Starbelly is a sweet little spot in the Castro that until recently, I had only been to for brunch. The back deck is maybe its most charming asset, which stays bright and sunny during the day, but turns sultry at night with strung lights and space heaters. This is where I sat with a friend and enjoyed a lovely Monday night dinner, snacking on small plates and sipping on house-made ginger lemon sodas. Who knew this place was just as much of a destination for dinner as it is for brunch? …
We started with the white bean puree, which comes served with preserved lemon, chili, and thinly sliced cucumbers in lieu of the flatbread listed on the menu. This was super light and refreshing, and a perfect first course. All of the salads here are fabulous, but this time we went with the grilled little gems, served with cara cara oranges, feta and hazelnuts. I love the flavor of the grill that you get in a salad like this; its slightly wilted lettuces is contrasted by the brightness of the citrus and the crunch of the hazelnuts. Although both of these portions were plenty to share, we gladly added on the burrata di Stefano as well, which comes served with preserved lemons and …more hazelnuts! Incredibly fresh, rich and creamy, it was a nice pairing to go along with the grilled lettuces. Next up were the pan-roasted black mussels, which were my favorite menu item of the night. Although you’ll find this under the “small” section, this could easily be ordered as an entree. With chorizo, chiles, and a generous sprinkling of cilantro, I loved the bold flavors going on here. There’s no GF bread to dunk in this gorgeous broth, but that didn’t stop me from slurping it up by the spoonful after all the mussels were gone. Finally, we ended the meal sharing the bavette steak with yucca fries, which was also a definite winner (although beware of cross contamination with the yucca). A generous portion of tender meat, perfectly cooked to medium-rare, and topped with a salsa verde so tasty that I had to ask our waiter for the ingredient list so I could later attempt to replicate it at home (basil, parsley, lemon zest, almonds, and olive oil). Use the yucca fries to mop up some of that deliciousness. This is a steak entree that probably, due to its herb-y dressing, manages to be hearty and yet not overly gluttonous feeling. And that, in my opinion, is how I like a steak to be.
Starbelly is definitely far more than just a brunch destination. Avoid the weekend crowds and come in on a weeknight to see for yourself. If you do come for brunch, I recommend ordering the Starbelly 75 (dolin dry vermouth, ginger, lemon & sparkling wine), and any of the egg dishes (sans bread!). While the pizzas and pastas unfortunately are not GF, there are plenty of other offerings that are, or can be modified to be so by the friendly staff.