The Chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)
September 8, 2021
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A Cal-Italian spread at the new Fiorella Sunset. Photo: Hardy Wilson.

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The new rooftop seating area at Fiorella Sunset. Photo: Hardy Wilson.

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Seafood tower handroll at the new Chīsai Sushi Club. Photo: Darren Samuelson.

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SF Chickenbox bounty. Instagram photo via @sfchickenbox.

There are a bunch of new openings happening, starting with the latest and third location of ~FIORELLA~ in the Sunset (in the former Park Chow) from founders and co-owners Brandon Gillis and Boris Nemchenok. (Fun fact: it was also the site of the first American restaurant Nemchenok’s parents dined at when they emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1983.) This project has been a long time coming, but it sure is worth it. The location has a fantastic rooftop deck, plus new dishes from the new chef, Fiorella’s first foray into cocktails (from Candice Jae: Evil Eye, Lolinda, Alchemist, Macondray), along with housemade pasta and gelato.

The bi-level space offers a variety of indoor and outdoor seating (hello, retractable awning!), with a working fireplace and their trademark Flavor Paper Bay Area Toile wallpaper (yup, that’s Dennis Richmond on there). Fiorella Sunset’s chef de cuisine Scott Schneider comes from New York’s Ai Fiori, where he was honing his fine-dining chops for over a decade. The team will be cranking out housemade pasta in the glass-enclosed dough room, and new dishes unique to this location include housemade farfalle with peperoncino, marjoram, toasted breadcrumbs ($22); a clam pie (yes!); king salmon crudo ($17); romaine cacio e pepe with Little Gems, house-cured anchovy, pecorino, black pepper, fried capers ($14); and tempura-fried seasonal vegetables with salsa rossa, pecorino, and lemon ($10).

The new bar program includes eight cocktails, a large selection of amari and vermouths, and their wine lists are always full of interesting (and affordable) selections, plus there’s a Far West x Fiorella collaboration “Nice for a Slice” hard cider. Open for dinner to start, followed by weekend brunch and weekday lunch soon. 1240 9th Ave. at Lincoln.

I’m happy to see new life in the former ICHI Sushi space in Bernal, and from chef-owner and former employee Erik Aplin, no less (some former Ichi crew will also be joining him). Open as of Tuesday night is ~CHĪSAI SUSHI CLUB~, the latest addition to SF’s omakase scene, with an innovative, Bay Area-ingredient spin. There are three nigiri-focused, omakase tasting menus: 13 courses for $80, 17 for $110, and a 12-course vegetarian (or vegan) menu for $65 (complete with tomato “maguro” prepared like tuna).

After ICHI, Aplin also worked at Akiko’s and Robin, no strangers to innovative sushi. Aplin is putting together a version of a Louie salad (an SF classic) with pickled daikon, finished with shaved, miso-cured egg yolk, and his “open-faced” hand rolls include a BLTA in its own custom holder. (Check out the pic of the seafood tower with raw scallop, Fort Bragg uni, and ikura, topped with nori butter melted on top, inspired by the flavors and components of a traditional seafood tower.) There will be some non-nigiri dishes, like an uni carbonara with udon noodles. Open Mon-Wed 5:30pm-9pm and Thu-Sun 5:30pm-10pm. 3369 Mission St. at Godeus.

Our man of fried chicken fame, Christian Ciscle, has moved ~SF CHICKENBOX~’s to its new North Beach coop. Get your box (and mochi muffins) delivered or for takeout. Open Mon-Sat 10am-10pm. (You can also check out their latest collab: Songs for Community, Vol. 3, with 100 percent of funds raised from the compilation going to Arm the Girls Mutual Aid.) 464 Broadway at Grant.

Just next door to Café de la Presse (in the former Herlen Place wine bar) is a new and fast-casual location of ~SCOTT’S CHOWDER HOUSE~ (the first in SF), with chef Laurent Manrique acting as culinary advisor on the concept. The abridged menu features a variety of chowders and soups, salads, and seafood sandwiches/rolls for dine-in (crab, lobster), to-go, or delivery, along with beer and wine selections, and ice cream sundaes. Opening hours to start are Wed-Sat 11:30am-6:30pm and Sun 11:30am-4pm. 334 Grant Ave. at Bush.

Over in the Mission, the former Top Round Roast Beef (in the classic Discolandia space) is now a brick-and-mortar location of ~LA VACA BIRRIA~, a San Bruno food truck from Ricky Lopez (via SFGATE). The menu includes birria tacos/quesabirria, birria fries, and birria ramen, as well as a torta ahogada. Open Wed-Sun 11am-9pm. 2962 24th St. at Alabama.

North Beach’s ~BRIOCHE BAKERY & CAFÉ~ just opened a location in the Upper Haight (in the former Sparrow). Their breakfast/lunch/brunch menu includes eggy dishes for breakfast, sandwiches, hot panini, tartines, and fresh-baked pastries, coffee, and wine, with early dinner too. The outdoor deck is open as well. Open daily 8am-9pm. 1640 Haight. at Belvedere.

Another location of ~GOTT’S ROADSIDE~ is opening at Thrive City in Mission Bay on September 17th. Look for the Airstream trailer serving beer and wine to go with your burger. Thrive City at Chase Center, 1 Warriors Way.

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The weekend mezze brunch board at Lulu in Berkeley. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Chef-owner Mona Leena of Lulu will help you to “think pink!” Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The fantastic market fish amandine (with a tableside pour) at Tribune. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The bar and front dining area at Tribune. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The iconic Tribune Tower. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Hop on over to @tablehopper for pics of fantastic experiences I had at two new East Bay establishments, but first, I wanted to share some backstory on them here.

Last week, I visited the brand-new ~LULU~ from chef-owner Mona Leena in Berkeley’s Gilman District. This is her first brick and mortar, although you’ll recognize her from her popular pop-up, The Mana’eesh Lady, which she launched after Oakland’s Dyafa shuttered due to the pandemic (where she was the executive chef). Lulu has opened in the former Nest of Comforts tea house, and is the kind of restaurant you will wish was in your neighborhood. Translated from Arabic, Lulu means “pearl,” Leena’s childhood nickname (she is first-generation Palestinian, and born-and-raised Californian). It has a sunny, airy, cheerful interior, with outdoor seating under blue umbrellas.

The menu of Palestinian-inspired, California cuisine features her housemade baked goods (her breads are so fabulous), mezze brunch, and lunch, with a plan to start dinner service later this year. If you have any excuse to enjoy a midweek lunch with a friend, book it here (but be sure to make a reservation early, demand is high and there aren’t many tables). If you’re coming Fri-Sun, you’ll want to order the abundant and eye-popping mezze brunch board for two so you don’t have to decide between dishes like za’atar fried eggs, fried halloumi, labneh, baba ganoush, shakshuka, za’atar mana’eesh, seasonal fruit, and more.

The menu is full of creative and seasonal dishes, like the pillowy mana’eesh with a rotating menu of two kinds on offer each day, like Early Girl tomato, chèvre, and zhoug (a vibrant, spicy, green hot sauce) or akkawi cheese with seasonal fruit jam, or the fully loaded classic za’atar version, with brown butter labneh, hard-boiled egg, seasonal vegetables, and herbs. There’s a breakfast sando or a fried chicken sando on a simsim bun, bowls, and more. The menu just makes me so dang hungry. I also plan to come back for the shouka-quiles, made with pita chips, sweet peppers, Early Girl tomatoes, fresh feta, and soft-scrambled eggs.

There’s a coffee bar, with enticing espresso drinks like a rose brûlée cappuccino, cardamom-TCHO mocha, and caramel-tahini cold brew, all using coffee from Mother Tongue Coffee. You’ll be able to enjoy a tahini-caramel sticky bun or a “zalabyeh” cruller doughnut with black cardamon and lechera glaze with your coffee, or a housemade croissant with za’atar and feta for my fellow savory fans. Open Tue-Thu 7:30am-3pm and Fri-Sun 9:30am-4pm. Make a reservation! 1019 Camelia St. at 10th St., Berkeley.

Newly open in downtown Oakland’s historic Tribune Tower is ~TRIBUNE~, a New American brasserie from chef-partner Omri Aflalo and operating partner-general manager Darrin Ballon (they are also behind Town Revival).

The minimalist space was designed with Jon De La Cruz (Che Fico, Leo’s Oyster Bar, The Cavalier), highlighting classic architectural elements of the 1923 building, but bringing in some modern-chic touches. There’s a spacious bar you’d be happy to dine at, tufted leather banquettes, comfy tobacco leather chairs, wood tables with quite a bit of space between them, and outdoor seating, too. 

The focused menu highlights peak-season ingredients, like a tomato and melon salad with burrata ($20), or their house chopped salad ($17), and the truly divine pasta dish of housemade cavatelli with summer mushroom duxelles, Meyer lemon butter sauce, hazelnuts, chanterelle confit, chives, and pecorino ($22), don’t miss it. Afalo’s French background really shines in the grilled local fish “amandine” ($28), stuffed with a piperade farce and house-cured lardo, that you pour amandine sauce over (made with roasted almonds, barigoule, and shallots)—let me tell you, I’m not one to usually order the fish dish at a restaurant, but this one is IT. The wild rice pilaf and puffed rice on the side added nice texture, a common element you’ll note in most dishes here (also in the unexpected creamed corn presentation with white corn pudding, butter popcorn, and popcorn powder, so fun). There are also elevated touches (like a roulade preparation) and components, like cilantro oil or nasturtium “vert” thyme oil. I’m coming back for the burger. Sticky toffee cake with Bahri dates and burnt toffee sauce is guaranteed dessert happiness. Don’t attempt it alone.

Cocktails ($14) are playful and creative, and the wine list from consultant Martin Sheehan-Stross has some fantastic selections, including the crushable Gros Ventre Cellars vermentino from El Dorado that I really need more of in my life. Service has fine-dining chops, complete with some tableside touches, but feels relaxed and engaging. Open Thu-Sun 5pm-10pm for now. 401 13th St. at Franklin, Oakland.

For the month of September, Tribune is hosting a weekly guest bartender every Thursday, starting this Thursday September 9th at 5pm with Elmer Mejicanos of Red Window, serving up his Spanish-influenced cocktails like the sherry cobbler. September 16th: Nora Furst of the forthcoming Buddy Bar in San Francisco and beverage consultant with West Bev. Furst will create low-ABV, sessionable cocktails. September 23rd: Ron Boyd of Nightbird’s Linden Room in Hayes Valley will create light, seasonal cocktails. September 30th: Adam “Boots” Brogan, longtime San Francisco bar consultant, will focus on classic, San Francisco-inspired cocktails.

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Some of the popular brunch dishes at Cassava. Photo courtesy of Cassava.

A couple weeks ago, Outer Richmond’s ~CASSAVA~ co-owner Yuka Ioroi excitedly posted a sneak peek of their upcoming (and spacious) North Beach location, which is the former Trattoria Pinocchio (this is such a breath of fresh air, considering the crazed tirade the previous owner posted in the windows last year—ciao, pazzo).

Owners Yuka and her husband and chef Kristoffer Toliao are moving their neighborhood restaurant as part of their 10-year anniversary celebration, and plan to open in 2022. They just launched a WeFunder campaign, a “Kickstarter for investments” that allows the public to become angel investors (investors will receive a 1.5x repayment amount, plus special perks).

Here’s more about the fate of their current location from the press release: “After recent renovations, the current Cassava location in the Outer Richmond area plans to reopen later this fall, with reservations available for brunch. They will continue operating as normal there until the North Beach location opens, at which point the Outer Richmond location will be re-envisioned as a pop-up incubator with a rotating lineup of local foodservice concepts, a further testament to the creative tenacity of Ioroi and Toliao.” Stand by for updates in coming months. Go team go. 401 Columbus Ave. at Vallejo.

SF Chickenbox owner Christian Ciscle tweeted a few weeks ago that ~EL FAROLITO~ was going to be expanding their burrito empire and was coming to the former The House space at 1230 Grant Avenue. But this recent and in-depth post by Mission Local outlines how this opening is actually uncertain due to SF’s formula retail restrictions, ugh. We’ll need to wait and see what the Planning Department decides.

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[#]1 DB Douchebag Crab Fried Rice at Lily. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Lily’s dining room. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The fabulous midnight chocolate cake. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Some positive news to report, starting with this update that is rich with wok hei: ~LILY~ has brought back their now (in)famous #1 DB Douchebag Crab Fried Rice…but for a cause! I suggested the idea to chef Rob Lam (we’re good friends) that he should bring this hyped dish back for charity, and I’m so proud of the Lily team for making this happen. It’s priced at $500 per plate, but before you get mad, $400 from each dish sold will be donated to community-based partner organizations. YES! SF New Deal is the first recipient, a nonprofit that has provided support to small businesses and food-insecure residents during the pandemic.

Limited to just 10 orders per week, available on Wednesdays and Thursdays ONLY. You need to make a reservation for Wed or Thu dinner and you can pre-order it; there are just five available per night.

This extravagant fried rice is topped off with red king crab from Japan, eco-certified sturgeon caviar, wagyu beef, Hokkaido uni, Jidori egg yolk, and much more magic (including their black truffle XO sauce). Chef Lam says, “We did this as a joke! A stoned-out, bored-ass, pandemic gift. To soothe a takeout nation during the holidays. It was a two-week special! We never meant for this to take off! The dish isn’t even Vietnamese!!” It quickly became so popular that it was difficult for the Lily team to keep up with the orders—they had to remove the dish from their menu, but now, the douchebag is back…for a cause! Thanks to everyone who is putting their money where their mouth is, and helping our local community. Head to lilyonclement.com to book a reso.

A tablehopper reader reached out with a depressing photo of a letter from ~MR. AND MRS. MISCELLANEOUS~, announcing they were closing their Dogpatch ice cream shop after 11 years of scooping in the neighborhood. But great news: chef Deuki Hong and The Sunday Family team have taken over from former owner Annabelle Topacio, and are working with her to train their team on her recipes so some of her popular flavors live on. The location is now ~SUNDAY SOCIAL~, running Thu-Sun 12pm-7pm, and will officially relaunch in October (look for additions like espresso, as well as cookies, pie, brownies, and more). 699 22nd St. at 3rd St. [Via Eater]

Happy to see ~OUTERLANDS~ announce their plans to reopen for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, starting with a counter brunch service. They just had their first service this past weekend; hours will be Thu-Mon 9am-3pm. [Via Eater]

Down in Atherton, the swanky ~SELBY’S~ is reopening after months of serving family meals for takeout and a brief period of indoor dining, and they’re returning with a special $65 prix-fixe, three-course menu. Enjoy a wedge salad or their three-milk Robiola ravioli to start, followed by their fantastic chicken parmigiana or fennel coriander-crusted duck breast, with their truly magnificent midnight chocolate cake for dessert (I dream about that dessert). You can upgrade with caviar service and other fancy Continental dishes. There’s also a bar menu (with the famed Black Label burger). Dinner is Tue-Sat 5pm-9pm. 3001 El Camino Real, Atherton.

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Umami soup by Hisato Nakahigashi of Miyamasou. Instagram photo via @insitu_sfmoma.

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The original interior of the très petite (and très charmant) Le Marais Bakery on Chestnut. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Khao soi at Kin Khao. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Some unfortunate closures have rolled through, starting with ~IN SITU~ at SFMOMA, which completed their five-year term at the museum (bummer about that last year, thanks for nothing, Ms. Rona). An email shared, “It was an honor to learn from some of the most innovative, talented, and influential chefs in the world and represent them here in San Francisco,” and cited they served “over 100 dishes spanning more than 25 countries, 20 U.S cities, and almost 50 years.” You can read a personal note from chef Corey Lee here.

Baguette and croissant lovers are dismayed over the news that ~LE MARAIS BAKERY~ is being forced to close their flagship Chestnut Street location in late October, after ten years in the Marina. In an email (as well as in this Instagram post), owner Patrick Ascaso mentions issues with their new landlord (and failed negotiations over the past two years), and how tragic it is to close their beloved location, especially after putting so much into it—it’s such a vibrant part of the neighborhood. Yesterday, I was sent a petition to Keep Le Marais Bakery in the Marina posted by one of their customers, here’s hoping it helps them find a way to stay. For now, they are open daily 7am-5pm. Their other locations in the Castro, Mill Valley, and the commissary on Sutter are still open. (You can also find their frozen croissants at Williams Sonoma, the sales of which have supported their bakery through the pandemic.) 2066 Chestnut St. at Steiner.

After nine years in Hayes Valley, owners Roberth and Andrea Sundell of the Swedish ~PLÄJ~ have decided to close the restaurant. In a farewell note on Instagram, they say: “We were very excited and hopeful when planning our reopening. Unfortunately, the reality of the current environment has created a scenario that we can not sustain.” Sadly, this is a common refrain. Stockhome, their sister restaurant in Petaluma, will remain open.

After a year in Dogpatch, Pim Techamuanvivit has closed the offshoot location of ~KIN KHAO~, partly because Restaurant Revitalization Funds were rescinded by the SBA from minority- and women-owned businesses (no thanks to white male business owners who filed discrimination lawsuits, assholes). Techamuanvivit will reportedly still be reopening the original location in the Parc 55 Hotel at some point.

After 30 years on Union Street, ~PANE E VINO~ has closed its doors—you can read their farewell note on their site. Best wishes to chef Bruno Quercini (who is reportedly retiring). (Thanks to eagle-eyed reader Leslie G. for the tip.) 715 Union St. at Gough.

August 10, 2021
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Sneak peek of a starter from Restaurant Nisei’s tasting menu. Instagram photo via @restaurantnisei.

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Sfogliatelle at Antonio’s Italian Pastries. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Trans visibility is on the menu at Fluid Cooperative Cafe at La Cocina Municipal Marketplace. Instagram photo by @engvinny.

Quick heads up that ~RESTAURANT NISEI~ is planning to open in their brand-new Russian Hill location (previously La Folie) on August 18th, and they have released reservations to try their 12-course tasting menu ($157) that explores Japanese, homestyle, washoku cuisine with California seasonality and ingredients. Stand by for more details in my next newsletter, but if you ever went to chef David Yoshimura’s Oji pop-up, you’ll be excited to book a meal. Vaccinated guests only. Open Wed-Sun 5pm-9pm. 2316 Polk St. at Green.

Another tidbit: next door, the team is opening Bar Iris, a Japanese-influenced cocktail bar with cocktails by bar manager Ilya Romanov (previously Niku), which is coming soon—enjoy a sneak peek here.

According to a tweet from supervisor Matt Haney, the historic ~CATHAY HOUSE~ in Chinatown is now softly open from owners Jaynry Mak and Eric Chung, who opened ~DIM SUM CORNER~ on the ground floor back in 2019. Cathay House is reportedly starting with dim sum service—since Dim Sum Corner uses recipes developed by Koi Palace, and some of the items, like the dumplings, are actually supplied by Koi Palace’s commercial kitchen, it makes me wonder if it will be the same story for Cathay House (one can only hope!). I reached out for more info and will update you when I hear back. Haney mentions, “It’ll be a daytime and nighttime food venue, banquet hall and bar.” I look forward to seeing the vintage round bar and lounge back in action. 718 California St. at Grant.

Just a few days ago, I visited Tony Gemignani’s Toscano Brothers Bakery (and Dago Bagel) in North Beach to check out his latest addition to the lineup: ~ANTONIO’S ITALIAN PASTRIES~. He’s collaborating with the talented pastry chef Lisa Lu, who has been a regular in the neighborhood for years, and is head pastry chef. She brings her extensive pedigree (Boulevard, Michael Mina, Jardinière, and Quince) and well-honed skills, adding a number of fun and delicious Italian-inspired treats to the bakery case.

You can’t miss the Italian rainbow cookie (get more than one, trust me), with fragrant almond cake, raspberry jam, and 
chocolate, and there’s also a spumoni shortbread cookie, with vanilla and little panes of Italian candied cherry and 
pistachio. 
They have two versions of sfogliatella: with an apricot-lemon-mascarpone filling (using old-school squeeze-pit Blenheims) and nocciolata (an organic cocoa and hazelnut 
spread). While I will continue to pine for the lightly orange-scented and ricotta-filled sfogliatella from my favorite pasticceria in Rende (Calabria), these were tasty, with a great textural contrast between the filling and layers of pastry.

There are filled-to-order cannoli (dipped in pistachio, chocolate chip, or rainbow sprinkles)—be sure to eat them soon after ordering them—and you’ll find a lovely seasonal tart with perfect vanilla custard and fresh fruit. Don’t skip Tony’s favorite, the budino: butterscotch and toffee pudding with Johnnie Walker Red Scotch, with flaky chocolate 
crunch, olive oil ganache, and topped with Chantilly cream, a really special treat full of layers of flavor for just $6. 
Open Thu-Sun 8am-3pm. 728 Vallejo St. at Stockton.

There’s a new coffee pop-up in the La Cocina Municipal Marketplace called ~FLUID COOPERATIVE CAFE~, from a trio of trans founders: Shannon Amitin, JoJo Ty, and Santana Tapia. They’re serving coffee from queer-owned roasters, plus some speciality drinks, along with pastry pairings from La Cocina entrepreneurs. (This project makes me so happy to be a San Franciscan.) Be sure to read this in-depth piece from Peter-Astrid Kane on SFGATE about this trailblazing project. Can’t wait to swing by for a cuppa. Open Mon-Fri 8am-2:30pm (enter through the 332 Golden Gate Ave. door).

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The standing bar (in the background). Photo by Robin Stein.

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New dishes, drinks, and bubbles await at the relaunched Black Cat. Photo: Eric Wolfinger.

After a pandemic season of changes, from running their takeout window to collaborative meals like Lord Jiu’s, ~LORD STANLEY~’s husband-and-wife owners and chefs Rupert and Carrie Blease are transforming the restaurant into Turntable at Lord Stanley this fall. They are going to host world-renowned and up-and-coming chefs to collaborate, try out new concepts, or simply cook for a new audience—chefs can be in residence for up to two months at a time, and the Bleases will take them to local farmers’ markets and provide housing. They’re partnering with Michael Goldman, founder of TasteMakers, known for facilitating culinary collaborations and events, including Chefs Club in New York, Aspen, and Taipei.

First up, starting September 7th is Narda Lepes of Narda Comedor, an Argentinian chef, entrepreneur, media personality, food activist, and author who was named “Latin America’s Best Female Chef” by the World’s 50 Best list in 2020. Lepes is bringing with her three other outstanding female Argentinian chefs who will each spend about a month showcasing their menus in the Turntable space between September and the end of November, including Micaela Najmanovich, owner of restaurant Anafe, and chef Mercedes “Mecha” Solís of Café San Juan. Saturday, September 4th will be the final service of Lord Stanley as it has existed for the last six years. Cheers to this new chapter and thanks to the Bleases.

Chef Michael Mina is closing his namesake restaurant and this September is launching ~ESTIATORIO ORNOS A MICHAEL MINA RESTAURANT~ in its place, a Greek, seafood-centric restaurant with Las Vegas chefs Girair “Jerry” Goumroian (Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare, Restaurant Guy Savoy and RM Seafood) and Nikolaos Georgousis (Estiatorio Milos). Mina already opened Estiatorio Ornos in Miami in 2020, and the “fish sommelier” role is coming over to this location as well. The transformation of 252 California will feel like a return to the space’s AQUA days, with a vibrant bar, coastal aesthetic, and Grecian color palette.

The shareable, seafood-centric menu will include dishes like Mediterranean sea bass ceviche with lemon citronette; ouzo prawns in a spicy tomato sauce with dill and feta; and an array of fish on the cart, from sea bream to wild branzino. There will also be roasted lemon chicken with Cretan potatoes, grilled Colorado lamb chops with oregano vinaigrette, and a “spread cart” showcasing dips such as tzatziki, melitzanosalata (roasted eggplant), and tirokafteri (whipped feta). The cocktail menu and wine list will also reflect the new direction. 252 California St. at Battery (just four blocks away from Kokkari).

Over in the Tenderloin, Fritz Quattlebaum has relaunched the ~BLACK CAT~ jazz club and restaurant, with a new team, menu, beverage program, and artist programming, now featuring multi-week residencies (the current lineup features jazz trumpeters Theo Croker, Maurice “Mobetta” Brown, and Keyon Harrold). I have always had a blast visiting the club, and am happy to see it return.

You can look at chef Yainiel Negrón’s menu here (previously at Commonwealth and the Proper Hotel), and sommelier/AGM Eric Forbes (previously Foreign Cinema) has assembled quite the grower-producer and vintage Champagne list. Craft cocktails are from Jason Moser (Villon and the Proper Hotel, Forgery, and Ne Timeas Restaurant Group), clocking in at $18 each, so don’t forget your plastic. There’s also the upstairs dining room and bar, featuring nightly DJs spinning vinyl. Proof of vaccination required for entry.

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The interior of Linden & Laguna. Photo via L&L’s website.

Back in June, I mentioned ~LINDEN & LAGUNA~ was taking over the former The Riddler, and it’s now softly open. Owner Chris Nickolopoulos (of Maritime Wine Trading Collective, a boutique wine import, production, and distribution company based in San Francisco) has updated the space which feels a bit more masculine, but is still cozy and neighborhood-y. There are tables inside and out front.

The wine list features independent, family-produced wines, with a few well-known local beers on draught. He tapped Pesha Perlsweig to consult on the extensive menu, which includes seasonal, Californian, and Mediterranean dishes, like sherried wild mushroom and fresh mozzarella flatbread with lemon-thyme oil; brandade gratinée toast with arugula and pickled shallot salad; Marin Miyagi oysters with mignonette; chicken, kale, and white bean soup with lemon and yogurt; and lamb chop lollipops with thyme-garlic sauce. You can check out the menu and wine list online. Hours are Wed-Thu 4pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 4pm-12am, Sun 12pm-7pm. 528 Laguna St. at Linden.

Before leaving town, I noticed this thoughtful post from co-owner Angel Davis of Fig & Thistle Market in the Castro, announcing its transformation to ~MILLAY~, which will be less of a bottle shop, and more of “a wine and sake focused bar, you will still be able to buy bottles to go online or in person if you need to, but our focus will be experience within the space.” Read the post for more, it’s a beautiful homage to business partner Nguey Lay’s family legacy in the space (the famed M&L Market). Fig & Thistle in Hayes Valley remains as is (except with killer pizza now). Open Mon and Wed-Thu 4pm-9pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm, Sun 2pm-8pm. 691 14th St. at Market.

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Town Hall’s new outdoor plaza seating. Photo courtesy of Town Hall Restaurant.

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Uma Casa’s cheerful seaside-like interior.

I was happy to receive the email about Patricia Unterman’s ~HAYES STREET GRILL~’s reopening, serving lunch Friday 11:30am-2:30pm and dinner 5pm-9pm, an all-day menu Sat 11:30am-5pm and then dinner until 9pm, and Sun 12pm-6pm—they’re also opening for performance nights on Thursdays, so check their website for updates. Their entire staff is vaccinated and anyone who dines indoors is requested to be fully vaccinated—otherwise, there are sidewalk tables placed along the warm, south-facing front of the building. Also nice: Hayes Street from Franklin to Laguna is closed to traffic on Friday nights and all day Saturday and Sunday through August. 320 Hayes St. at Franklin.

Great news: ~TOWN HALL~ is back with their awesome lunch (including their famous fried chicken in a sandwich) and weekend brunch service (hello, eggs Benedict with their buttermilk biscuits and fab Bloody Mary). They plan to expand the menu and hours as things ramp up. For now, lunch is Thu-Fri 11:30am-2pm, brunch Sat-Sun 11am-3pm, and dinner service continues Tue-Sat 5pm-9pm.

Exciting news at ~UMA CASA~: chef-owner Telmo Faria tells me they’re getting their liquor license, and his wife Jessi Graham will be launching a Portuguese-centric cocktail program in a couple weeks (she was bar lead/manager at Pearl 6101 for two years). More on this soon!

We could all use some happy, and ~CAUSWELLS~ in the Marina just launched a happy hour Tue-Fri 4pm-6pm and Sat-Sun 3pm-5pm (weekend happy hour rocks). The menu includes their Americana burger sliders ($4.50 each), classic deviled eggs ($2.50 each), and more, with $6 glasses and $24 bottles of red, white, and rosé offerings, as well as $4 canned beers, and specialty cocktails ($9), including strawberry slushies, house Margaritas, and seasonal spritzes. 

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The Sunset Squares slice shop on Divisadero. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

A quick follow-up from my previous post about things happening in the Namu Restaurant Group. I wasn’t given clearance to write about it before I left, but the brothers converted the former Namu Stonepot on Divisadero into a stealth Sunset Squares pizza shop, offering both their square and round pizzas by the slice or pie (they kept the signage generic, so let’s just say if you know, you know). Last night, my deadline dinner was a slice of their new clam chowder square, and their spicy pepperoni round (the crust had great texture and heft and flavor). Let’s just say I am extremely stoked to have a quality slice in the neighborhood.

Sadly, things didn’t work out for their original ~NAMU GAJI~ concept and space on Dolores Park—in a recent IG post, they announced their closure, and that they are focusing on Sunset Squares Pizza Beer Hall in SoMa (which is where some Namu Stonepot dishes live on). You can read more about the pandemic-related landlord difficulties in this Eater piece.

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The sourdough pastrami sandwich from Hot Johnnie’s. Yelp photo by Jessica S.

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Sweet heat pineapple pizza from JoyRide Pizza. Yelp photo by Jarred M..

Hoodline announced that ~HOT JOHNNIE’S~ is now open in the former Nizario’s Pizza in the Castro (and an adjoining space), slinging house-smoked pastrami sandwiches (for $20 a pop—at that price, I’d love to at least see on the menu where chef-owner Jonathan Young is sourcing the beef; but then again, the vegan “Unreal” Ruben is $18, soooo…it’s just SF), plus a pastrami fried chicken sandwich, pastrami nachos, tacos, and other dishes on the menu. Beer and wine are coming. There’s also a surprisingly spacious patio in the back. Open Sun, Tue-Wed 11:30am-5pm and Thu-Sat 11:30am-9pm. 4077 18th St. at Castro.

The former Tyger’s Café has reopened as ~GLEN PARK CAFÉ~ from owners Damon Victorson and his wife, Ellie—Damon’s mother owns the building, and it ends up “Mario, who cooked at Tyger’s for years, remains in the kitchen, but the menu is new.” Read more in the Glen Park Association post. Open Wed-Sun 8am-2:30pm. 2798 Diamond St. at Chenery.

Congrats to ~SWEET GLORY~, a dessert pop-up that recently opened their brick-and-mortar location in the Tenderloin. I have been eyeballing their roll cakes, crepe cakes, and cream puffs for too long. Open Mon-Fri 9am-6pm and Sat-Sun 9:30am-6pm. 721 Larkin St. at Ellis.

The former Mo’z (previously The Corner Store) across from Target on Geary is now ~THE HOUSE OF HUMMUS~, featuring six kinds of hummus, wraps, Mediterranean tacos, and platters; (menu here). 5 Masonic Ave. at Geary.

Another Mediterranean spot is ~THE BITE~ in SoMa, a vegan-friendly spot offering salads, rice bowls, hummus, and wraps, and serving late. Open Mon-Tue 11am-10pm, Wed-Sat 11am-2am, Sun 11am-9pm. 996 Mission St. at 6th St.

The former Samovar locations in Yerba Buena and the Mission are now ~JOYRIDE PIZZA~, serving six kinds of Detroit-style pizza for dine-in, parklet or patio dining, pickup, and delivery. Yerba Buena Gardens: 730 Howard St., open 12pm-8pm; 411 Valencia St., 12pm-9pm (hours may vary).