Birthday Dinner at Gary Danko

January 21, 2018. The evening had just started. We spent some time walking Ghirardelli Square that was conveniently located around the corner from Gary Danko. The square was beautifully illuminated and live music resonated throughout it. We sat at a bench to take in all of the activity happening. There were tourists walking by, photographing the big Ghirardelli Square sign and of course, the endless line at Ghirardelli Chocolate drawing all to have hot chocolate or their world famous hot fudge sundae. It’s still amusing to make a visit here no matter how many times I’ve been. And tonight, the mixture of glimmer, sound and bustle created such a nostalgic feeling in the air. It felt really good to be turning another year older.

Larkin Street entrance to Ghirardelli Square
Historic Ghirardelli Sign
Illuminated stringing lights and beautiful lights curtain in the square

Gary Danko has been on my bucket list for quite some time. I was saving it until there was a special occasion to celebrate. Years passed and I still haven’t dined. So this time around, I was done putting it off. When my husband asked where I wanted to eat for my birthday, I happily said, “Gary Danko”. He booked a month in advance to lock in the date. At this point, I usually look at review sites and social media for food pictures at a new place I’ll be dining at. I wasn’t even tempted to. Like Andy Warhol said, “The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting.” With a dinner date set, hair appointment booked, and outfit planned it felt something bigger than a birthday, more like an engagement dinner or 1-year wedding anniversary.

Alas, we made it to our reservation early. The restaurant isn’t the most elegant and luxurious, but it’s classy, charming and it’s San Francisco. You’re presented with several drink menus and the dinner menu is a prix-fixe of either 3-, 4- or 5-courses. It was very lively with staff attending to people’s needs, the cheese sommelier making his recommendations and the entertainment of the delicious crepe flambés being made table side. There was a lot going on at once and never did the quality of service go down. While everyone around us was on their last course, we were just about to get started. My husband and I were very excited for what we’d soon be savoring. We opted for the 4-course, a median, where we wouldn’t be overly full or hungry.

Here was my dinner and 4-course selections:


Pumpkin Amuse Bouche
(Compliments of the chef. Lovely soup to start the meal and whet the palate. Very flavorful.)


 Salt-cured Foie Gras Torchon with Roasted Grapes, Candied Peanuts, Milk Tuille & Country Bread

(Excellent balance of sweetness, salty and acidity. The foie gras was buttery and melts in your mouth.)

Seafood Entree

Roast Maine Lobster with Potato Purée, Morel Mushrooms, Edamame and Tarragon
(The lobster was fresh and the potato purée was creamy. My favorite of the night.)

Meat Entree
Seared Filet of Beef with Potato Gnocchi, Olive Oil, Swiss Chard and Stilton Butter
(Mouth-watering, tender beef. I wish they had given more of the gnocchi.)


Crème Fraîche Cheesecake with Tropical Fruit and Coconut Sorbet
(Rich, smooth and you could taste the tanginess of the crème fraîche.)

Miniature Desserts

(Compliments of the chef. Wonderful bite-size treats I had to enjoy at home as I was full.)

Much to my amazement, a chocolate mousse cake with a candle was presented to make my birthday even more special than it already was. With the amount of wishes I made (due to the candle reigniting a few times), it seemed highly likely that at least one wish would come true. And there was so many desserts on the table that it looked like we just partook in a buffet of sweets. I kindly asked for the desserts to be boxed up for taking home as we were full. The staff came back with a bag and an elegantly wrapped cream cheese banana bread gift to enjoy the morning after.

Birthday chocolate mousse cake and the dessert goodies ready for taking home

If I could do it over again, I would opt for the cheeses over dessert since there was so many! Nonetheless, this was the most satisfying birthday meal I’ve ever had and I’ll never forget it. Dining here definitely made me feel like I just reached the peak of adulthood. As we exited the restaurant, it began to sprinkle a little. It almost always rains on my birthday and I was happy it wasn’t late to the partyI call it a celebration of new beginnings.

To make a reservation request for your special occasion, please visit Gary Danko.

Written by Mestelle •  Photos taken by Mestelle


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