The Chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)
April 16, 2019

Bloom, the chic chocolate salon at the new Dandelion Chocolate factory. Photo: Eric Wolfinger.


The open factory floor at Dandelion Chocolate. Photo: Eric Wolfinger.


The exterior of the Dandelion Chocolate factory. Photo: Anne Fishbein.

Last week, I had the incredible good fortune to attend the pre-opening party of ~DANDELION CHOCOLATE~’s new factory, café, and retail shop in the Mission. It’s a staggering, 28,000-square-foot space designed by Chris Harrelson of architecture firm Gensler. The building is quite a beaut: it’s 107 years old, with exposed woodwork, master-quality masonry and brickwork, and high ceilings. There’s even a rooftop garden. It has been a long time coming, with construction-related delays and more, but it finally opens on Friday April 19th.

The factory itself has an open floor plan, so you can see the entire chocolate-making process with their cutting-edge and custom machines from around the world (there are even elevated viewing platforms). Dandelion will host daily tours of the factory and continue their popular classes, including Chocolate 101, plus advanced classes, as well as classes for children and families.

Bloom, the chocolate salon, is like a visit to a grand European café, with beveled antique glass walls and brass-finished furniture. Executive pastry chef Lisa Vega, who has been with the company since 2013, is offering all-day service, including a breakfast menu with Camino Verde chocolate granola with oats, quinoa, nibs, hazelnuts, dried cherries, Saint Benoit yogurt, and seasonal fruit; Cake for Breakfast, with chocolate chip pancake cake, vanilla cream, chocolate maple sauce; and Market Quiche with leeks, Swiss chard, Wagon Wheel, frisée, and cacao pulp vinaigrette.

Afternoon service bring a variety of experiences, including Afternoon Chocolate with classic French pastries (chocolate soufflé, Earl Grey profiterole, almond-raspberry napoleon), and hot chocolate, served in the style of afternoon tea; Tree to Bar, an eight-course tasting exploration of the cacao pod and its transformation into chocolate; and Camino Verde Intensive, a three-course, chocolate-rich tasting featuring 70-percent chocolate from Camino Verde farm in Ecuador.

In a rush? There’s a to-go café with leather banquettes, a custom redwood counter, and panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows letting in natural light. The café will serve Ritual Coffee and chocolate-based beverages, including Mission Hot Chocolate (foamed and spicy); and Frozen Hot Chocolate (topped with cocoa nib-infused whipped cream), as well as sweets. The retail shop will sell Dandelion Chocolate’s single-origin bars and more.

Founders, former tech-entrepreneurs, and chocolate obsessives Todd Masonis and Cameron Ring have come a long way since their beginnings in 2010—they now have additional retail locations in San Francisco, as well as in Los Angeles, Tokyo, Kyoto, Ise, and Kamakura, Japan, and Taipei. With the new factory, they’ll be able to scale up and increase production by 10 times the output of their current Valencia Street factory (which will remain open), and will be capable of making up to 1.5 million bars per year. [head exploding emoji]

The café will be open daily 8am-8pm. Bloom is open Tue-Sun 9am-6pm, starting May 14th, with a special Mother’s Day service on May 12th. 2600 16th St. at Alabama.


The elegant dim sum spread at Palette Tea House. Photo via Facebook.


A peek at Palette Tea House’s sleek style at their bar. Photo via Facebook.


Choose your own curry bowl at Tender Curry & Co. Photo via Yelp by Tender Curry.

Dim sum fanatics (and Instagram stunt food aficionados) have been eagerly anticipating the opening of ~PALETTE TEA HOUSE~ (no relation to Palette in SoMa), and it’s now open in Ghirardelli Square (in the former Waxman’s space). Eater reports there are “127 seats in the main dining room, 19 at the bar, 10 in a private dining room, and an additional 100 on the patio.”

The restaurant is the latest from Koi Palace and Dragon Beaux owner Willy Ng, with general manager Dennis Leung. Look for many Koi Palace classics, along with some of the colorful and innovative dumplings from Dragon Beaux, plus upscale touches like Kurobuta pork, spot prawns, lobster har gow, and rice crepes with wagyu and black truffle from chef Stephen Nguyen, with attention paid to colorful and whimsical presentations. Check out the insane lunch menu of your dim sum dreams, while dinner adds some grilled items. There is also a bar menu from 3pm-5pm with some nice bites (bring on the sizzling Peking dumplings).

Pastry chef Lyn Manangan is putting out desserts like chocolate mochi cake with salted pastry cream. There’s even a full bar with a cocktail menu from Carlos Yturria (The Treasury, Whitecap), and John Vuong (High Treason) is behind the wine list.

The interior was updated by Sunny Tam of Studio O2 and designer Chris Ho of C&E Designs, and has a modern style that is a counterpoint to the classic brick walls. Open Mon-Thu 11am-9pm, Fri-Sat 11am-10pm, Sun 11am-9pm. 900 North Point St. at Larkin.

There’s a second location of Japantown’s ~HINODEYA RAMEN BAR~ now open in SoMa, which opened ahead of another planned-for location at 668 Clay St. Open for lunch Mon-Fri 11am-2:30pm. 303 2nd St. at Folsom. [Via Eater.]

Yelp reveals a new, casual curry spot in the Tenderloin called ~TENDER CURRY & CO.~, serving affordable, choose-your-own rice bowls with different curries, plus some appetizer bites and Thai-style ramen. Beer and wine available. Open daily 11am-4pm and 5pm-10pm. 655 Larkin St. at Ellis, 415-757-0685.

Now, it’s time for some coffee. I’ve been driving by the location for ~KLATCH COFFEE~ for some time, and the Los Angeles import has opened its first Bay Area location (in partnership with Bay Area local Bo Thiara), with another location planned to open in the Mission. The award-winning roaster got started in 1993, and works directly with farmers around the world—they have some renowned coffees, and were the first to win the Golden Bean Award for their espresso four years in a row. You’ll find all kind of coffee drinks, plus café bites, and baked goods from Craftsman and Wolves. Open Mon-Fri 6am-6pm, Sat-Sun 7am-6pm. 1450 Franklin St. at Bush.

Hoodline mentioned a new café, ~THE COFFEE MOVEMENT~, from Bryan Overstreet, who is bringing Aussie coffee culture to Nob Hill, while featuring beans from roasters from Michigan, SF, and beyond. Open daily 7am-4pm. 1030 Washington St. at Powell.


The Brixton fiery mac and cheese. Instagram photo via @thebrixtonsf.

Folks living in SoMa and Giants fans will soon have a new location of ~THE BRIXTON~ to dine at, due to open Friday May 3rd. The first location is on Union Street in Cow Hollow, which opened eight years ago, and is currently getting renovated. Hat Trick Hospitality (Adam Snyder, Hugo Gamboa, and Andy Wasserman) have appointed chef Banks White (Auberge du Soleil; Etoile Domaine Chandon; FIVE in Berkeley) as the group’s hospitality director, which also includes Rambler in Union Square.

His New American menu for Brixton by the Ballpark will feature quality ingredients, including sustainable seafood, and will offer an all-day menu, serving lunch and dinner, plus a game day menu. New dishes include short rib grilled cheese with caramelized onions, smoked cheddar, frisée, and wild baby arugula; Filipino fried ribs with calamansi and sweet chile sauce, birdseye chili, pickled okra, and fried garlic; and sea bream with pineapple and green papaya slaw, mint, and Malaysian coconut curry sauce.

There’s a full lineup of cocktails, with a Bloody Mary Bar, and coffee from Verve Coffee Roasters. The former Paragon space is now outfitted with a modern British tavern vibe with a touch of rock ‘n’ roll by interior designer Lori Yeomans (Rambler). There’s a 24-foot bar with communal bar tables, a lounge area, and private dining, plus cafe tables next to a retractable door that opens onto the street. Open daily 10:30am-12am. 701 2nd St. at Townsend.

I’ve been tracking the upcoming ~HASHIDA~ in Union Square, which will be a third location of an omakase sushi restaurant based in Tokyo (they just opened a location in Singapore), and it’s looking pretty close, possibly even softly open, according to Instagram. Chef Kenjiro “Hatch” Hashida started apprenticing for his master sushi chef father at the age of 14, so he’s got some chops. Stand by for more details on how much the experience costs soon. 125 Ellis St. at Cyril Magnin.

UPDATE (4/17/19): it ends up Hashida is running a deceiving Instagram account and is no longer opening in SF. A tablehopper reader received this email: “We regret to inform you that Hashida Sushi San Francisco is no longer opening due to some uncontrollable matter.” Then update your social media and say so, Hashida.

One more thing to watch: a ~SUPER DUPER~ appears to be coming to a former Lee’s Deli location in SoMa. 117 New Montgomery St. at Minna.


A killer spread at Prubechu. Instagram photo via @restaurantprubechu.


Roni cups at Square Pie Guys. Photo: ©


The duo behind Picon415 and Eko Kitchen, opening in the former Joint Venture Kitchen in SoMa. Photo via Eko Kitchen on Facebook by IM Visuals.

Some great news about local chefs and pop-ups finding permanent spaces, starting with Shawn Naputi and general manager Shawn Camacho of the Guamanian ~PRUBECHU~, who are moving into the former Aster space (they had to leave their previous location on Mission St. when their rent got jacked up). With the departure of chef Brett Cooper from Aster, and its subsequent and swift closure, it was an unfortunate loss for our local dining scene. But with Daniel Patterson bringing the Prubechu duo into his Alta Restaurant Group (like Dyafa, Kaya, and Besharam) and supporting their growth, it’s a positive outcome. Stand by for updates on their potential May opening, menu, and more. [Via The Chronicle.]

I was also happy to see the ABC license transfer hit for ~SQUARE PIE GUYS~, Marc Schechter and Danny Stoller, who have been popping up with their Detroit-style pizza at Vinyl on Divis. They’re moving into the former The Board on Mission, and Eater reports they’re targeting July for both dine-in and delivery service. The menu will feature around 10 pizzas, plus a burger, salads, and sandwiches with bread made from their dough. 1077 Mission St. at 7th St.

Also in SoMa, the pop-up incubator space, Joint Venture Kitchen, has made their space a permanent one for two of their pop-up regulars: ~PICON415~ (Mexican street food, served Monday through Friday) and the city’s first Nigerian restaurant, ~EKO KITCHEN~. I’ve been following Eko chef Simileoluwa Adebajo, and am thrilled to see her take the leap to opening her own restaurant (on May 3rd!). Read this charming piece about her viral post and her path to following her dream to open a place of her own.

Per her Instagram post, “We will open for dine in Friday evening through Sunday and handle catering and bulk orders Monday through Wednesday. My hope is to create a safe space where Immigrants and People of Color can add Value to the city of San Francisco. There are not enough of these spaces here.” Let’s be sure to support these businesses, gang. 167 11th St. at Natoma.


The classic Elite Cafe sign. Photo: Molly DeCoudreaux Photography (via Faebook).

Yup, it’s another week of reporting on classic SF establishments that are closing. Gah, the San Francisco I knew just keeps shuttering. The latest casualty is ~ELITE CAFE~, which is closing after service this Sunday April 21st, after 38 years on Fillmore. Owner Andy Chun (Schroeder’s, Press Club), who took over and renovated the space three years ago, reached out to thank all the friends and neighbors who have supported the restaurant. You can read this piece in The New Fillmore about the location’s fascinating history, which goes back to 1919. Thanks for all the memories of spicy oyster shooters and Bloody Marys on Sunday mornings while sitting at the oyster bar in the front window.

(Small positive sidebar: The New Fillmore reports Fresca is reopening.)

In Hayes Valley, ~ARLEQUIN CAFE~ suddenly threw in the towel, with Absinthe Group owner Bill Russell-Shapiro citing the high cost of doing business in SF, which the casual café couldn’t survive through, even after numerous tweaks and adjustments. They are going to keep the space and reconcept; stand by. [Via The Chronicle.]

After more than 20 years in business, ~BLOWFISH SUSHI TO DIE FOR~ has closed. (Oh, the hazy memories of consuming monster-sized maki rolls and Cosmos there in my twenties, with all the loud music and anime videos.) Owners Jason Teplitsky and chef Ritsuo Tsuchida have been busy with multiple locations of Iza Ramen and now Hell’s Ramen, no word what is next for the space. 2170 Bryant St. at 20th St. [Via Eater.]

SFWeekly reports two locations of ~ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK PIZZA~ are closing: their Mission location on 22nd Street and Polk Street. Their other locations remain open, so their pesto and potato slices are safe for now—the first location on Haight opened in 1986.

Okay, that’s it, I’m closing the coffin lid!


The jiu gong ge (nine essential flavors of Chinese cuisine) course at Eight Tables. Photo: ©


The stylish bar à vin at Verjus. Photo courtesy of Verjus.

Looking for a brand-new brunch spot (which is conveniently starting on Easter Sunday, April 21st)? The recently opened ~ABRAZO~ in Russian Hill is launching brunch on Sundays throughout the summer months from 11am-3pm, and then opening back up at 5:30pm for regular dinner service. Here’s a sample brunch menu. 2000 Hyde St. at Union, 415-872-9239.

Have you been wanting to visit the elegant ~EIGHT TABLES BY GEORGE CHEN~? They are now offering a seven-course menu, starting at $175 per person, available Tuesday through Thursday; for reference, the 10-course tasting menu starts at $225 per person.

Looking for a chic, midweek lunch? Michael and Lindsay Tusk’s stylin’ wine bar, ~VERJUS~, is now serving a Menu à Toute Vitesse, a fixed-price, three-course lunch menu with optional wine pairings available by the half-glass. $31, with an additional $12 for wine pairings. Available Tuesday through Friday, 11:30am-4:30pm.

On Monday nights, ~FOXSISTER~ in the Mission is serving $1 wings and $1 soju shots. Pace yourself. 6pm-10pm.

~GIBSON~ has a new Chef’s Table with Cocktails experience from now operations director Adam Chapman—it’s a customized menu with up to 14 sessionable cocktails (with food pairings) specifically tailored to your tastes. His cocktails are quite exquisite, so this would be quite the night. Parties of two to four will be seated in view of the kitchen, which has a new “Boisson Station,” a cocktail station situated in the kitchen that will focus on dim-sum style drinks at a lower alcohol level. $180 per person.

And over at ~HITACHINO BEER & WAGYU~, chef Nori has switched to an izakaya format instead of a tasting menu, offering a more informal and affordable experience, and a larger menu. Look for sukiyaki with Hitachiwagyu, a burger, donburi bowls with A5 wagyu, sourdough corn okonomiyaki, and more new dishes. There are new sake cocktails and beers too, like a sansho pepper ale called Pirika. 639 Post St. at Taylor.


Enjoy a night of springy, market-fresh cocktails at First Bloom: Spring Cocktails of the Farmers Market. Photo: Amanda Lynn.


The 15th annual CHEFS Gala fundraiser is May 2nd at Bespoke. Photo courtesy of ECS.

There are some upcoming events from important SF organizations that could use your support—and you’ll have a great time being there. Thanks for taking a look.

You feeling some spring fever? You won’t want to miss First Bloom: Spring Cocktails of the Farmers Market on Wednesday April 24th. Edible flowers, herbs, and ripe spring berries will be in full force at this cocktail party from CUESA and the United States Bartenders Guild at the Ferry Building. Expect innovative craft cocktails from 13 of the Bay Area’s hottest bartenders highlighting the freshest picks from the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, and bites for you to enjoy too (from 15 Romolo, 25 Lusk, Far West Fungi Kitchen, Horsefeather, Oyna Natural Foods, Precita Park Cafe, Waterbar, and more).

And tablehopper readers get $5 off with code: tablehopperfriend. Tickets are $60 (through April 19th), and then $65. 5:30pm-8pm. San Francisco Ferry Building.

City College of San Francisco’s (CCSF’s) Culinary Arts and Hospitality Studies Department is holding their 19th annual fundraiser, now called City Cooks, on Sunday April 28th from 4pm-7pm. Join students, faculty, and Bay Area chef alumni (including Francis Ang of Pinoy Heritage, Samantha Kharma of Champañeria Kharma, Juan Torres of Lolinda and El Techo de Lolinda, and Luis Villavelazquez of Les Elements Patisserie) for small bites, wine, and live jazz, plus an online auction. It all goes to help educate our future chefs! Tickets: $85. 

City College of San Francisco, Ocean Campus, Statler Wing 50 Frida Kahlo Way (Phelan Avenue).

And then on Thursday May 2nd is the 15th annual CHEFS Gala fundraiser (6:30pm-10pm), held at Bespoke, atop Westfield Centre. Chef Martin Yan is the emcee, with Foodie Chap Liam Mayclem as auctioneer, so it’s going to be a lively night!

Many generous Bay Area restaurants, wineries, and breweries are rallying behind ECS and its mission to help homeless San Franciscans. CHEFS is an organization very near and dear to my heart. Guests will enjoy bites from top San Francisco restaurants, including Sorrel, Octavia, Nopa, Louie’s Gen-Gen Room at Liholiho Yacht Club, Smitten Ice Cream, Boulevard, Delfina, Rooh, and more. Cocktails will be provided by Tonic Beverage Catering, as well as Maven, Petrichor Wines, Bonny Doon Vineyard, and Pond Farm Brewing.

CHEFS Gala seeks to raise awareness of ECS’s vital programs, including the marquee CHEFS program. This 10-12 week culinary training program provides people impacted by homelessness and poverty with technical and professional skills through classroom instruction, hands-on kitchen training, and a local food service internship. Since its founding, over 1,000 formerly homeless and very low-income students have participated in the CHEFS program.

Tickets start at $170, and be sure to visit the auction. 845 Market St. at 5th St.


Town Square Eats’ truffle chips with caviar. Photo: ©


The clever (and tasty) corned beet sandwich (yes, it’s vegan). Photo: ©


Don’t say no to the Fun Guy pizza, with Brillat-Savarin, truffles, and mushroom duxelles. Photo: ©


Brooklyn’s Bien Cuit is coming to the Bay Area for a special collaboration event with Firebrand. Photo: Thomas Schauer.

Over at Oakland’s Jack London Square, there’s a new restaurant that has opened in Crooked City Cider Taproom called ~TOWN SQUARE EATS~. My friend Rob Lam and Helen Chandra (Perle Wine Bar) have partnered with their friends James and Lea Yu (Great China) to build out the kitchen and create a menu of elevated snacks, sandwiches, pizzas, and salads for Dana Bushouse’s taproom. I went over for a tasting last week, and anyone who loves sandwiches is going to be pleased with the lineup.

You can come in for a bite and a beverage (there are over 25 cider taps and 10 beer taps!), like truffle chips topped with crema and two kinds of caviar (it’s my new favorite party snack), or Esther’s warm pretzels with a cider cheese dip.

There’s a fully loaded vegan corned beet sandwich with a spicy kick of horseradish on a pretzel roll, and the turkey sandwich comes with the added bonus of fried chicken skin, plus provolone and lingonberry (it’s a riff on one of Lam’s favorite sandwiches, the turkey sandwich from Arguello Market). There’s also a version of a muffaletta, inspired by Central Grocery’s benchmark sandwich. Impossible Burger with onion au jus, check.

Meanwhile, the pizzas are made with Liguria Bakery’s focaccia, and feature extra-special ingredients, from guanciale to housemade meatballs. The Fun Guy is especially luxe, with Brillat-Savarin, truffles, and mushroom duxelles, with mushrooms from Far West Fungi. The lineup of four salads includes a Chinese chicken salad with a spicy ginger vinaigrette. Everything is well-sourced (thanks to Lam’s love of finding the best, whether it’s an avocado or pretzel) and fresh, so the menu over-delivers for being such a casual spot. They’re gearing up for lunch business and delivery (on Caviar), and many items can be made gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan—they understand many people who drink cider can’t handle gluten.

The casual space has board games, TVs, trivia nights, a dog-friendly front patio, and more. The full menu and extended service hours launch Wednesday April 17th: Sun-Thu 11am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11am-11pm. 206 Broadway at 3rd St., Oakland.

Also in Jack London Square: ~FARMHOUSE THAI~ is holding its first-ever Songkran Festival on Saturday April 27th from 9:30am-10pm, with all kinds of activities and dancing. Read more on their Facebook page.

Bread lovers, don’t miss this special collaboration between Zachary Golper, chef-owner of Brooklyn’s Bien Cuit, and Matt Kreutz of Firebrand: Fermentation Invasion: A Mashup between Bien Cuit and Firebrand Bread on Sunday April 28th.

In an effort to promote the value of regenerative agriculture, they will be presenting a selection of six breads that highlight slow fermentation and grains that support crop rotation. The breads will be paired with accompanying spreads and packaged in limited edition tote bags for $25 each. Bags can be pre-purchased at this link, and a limited quantity will be available for walk-ins as well. The guys will also be available to discuss the positive, nutritional impact of slow fermentation and techniques. 11am-4pm. Firebrand Artisan Breads, 2343 Broadway at 24th St., Oakland.

April 2, 2019

The dining room at Palette. Photo: Rob Williamson, courtesy of Palette.


Tony’s tartare. Photo: Marija Vidal/Ghost Media Inc.

Now open in SoMa is ~PALETTE~ from chef-owner Peter J. Hemsley, previously a sous at Quince, who trained in Paris, including time with Alain Passard (L’Arpege). His menu of creative California cuisine includes the Palette flatbread, Monterey globe artichoke fries, housemade kielbasa, and a whole spit-roasted chicken (the press release said “farm hen,” but I just can’t do it) from the restaurant’s brick oven and rotisserie. Expect: seasonal, local, casual, shareable. Helmsley also has artistic leanings (illustration, watercolor, ink on paper), and it will come across in his plating.

There is also a strong art component, with an art gallery and retail store with a ceramic studio (house ceramicist Andrew Kontrabecki even creates special wares for specific dishes). Look for artwork from local artists that highlights concepts related to food culture. The current exhibit is “As You See It,” from Bay Area artists Juliette Choné and Kelley O’Leary.

There’s a bar featuring wine and Champagne from small and sustainable producers, aperitifs, and craft beers. Interestingly, the original designer-architect Cass Calder Smith (CCS Architecture) updated the space for Palette—LuLu was Smith’s first restaurant project 25 years ago. He will also be designing the permanent space for Palette, due to open in a year or so, at 155 12th St. Open for lunch and dinner Mon-Fri 11am-8pm. 816 Folsom St. at 4th St.


The loungey style of the dining room at Commons Club. Photo: ©


Duck agnolotti at Commons Club. Photo: ©


Chocolate ganache tart with Thai iced tea at Commons Club. Photo: ©


Little Gem on Union. Photo: Little Gem.


Summertime fig toast. Photo: Daniel Azarkman.


Grem’s Good Dog. Photo by owner via Yelp.

Just before I left town, I was invited to a preview dinner at ~COMMONS CLUB~, the new restaurant inside of the new Virgin Hotels San Francisco in the Yerba Buena District in SoMa (the second to open, the first was in Chicago). The space is pretty shag-tastic—there’s The Shag Room, for a loungey vibe with your cocktails (which all nod to Virgin’s musical origins) and a busy bar. There’s a spacious dining room, with an easygoing, low-slung look: it has a very living room-meets-dining room style, with clubby, mid-century-esque tobacco leather chairs and round tables surrounded with dining tables and banquettes around the perimeter (it makes for a unique kind of seating arrangement). A rooftop bar is opening soon as well.

There’s a daytime (7am-10:30am and 11:30am-2pm)—a good spot for any morning or lunch meetings—and dinner menu, served 5:30pm-10pm (until 10:30pm Fri-Sat); there’s also a bar menu 2pm-10pm. Chef Adrian Garcia was most recently chef de cuisine at Quince, and fortunately some of his stuffed pasta prowess is on display here, with dishes like striped tortelloni (from cocoa powder and egg yolk) with wild mushroom and Swiss chard ($23), and plump duck confit agnolotti, with notes of orange, grana padano, sage, and fried duck skin crumble on top ($26).

Appetizers like crudités ($15) sound boring, but don’t be deceived: a cloud of buttermilk topped with almond and dill oil arrives with an array of gorgeous vegetables, and fish and chips ($20) is actually a hamachi crudo you scoop up with chips made of dehydrated fish skin (plus squid ink). Parker House rolls, always a crowd pleaser. Mains include roasted cauliflower and Israeli couscous ($22) with the ability to add a supplement of Don Watson lamb ($20), plus there’s black seabass with fish fumé ($27), and I loved the pairing of Thai iced tea with the chocolate and espresso ganache tart for dessert. I’ll be posting more pics on @tablehopper later today! There is quite the squad of talent in the kitchen here, so don’t write it off as “just a hotel restaurant.” (Although I do think their wine list could use some better curation.) 250 4th St. at Folsom.

A second, 70-seat location of Eric Lilavois and Dave Cruz’s ~LITTLE GEM~ has opened in Cow Hollow in the former Umami Burger. The menu is similar to their Hayes Valley spot, with a couple new dishes (including their oft-requested, gluten-free fried chicken). They’re opening tonight (April 2nd) with dinner service only (full service, not fast-casual/order at the counter), but ramping up quickly for breakfast, lunch, and weekend brunch soon. The menu is designed for omnivores, herbivores, and keto, paleo, vegan, and gluten-free diets—so, basically, anyone is welcome. Wine, beer, and non-alcoholic beverages are also available.

Check out their Little Gem Pantry, a retail section that features packaged versions of ingredients the kitchen uses, including bacon-coconut crumble, cashew butter, and seasonal jam. Open Tue-Thu 5pm-9pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm to start. 2184 Union St. at Fillmore.

After opening a few weeks ago and then experiencing a brief closure, ~BURMA CLUB~ officially reopens tonight (April 2nd) in Mint Plaza. To recap, it’s the latest restaurant from co-owner Desmond Tan’s Burma Superstar group, in the long-shuttered Oro space at Mint Plaza. They haven’t posted hours or a menu on their site, but they are open nightly for dinner (possibly starting at 5pm, if an older post is correct). No reservations. 8 Mint Plaza at Jessie.

Well, this is good news. At the end of last year, I reported that the owner of the Ethiopian Moya in SoMa, Fana Alemayehu, was closing the restaurant after almost eight years in business and moving to a catering-business only model. It looks like there was a change of heart, because she has now opened ~MOMMA’S KITCHEN~ in its place. The menu still includes a few Ethiopian dishes (with spices from her grandmother’s garden in Ethiopia), but it looks like she has pivoted to serve the lunchtime needs of the neighborhood, adding traditional deli sandwiches and vegan plates. You’ll see falafel and hummus bowls, vegan bowls, sandwiches like pastrami with housemade spicy mayo, as well as a doro wot (pulled chicken) sandwich, or get it in a bowl over rice. Pay momma a visit! Open Mon-Fri 11am-3pm. 121 9th St
. at Minna, 415-431-5544.

I mentioned this project earlier, but you should know that ~EL LOPO~ is now open on Polk, a Spanish-inspired, food-forward wine bar (through a California lens), with dishes like Galician-style empanadas with romanesco and smoked ham and springtime tacos (to start—things will be ramping up in coming weeks). Hours are Sun-Thu 4pm-12am and Fri-Sat 4pm-2am, with the food menu running from 5pm-10pm. 1327 Polk St. at Bush, 415-237-3072.

There’s a new drive-thru hot dog spot, and it looks pretty good! Take a peek at ~GREM’S GOOD DOG~, which opened in the parking lot of Smart Foodservice Warehouse, right by Discount Builders. You’ll find a Coney Island-style hot dog, Polish, jalapeño cheddarwurst, and more, all $8 and under. Open daily 11am-11pm. 170A S. Van Ness Ave. at Plum. 


Housemade ‘nduja at Che Fico. Photo: ©

Taking the place of Theorita, just downstairs from Che Fico, will be ~CHE FICO ALIMENTARI~, from chef David Nayfeld, pastry chef Angela Pinkerton, and partner Matt Brewer. You’ll be able to pick up housemade salumi (including their ridic ‘nduja), breads like ciabatta and focaccia, plus pastries and gelato from Pinkerton. There will be a sit-down menu of antipasti, pasta dishes (from dried pasta, not housemade, like upstairs), and some larger plates (all available to go as well). I’m also getting my wish: it’s going to be an Italian wine bar, with pours in a variety of sizes, selected by wine director Francesca Maniace. There will be 60 seats, with 24 reserved for walk-ins. Look for a late April opening. 834 Divisadero St. at McAllister. [Via Eater.]

Moving into the former (and recently closed, sniff sniff) Yuzuki space in the Mission will be ~AL’S DELI~, a casual restaurant/sandwich shop from Aaron London of nearby AL’s Place. The Chronicle reports he’s going to integrate some influences from New York and Montreal delis, plus Israeli street food, all with his own creative and innovative spin, of course. Think stuffed latkes, salads, sandwiches, sides, and large-format platters. Look for a summer opening (and more details soon). In the meantime, did you know the patio is now open at AL’s? Now you do. 598 Guerrero St. at 18th St.

Eater also reports ~BARZOTTO~ is expanding to North Beach in the former Caffe DeLucchi, bringing its fast-casual format and $10/$40 wine model, possibly by the fall. 500 Columbus Ave. at Green.


Via @hildaandjessesf.

A new project is in the works from Rachel Sillcocks (previously Range, Piccino) and Kristina Compton (Avery, Atelier Crenn, Range), ~HILDA AND JESSE~, an “all-day breakfast restaurant and neighborhood hangout,” with an all-day menu that will go into late afternoon. Ends up they are (fellow) breakfast obsessives, and are working on opening a place in San Francisco (they’re scouting locations).

They’re also presently seeking investors, and in the meantime, are hosting some pop-ups, starting with their first one on Thursday April 11th at Robberbaron (2032 Polk St. at Broadway). It will run from 6pm to 10pm, and they’ll be serving two Latvian-style, rolled pancakes (as they say, “think ‘Hot Pocket’ but way tastier!”), a savory one and sweet one, $9 each. Swing by, get a glass of wine, and have some pancakes.

The next pop-up will be on April 22nd, at Nightbird. They’re going to be featuring a fun tasting menu brunch when they open Hilda and Jesse, which they’ll be playing around with at their second pop-up (four courses for $45). Look for playful takes on comfortable classics, and also dishes inspired from their family backgrounds (look for a lot of Latvian and Eastern European influences). Keep track of future pop-up details at @hildaandjessesf.


The iconic red exterior of Chow on Church. Yelp photo by B.H.


Khao man gai from Rooster & Rice. Yelp photo by JP N.

Whoa, the Castro has a bunch of news, starting with the sad and sudden closure of ~CHOW~ on Church, after 22 years in its original location. I didn’t think it looked very hopeful when they limited their hours in January, and sadly that proved to be the case. Chow has fed so many of us over the years, it’s hard to believe it’s gone.

But in an interesting move, Mark White, the (mysterious) owner of the upcoming Gramercy Park restaurant—which is due to open across the street in the former Crepevine space—is taking over Chow, and opening Cook Shoppe in its place. He’s trying to keep Chow’s staff, and many menu items as well. He’s doing a quick refresh of the space, and hopes to reopen this month. 215 Church St. at Market, 415-552-2469. [Via Eater.]

Another old-timer has closed: ~FIREWOOD CAFE~, which has been open since 1997 (and to be completely honest, it felt like it, but yes, it has fed a bunch of folks affordably for a long time). [Via Hoodline.] 4248 18th St. at Diamond.

Quick switcheroo at Indo—it’s now another location of ~ROOSTER & RICE~, one of my favorite khao mun gai (chicken fat rice) spots in town. (Am sure the nearby and recently opened Gai is a little concerned.) Open Tue-Sat 11am-8pm. 4039 18th St. at Hartford. [Via Eater.]

Just across the street, Beso recently closed, and nearby Lark’s Coskun Abik is opening ~BLIND BUTCHER~ in its place, featuring a variety of meaty main dishes, plus branzino and some vegetarian options as well (all you paleo boys should be pleased). Weekend brunch is also in the works (and it has that cute little patio). 4058 18th St. at Hartford St. [Via Hoodline.]

Around the corner, the former Hearth Coffee space is going to be ~CAFE DE CASA~, a Brazilian breakfast and lunch spot from Lucimar Canedo and her daughters (they already have two SF locations). On the menu: açai bowls, savory salgados, crepes, juices, coffee, and more, but they have to finish a remodel first. 3985 17th St. at Castro. [Via Hoodline.]


Jardinière. Photo: ©


The groovy The Temple Club has closed in Oakland. Yelp photo by owner Geoffrey D..


Paper Rooster’s Emperor: Chinese roast chicken, crispy chicken skin, housemade dill pickles, hoisin mayo, spring onions. Photo courtesy of Paper Rooster.

Just as I got home, this big news hit my inbox: chef Traci Des Jardins is closing ~JARDINIÈRE~ after service on Saturday April 27th, after 21 years as our bastion of bubbles, charcuterie, and fine dining in Hayes Valley. You can read more in this in-depth interview about chef Traci’s reasons, memories, and perspective, but in sum, instead of remodeling or reconcepting to fit SF’s changing (and costly) current dining landscape, she decided to close the restaurant. In this The New York Times piece, she also mentions being fatigued with fine dining, and is more interested in focusing on Mexican cuisine right now. Right on.

I know many of us are going to miss sidling up to that shimmering horseshoe bar, one of the city’s sexiest, and Jardinière’s high level of hospitality and quality service will be so missed—such a great staff. Des Jardins and her team are dedicated to ensuring that each staff member finds a new place to work where they will thrive. Kudos to chef Traci, who has had so much talent come up and out of her kitchen, including chefs Douglas Keane, Peter Armellino, Richard Reddington, Michael Hung, Robbie Lewis, Elizabeth Binder, Deepak Kaul, as well as bar directors Thad Vogler and Elizabeth Takeuchi-Krist; sommeliers Eugenio Jardim and Jai Wilson; general managers Doug Washington and Anna Corporeal—the list of Jardinière alumni is long (you can only imagine how busy the closing parties will be).

She will continue to be busy with her other properties throughout the city, including The Commissary and Arguello in partnership with The Presidio Trust, Mijita, School Night, and Public House. I need to come in for one last warm bread salad (and thankfully it’s artichoke season). Best wishes to her and the entire team, thanks for all the memories and creating a place for so many celebrations.

I heard from a tablehopper reader that the popular Vietnamese restaurant in Oakland, ~THE TEMPLE CLUB~, has closed. (I was seeing the retaurant location listed in a real estate newsletter, and hoped the writing wasn’t on the wall, but alas, the inside is reportedly all torn up.) Owners Geoff Deetz and his wife Quynh Nhu are looking for another location, here’s hoping we get a positive update soon (I reached out to Geoff for an update). 2307 International Blvd. at 23rd Ave., Oakland.

More closures: unfortunately, Chinese-American sandwich spot ~PAPER ROOSTER~ has closed their Tenderloin shop, here’s hoping they return in some form.

A tablehopper reader let me know the Vietnamese and Chinese ~KIM THANH~ has closed, an unpretentious spot known for its seafood in the Tenderloin. After 32 (or 37!) years—I have read conflicting numbers—the owner has retired. At least they made it through one more crab season for us. 607 Geary St. at Jones.

I also heard back from one of the owners of ~COLETTA GELATO~: “It looks like we are going to sell part of the company, but not the name. This means that Coletta will be permanently closed.” Sorry, everyone!

And this is just a temporary closure (thank goodness): ~NAMU GAJI~ is closed for a mandatory seismic retrofit of their building at 499 Dolores St. (just like their neighbors, Bi-Rite Creamery). They will continue catering and Caviar to-go orders throughout the closure over the next couple months, and you can get your Namu fix at Namu Stonepot at 553 Divisadero St. and Namu at the Ferry Building.  


The sign at Aster. Photo via Instagram.


Executive chef Steve Brown slicing up some meat magic. Photo: ©

I was bummed to come home to the news that chef-owner Brett Cooper of ~ASTER~ decided to leave the restaurant, and actually is leaving San Francisco to move to Los Angeles—he wants to be able to spend more time with his family, and his wife’s family is in LA. He opened the restaurant four years ago with Daniel Patterson (in 2015)—no word on who his replacement is. But we’ve been lucky to have him for 16 years—I remember first meeting him at Rubicon when Stuart Brioza was the chef. The SF restaurant community will miss him (and his many talents, including that wondrous sourdough bread of his!). 1001 Guerrero St. at 22nd St. [Via Chronicle.]

Another surprise: chef Steve Brown, the opening chef of ~NIKU STEAKHOUSE~ (with “A5” tattooed on his forearm), has returned to San Diego to be with his family. (He has started his Cosecha SD dinners back up, in case you want to check them out!) Taking over as executive chef is Dustin Falcon, who joined Niku prior to opening as executive sous chef. He was most recently at Lazy Bear as a sous chef, and The French Laundry as chef de partie. 61 Division St. at Rhode Island.