But carnival themed Straw made me reconsider. Everything – from the Step Right Up welcome mat to the booth made from an old Tilt-A-Whirl car to the funhouse-style mirrors in the bathroom was thoughtful, deliberate and whimsically executed. This is a place that really works.
This Hayes Valley spot is small, but cozy. Dark, but intimate. Expected, but with a few surprises thrown in. Yes, there’s items on the menu like funnel cakes and tater tots, but the former is served with three decidedly un-lowbrow dipping sauces (chocolate, strawberry and a crème anglaise-like vanilla) and the latter is made from sweet potatoes and served with a tangy blackberry bbq sauce on the side.
There's a nice variety on the menu (including salads) but if you’re like me, you’ll want to try all the fun, familiar, and deep-fried fare like a fried chicken & waffle Monte Cristo, or mini corn dogs made from Niman Ranch pork. Even their root beer float has been re-invented – a root beer-flavored gelato is paired with cream soda for an “inverted” treat (the end result is still yummy), while the cotton candy was familiar but with an exotic, tropical flair (I think it was passionfruit?)
One thing you won’t find on the menu? Simply-named food. Instead of a cheeseburger, you’ll find The Ringmaster (served on a housemade glazed donut), and my pork belly sandwich with peanut sauce was called Boxcar Children (completely bewildered, I later looked it up and discovered it’s a children’s book about orphans that sounds absolutely fascinating). And both my sister and Pat-strami ordered the Bearded Lady - a pulled pork sandwich with blackberry coulis.
Thinking back, I can’t say it’s the best-tasting food I’ve had. But I still left this restaurant smiling. It was everything going to a carnival as an adult should be - happy, a tad nostalgic, and most of all, fun.