Doc Ricketts: The former Purple Onion is deliciously resurrected
Nov 26, 2014 Published in Inside Scoop SF
The Purple Onion was a legendary club that helped launch the careers of such entertainers as Robin Williams, Woody Allen, Phyllis Diller and the Kingston Trio.
Owner Christopher Burnett tried to maintain an historic reference, as obscure as it might seem. Ed Ricketts was a marine biologist in Monterey who held salons in his lab during the 1930s and ’40s. He was a popular figure and was featured in several of John Steinbeck’s novels.
It seems appropriate that a restaurant — probably the most popular source of entertainment in San Francisco — now sits above the cave-like club that offers entertainment nightly.
Doc Ricketts stands on its own, but chef Justin Deering also prepares the full menu for the crowds downstairs in Doc’s Lab. Through the night you can see the waiters going out the door and down the stairs into the club to deliver chicory salad, hamburgers and branzino.
Deering, who cooked at such places as 15 Romolo, Cafe des Amis and Conduit, creates a stylish American menu that includes a celery root soup that’s perfect for the season; charcuterie that he makes in-house; and a very special roast chicken with sherry sauce and toast smeared with ultra-rich chicken liver mousse.
Diners can sit in the 43-seat restaurant or at one of the tables that line the front of the building and look out over Columbus, enjoy classic cocktail and almost imagine what it must have been like to catch Lenny Bruce in performance at the Purple Onion.