If you’re a karaoke fan, chances are you’ve been to the marina’s beloved family establishment, Silver Cloud Restaurant and Karaoke Bar. This neighborhood favorite has been around for over 40 years and, for the first time in decades, is reintroducing full-service evening dining, weekday happy hour, bottomless mimosa brunch, and more.
Previously seen as a fun, late-night dive bar for those looking to sing a few songs over cocktails, Silver Cloud is now opting to turn to high-end restaurants amid the pandemic, a time when the establishment’s survival , as with most, is fragile.
The new Silver Cloud reopens with an expansive outdoor park that includes eight large, private, heated cabins, accommodating up to 48 guests in total. Paying homage to its karaoke days, Silver Cloud will feature highly curated and nostalgic playlists played over parklet speakers to keep things lively.
“When we opened in 1979, Silver Cloud served as a full-service fine-dining restaurant, an oyster bar, and a seven-dollar prime rib specialty,” says Tom Dougherty, owner of Silver Cloud Restaurant and Bar. “Shortly after that, we started hosting karaoke nights and became one of the first karaoke bars in San Francisco. Since then, we have remained a karaoke bar, with the majority of our business happening late at night from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.
“With the Covid-19 restrictions, we realize that hosting karaoke and having large groups of people indoors won’t happen for some time,” he continues. “Our goal with launching the new menu last month was to capture an audience we didn’t have before, and we hope to keep this expansion of the business once we can do karaoke again.”
“We would love to have a lively brunch and happy hour followed by dinner that goes on until karaoke starts.”
Silver Cloud tapped Executive Chef Freddie Blanco to revamp its vibrant menu of classic California fare with French influences, house-crafted cocktails, an extensive selection of local beers, a vibrant wine list and a weekend brunch.
Chef Blanco has years of experience heading the kitchens of several marina establishments such as Café Boho and Mamo, in addition to a lot of time spent training in classic French cooking techniques. Using fresh produce, wild-caught seafood, and high-quality local meats from Bay Area suppliers, Silver Cloud’s offerings are prepared on-site daily from scratch.
Menu highlights include entrees like coconut ceviche; hot burrata; and Caesar Salad with Firecracker Shrimp and Kale; standout seafood dishes such as Roasted Whole Branzino with Jerusalem Artichoke Mousse, Bok Choy, Aji Sauce, and Coconut Wild Rice, and Seafood Pasta made with Shrimp, Scallops, Mussels, Jerusalem Artichoke Sauce, and Crisps with garlic ; modern interpretations of classic dinner dishes like Mary’s Fried Chicken Dinner with mashed potatoes, vegetables, homemade cheddar biscuit, honey and homemade hot sauce, and cooked herb-crusted prime rib of beef made to order with wild mushrooms, mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables and horseradish cream and gravy sauce – paying homage to Silver Cloud’s roots.
Among the French-inspired desserts on the menu are the Drunk Bread Pudding made with donuts and croissants with custard and bourbon caramel, and the passion fruit crème brûlée with Midori and marshmallow served in a beautiful glass sugar.
Tom Dougherty, owner of Silver Cloud Restaurant and Bar, is a lifelong San Franciscan and Marina resident who took over ownership at age 25 after many years as a DJ and bartender.
We spoke with Dougherty about reopening, the new menu, pandemic pivots and more. Here’s what he had to say.
It used to be more of a dive bar with karaoke, but now has an upscale menu. How has it been received since launch?
We had an extremely positive reaction to the new menu. We knew our regulars would be skeptical as they were so used to karaoke and bar food, but once they tried the new menu they loved it. It really allowed us to add a whole new dimension to our business that we might not have if it weren’t for necessity during the pandemic.
We still want to keep karaoke like bread and butter, but there’s no reason we can’t top it off with delicious food, a fun weekend brunch, and happy hour.
What is the inspiration for the menu and what are the highlights?
We took inspiration from some of our old menus from the 80s, and Chef Blanco, who has expertise in classically trained French cooking techniques and a pulse on local tastes and culinary trends, helped shape the menu. . The former Silver Cloud used to offer full-service dining and was known for its prime rib and seafood, so we wanted to bring those aspects back into the menu, while incorporating more contemporary dishes.
What do you attribute the endurance of Silver Clouds to? How has he been in business for so many decades in such a tough industry?
Most important are the people and the atmosphere we have managed to create over the years. Silver Cloud has always been a local place and has strong ties to the city and the Marina district. Since the beginning, The Cloud has been a family business and has always employed interesting and dedicated people who do their best to provide a memorable experience for our customers. Everyone who walks in feels like they are treated like regulars and part of the Silver Cloud family.
How have you had to pivot since COVID? What is changing with the restaurant now that stricter regulations are being enforced?
We had to switch from karaoke, an activity that will probably be one of the last to return in full force, to a legitimate dining establishment, where people come for food and drink. We had to capture business we had never had before if we were to survive, so we had to adapt.
Karaoke will eventually return, and when it does, we’ll feature the same signature Silver Cloud experience as before, but for now, we need our food to be the driver. With regulations we are limited on how many people we can seat at each table, how long people can stay and guests cannot be inside unless using the bathroom. Our cleaning protocols are also much more rigorous and more frequent.
We have placed individual hand sanitizers on each table and sanitized between parties, face masks are required unless eating or drinking, and our tables have large partitions between them to separate each group from other tables. It’s an adjustment for everyone, but we are committed to providing our customers and employees with the safest atmosphere possible.
With the recent lifting of shelter-in-place restrictions, do you have any new menu items or specials?
For now, we’ve reopened Friday through Sunday for happy hour (4-6 p.m.), dinner service (6-9:30 p.m.), and endless weekend brunch at Mimosa (10 a.m.-4 p.m.). We’ve added a few new items to the menu including three new flavors of wings, mini rib burgers, salads and more to come.
Reservations are available by calling 415-922-1977 and menus are available for pickup or delivery through DoorDash and Grubhub.