Golden Gate Park Chow

The Inner Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco is bursting with exciting ethnic eateries — some new and some tried and true favorites. But sometimes, all you really want is a homey, comforting, all-American meal, and Park Chow, nestled on busy Ninth Street right by an entrance to Golden Gate Park, provides just that. During San Francisco's summer months (read: September and October), the sidewalk is filled with tables and chairs and the patio bustles with diners enjoying a meal alfresco. And when the weather gets chilly, thick drapes are drawn across the patio, creating a cozy, welcoming atmosphere.

Inside, a roaring fireplace beckons diners into the rustic dining room. The space is deceptively large, with extra seating in the back and upstairs on the second level. The best seats are on a raised platform near the back of the restaurant, near enough to the crackling fire to keep you warm and toasty but just far enough away from the flames to ensure you don't sweat through your meal.

Park Chow is part of the Chow restaurant group, which has four locations throughout the Bay Area. All boast menus filled with American classics created from local, seasonal ingredients, as well as a sprinkling of surprising dishes thrown in to keep things interesting. Lunch and dinner feature excellent pork chops, a delicious grilled prawn Louis salad, and one of the best artichokes in the city — simply wood-baked and topped with a little fresh lemon juice. The menu also includes several seasonal pizzettes, including the light Bianco, topped with sunchokes, leeks, and cauliflower. All salads and pasta dishes, like the Smiling Noodles with chicken and homemade curry, come in a variety of sizes, so you can order depending on the size of your appetite.

And the meal shouldn't end when the entrée plates are cleared. Park Chow's desserts are all baked fresh daily, and although the menu is always changing, you can't go wrong with any choice. Some favorites include a ginger spice cake with pumpkin ice cream and a very decadent chocolate cake, not to mention the delicious cookies.

Though Park Chow is part of a larger group, the restaurant feels like a neighborhood gem – unassuming and always packed with locals looking to treat themselves to a classic and comforting meal.