No matter how many neighborhoods comprise San Francisco, and no matter that our disdain of chain businesses means an abundance of independently owned eateries in every one of them, that just-right neighborhood restaurant can be elusive. They’re either too hard to get into without reservations, too pricey to frequent on the regular, or just not that special.
But for lucky Fillmore Street residents, Noosh hits the mark for what you’d want in a casual neighborhood gem: a touch fancier than Souvla; less formalized than NoPa; and without the headache of snagging a res—I’m looking at you, Che Fico. And all the flavors are there.
Noosh is a bright, cheerful spot thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows and a Mediterranean style white wash.(Sarah Chorey)
To understand how Noosh came to be, you’d need to rewind to 2016 when married chef duo Laura and Sayat Ozyilmaz were ready to break away from the grind of working in Michelin-starred kitchens—between them, the pair has manned stoves in New York’s Cafe Boulud, Eleven Madison Park, and Le Bernardin—to focus on a project of their own. They launched a small pop-up on Feastly called Istanbul Modern, channeling the Eastern Mediterranean flavors of Sayat’s home country, Turkey. It quickly became one of the most successful concepts on the platform, booking out dinner after dinner. John Litz, an advisor at Feastly and also a founding partner in Lazy Bear, recognized the staying power of the Ozyilmazes’ food, and approached them to develop a permanent restaurant in SF. Litz would be the third partner in what has now become Noosh.
Taking over the old Thai Stick on pedestrian-friendly Fillmore Street, Noosh serves approachable Eastern Mediterranean food made with California ingredients and techniques. The menu is packed with shareable small plates as well as some heftier options so you can devise your own feast.
There are creamy spreads like hummus, babaganoosh, and muhammara; pita sandwiches; freshly fried falafel; flatbreads; lamb meatballs; a variety of kebabs; and a few soups and salads. It’s hard to decide what to order, so just cut yourself some agony and carve out space in your schedule for at least two visits in the near future.
Kirley+ Architecture and Colling Design + Build executed the build-out of the 120-seat space with Greek-inspired interiors pulled together by two firms, Eden Wright Design and Mokume Design. The result is a European vacation vibe with whitewashed walls, a smattering of blue-and-white glassware, a cascade of circular mirrors staggered along the bar, and a domed, white-brick oven anchoring the main dining room and churning out doughy pita breads.
The final touch to the laid-back ambience is a cashless approach to dining. As you queue up in line for a table (Noosh takes no reservations except for parties of 10 or more), a host will greet you by the entrance and take your order and credit card info via tablet; they’ll seat you when a table opens up. Every one of the staff is capable of serving you, adding a dish to your order or fetching you another drink, and closing you out at the end of your meal.
The concept is casual by nature, but it doesn’t feel too fast, you feel welcome to stay awhile. That’s in part thanks to a full bar run by Andrew Meltzer—don’t miss his refreshing Noosh Mule.
Hungry for breakfast? Noosh’s all-day offerings include a few morning-only options starting at 11am on weekdays. Can’t make it over to Pac Heights? Caviar is hooking it up with delivery so you can get your flatbreads on the regular.
The Food at Noosh
Noosh has claimed the corner of Fillmore and Pine. Don’t be disheartened to see a line gathering outside—it moves fast enough.
The line will queue up just inside the door, with servers taking orders and getting ready to seamlessly move you to a table as they open up.
Watch as loaf after loaf of dense, chewy pita bread comes piping hot from the oven.
Dips ($6 each) are definitely a thing at Noosh. Opt for one of five or go for the three-dip option ($17); either way, it’s served with “chubby” pita. The yogurt is packed with smoky flavor (left); the creamy hummus is complemented with a kick of garlicky ajika; and the muhammara is a satisfyingly semisweet blend of red peppers topped with urfa almonds.
If you’re a meat lover, definitely get a bowl of the rich lamb meatballs; they come swimming in a savory pomegranate tomato sauce and topped with a sprinkle of crunchy dukkah.
Falafel is served by the half dozen, lightly fried and accented with slightly tart lemon-tahini sauce.
From left: Halloumi cheese with sweet rose honey and spices; sunchokes with herb-lemon zhug sauce; lamb shoulder with herbed yogurt sauce; tender chicken with spicy ajika yogurt; and pork with yellow harissa hot sauce.
Ready for a cocktail? Order the signature Noosh Mule, batch-made and served on tap with their well vodka, Ketel One, and house ginger syrup made with real ginger and candied ginger, and a dash of apple-cardamom shrub.
Whatever you do, you must order at least one of the three flatbreads. I fell for the pork soujuk with juicy sausage crumbles, red pepper, cheese, and a soft egg on top.
Craving something sweet? Finish the meal with the light-as-air lokumades, aka fancy donuts, coated with a seasonal syrup. Right now it’s a blend of orange and honey; keep an eye out for a strawberry-infused flavor next month.
This post was originally written and photographed by me for 7×7 and can be viewed here.