1. The people who own it (or their friends or their family) also work at it
2. There is something artsy and homemade about the decor
3. There is an emphasis on local/organic/in season ingredients
4. There are healthy but delicious menu choices with a strong vegetarian/vegan presence
5. The staff and regulars are friendly and kind
Outerlands in the Sunset area of San Francisco provided all of these beautifully.
The restaurant is owned by a young surfer couple who took over the space after the previous resident (the vegan restaurant Feel Real) disappeared and left a hole in the neighborhood.
There were many cool things about this place, including homemade bread and some fancy driftwood mosaics, but the detail that impressed me most was the extremely limited (and daily changing) lunch menu (they have a more "normal" dinner menu with many choices). Sometimes, I am a huge fan of the limited menu (assuming I like the general theme of a place) because it focuses efforts and reduces waste. When I visited, the lunch menu consisted of:
* Vegan cream of celery soup
* Grilled cheese sandwich
* A big green salad
* A broiled open faced sandwich with pears and some sort of meat and cheese
I had the soup and grilled cheese, and the sandwich really stole the show due to the huge thick slices of fresh, soft homemade bread that had been buttered and grilled to perfection. Yum.
It is hard to tell from this picture how thickly sliced that delicious homemade bread was. Look at the notebook and pen for scale.
All in all, a very pleasant lunch at a good feelings place.