In a town of landmarks, Balboa Café is something of a San Francisco institution.  It has been since the year 1913 when those storied doors were first flung open.  Cheekily known for its cadre of cougars, this is where the city’s illustrious movers and shakers strike deals whilst lunching, and local glitterati come out to play once night falls.  The restaurant’s bartenders swathed in traditional pharmacy coats, dark wood and polished brass interior, and crisp white table linens bring a sense of stability to an otherwise fickle city.  And who doesn’t delight in an establishment where everyone knows your name?


While the walls of the Balboa are utterly jampacked with generations of salacious secrets of the city’s swells, the one secret that isn’t fiercely guarded is its coveted Chicken Paillard.  Every Wednesday, San Franciscans of all stripes flock to the restaurant for the once-a-week off-menu offering of thinly pounded chicken breast breaded in panko and razor-thin shreds of parmesan topped with a Marsala butter sauce and served alongside a bed of arugula and cherry tomatoes.  But when, frightfully, it’s one of the other six days that isn’t Wednesday and your craving for paillard remains relentless, there has been no known cure. (It goes without saying that patience is not a virtue among the Balboa set.)

Until now.  After politely inquiring (or begging) the linecooks for a list of ingredients and pairing it with some digital diligence, I came up with a homemade version of the celebrated dish, a version with which even the most discerning Balboa-goer would be hard-pressed to find fault.  As iconic San Francisco journalist Herb Caen (so iconic, in fact, that his namesake cocktail remains a choice libation) famously said, “when in doubt, the Balboa.”  And if you can’t go to the Balboa (or it’s a pesky non-Wednesday weekday), now the Balboa can come to you.  xx tt

RECIPE - serves 4


·  4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

·  1 cup all-purpose flour

·  1 teaspoon kosher salt

·  ½ teaspoon pepper

·  2 large eggs

·  1 tablespoon water

·  1 ½ cups Panko (or any bread crumbs)

·  ½ cup finely grated Parmesan

·  3 tablespoons butter

·  2 tablespoons olive oil

·  1 shallot

·  1 cup Marsala wine

·  1 small carton cherry tomatoes

·  5-ounces arugula

·  2 lemons


·  Cut tomatoes in half

·  Cut lemons into quarters

·  Mince shallot

·  Finely grate Parmesan

·  Pound chicken breasts until ¼ –inch thick using a meat mallet or hammer

·  Combine flour, salt, pepper on a dinner plate

·  Beat eggs with water and put on a second dinner plate

·  On a third dinner plate, combine Panko and Parmesan

·  Coat chicken on each side with the flour mixture, then coat both sides in the egg mixture, and finally dredge through the Panko mixture pressing lightly to make sure that all of the elements adhere

·  Heat two tablespoons each of the butter and olive oil in a large sauté pan

·  Cook two chicken breasts at a time over medium-low heat for 3 minutes on each side until cooked through

·  Remove and put on a plate

·  Heat two more tablespoons each of the butter and olive oil and cook the remaining chicken breasts

·  Remove and set aside

·  Add shallot to the pan and cook over medium heat for 1 minute

·  Add Marsala and turn heat to high

·  Boil until the mixture is reduced by half (about four minutes) while scrapping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan so that they incorporate into the sauce

·  Turn off heat, and whisk in remaining tablespoon of butter

·  Salt and pepper to taste

·  Plate the chicken, arugula, and cherry tomatoes – then pour the sauce over the chicken and garnish with a lemon wedge


t+tCOCKTAIL: I wouldn’t be a true Balboa regular if I didn’t have a drink named after me.  So the next time you find yourself at my favorite watering hole, order a “Liz Curtis” - and this is what you will get…


The Liz Curtis (served over ice):

- 2 shots Ketel One vodka

- 1 cup unsweetened black iced tea

- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

- Garnish with a lemon wedge

- And if you prefer your cocktails sweetened, add 1 teaspoon of sugar (but then you have a John Daly)

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