I love garlic. Garlic is amazing. In chicken, in potatoes, in pasta, in just about anything savory, I defy anyone who says you can have too much garlic.
Naturally, soon after moving to Northern California, I realized that my life would be incomplete without a visit to the Stinking Rose.
There are two ways to look at this garlic-happy restaurant: as a consumer of yummy food and as a garlic lover. Let’s start with the regular consumer.
The Stinking Rose deserves its spot along Columbus Avenue, a street filled with more delicious Italian restaurants than you’re likely to try in a lifetime. The garlic chicken is tender and juicy, the neon ravioli was served in the most delicious rich, creamy sauce, and I literally stuffed myself to bursting to have another bite of the gnocchetti. Needless to say, we were all satisfied.
That said, there are a large number of other fabulous Italian restaurants in North Beach, many of them within walking distance of the Stinking Rose, many of them cheaper. I would say the food is about on par with what you would expect from this area, but the gimmick does raise the price a bit and so we must view this restaurant as it was intended: as a garlic restaurant.
And as a garlic lover, I walked away wanting more.
Now, I have only praise for the bagna calda, and if you are a garlic lover and do not order this vat of garlic and oil goodness, I will slap you upside the head. The focaccia pairs with it wonderfully, and this dish was truly a garlic lover’s paradise.
However, I was expecting a stronger garlic flavor from the rest of the meal and was left wanting. The food is all good, and you can taste the garlic if you look for it, but it’s more of an undertone in the main dishes while I was looking for a “BAM” moment. The food is good, but it’s not particularly garlicky, and for a garlic restaurant, you really want there to at least be garlic-smothered options.
I have been trying to try the garlic ice cream ever since discovering this little garlic garden, but alas, I am always too full by the end of the meal to stuff anything else down my throat. I have to wonder if theirs is better than others I have had. The version I had at the Garlic Festival was…weird. Not bad, but weird. I’m not eager to repeat the experience, but I do wonder if the Stinking Rose’s is different.
Perhaps one day I’ll go for just the bagna calda and the ice cream.