I’ll start with a disclaimer: the subject of this article is in no way an example of a “broke-ass” restaurant. Any perception to the contrary is a result of the reader’s misapprehension, not of any malicious intent on my part.
Upcider takes up a sprawling second floor corner in the northwestern edge of The ‘Loin, with high glass windows offering a 90 degree view of Polk and Sutter Streets. While not modestly priced, Upcider isn’t prohibitively expensive, either. They opted for the small plates business model, which, if you have light-to-no appetite going in, can be very economical. But, if you’re looking to satisfy a beastly hunger, you’ll be forking over a much larger hay bale of cash.
Cider is the focus (duh) of a thick drink list the bartender or server hands you upon arrival. While I came ready to be humbled I didn’t expect to be intimidated by the vast array of options available. Here in the Bay Area it’s gained a little traction, but still, your average urban consumer of fermented beverages around these parts can’t name more than two or three hard ciders. However, lack of a strong consumer base has done little to stymie the expansion of cider production here in the states: the list is divided by nationality, and ours had the most entries if I remember correctly. Other countries represented: England, Ireland, Basque Country, France, Canada, Belgium and Scotland. That last country offered what turned out to be my favorite of the night: a cider fermented in whiskey barrels. The peat note came through on the finish and lingered on the palate a good 15 seconds after swallowing; if you don’t like scotch, you won’t cotton to it.
The menu is small and gastro-pubish: calamari, meat balls, fries, etc., but the star of the menu is the list of five sliders: Cajun Chicken, Grilled Portobello, Spicy Lamb, Pulled Pork, and Peppered Salmon. All delicious (the Lamb and Pulled Pork being my favorites), they echoed the cider selection in their contrasting flavors and textures. Since I was both starving and ordering with the aim of sampling most everything, I ended up peeling a decent wad away from from my worn leather wallet, but I feel it was worth it for the good food and the education I received on the subject at hand from the bartender who patiently indulged my ignorance. It might take a dozen or more visits to penetrate their list of brews, but if you’re interested in expanding the reach of your malic knowledge, it just might be worth it.
1160 Polk Street (@ Hemlock), 2nd Floor