when I eat in…tall and plentiful. The Grove doesn’t skimp when it comes to take-out as they have their container sizes well-planned and measured and even give cup containers and nice paper shopping bags to carry the food out. They take good care in their food, packaging, and customer service.
I also sometimes order what has to be the largest Chocolate Chip cookie in San Francisco. This cookie is almost the size of a pocket paperback book and has the right texture of crisp cookie to baked cake.
Service ranges from good to very good depending on the crowd. During lunchtime, the place does get busy with every table taken, even those outside, so carrying out may be the only viable option. I’ve no complaints with the eating-in experience, if one could get a table; one gets a number on a stand and the waiters deliver the food to the corresponding number. The corner café has windows on two sides to let in natural light and most tables line the windows, giving eaters views of the streets outside. The noise level isn’t too bad although the tables are close so it may be possible to overhear the other patrons’ conversations.
Parking is on the street, usually metered, and usually taken. There’s the Performing Arts (ticketed) Garage about two blocks north which has ample space.
By serving fresh healthy food in good quantities for a reasonable price, The Grove remains a good choice to eat when in Hayes Valley. Furthermore, this café does serve some food creations not found in other cafes or restaurants in the neighborhood.