The Presidio is one of San Francisco’s most under-the-radar destinations, encompassing 1,500 acres of some of the most beautiful real estate in the Nation. This pastoral playground features miles of hiking and biking trails, playgrounds, a golf course, museums, two luxury hotels, and some of the city’s best vistas. And with the arrival of Dalida, it also features some of the best cuisine.
Dalida joins Colibri, Sessions at the Presidio, Presidio Social Club, and the coming soon Il Parco within the bucolic Presidio grounds to create a culinary quintfecta, making the former U.S. Army Post a treasured spot not only for recreation, but for dining. Located in what was formerly Traci des Jardins’ The Commissary, Dalida has assumed the large restaurant space on the southwest corner of the Presidio’s Main Parade Lawn. The building—at one time officer’s quarters—has been vacant for several years, just waiting for the right tenant. That tenant has arrived.
Dalida opened just this past summer, and within six months, captured the attention of The Michelin Guide, which recently recognized it as a “recommended” San Francisco restaurant. Owners Laura and Sayat Ozyilmaz are no strangers to Michelin status. The two met while at the Culinary Institute of America in New York City, and upon graduation, Istanbul-raised Sayat joined the team at three-Michelin-starred Le Bernardin. Laura, who was born and raised in Mexico, started at Eleven Madison Park. The duo ultimately landed in San Francisco, where Laura joined the celebrated two-Michelin-star Saison and Sayat joined the team at Mourad, while simultaneously operating the beloved Istanbul Modern SF pop-up with Laura. Prior to opening Dalida, they founded Eastern Mediterranean-focused Noosh, and Sayat also served as Executive Chef of CIA at Copia.
Dalida showcases fresh ingredients, memorable flavors, and the rich culture of the Eastern Mediterranean within a warm and convivial environment. In seeking a name, they chose Dalida for its layered meanings: it’s Sayat’s mother’s name, and in Polish-Yiddish, translates to “dahlia,” San Francisco’s official flower. And in seeking a site, they were inspired by the area’s history and natural beauty.
“When we were looking for restaurant space, we knew that we wanted to be integrated into the local environment,” says Laura. “From chatting with the owners of other nearby businesses to picking fresh flowers from the community garden, we feel a profound sense of belonging in this beautiful location.”
Within Dalida’s main dining room, traditional elements of the Georgian Revival-style architecture contrast artfully with the soft illumination from modern Scandinavian light fixtures. An organic color palette of cool greens, ecru, and mustards is enhanced by a striking, hand painted floral mural by artist Emily Parkinson, a friend of the couple from Laura’s days at Eleven Madison Park. The building’s historical significance is honored, such as in the dining tables, made from reclaimed wood from deconstructed Presidio buildings. You can even spot the original nail holes.
The open kitchen features a chef’s counter, where guests are granted a front row seat to the culinary choreography, and to the Wood Stone oven, in which the Bay Area’s best pita is baked to order. Part of the “breaking bread” course, this pillowy soft “chubby pita” is served with pickles, olives, and a selection of house made spreads—hummus, smoked yogurt, and a sliced almond-topped muhammara that also goes perfectly with the Aleppo half chicken, an entrée that serves 1 to 2. Actually, all of the varied dips and sauces complement nearly every dish. The Ezme sauce and the char-broiled eggplant puree that accompanies the three-week dry aged New York strip steak (an entrée that serves 1 to 4) are excellent for shoestring fry dipping. And the shatta aioli with umami seasoning that comes with the fries well complements the steak.
Don’t miss the sea urchin tahdig, combining crispy rice, kampachi, smoked trout roe, preserved yuzu and Santa Barbara uni—an ideal representation of the Ozyilmaz’ desire to combine traditional with California local. Other standouts included the Kayseri Manti: tender, tiny, lamb-filled dumplings in a richly red tomato sauce and topped with tangy yogurt, and the Arayes burger, stuffed in that wonderful pita and coated with chives.
These are dishes that are meant to be shared, and a table full of mezes, pastas, entrees, and sides creates a panoply of color and flavor that is not only beautifully delicious, but encourages conversation and community—a goal of the Ozyilmaz’. Plate presentations rely on the intrinsic beauty of the ingredients; many garnishes are gathered by Laura from the Presidio’s vibrant community garden, which is also the source for some of the bar’s cocktail elements. Dalida’s cocktails are crafted with Middle Eastern ingredients (spices, yogurts, and preserved fruits) while also incorporating Presidio-foraged aromatics, including eucalyptus, rose geranium and yerba buena. “We want our offerings to capture the feeling of walking through a bazaar, where upon every corner, you discover unexpected aromas, encouraging you to explore further, to take another sip,” says bar manager Evan Williams. Try his lemon kalimera with layers of citrus gin, lemon juice, and bergamot with rose geranium, mastic, and a lactic acid vanilla bean cordial. The mehtap, in reference to the reflection of the moon on the water, combines cognac, Cocchi Americano, apricot, and a hint of anise from raki.
Dalida’s wine program, overseen by wine director Ruth Frey, includes varietals from throughout the world that have a strong identity and are representative of their region of origin. A special emphasis is placed on small production family wineries, the wines of which are produced with mindful farming practices and lower interventional styles. Additionally, less familiar grapes from well-known and lauded producers are featured, such as Trousseau from Arnot-Roberts, and Pelaverga from the centuries-old producer, Fratelli Alessandria. She also features a Keush “Cuvée Couchanne” Rosé from Khachik, Armenia, a nod to Sayat’s Armenian roots.
“I visited San Francisco on a ‘work and travel’ trip to the Presidio some 24 years ago,” says Sayat. “I stayed in dorm rooms across from the Officers’ Club as I was helping build stairs to Baker Beach. I always knew that I wanted to come back to San Francisco but would never have guessed that I’d be building this incredible restaurant project across the street from where I had stayed decades before. We just love this city, and we are proud to be part of its colorful, diverse, magnificent tapestry.”