By: Christina Mueller
With 29 years of exceptional food and service under its belt, One Market boasts the grand title of San Francisco legacy restaurant, a place that preserves and enhances the city’s unique cultural identity. To lay claim to the “classic” title, One Market works tirelessly to be its best self, reflecting the Bay Area’s obsession with quality and sustainability, of course, but also looking to transcend time and place with exceptional service, stunning food and classic cocktails.
A restaurant legacy of 29 years is no small feat. One Market, perched where Market Street meets the Embarcadero with Bay Bridge views, came into existence as a destination for fine dining. Step inside the tall doors to revel in the grand space. The 18-foot windows and gray slate floors frame comfortable Pullman booths, the walnut tables buffed to glowing. Tables near the great room’s center are napped in white linen, a nod to a style of dining that remains a signifier of elegance. Abundant natural light casts a photographer’s ideal glow on the room. The effect is one of warmth, embracing guests in an aura of modern sophistication. The room vibrates at a low hum, the occasional peal of laughter rippling over the guests. On Fridays and Saturdays, local pianist Billy Philadelphia plays standards from the Great American songbook, enlivening the energy of the space.
To experience a taste of golden era San Francisco, look no further than One Market’s menu. A composite of dishes from opening chef Bradley Ogden and long-running chef Mark Dommen, the menu is sprinkled with dishes that reflect the restaurant’s history and carry a sense of the city’s soul. Bradley’s Caesar Salad is served the same today as it was on day one: anchovy-infused dressing drizzled over whole leaf Romaine, sprinkled with Parmesan and croutons. The famous Butterscotch Pudding is cream-based, its lushness amplified by a turn in the oven and a dollop of Chantilly cream. A side of Dewar’s or a Nick and Nora martini takes the experience back to a different time.
Modern dishes from chef Dommen have become classics. Bacon-wrapped Pork Tenderloin did not become a quintessential San Francisco dish until Dommen found the perfect applewood smoked bacon with just the right amount of smoke on it to boost the natural, porcine flavors. Though the sides change with the seasons, the pork might rest on a bed of dandelion and mustard greens, softened with garlic cream and apple rings brightened with cider reduction. It’s a familiar dish with flavors that take you to a new place.
Photos: One Market Restaurant
Over the years, that same attention to detail, that laser focus on quality at all levels of the business, buoyed the restaurant’s success. The pandemic meant a whole host of new challenges and some new opportunities. 2020’s downtime left One Market’s kitchen open for experimentation and an audience eager for takeout. Favorite collaboration partners, Dommen and principal Michael Dellar dug in, crafting a menu that harkened back to the foods of Dellar’s childhood, the Jewish food he grew up eating at home. They called it Mark ‘n Mike’s. “My mom, Harriett, made homemade dill pickles that were legendary,” Dellar says. “Small cucumbers packed perfectly in each quart jar — they resembled the finest mosaics.” Dellar also loved humbler fare, like Harriett’s “to live for” matzo ball soup, potato latkes with homemade applesauce, sweet and sour stuffed cabbage served alongside chopped liver. With no customers in the restaurant, a takeout deli menu was launched, complete with signature sandwiches like a Pastrami Reuben or a 12-hour Smoked Brisket, the in-house smoker handily repurposed.
As the pandemic continues its rollercoaster of dips, curves and tunnels, One Market has flattened the curve. The deli became an integral part of the One Market menu, its delights available for enjoying at lunch and dinner, at the restaurant or at home. In the restaurant’s ample space, sophisticated Jewish comfort food is right at home alongside the seasonal dishes that chef has made famous — grilled trout with Grenobloise vinaigrette or rotisserie prime rib, the gorgeous crust developed over an applewood-fueled flame, never in the oven. It is food in tune with the times, elegance on the plate, served with attention to the smallest detail.
Most recently, Sommelier and Wine Director Tonya Pitts was one of five nominees to be recognized under Wine Enthusiast magazine’s Sommelier/Wine Director of the Year for 2022 category. At One Market restaurant, her wine menu of familiar classics and newer wines of distinction serves not only to amplify Dommen’s flavors but make a delicious statement on their own.
In the hands of chef and his team, One Market remains an institution, a welcoming neighborhood place, a destination. It has set the bar for fine dining in San Francisco once again. That is just what survivors do.
Visit One Market at 1 Market St., San Francisco. onemarket.com