InnerFog: A Cozy Inner Sunset Retreat

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Nestled on Irving Street in the chilly Inner Sunset, the InnerFog Wine Bar & Kitchen provides a snug, inviting place to duck into and retreat from its namesake, which often blankets the neighborhood. 

InnerFog opened a few years back, serving just wine, beer and a small but inspired selection of cheeses. However, it recently underwent an extensive makeover due to flooding. The new InnerFog, which reopened in May, now offers wine on tap, a largely locally sourced small plates menu, and expanded selection of bottled wines and beer.

InnerFog’s clientele includes professionals, UCSF students, faculty and your typical Inner Sunset dweller. As someone who fits into those last two categories, I had visited InnerFog a number of times pre-flood to sample the wine and cheese.

On my first post-renovation visit, I was happy to see that aesthetically, not much had changed. Save some new artwork and a slick stainless wine tap, it felt like the same cozy wine bar. Tastefully decorated with warm colors and dark woods, it was still the perfect environment for sipping one of their California red blends while watching the N-Judah train rumble by. However, behind the scenes and under the bar, lots had changed.

The newly installed draft system offers four draft wines (a rosé from Broc Cellars and three reds), and six draft beers (including Rodenbach Grand Cru and British-made Meantime IPA, which isn't widely available in the United States).

Owner John Nettesheim also brought on chef Larry Piaskowy, once a manager at Cowgirl Creamery's Sidekick cafe in the Ferry Building, to run the bar-snacks program. The menu consists of two flatbread choices and nine cold plates.

Starting off small, I ordered a cheese plate for old time’s sake.  Now relegated to a single item on the menu in place of the previous regionally themed list of cheeses, the establishment made sure to make this cheese plate count. 

Each cheese, including the nutty, slightly grassy Montgomery’s cheddar and the earthy, creamy Red Hawk from the local Cowgirl Creamery, was delicious with the honeycomb, walnuts and crackers served with it. 

The oysters, sourced from Washington and sampled on another visit, were refreshing and a blast to eat, since each one came with its own mignonette.  I also tried the burrata, which was rich and buttery, with a sweet touch from the saba. 

Lastly, I had a chance to try what is probably my favorite menu item — the steak tartare, which is a bit spicy and topped with a quail egg. Delicious.

For more substantial fare, I turned to the flatbreads. I only had a chance to try the smoked duck flatbread, which was nonetheless sizable and is definitely something to be shared if you are combining it with other small plates. 

The duck and cheddar were layered on a light, crisp crust, and their stronger flavors were allowed to stand out. Roasted potatoes gave an added level of texture.  It was a perfect complement to the peppery Brutocao Zin, one of their tap selections. 

In fact, each time I visited, the staff members were very generous with their time in providing suggestions for wine, based on my tastes.  Since the food menu is designed to work well with most of the wines offered, I didn’t feel the need to request specific pairings, but I am sure that they would have helped if asked. 

In fact, the staff’s accessibility and general friendliness added to the comfortable atmosphere of the bar. It’s no wonder the popularity of this place has steadily grown over the years, since each change so far has been a welcome addition to its overall charm.  Here’s to hoping it sticks around to keep adding warmth to the Inner Sunset for years to come.