The Chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)
July 7, 2020
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Crudo Calabrese (salmon, halibut, scallops). All photos: © tablehopper.com.

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The exterior at the end of the night.

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Lobster ravioli in a tomato, cream, and brandy sauce.

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Rigatoni with octopus, ‘nduja, and tomato sauce.

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Classic San Francisco-style cioppino.

Restaurateur Francesco Covucci (Il Casaro, Barbara) and his business partner Peter Fazio have decided to transform their two-year-old Pasta Pop-Up location in North Beach into a San Francisco seafood restaurant and retail market: ~CALIFORNIA FISH MARKET RESTAURANT~. It’s exactly the kind of quality and fairly priced SF seafood experience any visitor to North Beach would be thrilled to discover (it’s more elusive than it should be in this town), and one that locals will have plenty to return for, whether they’re coming by for squid ink spaghetti with squid, clams, and cherry tomatoes (fortunately, this dish is a holdover from the Pasta Pop-Up menu) or buying some freshly caught halibut to bring home for dinner.

I went on Friday night for their soft-opening, and the location is in the middle of the lively street party that Green Street has transformed into. It is a SCENE, complete with low-riders and even the fire truck ringing its bell hello as it drove by Gino & Carlo’s. There are shielded tables under a canopy in front of the restaurant (there are heat lamps!), and they’ve also taken over a parking space in front with fake grass and socially distant tables that are partially shielded under Lettieri & Co. pop-up tents (which I have been happy to see all over North Beach—way to support your restaurant accounts!).

Covucci was inspired to help our local fishermen by offering a seafood-heavy menu and market since the demand from restaurants is way down and suppliers are hurting. The menu offers a combination of classic SF seafood preparations, some Italian dishes (there are nine pasta options), and a few Italian-American items to keep those out-of-towners happy (fettuccine Alfredo, I’m looking at you).

You can start with some quality oysters (my first oysters in almost four months, it was a moment). There are choice Miyagi, Shigoku, Kusshi, and Kumamoto oysters, shucked beautifully, and the crudo Calabrese comes with an option of halibut, scallops, salmon, or a combo for $27 (similar to the off-the-menu Sicilian sashimi plate at Swan Oyster Depot).

Some other SF classic starters include crab, prawn, or Spanish octopus cocktail; salads like bay shrimp or crab Louie; and there’s also some fantastic and deftly prepared grilled calamari ($11), with the option of grilled prawns, or spicy baby Spanish octopus stew, or sautéed mussels and clams, or fried Monterey squid, prawns, and zucchini. I like how simply prepared the dishes are, allowing the freshness of the seafood to shine (in true Italian style), and the menu is pretty extensive.

It will be hard to resist the sexy whistle (oh yoooohooooo) from the lobster ravioli in a tomato, cream, and brandy sauce ($21.95), and the rigatoni with octopus, ‘nduja, and tomato sauce ($21.95) let me pretend I was in a seaside town in Calabria for a hot second. I’ll be back for the linguine alle vongole (always a fave) and bucatini with bottarga (both $21.50).

Main courses include local salmon, halibut, a mixed grilled selection, and our SF trademark: cioppino ($39)—it’s a hearty portion you’ll want to share, a tomato broth topped with mussels, clams, scallops, calamari, shrimp, rock fish, and crab (perfect for our foggy summer weather). It’s tough to get all the seafood timed right, but everything was tender and just right. There are also a couple sandwiches ($14-$16): spicy octopus or fried fish (cod) on ciabatta, along with beer-battered fish and chips ($19), if you’re looking for a casual lunch.

The wine list has plenty of seafood-friendly Italian whites and six sparkling choices (of course, I’m happy with that), Italian reds, and some low-ABV Italian cocktails, including a spritz and Negroni Sbagliato, or a Michelada to go with your oysters.

The retail part is just ramping up: you can get oysters by the dozen, king salmon, Dungeness crab meat, whole rock fish, white shrimp, scallops, and more. Fresh pasta is coming soon.

Seafood is such a special treat, especially when you’re in North Beach at a restaurant that cares about quality and sustainability, and it’s one of those things many people prefer someone else prepare for them. Well, here’s your new spot. Open Tue-Sun 5pm-10pm. 550 Green St. at Stockton, 415-757-0918.

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The interior at Nopalito Sunset. Photo via Nopalito’s Facebook page.

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Petit Crenn during the daytime. Photo via Facebook.

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The whimsical new design at Indian Paradox from Lorena Zertuche. Honk honk! Photo: Grace Sager Photography.

I really hate to start reporting on permanent closures, but it’s happening, and will continue to do so in these brutal times. In case you missed the news elsewhere, our dear ~NOPALITO~ has decided to close their Sunset location on Ninth Street since catering business has dried up, and that was a big part of the location’s output. They’re moving their kitchen to the 18 Reasons space in the Mission to keep up the production of their take-home kits and to be ready when catering starts to return. Within a month, they will be offering carnitas tacos and more for takeout (how handy, they’re just by Dolores Park) through the Bi-Rite Creamery soft-serve ice cream window. You can read more in this Hoodline piece. Fortunately, the original Broderick Street location remains open for takeout and delivery.

Dominique Crenn has decided to temporarily close ~PETIT CRENN~ in Hayes Valley until 2021. In an Instagram post, she announced, “In the meantime, we are thrilled to be partnered with @rethinkfood.nyc and utilizing this kitchen to help feed the hungry. Stay tuned for popup announcements and invitations to come out and support.” I’m curious to see what other local kitchens convert to this model…

I checked in with Kavitha Raghavan of ~INDIAN PARADOX~, the Indian street food wine bar on Divisadero, and sadly she does not see a path to reopening with such a tiny space, so she has made the hard decision to close the business. It makes me so sad to see the special place she worked so hard to create, her dream, have to close. Kavitha (and chef Maribel Palomo!), thank you so much for all the heartfelt meals and wine discoveries for the past four-plus years, and offering our city a cozy little place that felt so personal. I loved sitting at your bar, and was so in love with the recent update from Lorena Zertuche…all that color. You will be missed! (And your eggs akuri, and bhel puri, and chile cheese toast.) Gah, this is making me cry. With love and thanks! Thank you for following your heart and dream! You created a unique experience that only you could do. 258 Divisadero St. at Haight.

Over in the Tenderloin, Juanita More let me know about a couple closures in her neighborhood: ~TOWN CUTLER~ has reportedly closed their location at 1005 Bush St. (More did a collaborative Pride 2020 knife set with them, pink handles and all), but you can still visit their Reno store or work with them via the mail. More news: neighborhood stalwart ~THEM KY~—known for its affordable and authentic homestyle Vietnamese dishes, along with some Chinese dishes and combo plates—has closed after 27 years. I hope they can enjoy their retirement, that is quite a run. 717 Ellis St. at Larkin.

A change-up is coming to ~EKO KITCHEN~ in August: owner Simileoluwa Adebajo is going to be leaving her first brick-and-mortar location in SoMa and moving to a new location in the Mission in August, and only offering delivery, online ordering, and pick-up. (Be sure to order from her in the meantime.) San Francisco’s only Nigerian restaurant will be at 160 14th St. at S. Van Ness.

I was so sorry to see ~OLD JERUSALEM~ suffered a fire just before the Fourth of July, and illegal fireworks are the potential culprit. And this, after they just recently moved locations, ugh. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but they’ve posted a GoFundMe to help support their employees as they will be closed for several months to repair the roof and water damage. 2966 Mission St. at 26th St.

Across the Bay, Nosh has the story behind the closure of the Indigenous ~CAFE OHLONE~ due to the closure of Berkeley’s 46-year-old University Press Books (the restaurant hosted its special gatherings on the back patio). They’re going to be looking for another location, and hope to launch a takeout box in the fall.

June 23, 2020
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The interior of ICHI Kakiya, which is once again ICHI Sushi. Photo by Darren Samuelson.

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The Archuletas, Tim and Erin, of ICHI Sushi. Photo via their GoFundMe page.

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An initial look inside the in-progress Roma’s in SoMa. Photo courtesy of Matt Leum.

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SF Chicken Box bounty. Instagram photo via @sfchickenbox.

Wanted to share a variety of updates with you. First, after almost 10 years in Bernal/La Lengua, our dear ~ICHI SUSHI~ is not coming back from the citywide coronavirus-shutdown, which started in March. I spoke with the much-adored owners and chef Tim and Erin Archuleta, and sadly they have made the decision to sell since they just don’t see a path to reopening soon (as many regulars know, Tim had a health scare a few years ago, and won’t be able to have close contact with the public as long as this virus is in our midst). They’re already missing everyone, and will be greatly missed—ICHI was like a sushi clubhouse, with so many dedicated fans and friends, and a wonderful team. They have seen so many proposals, reunions, parties, and breakups. I’m raising a shot of Underberg (with Girl Talk blasting).

They’re hoping to find someone to pass the torch too—it’s a funky and unique space, and is perfect for the right taker (the neighborhood location is fantastic, and they have a nice landlord, too). Whether it’s someone who wants to continue the sushi lineage, or do meal kits, or open a deli, there are options. Thanks for all the memories, wonderful meals, hospitality, big laughs, and fantastic sushi, damn! Best wishes, to your health, kanpai! 3369 Mission St. at Godeus.

I was also sorry to read that after 21 years in the Mission, one of our city’s few German restaurants, ~WALZWERK~, has closed (via Eater). Owner Christiane Schmidt posted a farewell note on their website. And so, we say goodbye to another eclectic and quirky SF spot that was affordable and lively and delicious—it will be missed. 381 South Van Ness Ave. at 15th St.

And now for some positive news: there will be a new restaurant opening in the former La Briciola in SoMa at the end of July called ~ROMA’S~, from first-time restaurant owner Matt Leum (you may have read the Hoodline article about it). For those of you who know your Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence well, the restaurant is in fact named in honor of Sister Roma, a very good friend of Matt’s—they met 34 years ago at The Stud. He also remembers when the location used to be Ruby’s Pizzeria, a popular late-night spot after hitting the bars, so he’s excited to be taking over the location.

What’s wild is he closed escrow on March 27th, just two weeks after the stay at home order, so it’s quite an adventure to be opening a new restaurant during this time and at diminished capacity (no thanks to Miss Rona), but he’s optimistic: “I’m not bringing the mentality about the way it used to be—it’s all new to me, it’s my new reality!” He has been working with consultants, and has been busy updating, renovating, and rearranging the 49-seat restaurant—he plans to offer around 28-32 seats max to start, with flexible tables and seating, which includes spaced seats at the bar. He’s also applying for outdoor seating.

Matt is interviewing chef candidates right now, and plans on offering farm-to-table Italian, starting with lunch service with panini, salads, and box lunches that are easy to bring to work; dinner service will come later. He wants to create an inclusive space, where everyone is welcome (look for the rainbow flag), and will be highlighting local art on the walls. This is a passion project—he loves people and Italian cuisine and looks forward to welcoming everyone to Roma’s soon. In the meantime, he’s selling some gift cards to help get them over the initial financial hump since he wasn’t eligible for PPP or SBA loans. I’ll keep you posted on the opening. 489 3rd St. at Bryant.

Mission residents will be pleased to hear Christian Ciscle is moving his ~SF CHICKENBOX~ from inside Trademark in SoMa to the Mission. He’s moving into the draft and bottle shop, The Brew Coop (the name is fitting), and is going to open on July 1st, just in time for the Fourth of July. You’ll be able to enjoy some of the best fried chicken in the city, which includes his chicken boxes, a fried chicken sandwich, and don’t forget those mochi muffins. Their last day on Folsom Street is this Saturday June 26th. 819 Valencia St. at 19th St.

Over in North Beach, Tony Gemignani’s ~CAPO’S~ has changed its focus from Chicago deep dish and cracker-thin pizza to now include trendy Detroit square-style pizza, which he was originally serving at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. Detroit pizzas are cooked in 10” x 14” Detroit steel pans and come topped with Wisconsin brick mozzarella cheese, white cheddar, tomato sauce, and garlic butter, with toasted corners, and finished with pecorino, oregano, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil. His longtime teammate and fellow World Pizza Champion, chef Laura Meyer, is leading the Capo’s update, adding new pizzas, more small plates, pasta, and local beers. Outdoor dining is available Sun, Wed-Thu 4:30pm-9:30pm and Fri-Sat 4:30pm-10pm. 641 Vallejo St. at Stockton.

June 17, 2020
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Panorama shot of The Vault Garden. Photo courtesy of Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group.

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The sunny patch of the plaza around 2:30pm. Photos: © tablehopper.com.

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The Horta Labyrinth.

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XO baked clams.

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Latke tots from Schmaltz, with smoked trout roe and crème fraîche.

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The Vault burger.

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Another seating area on the plaza.

Monday was the first time I ate (outside) in a restaurant in three months, with a best friend I haven’t seen in person for that long, and I gotta say, it felt pretty damn good. But my decision to dine out wasn’t a snap one—there are a number of things I’ve been weighing in my mind for the past week, as we were on the brink of last Friday’s opening of outdoor dining in San Francisco. As someone who has been extremely conscientious of following the stay-at-home order, I have barely seen anyone in person the past 90 days (besides my family and two good friends) for more than a quick transaction (usually a food hand-off, goddess bless).

I know many folks have been chomping at the bit to return to restaurants, to sit outside and eat oysters and pizza and tacos and cacio e pepe with all their friends and feel human again. But, um, we are still in the midst of a pandemic, and the rush to socialize with groups worries me immensely about what this will mean in a month for our local case numbers. I’m sticking with a plus-one or two for now, and that’s about it.

Personally, my greatest fear is being an asymptomatic carrier and getting any of my beloveds sick. So, when partner Ryan Cole of the Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group (The Vault, Trestle, Corridor) invited me to a test luncheon at their new outdoor concept, ~THE VAULT GARDEN~, in the 555 California Street Plaza (formerly Bank of America Center), I quickly had to consider: who can I even invite to come with me? Who do I feel safe dining with? It’s a two-way street.

And then there’s the part of me that honestly feels a twinge of sadness with every photo I see of a server wearing a mask, talking to a table of guests with no masks on. Obviously, it’s impossible to eat with a mask on, and it’s outside, and servers keep their distance, but still, there’s something about the disparity of safety and exposure that makes me feel bad inside. Any time a server approached our table, I tried to get my mask on, or would stop talking when they were clearing or setting dishes so they didn’t have to be exposed to any additional droplets (and I tend to laugh a lot, so I’m trying to have more awareness). I bring this up because we should all be extra-conscientious, extra-kind, extra-careful, extra-grateful, and extra-patient right now. I can’t imagine the stress servers are going through, so treat them like family. Ask how they’re doing, how are they feeling? We need to humanize this experience as much as we can. Restaurants are trying to do the best they can in this new normal. And it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: tip well.

I said to Ryan, the only reason I attended The Vault Garden luncheon was because I trusted his careful and detailed nature (they even worked with an outside consultant on safety protocol). I was confident they would have thought through the entire experience as much as possible—and they have. Upon arrival to the plaza, you can use some hand sanitizer when you check in (since you probably had to press a button for your parking ticket and elevator, I’d say use it). As you may already know: you have to be wearing a mask upon arrival and until you are seated at your table (and any time you get up).

Not to be TMI, but I know many of us have concerns about using bathrooms and elevators. My tactic has been to go just before I leave my house and grab my keys, and personally, I’m just trying to hold it until I get home (thanks to years of clubbing and festivals, I can go the distance). And since downtown is super-quiet, I didn’t encounter anyone in the elevator from the garage (limit is two people). The building also asks you to respect a six-step distance rule on the escalator to the plaza level.

The location is truly stunning—it’s so cool to be seated under one of the largest skyscrapers in the city, in a plaza smack-dab in the center of the Financial District. It’s a new perspective to be able to sit and enjoy it. The tables are far apart, some much more than six feet—it’s beyond expansive. The 100-seat/30-table dining area is enclosed with hedges and topiary, and feels like an urban garden. It’s also a breezy part of town, but they have heat lamps and single-use blankets and pocket warmers for you. If you sit long enough, you can play a game with the sun, which will peek through the buildings at certain times.

When you take your seat, there’s a one-time-use paper card that explains what to expect: that if you want water, a carafe will be brought to your table, and it’s up to you to pour for yourself; you’ll have one set of silverware, a share plate, and napkin to use throughout the meal, and they’ll change it out upon request; please put your mask back on when getting up from the table, and respect a six-foot bubble for others. (When your silverware arrives rolled up in a napkin, I would rest your silverware on the share plate, not the table.)

There’s also a QR code on the “what to expect” card, which you can scan and it will bring up the menu on your phone if you don’t want to touch the single-use paper menu. (It’s a good idea to download a QR reader for your phone, we’re going to be seeing a bunch of these. If you have an iPhone, you can just open your camera like you’re taking a photo of the code, and it should trigger a page in Safari that will open the QR link.)

Chef Robin Song has created an approachable, eclectic, and affordable menu that works well with the summer patio dining feel. His famed Parker House rolls are on the menu, and do not miss the XO baked clams, gorgeous Manila clams ($9) spiked with housemade XO and fennel oil; the fried shishito peppers ($9) get taken to the next level with a creamy tonnato sauce. Oysters, yay, you can get six for $21, with yuzu kosho mignonette.

Some of you may remember me telling you about The Incubator Series, the new collection of pop-up concepts operating out of Corridor from Hi Neighbor team members. You’ll see some of their dishes on the menu as well, like ceviche from Ines ($16), and latke tots from Schmaltz you garnish with smoked trout roe and crème fraîche ($19). Song even gives a nod to his own JunJu concept with the chile dipping sauce with the lemon pepper fried calamari ($16).

The garden cocktails are from Kaitlin Ryan of Atta Girl Hospitality, so you can try the Right on Thyme ($11) with sesame if you saw my Instagram post about that one, and I enjoyed starting with the Horta Labyrinth ($11), with Mahon gin, Lo-Fi Gentian, Aperol, cava, and grapefruit. They built a bar outside, so you get your drinks quickly (the food has to undertake a bit of a journey from the downstairs kitchen, and dishes are shielded with cloches en route.) There are 11 wines by the glass, or you can scan the QR code for the full bottle list from Lucas Bierbower.

Since some of these dishes require eating with your hands, I say give you and your dining partner’s paws a little hand sani spritz before you begin since you’ve been touching a few things. I’d also be aware of using serving utensils (instead of your own silverware) when sharing dishes (unless, of course, you have been living together and/or making out).

Summertime is in full swing on the menu, with a stone fruit salad ($17) with peaches, cherries, and smoked ricotta. The sashimi rice salad ($24) comes with cubes of halibut, salmon, and tuna, with tobiko and a side of feisty gochujang you can dollop on for a little kick. Chef Song is known for his double-patty Vault burger ($19), an upgraded, luxe Big Mac with awesome, rich beef, housemade American cheese with Fiscalini cheddar for optimal meltiness, and a spicy secret sauce that is like a Thousand Island with sriracha. The fries are killer. You can also go for their fish tacos, salmon with panzanella, or a New York steak.

The team is working on launching a fun “rosé garden” experience on the weekends, with a DJ and a lounge-y seating area (that is still socially distanced). They’re hoping the unique environment will draw people downtown (instead of the crowded sidewalks all over the city). The validated parking is a big bonus: you can park for $5 all day on the weekend (during the week is $18 max, and $5 after 5pm). Reservations open now; hours are Tue-Sun 12pm-7pm. 555 California St. at Kearny.

Be careful out there, everyone. Respect each other’s space, please wear your mask, wash your mitts, don’t crowd, be nice. Stay healthy and well.

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Thank you for not using Grubhub. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

On Friday June 12th, the first day Mayor Breed allowed San Francisco restaurants to offer outdoor dining service, many SF restaurants who use Grubhub as a delivery service may have received an email notice about their delivery, marketing, and pick-up order commission fees increasing. After calling out on Twitter for submissions, I received a number of emails from restaurants with rate increase emails from Grubhub, some up to 20 percent.

This is doubly infuriating: not only did Grubhub choose to deliberately misinterpret our Mayor’s Emergency Order, which capped all delivery commission fees at 15 percent until the Stay Safe at Home Order is lifted and indoor dining resumes, but like jackals over a fresh kill of a starving animal, decided to welcome our poor beleaguered restaurants’ first (and early!) day of outdoor service with a fee increase. They couldn’t even wait until June 15th, the original day outdoor service was slated to resume. I reached out to Grubhub to inquire why defied the order, but have not heard back.

I have been in touch with executive director of the GGRA (Golden Gate Restaurant Association) Laurie Thomas over the weekend about this, and on Sunday she informed me the Mayor has updated the Stay at Home Order in regards to the third-party food delivery commission cap to be abundantly clear: “That order terminates when the Stay Safe At Home Order is amended or modified to allow dine-in service. For the avoidance of doubt, the Mayor now issues the order below to clarify that the order terminates when the Stay Safe At Home Order is amended or modified to allow indoor dining.”

So, if your restaurant received a commission fee increase, write to Grubhub and get any additional fees they charged you this past weekend credited back and your commission fees reverted since they are in violation of the Stay Safe at Home Order terms. I’d also see about ending your contract with this disgusting leech of a company.

Readers, please don’t use Grubhub. Call the restaurant directly and try to pick up food when and if possible—Grubhub even charges a commission if you use their platform to pick up food. And be sure it’s the restaurant’s actual phone number—refer to the restaurant’s website to be sure—and not a Grubhub-generated phone number, which can appear in Google search results and will lead to Grubhub charging a commission fee from the call (read more in this BuzzFeed News article here). And don’t forget Grubhub’s fake restaurant listings, promoting restaurants on their platform that don’t even offer delivery and doing so without their permission. Their shady business practices know no bounds.

UPDATE: And another thing: restaurants, be sure to regularly audit your menu page on Grubhub and check the pricing. A friend pointed out to me that Grubhub raised prices of a restaurant’s menu items and pocketed the extra percentage (she called the restaurant to confirm when she noticed the price difference, and they were not aware of the price increase). So, not only as a consumer are you paying more than if you ordered directly from the restaurant, but the restaurant may not even know about the padded pricing. And Grubhub is still charging their commission fee (and all their other additional fees they charge).

Use another delivery service if you must use delivery—Grubhub lives up to their name, again and again. So utterly grubby.

June 11, 2020
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Chubby Noodle in North Beach will open for outdoor dining on Monday June 15th. Photo courtesy of Chubby Noodle.

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The beginnings of a feast at Sam’s Grill. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Starting Friday June 12th, a big change is coming to our local dining landscape: after three months of takeout only/no on-premise dining service, SF restaurants are allowed to reopen for outdoor dining only. It was originally going to be Monday June 15th, but Mayor Breed decided to give us a present for the weekend (while causing yet another scramble for restaurants to figure something out quickly). Further safety guidelines from the Department of Health will be released this week as well, but do know you will need to wear a mask upon arrival to the restaurant, and when you get up from your table or go inside for any reason (bathroom, to order, etc.). The plan for indoor dining in SF is to reopen on July 13th, but that is TBD for now.

And yesterday, the city of San Francisco finally opened up their Shared Spaces application program for temporary permits to seat dining guests on sidewalks, in parking spaces adjacent to the restaurant, and to apply for street closures for seating (that will take more time). It’s going to be interesting to see how our city adapts and changes in coming weeks. Gold Street in front of Bix is going to have outdoor dining (and string lights) starting June 18th, and I have dreams of Rose Street alley behind Zuni being closed to traffic, and Valencia Street, and 24th Street, heck, streets all over the city.

I’m posting updates in my Instagram Stories and Highlights on who is opening for alfresco dining service (including 54 Mint, Maybeck’s, Piperade, Pier 23 Cafe, Zeitgeist, and more—and Montesacro is taking over the upstairs terrace at Dottie’s True Blue Cafe)! Restaurants, feel free to tag @tablehopper in your posts.

Here’s a fun teaser: ~SAM’S GRILL AND SEAFOOD RESTAURANT~ has reopened for takeout, and they’re opening their spacious patio this Friday! Their hours are Wed-Fri 12pm-7pm (with happy hour 5pm-7pm), and not only can you enjoy some shrimp cocktail and a Louie salad, but you can also pick up some fresh fish to go. They’re going back to their fish market roots in 1867, and offering petrale sole, salmon, cioppino, crab cakes, and more to take home. (It will also help support their supplier, A. LaRocca Seafood, who suffered a hit to their business in the recent Pier 45 fire.) Welcome back, Sam’s! 374 Bush St. at Belden.

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The iconic It’s Tops exterior and neon sign. Yelp photo by Fakename D.

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The exterior of Destino. Here’s to its future destiny! Instagram photo via @destinosf.

As many of you know, I’ve been posting in my Instagram stories when restaurants have been reopening or expanding their hours or deliveries, and the flip side of all this are the restaurants that have sadly decided to close permanently.

I was reading a newsletter last night from SF Neon News, which mentioned the iconic neon sign for ~IT’S TOPS COFFEE SHOP~ has been taken down, and the knotty pine diner (since 1935) is permanently closed. Noooo! I tried reaching out to the owners via phone (disconnected), email, and Facebook (no reply); I will update this piece if I hear back. I would hope they would try to sell the business—it was such a slice of true vintage SF charm. Taking down the sign frankly feels wrong and pretty bleak. And then I just looked at these pictures on Hoodline of the booths being taken out, and I just can’t believe what I am seeing. Truly gutting. 1801 Market St. at McCoppin.

More sad news in Hoodline: ~ANGKOR BOREI~, the 30-year-old Cambodian restaurant in Bernal Heights, has decided to close after coronavirus-related challenges, from diminished sales to not receiving a PPP loan. Many locals are saddened with the news—you have until June 15th to get one last spinach leaf appetizer, pumpkin curry, and ahmohk for takeout. Thank you to the sweet owners, Tom Prabpan and Chin Han Yat, for all the heartfelt meals. Wishing them a happy and well-earned retirement. 3471 Mission St. at Cortland.

After 20 years on Market Street, chef-owner (and native San Franciscan) James Schenk is closing his modern-Latin restaurant, ~DESTINO~, but the good news is he plans to move to another location in the neighborhood or nearby (he’s considering where right now). The plan is to open up a primarily to-go business—which is definitely our upcoming future—focused on healthy Latin food (bring on the ceviches and empanadas), and he has held onto his liquor license, so there will be pisco. But the big question is… when. In the meantime, he has found another kitchen for his catering business when that kicks back in, hopefully soon. And when his new location opens up, we all need to show up for the big 20th birthday party that didn’t happen (no thanks to Miss Rona). Keep up with updates from James at @destinosf. 1815 Market St. at Pearl.