Restaurant Spotlight: Foreign Cinema

A San Francisco favorite lives up to its name with film showings, in addition to stellar wine and food options

Restaurant Spotlight: Foreign Cinema
In the evenings, outdoor dining at Foreign Cinema is accompanied by a movie being projected on one wall of the patio area.
Sep 22, 2022

Foreign Cinema has been a staple of San Francisco's Mission District since opening in 1999. Meshing deliciously with the vibrant, eclectic neighborhood, the restaurant has created a unique, upscale dining experience that blends art, creative dishes, killer cocktails and a wine list that has held a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence since 2015.

Co-owners and co-chefs Gayle Pirie and John Clark have been part of the San Francisco dining community for more than two decades while raising their family in the Bay Area. It isn’t surprising, then, that they’ve been able to make Foreign Cinema an embodiment of the Mission’s vibe.

Pirie and Clark offer contemporary, California- and Mediterranean-inspired dishes that take advantage of local, seasonal ingredients, including Monterey Bay calamari and vegetables from Sebastapol. The nightly changing menu always offers fresh gems to discover, along with a selection of oysters on the half shell, sourced from West Coast locales like Tomales Bay and Point Reyes.

Wine director Alan Murray manages the 1,400-selection wine list, which predominantly features bottles from California and France. He and his sommelier team help guests find pairings to complement Pirie and Clark’s menu, while offering a special daily glass or carafe pick to go with a “main feature” on each evening's menu. (In place of starters, the menu offers “premieres.”)

Producer spotlights and verticals dot the list, from the Loire’s Nicolas Joly and the Jura's Jean-François Ganevat to red Burgundies from Domaine Méo-Camuzet and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Rhône cuvées from Auguste Clape and northern Italian reds from Guiseppe Quintarelli. The Champagne selection is notable for its bottlings from Salon. One page of the list is dedicated solely to large-format bottles, another to half bottles, and there are options from off the beaten path, such as Hungary and Greece. From nearer by, well-known producers provide plenty of choice among Pinot Noir and Cabernet; Zinfandel star Turley appears, as do offbeat varities, blends and styles.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Foreign Cinema without cinema. In the dining room, guests enjoy their food and wine against a backdrop of vintage Polish movie posters and local art installations, while on the restaurant’s patio, they can dine in the warm glow of a projected film, setting the mood for the evening’s offerings.

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