Thanks to our new, awesome and favorite deal-dealer (see what I did there?), ScoutMob, we finally checked out Soluna Cafe and Lounge the other day for lunch. Located on McAllister street, almost at the corner with Larkin across the street from the Asian Art Museum, they do both lunch and dinner, as well as cocktails (hence their name from the Spanish “sol” and “luna”, with a sun and a moon next the words cafe and lounge).
The dual character of the place (night and day) is also visible in the space, divided into two well-defined dining areas: a bar area with high tables and full of big, bright windows overlooking the Tenderloin’s Peoples Garden and the City Hall (the picture above shows the view from our table), and a much darker back area with Moroccan-style lamps and a more classy, intimate atmosphere where you could picture the mating rituals of civil lawyers taking place. You can see the two seating areas in this picture below:
Their dinner menu includes some meat and fish dishes of American modern cuisine, but for lunch they basically serve fancy sandwiches and salads. Humin had the Civic Burger, which he obviously chose because of the name and it sounded like the kind of burger a man should eat. It came with a choice of Point Reyes blue cheese, cheddar or gruyere, and some frisee leaves with potato sticks in the bun.
I had the chorizo sandwich which came with some eggs, lettuce and herbs with the sausage. It was tasty, if a bit too hot. As you can see, the food didn’t come in plates but on wooden boards.
Both sandwiches were good, but my main complaint would be not serving them with any side. At $9.50 and $9, I would expect a tiny salad or a couple of fries. For the little bowl of fries you see in the picture above, they charged $2.50 (but I have to say they were really nice, with some bits of pecorino cheese and truffle oil). Adding drinks to the two sandwiches, our bill ended up being above $30. The drinks we had were non-alcoholic, a limeade (with a dry leaf of basil) and a Civic Cooler (humin is really into gimmicky names as he bathes in dorkdom) which I can’t remember exactly what it was, although I think it had ice tea in it. They were both 90% ice and 10% substance, which is something that I know is done everywhere but here the ratio seemed particularly out of control.
On the plus side, our server looked like a blonder, tanner version of Patrick Swayze which, combined with the unusually hot and sunny day outside, almost made me feel like I was in LA. We were the only people eating in the bar area, while a couple of suited up groups and a bit older crowd ate in the back. Their attire and demeanor suggested that they were having business meetings, for which Soluna is a perfect place during the day.
Although overall I found the place too pricey for what they offer (and for my budget in general), with the ScoutMob discount I left satisfied. Also, the whole lower Tenderloin and Civic Center area is dominated by more basic places, so I think Soluna fills that much needed space in the upper range of dining (at least, until Mirtille opens accross the street in a couple of months). I would say it’s the perfect place for those people looking for a classier, quieter experience who are going to one of the theaters in the area or needing to deal with some business during lunch hours. As for going there for drinks, I’m not so sure about the crowd that goes there.