Ever since the gold rush, when womenless men and menless women far from their beginnings sought solace in the ad hoc companionability of boarding houses, bars and dining counters, San Francisco has been a city where home is what you make it. Recently, residents have been making a home of places like these restaurants, all of which offer their faithful a powerful sense of belonging.
Also restrained in appearance but fiercely innovative in its cuisine is Daniel Patterson’s Coi (pronounced “kwa”; it’s French for “quiet, tranquil,” which is exactly what Coi is), very San Franciscanly set side by side with strip joints and sex shops. Coi’s is not comfort food but a challenge, usually with a substantial reward. When the waiter instructs you to dab your finger in “Coi essential oil” and rub it on the back of your hand before you touch the tiny salad of grapefruit, ginger, black pepper and tarragon, you may laugh, but the damned thing tastes great. Coi is an exotic voyage: daring and ultimately exhilarating. 375 Broadway; 415-393-9000; coirestaurant.com.