Garlic, Garlic and More Garlic!

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by dkm1981 on January 6, 2012

The Stinking Rose is a restaurant in the North Beach area of San Francisco, USA that we visited on our recent visit to the city. We’d read about the restaurant in our guide book and were quite excited about visiting this unique eating experience.

-About The Restaurant-

When finding the restaurant, you simply need to (as the place’s website suggests) ‘follow your nose’ as the unique element is that it features garlic heavily in all of its dishes, hence the name (stinking rose being an historical term for the pungent garlic). To give you an idea, 3000 pounds of garlic are used each month by the restaurant. It does indeed smell as you approach the building and once you are inside the smell is obviously very strong. It isn’t off putting though, it does actually smell quite nice – my husband was in heaven because he loves the smell!

-Booking and First Impressions-

We booked a table the night before we wanted to visit as we’d heard that it was a very popular place. I was glad that we did as well because, even on a week night, it was extremely busy. The restaurant is quite big and there are probably over 60 tables of varying sizes. When we arrived there were a few available, but not many. We had a table to the side of the restaurant, which was more like a private little booth, adorned with draped to enhance the privacy element. In the main area of the restaurant, the tables are more closely packed and there are lots of bigger tables so the area is more adapt to cater for larger groups. We were generally very pleased with our table as it was much cosier and more romantic.

When you enter the restaurant, there is a little area where you can purchase souvenirs and ingredients that are used. You are greeted by some very helpful staff who guide you to your table. You walk past the open plan kitchen, which is nice and something that I always find comforting. You also walk underneath the world’s largest garlic braid which winds through the restaurant – novel indeed.

-The Food-

The menu is quite funky and contains a nice little bit about the origins of the restaurant and a history of the all important garlic. Straight off you get some nice fresh bread that is kept warm at your table with a little Bunsen burner type thing. This is accompanied by a garlic dip which, as the waiter advised us, was just garlic and olive oil and was extremely powerful. It was nice but you only need a little bit of it. I swear it was this dip that I could still taste on my breath three days later. We opted not to opt for a starter because we had already experienced the giant American portions and this turned out to be a good option because we were more than satisfied with our main courses. If you do want a starter you can choose from garlic soups, to local garlic encrusted crab and from garlic roasted clams to garlic bruschetta – you get the idea now!

For main, I was torn between the 40 clove garlic roasted chicken and the ‘silence of the lamb shank’. I eventually opted for the latter and thoroughly enjoyed it. To be honest it didn’t taste that garlicky to me, but that could have been because of the dip. It was so beautifully cooked though that it fell of the bone and melted in my mouth. To keep to the theme of the dish it was served with a chianti glaze, garlic mashed potatoes and fava beans – something I have never had before but enjoyed. I was pleased to find that the mashed potato was indeed thoroughly mashed – I often find that it is lumpy in restaurants, which I hate.

My husband opted for the garlic roasted prime rib, which was a huge piece of steak that was again cooked to perfection. It was served with the garlic mashed potato and creamed swiss chard which was delicious indeed. He thoroughly enjoyed his steak but didn’t really like that it was served with mashed potato rather than chips. He agreed the mash was good but not really in keeping with the dish.

If you aren’t a fan of garlic, there is no need to worry because there are lots of dishes that can be prepared without it. I’d say around a third of the menu items can be served without garlic if you prefer and these are marked with a little vampire symbol!

-Price and Value-

My lamb was $20 and my husband’s steak $30, both before applicable taxes. We had a bottle of wine and a couple of beers (as well as much free water as we could drink) which made the total bill about $90 (roughly £60 at the time of writing). I don’t think it was bad value to be honest even though it was quite pricey for just a main course. The food really was delicious and you could tell that the best ingredients had been used.

-Anything Else?-

The service was excellent. We had the same waiter for the duration of our meal and he was attentive and very knowledgeable about the menu. Even though the restaurant was busy and we were in the separate booth area, we didn’t feel neglected at all.

The only complaint that we had was that the restaurant was unbelievably hot. Uncomfortably so in fact. We didn’t stay for dessert because it was so warm, which was a shame because it would have been a nice way to round off what was otherwise an excellent meal.

One other thing that struck us a little bit odd was the opening hours. It is open from 11.30am until 10.00pm – not that late really. To me, 8pm is about the time you eat your evening meal on holiday and so ten seems quite early to close.

Aside from that, I would recommend the restaurant as a fun way to spend an evening and a great place to get some lovely (garlic filled) food.

The website- – is very useful if you are planning a visit or looking for more information – it also has a couple of menus to whet your appetite.
The Stinking Rose
325 Columbus Avenue
San Francisco, California, 94133
(415) 781-7673

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