Photograph by Don Nolte

Photograph by Don Nolte

December 2012

Plow Grows Customers

Sasha Lekach

Two years ago, Maxine Siu and Joel Bleskacek converted a former architecture studio into a restaurant that’s quickly become a Potrero Hill stalwart. Plow offers back-to-basics breakfast, brunch, and lunch menus made by locals for locals. The eatery is located around the corner from Siu’s and Bleskacek’s 19th Street home. The couple, with their 10 and 12 year old children, who attend the San Francisco Waldorf School, share a passion for food.

In March Bleskacek sold Ruby Wine, a shop he’d owned at 1419 18th Street, to focus full time on Plow, where Siu, who has worked for various Bay Area restaurants, serves as chef. “We have our hands full,” Bleskacek said. “We are happy with it.” With 35-seats, Plow has long wait times for weekend brunch, and is packed for weekday breakfasts, serving more than 300 customers daily.

Siu and Bleskacek regularly get requests from neighbors to open for dinner, but according to Bleskacek the restaurant’s current hours – Tuesday through Friday 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and weekends 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. – keep the owners sufficiently busy. “Sometimes in life you have to realize when to stop,” he said. The couple is also constantly approached with offers to open another Plow in San Francisco or elsewhere, but Bleskacek insists that there isn’t enough time for that. “We want to watch our kids grow up.”

Bleskacek, who is from Wisconsin, and his wife Siu, a San Francisco native, are raising their children as true City kids, with refined palates and a love of good dining, which often includes breakfast at the restaurant so they can see their mom before heading to school. The dining establishment, which aims to be family friendly, serves what Bleskacek said he feeds his family at home. He considers the restaurant an extension of his home. “We’ve always blurred the line between home and work,” he said. 

Plow’s menu changes seasonally; the kitchen sources a lot of the produce directly from California farms. Menu favorites include lemon ricotta pancakes and a fried egg sandwich. After a stellar review from the San Francisco Chronicle in February, Bleskacek said the bar has been raised, but success pushes the couple instead of placating the husband and wife duo.

Dogpatch resident Kieran Lal has been taking his one-year-old daughter, Kiera, to Plow since she was born, creating something of a daughter-daddy weekend tradition. Lal, who works as a technical director at a local software company, said he usually orders the “Plow” special or pancakes, but sometimes dines on granola. “When we go now we are always the first in line to get the back left table on the bench so [Kiera] can sit on my lap or beside me. She loves to watch patrons,” he said. He avoids egg dishes that tend to end up on his daughter’s shirt so that his wife won’t pick up on the location of the “secret” father-daughter outing location.

According to longtime Hill resident Edward Lortz, who lives on the same block as Siu and Bleskacek, “The food is very, very fresh and seasonable” and “the tastes are delightful and very filling and the menu changes regularly. For Maxine, soft scrambled means soft and poached eggs are never overdone.” Lortz noted that the food and service aren’t the only aspects that make the restaurant stand out. “The monthly special dinners with wine pairings are some of the best on the Hill. The family style brings out terrific menus and a fantastic opportunity to meet our newer neighbors on the Hill, those who have lived here less than our 27 years,” he said. “It’s always well worth the occasional wait.”

As Lortz indicated, Plow hosts a popular monthly wine dinner, which fills up quickly given the limited seating and rare opportunity to dine after-hours. The restaurant also holds private events, which ramp up between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

According to Bleskacek, being in 94107 is a boon, especially since the locale is often overlooked as a gourmet destination. The area is starting to get the recognition it deserves, but still has a “quaint, small neighborhood” feel and has “real people,” he explained. The meteorological conditions are also helpful, with the restaurant receiving copious amounts of indirect sunlight, adding to its appeal. Plow attracts people from all over the Bay Area. Bleskacek said some of his favorite moments are when customers make their first stop at Plow after coming into San Francisco from the airport.

Bleskacek was quick to credit much of the restaurant’s success to its loyal staff of 15 servers and kitchen workers, who he said work hard and whom were rewarded with a two-day staff retreat in Lake Tahoe last month.

As for the name, Bleskacek said thousands of monikers were considered when they first started building the space. They finally settling on “Plow” because of its urban yet pastoral feel. They liked the name’s simplicity, and hoped it invoked a feeling of simpler, relaxed times. Like the atmosphere in the couple’s home, where they still cook and eat as a family despite the hours spent at the restaurant, often dining on beans, peppers, tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables culled from their backyard garden.

Plow is located at 1299 18th Street; 821.7569 or

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