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Dreimal Hoch für Leopold’s of San Francisco!

So, back in April, I had to meet up with my girlfriend to break some bad news to her–and since we both love food and appreciate great beers, I chose Leopold’s as the venue of choice, as it was on my list of “places to try for the book”. I went, prepared to get my friend sloshed if I had to, in order to avoid the wrath and/or disappointment I feared.

We walked into Leopold’s at a little past 5 PM and secured the last two-top available, right by the front window, as it was already full in there! Sitting down, we immediately ordered our Frankziskaner beers and began talking. You figure if you’re going to tell someone bad news, it’s like ripping off a band-aid–just blurt it out and tackle whatever comes your way.

Leopold’s is a new and welcomed addition to the city’s dining scene. The place is becoming progressively more popular even as I write this, with people waiting for good beers and more surprisingly, the good food that this place offers!

Walking in, the owner and hosts are friendly and welcoming and the ambiance is warm and colorful. The place is not large, but there are enough seats to make the place pretty loud and active, especially when someone orders “das Boot”, and the servers ring the bell loudly as the entire restaurant will holler as much at the same time. It brought a smile to my face each time — even as I meekly drank my regular pint of Franziskaner. (I’m a sucker for Franziskaner beer — try it!)

While the selection of beers at Leopold’s is great, including Hoegaareden on tap, it’s the food that was really quite impressive. While maintaining the authenticity of German food, based on what (little) I know of real German food, Leopold’s offers better tasting food than any other German restaurant in San Francisco.

The tastes are clean and fresh; the menu is varied and offers something for most palates and reads beautifully. What was most notable was the lack of heavy and overpowering dressings on the salads that accompanied some dishes at Leopold’s; the light sauces and dressings really made the ingredients shine and kept the taste bright and refreshing!

Leopold's San Francisco
Smoked salmon appetizer

The smoked salmon and potato pancake, pictured above, was a delightful blend of hot and cold, as well as heavier and lighter flavor that played together beautifully. The pancake was small and topped with a sour-cream type of sauce that brought the crisply fried potato to life; the kohlrabi turnip slaw presented was slightly tangy and refreshing, which paired nicely with both the hot potato and the thin slivers of smoked salmon.

Leopold's San Francisco
Pig trotters

If you put a poached egg, some nice carboyhdrate source like the toast, a frisee salad for a dose of “healthy” and ground up pig’s feet and made them into patties and fried them to a nice, crunchy brown crisp — you’d have the “Crispy Pig Trotters” served at Leopolds. This salad was also lightly dressed and had a small poached quail egg that popped open and oozed; this salad was a needed component to break up the heaviness of the trotters, and we devoured this dish quickly.

Leopold's San Francisco
Hungarian Beef Goulash with spätzle

The goulash, being different from regular beef stew, didn’t come with meat that was falling apart; there was slight chewiness to meat, and the few seconds more it took to chew each piece made you appreciate the deep notes in the stew. The seasoning was ideal, and combined with the buttery spätzle, it made for a perfect bite of food each time. The spätzle itself had a nice consistency, not being too heavy or too light, and each “noodle” provided great texture to each mouthful. Here’s a closeup of this dish:

Closeup of the goulash - beautiful, huh?
Closeup of the goulash – beautiful, huh?

By this point, we’re stuffed but our eyes being bigger than our stomachs, we had ordered one more dish, which would end up being cleaned off anyway because it tasted so delicious!

Pan-fried trout

As someone who loves deep-sea fishing, I consider freshwater trout to be utterly boring — both for fishing and eating. Normally, this fish just holds no appeal for me. I mean, consider its ocean cousins like the bluefin tuna, yellowtail or even Marlin, which people don’t necessarily consider to be a great culinary fish — but they all hold more flavor than the boring, plain-Jane trout.

But — I liked the menu description and was curious what they could do with it. The server confirming to me that it’s good swayed me and I decided to order this just to see what would happen.

Well, I stand corrected. The fish was seasoned from the inside out after being gutted and there was a noticeable flavor of leeks, herbs and lemons throughout the meat. Wrapped in pancetta as promised, the smokiness of the meat powered into the skin of the fish and each bite yielded wonderful flavors.

Pan-fried just to the right amount to keep moistures in the meat, and served with a thick slice of grilled onion and fingerling potatoes, this was really pleasing and was light enough for us to split and finish off, despite the tummies being packed with food and beer already. I loved the simplicity of this dish — just “BAM”, a fish on a plate; but I also appreciated how complex each bite was with the contrasting flavors, especially for the usually boring trout.

I can’t recommend Leopold’s strongly enough. Like the title of this review reads, “Three Cheers for Leopold’s!”

Both my wonderful friend Esther and I enjoyed this meal immensely and agreed that this was a place we’d come to time and again. Due to the massive list of new places I had to visit to finish the book, I have not had a chance to return as of yet, but it’s at the top of my list. Get there really early (try 10 minutes to 5 pm?) or go expecting to wait your turn; but trust me on this—it’s worth the wait. There are bars around the area, so perhaps put your name on a waiting list and go get a “happy hour” start elsewhere.

As for me, I underestimated the love and understanding of my friend. (Either that, or she didn’t want me at her wedding anyway!) We had a wonderful date here together — and moved onto the other bars in the neighborhood as we dished about boys, life, and pending nuptials (hers, obviously–not mine).

Service: 8.3/10
Ambiance: 7/10
Food: 8.4/10
Addictive Factor: 8.6/10

Overall Rating: 8.2/10

Grace Keh

Managing Editor

Grace Keh is the author of "Food Lovers' Guide to San Francisco" and the critic, editor and photographer behind San Francisco Food. In her regular day job, she consults for corporate clients in marketing and event strategy. Once the sun sets, she's on the hunt for great food in what she considers to be one of the world's greatest cities, San Francisco.

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San Francisco Food® has been providing trusted restaurant reviews and recipes since 2009, led by food author Grace Keh & read by food lovers worldwide.


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