The Chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)
October 2, 2018
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The bar at Angler. Photo courtesy of Angler.

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The open kitchen and hearth at Angler. Photo courtesy of Angler.

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Purple sea urchin. Photo courtesy of Angler.

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California king crab like you have never had it. Photo courtesy of Angler.

A couple weeks ago, I was able to take a peek inside the brand-new ~ANGLER~ at a preview party for World’s 50 Best Talks, and the former Chaya has been converted in quite the spiffy waterfront restaurant. Owners Joshua Skenes and Mark Bright of the three-Michelin-starred Saison have already proven their dedication to excellence of flavor, ingredients, sourcing, service, and wine and spirits, and at Angler, it’s all going to be a little bit more accessible than Saison’s $298 menu (appetizers are $12-$28, while mains are $20-$48).

Working with executive chef Nicolas Ferreira, Skenes has brought over his dedication to cooking over live fire: here, it’s a 32-foot wood burning hearth. With his finely tuned techniques, and micro-sourcing from local fishermen, hunters, gatherers, ranchers, and farmers, you can expect dishes that are designed to showcase quality ingredients at their best, while slowly and carefully nurturing natural flavors at peak taste.

You can take a look at the menu here, although it’s a cryptic one, and will be updated daily. While it’s a sea life-focused restaurant—with spot prawns, scorpion fish, and Monterey abalone, and there are massive fish tanks to keep them in—you’ll also find meats like hot grilled rabbit, vegetables, and a raw bar and selection of salads. Naturally, there is caviar service with their own private batch.

Mark Bright has assembled a wine cellar that is of course heavy on the Burgundy (he has access to some of the best), but other classic regions are represented as well, plus some aged selections. There is also a full bar, featuring small-batch distillers and well-known spirits too.

The front dining room has 46 seats, with 12 at the counter, and 28 in the bar and salon. The room has brick walls adorned with fish taxidermy and is anchored by the open kitchen in the back, with bouquets of drying herbs hanging, flowers, books, and ephemera that make it feel cozy and welcoming like a French countryside kitchen.

The back room, The Game Room, has a hunting lodge feel, with wood paneling at the back bar and the walls, tobacco upholstered banquettes, and an enormous taxidermied bear that is mid-pounce, along with other animals that would have made my Uncle Gino proud (he was such a hunter). There is room for 30, and it’s designed to also be used for private dining.

Initial hours are Sun-Thu 5pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm. You’ll want to book your table before it completely blows up, the word on the street is hot. Valet parking available for $20. 132 The Embarcadero at Mission, 415-613-4447.

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At Pizzeria Delfina. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Well, this is exciting: Craig and Annie Stoll are expanding their ~PIZZERIA DELFINA~ mini-empire with a new downtown location, coming to the former A.G. Ferrari at 688 Mission Street at 3rd Street. Craig tells me they have been looking for a location in the area for about ten years—they love the bustle and energy. This will be their fifth location (the pizzeria is also in the Mission, Pacific Heights, Palo Alto, and Burlingame).

There will be 80 seats, with a wine bar inside, and sidewalk seating coming too. They will continue with their theme of featuring a mural of San Francisco Bay (mimicking the Neapolitan pizzeria tradition of always having a mural or picture of the Bay of Naples)—this one will be by artist Shawn Bullen (he is behind the bee in Hayes Valley).

The menu will be like the other locations, serving the same repertoire of dishes with seasonal changes, but they will also be adding soft-serve featuring Double 8 Dairy, and a deeper wine list. Look for a new Delfina chardonnay from their collaboration with Scribe Winery, poured en mag, plus 12 beers on tap. Lunch and dinner will be served daily.

If the pizza gods cooperate, they should be open at the end of November or early December. Stand by for news on when you can get a Purgatorio pizza! 688 Mission St. at 3rd St.

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Tacos are coming to the former post office: get ready for the La Cocina Municipal Marketplace. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The old post office, and future home of the La Cocina Municipal Marketplace. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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La Cocina businesses like Mi Morena were at the bread-breaking (and fed us, lucky us). Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Last week was an important one for business incubator La Cocina: they celebrated a “bread breaking” at their future ~LA COCINA MUNICIPAL MARKETPLACE~ in the Tenderloin, with Mayor London Breed, Supervisor Jane Kim, La Cocina executive director Caleb ZIgas, and members of the community (La Voz Latina, Central City SRO Collaborative) speaking about the importance of supporting this project, not only for La Cocina, but for the neighborhood, the city, and beyond.

This all-women-led, 7,000-square-foot marketplace is taking over the former post office at 101 Hyde Street at Golden Gate, a particularly challenging corner in the city, especially since the post office closed. The city-owned location is eventually going to be developed and converted into affordable housing, but that’s going to take some time—so for at least the next seven years, La Cocina has a lease with extremely low rent, an absolute rarity in this city that is so challenging for small businesses, let alone ones owned by women, immigrants, and people of color.

It’s going to be the first women-led food hall in the country, with seven La Cocina graduates (primarily immigrants and women of color) who will have their own kiosks. There will also be a pop-up kiosk, a dining area, a marketplace bar, a community kitchen (offering below-market-rate kitchen space to entrepreneurs and community groups for food production), classes, and more. They want to feed the neighborhood, offering quality and affordable and delicious food, while also creating 30 jobs for low-income individuals.

Not only will the marketplace provide an equitable opportunity for La Cocina entrepreneurs to gain experience in building their businesses, but the food hall format will also allow them to diminish the burden of high commercial rent, as well as share labor, maintenance, and other operating costs. It’s also going to do a lot to activate that corner, and help support the neighborhood. This is such an innovative and inspiring project—which has been three years in the making—offering a replicable model for economic development for cities across the nation. It’s a win-win-win-win-win (there are a lot of wins).

La Cocina is still fundraising for the project: they have raised 65% of their $5MM goal, but still need some financial support to bring it home. If you would like to make a donation in support of the La Cocina Municipal Marketplace, or know someone who would support the project, please send Development and Communications Manager Jessica Mataka an email or call at 415-824-2729, ext. 307.

Construction is now underway, and they are targeting a spring opening. Congratulations and much respect to Caleb and the entire La Cocina team on this big next step. 101 Hyde St. at Golden Gate.

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The wonderful Tamale Lady (Virginia Ramos). Photo via Twitter, source unknown.

What kind of a San Francisco is one without The Tamale Lady? Last Friday, the city was distraught over the terrible news that our dear lady of the tamal, Virginia Ramos, has left us at the far-too-young age of 65. She was a magical and mythical figure, who would appear like an angel at the bar or beer bust where you were most likely drinking far too much, and probably hungry. You’d turn, and suddenly there she was, usually with her beanie and always with her little cart and coolers in tow. You’d see a flurry of happy activity around her, with a “How you doin’, honey?” as she’d dip into her cooler and produce a warm tamal—you’d order two if you were smart—pour some salsa from her plastic dispenser, hand you a paper towel and fork, and give you a beaming smile and a hug.

She fed us all like we were her children. Granted, we were her drunk and disorderly children, but she loved us. She always knew when we needed her most.

For me, it was often at the end of the Sunday beer bust at The Eagle. She’d laugh at me hanging out in a sea of gay men and chaps. One time, I got smart and asked for her mobile number. I used to host a biweekly happy hour (a very blurry one) at Vertigo on Polk in the early aughts, and told her we’d have many patrons in need of her divine sustenance at the end of the party. It felt extra-magic to be able to summon her like that. Man, did everyone lose their mind when she would show up with her cart. TA-MAL-ES!

Tamales are already so ridiculously labor-intensive to make, but could you imagine schlepping around a cart and coolers and salsa and paper towels and forks and feeding a bunch of drunks? That is a rare human. Virginia was exquisitely rare.

It breaks my heart that she was so close to opening her brick-and-mortar location in the Mission, soooo close. The project was beleaguered with delays and issues, but it was heartening to see so many people rally around her and try to help when she got booted from selling her tamales at Zeitgeist (and other bars around town) when the city deemed her enterprise a violation of city health codes (a special shout-out to Nate Allbee and David Campos for spearheading the initial location search). Oh, the irony about the recent bill Governor Brown just signed into law that will help allow Californians to prepare and sell food from their home kitchens.

There will be a vigil in her honor on Tuesday October 9th at Duggan’s Funeral Service (3434 17th St.) from 4pm-7pm, with a rosary at 7pm. The funeral will be Wednesday October 10th at 11am at Mission Dolores Church. According to a tweet from her account, presumably a family member, she had heart trouble. Yeah, it was just too big.

Virginia, San Francisco is ever-grateful for all the love and care you took to feed us, love us, worry about us, and make us so proud to have the one and only Tamale Lady to claim as our own. You made our city that much cooler. (And delicious.) You will be sorely missed—you were one of those mythic and beloved SF characters who is irreplaceable and will never be forgotten. Condolences to her family and all her friends. Rest in peace.

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Zarzuela’s prime corner location. Photo via Facebook.

Some big news on Hyde Street: after being open since 1994 (as long as I have lived in San Francisco!), Andy Debbane and Lucas Gasco’s beloved Spanish stalwart ~ZARZUELA~ will be closing soon for a new project and ownership that is taking over.

Executive chef Michael Pawlik—who has been cooking at Russian Hill neighbor Frascati for the past 12 years—is going to be moving in with his co-owner and girlfriend Amanda Banks Barker to open ~ABRAZO~ (which they are defining as “a warm embrace”). Pawlik will be paying homage to what Zarzuela has built there over the past 24 years, offering a Spanish-forward, Mediterranean menu, but it will not include traditional tapas. Banks Barker—who is the bar manager of mamanoko in the Marina—will be putting together the wine list, as well as offering sherry-based cocktails.

There is not a specific closing date set as of yet, so head over for a final paella and tortilla and “gracias” for all the years of great meals while you can. Zarzuela will operate until the transfer process is complete, and the new duo is planning on getting the keys the first week of November. They hope to get a couple soft openings done by the end of November and open to the public the first week of December.

The room will be updated with cosmetic upgrades and new furniture, fixtures, awnings, table tops, china, glass, and silver to create a warm and inviting ambiance. Pawlik is happy to remain in the neighborhood, and loves the idea of being able to continue offering a great dining experience. 2000 Hyde St. at Union.

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The former location (as 398 Restaurant & Bar). Photo by Kelly Puleio.

The last time we heard about Union Square’s Hotel G, the Tartine team was planning a café project with April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman, but we know why that fell apart.

The replacement concept is ~AYALA~, and the new operators are LA’s Cast Iron Partners (who were part of the last project), with chef-partner Bill Montagne (coming from the East Coast: Snaggletooth in Chicago, and most recently at Paul Kahan’s Nico Osteria), executive chef Melissa Perfit (Bar Crudo, Hard Water), GM Essam Kardosh (Del Popolo), wine director Nick Tilly (who will also be working with Essam), and bar director Julian Cox (Tartine).

It’s going to be a seafood-focused restaurant, highlighting California seafood designed to be shared. You’ll be able to start with selections from the raw bar, with oysters, and seasonal picks like Dungeness crab, Santa Barbara uni, and abalone. Crudos and cured fish boards will be offered, along with seafood pastas (think tortellini in brodo with lobster consommé), and entrées and large-format dishes, like cioppino verde. There will be some meat dishes as well, like dry-aged strip steak.

Wines will influenced by the sea (whether they are coastal vineyards or it’s about soil composition), and look for new California wines, with a focus on organic and natural viticulture. Julian Cox’s bar program (to be clear, he’s consulting on this project in an ongoing basis, not just the opening, but is still with Tartine) will include spirits from small producers, seasonal ingredients, and having fun with the concept: some sea Navy Strength gin and rums, east India Sherry, port, and Madeira. They will also be featuring spirits that go well with oysters.

They want the style and vibe to feel fun and neighborhood-y, while referencing the California coast. There will be three areas: the oysterette (an extension of the bar, flanking the street, with floor-to-ceiling windows), the dining room (which will be a little more private, with ash tables and wood banquettes), and the raw bar, complete with marble and an oyster station, along with a VIP table with room for seven.

They are targeting a November opening, and the next time you’re at Benjamin Cooper (also a part of the Hotel G property), you can take a peek at their progress. (It’s opening in the former 398 Brasserie space.) 398 Geary St. at Mason.

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The new booths and banquette seating at Magnolia Dogpatch. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The new back indoor beer garden. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The baked clams “cioppino” on the new menu. Photo: David Martinez.

Last week, I had the opportunity to swing by the newly updated ~MAGNOLIA DOGPATCH~, formerly Smokestack, and the new team has made some significant changes to the restaurant look and concept, adding a beer garden and neighboring 5,000-square-foot event space.

Hannah Collins Design did quite the makeover, adding dove grey and upholstered booths to the middle of the room, with smoky glass light fixtures, and other touches like black tables and grey tiles under the open kitchen counter for a look that is approachably stylish. You’ll see some nods to founder Dave McLean’s favored 60s and Haight Ashbury aesthetic and roots, including the poster in the main dining room and some of the fun vintage ads in the hallway. The space does a nice job of balancing the masculine and the feminine, and the vintage and the modern.

In the back room, it’s now an indoor beer garden, with picnic tables and bleachers, plus state-of-the-art TVs, along with planters and a large, groovy mural. Whether it’s a game night or a private party, there is room for some rumpus. And: dogs are allowed.

The new ownership team leading Magnolia Brewing Company is Dick Cantwell, co-owner, president, and director of brewing operations; Kim Jordan, co-founder of New Belgium Brewing Company and executive chair; and Brian Reccow, CEO. 

The new chef is Laurance Gordon, who is no stranger to beer-focused restaurants and breweries (Mikkeller, Belga, Thirsty Bear Brewing Company). They have done away with the previously limiting barbecue concept and expanded the style to more of a modern, all-day American menu (subject to change). There are plenty of snacky items (at a preview tasting, I especially dug the baked clams “cioppino”), plus salads (including a Green Goddess wedge with shrimp), sandwiches, a burger, and some mains, including choucroute garni and Magnolia roasted chicken with preserved lemon, plus plenty of vegetable sides. They really wanted to tailor the menu to be more neighborhood friendly, and a destination for guests who will be catching games at the upcoming Warriors’ Chase Center.

As for the beers, there are 20 taps which will feature Magnolia flagships like Kalifornia Kolsch and Proving Ground IPA, plus some new brews, including Cucumber Squeeze, an IPA which I was calling spa beer (it’s brewed with cucumber peel and pulp and Meyer lemon), plus Momomojo Smoked Peach Ale, and beers from New Belgium and Oud Beersel. Taps will change frequently, with new offerings weekly. Beer will also be available for purchase in cans and two-liter growlers.

Wine is now going to be a focus, with an emphasis on affordable but quality selections, with many from California. The bar and cocktail program are in development, so look for more soon (and a little less whiskey), but you’ll find a few cocktail classics for now. The bar still has its marble top, and is an inviting place to perch.   Hours to start are Sun-Thu 5pm-11pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-12am. Weekend brunch and a happy hour are also coming soon. 2505 3rd St. at 22nd St., 415-864-7468   Note: Magnolia Haight Brewery and Restaurant also has a new chef (Roque Mendoza) and menu that remains very pub-like. 1398 Haight St. at Masonic. 

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The modern-chic dining room at Freds at Barneys New York, San Francisco. Yelp photo by Genevieve Y.

Now open in Union Square is ~FREDS AT BARNEYS NEW YORK, SAN FRANCISCO~. It’s a corner restaurant and bar on the sixth floor of the store, offering a dramatic urban view from the historic windows. The décor is chic and very ladies who lunch, with an inviting lounge with swanky little chairs that could be right at home at a vanity, and a bar complete with a 36-foot-long faceted mirror (you look marvelous). The elegant dining room is outfitted with mod swivel chairs in a soft green velveteen, and booths in a soft grey-blue. It’s all very pleasant and well-appointed, and the staff was gracious and charming.

But at a preview event last week, I feel like I should have worn a Designing Women power suit with the heftiest shoulder pads I could find, applied some heavy blush, and featured my vintage Gucci bag. The food was like a total throwback to 1991, complete with squiggles of balsamic on out-of-season asparagus, and the Freds [sic] spaghetti comes with pesto, shiitake mushrooms, more asparagus, and the kicker: sun-dried tomatoes. By the time the crab cakes came out with a smear of rémoulade, I was ready to head down to the perfume counter to douse myself in Poison. Or Giorgio. Anyway. I understand there’s some nostalgia about some of the salads and dishes (which date back to the original Freds opening in 1996), but I was really surprised at how anachronistic the menu was. I’d go back for Estelle’s chicken soup, and the perfectly fried Belgian pommes frites with some Champagne at the bar, but otherwise the menu was a head-scratcher. Entertaining, certainly. I guess it’s how fashionistas stay a size 4.

I also think it’s hilarious that I had a total download fail of my images from my camera of the evening. They completely disappeared. I think they got caught in a time vortex. I need to hop in a DeLorean and get back to the future to find them, along with a couple missing apostrophes, be right back.

Open for lunch and brunch: Mon-Sat 11am-4pm, Sun 12pm-5pm. 77 O’Farrell St. at Stockton, 415-268-3550.

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Gioia Pizzeria’s exterior signage. Photo: Rebecca Kinney. © tablehopper.com.

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Hayes Valley is really lucky to be the future home of Gioia’s crazy-delicious pizza. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Some changes over on Polk: after six years in their location, Will and Karen Gioia are moving ~GIOIA PIZZERIA~ to Hayes Valley, and opening a slice shop in the former Two Sisters Bar & Books space in early 2019. They are closing the pizzeria this Saturday October 6th (come by to say goodbye and for specials, like $8 glasses of wine), and when they reopen in the tinier 900-square-foot space, they’ll be serving whole pies, pizza by the slice, meatballs, chicken and meatball Parm hero sandwiches, salads, and daily specials. You’ll be able to dine in or take out. They are going to miss their neighbors, but wanted to streamline into a smaller space with counter service (like their Berkeley shop, which they’ve had since 2004). 579 Hayes St. at Octavia.

Taking over their space will be a second location of Outer Richmond’s ~FIORELLA~, so at least quality pizza will continue from Boris Nemchenok and Brandon Gillis. Look for nightly dinner and weekend brunch too, stand by for dates and more. Get ready for some fun wallpaper. 2240 Polk St. at Green. [Via Eater.]

Over in the Castro, ~SOFIA CAFÉ~ has closed after two years of serving empanadas and café fare, and taking its place will be ~GAI~ from Kevin Lieu, serving Vietnamese-style chicken and rice plates for lunch and dinner in mid-October. 3463 16th St. at Dehon. [Via Hoodline.]

After opening in 1994, Brigitte and Andrew Thorpe have closed fondue palace ~THE MATTERHORN SWISS RESTAURANT~ so they can retire (off to Florida they go!). Eater reports “The Matterhorn’s landlord will retain the restaurant’s chalet decor and hopes to find a new operator from Switzerland.” 2323 Van Ness Ave. at Green.

In the Mission, the Mexican sports cantina from the Tacolicious team, ~BAR SAN PANCHO~, has closed—I’ll be sharing details about the new project, Elda, from Eric Ochoa soon. 3198 16th St. at Guerrero.

And across the water in Tiburon, the Michael Mina Group is taking over the ~GUAYMAS~ waterfront space after a big upgrade—they plan to open by summer of 2019. Stand by for more on the concept. 5 Main St., Tiburon.

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A seasonal (and always vegetarian!) spread at Greens. Photo: Nader Khouri.

Some great news regarding our dear ~GREENS~, which has been closed for four months after suffering a kitchen fire before dinner service on June 20th. It’s going to reopen on Monday October 15th, just in time for its 40th birthday in 2019. The kitchen has been repaired, and the main dining room has been restored back to its original craftsmanship.

But with this reopening also comes some big news: executive chef Annie Somerville, who has been leading the Greens kitchen since 1985 (The San Francisco Zen Center opened Greens in 1979), is going to be transitioning into semi-retirement. But she will continue to oversee the culinary vision, and will be keeping her regular shopping schedule at The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Fortunately, she has instilled a strong culture of gratitude, humility, and being of service, which will continue as well.

When asked about the success of Greens, Somerville comments, “I really believe our stability is about goodwill. As food culture has grown, we’ve had greater access to the most incredible ingredients of all time. We can execute high-level dishes with all the exceptional produce we acquire. And at the core of Greens, we are very mindful, especially of our staff; they are everything to Greens. Guests feel welcome here, and the employees feel a part of something special. Being located within the Golden Gate National Park is such a gift. People’s lives are so busy, and they value these beautiful Bay Area open spaces more now than ever.”

So book your reservation, welcome the staff back, and get ready for a seasonal menu full of fall bounty from their partner, Green Gulch Farms.

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Mixiote’s incredible morita salsa and lamb tacos at last year’s SF Street Food Fest. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Feasting at CUESA’s Sunday Supper in the Ferry Building’s Grand Hall. Photo ©Drew Altizer Photography via Facebook.

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Get ready for a weekend of music, food, art, crafts, and more at Treasure Island Music Festival. Photo by Tom Tomkinson, courtesy of TIMF.

I hope you don’t have too many plans already for next weekend (October 13th-14th), because there’s a lot going on.

First, Saturday October 13th is the ninth year of La Cocina’s San Francisco Street Food Festival, returning to the Powerstation in Dogpatch. There will be 30-plus chefs and restaurants, 90 percent of whom are women, like Reem Assil of Reem’s and Dyafa (2018 James Beard semifinalist) serving pali Cali man’oushe (flatbread with sumac-braised chicken); Nite Yun of Nyum Bai (Bon Appetit’s Hot Ten Restaurant of the Year) serving Cambodian lemongrass skewers with prahok ktiss dip and and pickled veggies; Isabel Claudido of El Buen Comer, serving chilaquiles verdes or rojos topped with eggs and fresh green salsa; Fernay McPherson of Minnie Bell’s who will be slinging her famous rosemary fried chicken (typically only available in the East Bay); and Hang Truong of Noodle Girl sharing Vietnamese pork belly and five-spice chicken banh mi sandwiches. Look for some new vendors too! There will also be cocktails from Third Rail Bar!

Festival tickets are $6 and can be purchased online at sfstreetfoodfest.com or for $10 at the gate (if still available). 100% of each ticket sold is donated to La Cocina. Last year’s festival sold out so be sure to get yours early! And bring cash. 11am-7pm. 420 23rd St. at Illinois.

And then on Sunday October 14th, it’s CUESA’s Sunday Supper: A Farm to City Feast. 40 top chefs will be preparing food outside (it’s quite the setup!), while guests will enjoy an opening reception inside (with hors d’oeuvres, oysters, and cocktails), followed by a four-course dinner in the Ferry Building Grand Hall, with paired wines and tableside presentations. There is also a fantastic silent auction and live auction too.

Funds from the Sunday Supper gala contribute more than 50 percent of the cost of CUESA’s education programs, which serve farmers, kids, and educators in cultivating a healthy food future that nourishes all. VIP ticket: $375 ($250 tax deductible), doors at 5pm; General Admission ticket: $300 ($200 tax deductible), doors at 5:45pm.

And then across the Bay all weekend, it’s the Treasure Island Music Festival, returning after a one-year hiatus in a new location at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in Oakland. Tickets are still on sale (both VIP and GA), and I am so fired up to see Tame Impala and Cigarettes After Sex on Sunday. The food lineup is thoughtfully curated to feature many Oakland and East Bay businesses—you’ll find food from Aburaya (bring on the Japanese fried chicken), bling bling dumpling, Curry Up Now, Gerard’s Paella, Itani Ramen, Little Star Pizza, Mi Granny’s Kitchen, Rockos Ice Cream Tacos, The GrilledCheezGuy, and more.

There will also be some great on-site art installations, with many created by local Bay Area residents. Don’t miss “Cosmic Voyager” from the SF-based art collective Chromaforms, a massive laser-cut, stainless steel sea turtle offering horoscope readings that change based on the date and time after participants press buttons on the turtle’s fin. Burners will be happy to see Barry Crawford’s “Mechatheusis,” a mechanical giant squid kinetic sculpture. There will also be Workshop’s Camp DIY if you want to get crafty (try shibori dyeing bandanas or sewing beer koozies!).

Festival gates and box office open daily at 11am, with music kicking off shortly at noon each day. The only way to get to and from the festival is via the official complimentary festival shuttle service at West Oakland BART, or rideshare to the festival’s designated festival drop-off/pick-up area nearby.

September 18, 2018
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The light-filled dining room at Barbara. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Take a seat at the bar at Barbara (artwork by Jeremy Fish). Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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A sneak peek at Barbara’s teglia romana. Photo: Francesco Covucci.

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Another look at Barbara’s teglia romana. Photo: Francesco Covucci.

Due to open this Friday September 21st is ~BARBARA PINSERIA & COCKTAIL BAR~ in the former Panta Rei in North Beach from Il Casaro’s Francesco Covucci and Peter Fazio (they are also behind Pasta Pop-Up).

The approachable menu is veering more into a Roman-influenced direction, with California seasonality playing a strong part, too. I got a quick glance at a preview menu: there are antipasti like oxtail supplì, baccalà, and of course some artichokes to go along with that Roman theme. A variety of pastas will range from tagliatelle with ragù (two meats: veal and pork) to some Roman-influenced classics, like bucatini all’amatriciana (my favorite), cacio e pepe, and rigatoni alla carbonara. There’s also an interesting fusilli dish with mushrooms. Daily specials will be available too, like saltimbocca on Thursdays, and porchetta on Saturdays.

There’s a whole section of pinsas (not pizza), which come in an oblong shape, and anyone who is a Montesacro regular already knows the dough of this trending style of pizza is made of soy, rice, and wheat—it’s a lighter and easier-to-digest dough, and can have a nice crispness to it as well. Toppings will include one with truffled egg with smoked pancetta and red onion, and one of my favorite pizza toppings at Il Casaro (mortadella and pistachio) will be making its way over. Pastore Mennato is the consulting pinsa chef, with over 20 years of experience.

Just next door in the adjoining space is Barbara Express, which is where you’ll find a case full of teglia romana, the Roman-style pizza that is baked in a square pan and cut however large or small you want your slice(s) to be. Gabriele Bonci’s Pizzarium in Rome is the most famous spot—and Barbara will offer the first teglia romana in SF.

The dough is 85 percent water, and fermented for 48 hours (you should see the bubbles that form). It’s baked in an electric Cuppone oven in about three minutes, and has an airy crumb that is crisp and, good for us, can stand up to a variety of toppings. At Express, the teglia romana will be cut with scissors and sold by the ounce—toppings will change daily, ranging from sausage to carbonara, and then off you go. At the counter, you’ll also be able to order supplì, and espresso service in the morning with house-baked cornetti will be coming soon.

Another fun component to the entire operation is there’s a full bar, and Carlo Splendorini (Michael Mina, Pabu) is consulting on the bar program. Pull up a stool…

The light-filled space juts into a corner shaped not unlike a pizza slice, with 68 seats inside, and 40 outside on both sides of the building under the yellow awnings (let your seat choice follow the sun—Columbus or Stockton). The interior is clean and a bit industrial chic, with curving wood and metal chairs, both at high-top and regular-height tables, plus there’s a communal table. The bar features cheerful black and white tiles, and there’s some splash of oxblood red on the walls, and wallpaper is coming too. The artwork above the bar is from neighborhood honcho Jeremy Fish, and in case you were wondering about the name (and why “Barbara” is in neon), the name belonged to Covucci’s great-grandma, who was Roman.

The plan is to open this Friday, but confirm with their Instagram before heading over. Initial hours are Sun-Thu 11:30am-11pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-12am, with brunch launching soon. 431 Columbus Ave. at Stockton, 415-445-3009.​

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The lively interior design. Photo: Anthony Parks.

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The Ceres, Rayearth, & Windham aperitivo. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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A selection of stellar nigiri sushi. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Uni toast with aji amarillo butter, chive, and fleur de sel. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Last week, I was invited to attend a preview of ~KAIYŌ~ on Union Street, and let’s just say you’re going to want to check out this spiffy restaurant and bar, even though I know Cow Hollow can be a tough sell for some folks. The owner is John Park (co-founder of Whitechapel and Novela), and it’s one of those places where there’s as much attention paid to the bar offering as the menu.

The food is inspired by Nikkei cuisine, a Japanese-influenced type of Peruvian food from Japanese immigrants in Peru. The flexible menu from chef Michelle Matthews will work well if you’re coming by for some bites to go with your cocktails, all the way to ordering a full spread. The Hokkaido scallop tiradito ($16) brings the Nikkei concept to life, featuring passionfruit leche de tigre, sweet potato purée, chia, and pickled red onion. There are also ceviches (including one made with heirloom tomatoes) and crudos, plus nigiri, sashimi, and rolls.

The high quality of the seafood is really apparent, and it’s partly to do with Ricky Yap, who consulted on the opening menu and sushi/seafood preparation techniques—if you were lucky, you got to sit at his counter when he was the sushi wizard at Akiko’s. The red snapper with plum pepper paste nigiri ($6 per piece) brought me back to his counter, and there’s also tender duck breast nigiri ($7) with shaved foie gras torchon and sherry gastrique. AND there’s an uni toast ($14) on the menu that is outstanding, with aji amarillo butter, chive, and fleur de sel. Don’t miss it.

You’ll also find more traditional Peruvian dishes, like anticuchos (skewers)—including the classic beef heart ($14), or you can go modern luxe with A5 wagyu kofta ($14)—and there’s also the option to get a half or whole rotisserie Mary’s chicken ($16 or $24), with side sauces and scallions. Speaking of sides, the haricot vert ($8) with miso hollandaise is a winner.

The extensive menu of cocktails is focused on Peruvian pisco and Japanese whisky, with ingredients ranging from lucuma and minted snap pea to ume and lemongrass oil. The names are anime-inspired, which also tie in to the artwork in the space. Sake sommelier Stuart Morris has assembled an extensive sake list, plus there are food-friendly wine selections and imported beers to try.

The space has a playful and vibrant look (overseen by Park and design consultant Hannah Collins), with a 35-foot living moss wall, a punchy yellow banquette, a marble bar, street art murals, and leopard wallpaper. Rawr. There’s also a swell patio out front (the space was formerly Ottimista-Enoteca), perfect for a nightcap or end-of-summer alfresco dinner. Open Sun-Wed 4pm-12am, Thu-Sat 4pm-2am. 1838 Union St. at Octavia, 415-525-4804.

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Shrimp Louie at Café Envy. Yelp photo by John V.

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Mexico City-inspired chicken tinga tostada at Tato. Photo via Facebook.

Bayview has not just one but two new additions to their dining scene, and both are sequel restaurants from female chef-owners! Yes. Let’s start with the opening of ~CAFE ENVY~ from “Auntie” April Spears (of Auntie April’s and chicken and waffles fame). Her menu includes salads (like a Caesar and shrimp Louie), bar bites (beef, chicken, or salmon sliders, jumbo smoked wings), soups (including chicken and dumplings), a burger, a vegan soul bowl, and large plates like half a lemon and herb-roasted chicken, New York steak, or jumbo prawns, all under $20. You can peep a photo of the menu here.

Cafe Envy opened in the former Monte Carlo space, and there’s a full bar (her new type 87 license is the first new liquor license issued by the city in 80 years!). Open Mon-Sat 11am-12am. 1701 Yosemite St. at Lane and 3rd St. [h/t to Eater]

Another recipient of a type 87 license is the new ~TATO~ from chef/owner Kristin Houk, who is also behind All Good Pizza in the Bayview District. The Mexico City-style menu pays homage to Houk’s abuela-in-law, who cooked in Mexico City and taught Houk many family recipes. The menu includes a range of tacos, quesadillas, salads, tostadas, and more, featuring spit-roasted al pastor, chicken tinga, or butternut squash. The tortillas are from La Palma Mexicatessan, and all-organic produce from a woman-owned co-op called Veritable Vegetable in Bayview. Houk is committed to quality ingredients while keeping prices affordable (there’s also a great happy hour (Tue-Fri 4pm-6pm), with any three tacos for just $10).

The space has a mid-century look, with tiles galore, fun and bright yellow upholstered bar chairs, an open kitchen, and hand-blown glasses for beverages like a Bloody Maria with house escabeche. Newly expanded hours are Tue-Fri 11am-9pm, Sat 10am-10pm, and Sun 10am-3pm (subject to change). 4608 3rd St. at McKinnon, 415-948-0974.

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Smokebread (by Duna): it’s like your dream flatbread sandwich. Photo courtesy of Nick Balla.

Here are a couple quick sneak peeks of upcoming restaurant projects, and both involve chef Nick Balla, of Smokebread, and previously Duna, and Bar Tartine. He has been busy with his lunchtime Smokebread pop-up at The Perennial in SoMa, but according to this Forbes.com article, he has also been consulting on the menu for the upcoming ~BERBER~ supperclub in Russian Hill. Look for a North African-inspired menu, and they will offer live entertainment and performances in the back dining room (from belly dancers to aerialists). They’re targeting a November opening. 1516 Broadway at Polk.

In this article in the Chronicle, it mentions Balla is also planning a restaurant concept that will have the utilization of imperfect and surplus food/food waste at its core. Here’s more: “For his new business, Balla plans to have a central commissary and processing facility called Duna Kitchen, and to run Smokebread within it. The menu will have dips, spreads, soups and what he calls spoon salads — chopped vegetables bathed in vegetable-juice dressings (pureed from extra produce) best eaten with a spoon. The space will have to have room for equipment needed to juice, dehydrate and jar the tons of food he hopes to go through. There will also be a bakery for incorporating leftovers into bread, with out-of-the-box ideas like using dehydrated, oxidized (as in blackened) avocado to color and flavor a dark rye bread.”

Amazing, right? He’s considering a location in Bayview, stand by for updates and be sure to read the article for more details on this cutting-edge concept.

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A sneak peek at some fixtures and tableware at the soon-to-open Prairie. Instagram photo via @anthonystrong.

Just a couple quick updates here: first, Anthony Strong’s new Mission restaurant, ~PRAIRIE~ is targeting early October for the opening. Dishes on the “new school” Italian menu include: pane distrutto (giant, torn pieces of olive oil-toasted bread soaked in Early Girl tomato pulp, just like crunchy-juicy toast of a BLT), tagliatelle with cutting board ragù (which uses the juice and fat from a whole roasted chicken), and coal-roasted eggplant with umeboshi and Gaeta olives. Ready for all of this. And the highballs. Read more in my original piece here. 3431 19th St. at Mission.

Taking over the massive Crystal Jade location at Four Embarcadero Center will be ~HARBORVIEW RESTAURANT & BAR~, a Cantonese restaurant. According to a post on Hoodline, they’re aiming for a late November opening. Drumm St. at Sacramento.

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The fab new classroom, complete with great views. Photo: Terese Sy.

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The new shopping area and café. Photo: Terese Sy.

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Of course there’s a killer grilled cheese on the menu. Photo: Terese Sy.

Your new cheese headquarters has arrived: ~THE CHEESE SCHOOL OF SAN FRANCISCO~ has reopened in its new Ghirardelli Square home, the historic “apartment house” in the central plaza: a two-story freestanding brick house right by the mermaid fountain, with some spectacular views. It’s not only an awesome cheese school, but there is also a cheese shop, a café, and a private dining space. Owner Kiri Fisher brought on architect Wylie Price (State Bird Provisions, Ramen Shop, Fisher’s Cheese + Wine) to design this cheese dream emporium. The first floor hosts the café and shop (full of specialty items, from a case of cheese to crackers to cheese knives), while the upstairs hosts classes and private dining with views 
of the bay.

On the café menu (overseen by Claudia Gutierrez Smith), you’ll find Fisher’s American artisan grilled cheese with three cheeses melted between country bread (you’ll want to add on the prosciutto jam, and maybe a side of tomato soup); plus there’s pimento cheese, prepared in-house with Hook’s five-year cheddar, Calabrian chilies, garlic, and herbs; smoky blue wedge salad; mac and cheese; French raclette; and fun dishes like “fish and chips” with house-cured salmon salsa, crema, and kettle chips. The café will offer counter service and serve food all day.

Cheesemongers will be available at the cheese counter to help with pairings and tastes, and charcuterie will be cut to order. There are two grab-and-go cases filled with a selection of cheese, charcuterie, antipasti, salads, and sandwiches in case you’re preparing a picnic, and you’ll also find chilled wine, beer, and non-alcoholic beverages.

Book yourself into an upcoming fall class (the pizza-making classes will use a new, three-tier pizza oven!), and there are even new drop-in classes on Friday afternoons. 900 North Point, Suite K201 at Larkin, Ghirardelli Square, 415-346-7530.

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Cancún burrito love FOREVER. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

In case you missed the announcement on Twitter, where it spread like guacamole, beloved ~TAQUERIA CANCÚN~ has reopened on Mission after being closed for months for an upgrade. Time to go snag a super al pastor burrito, like, ahora. 2288 Mission St. at 18th St., 415-252-9560.

Also on Mission Street, but this is sad news: ~PRUBECHU~’s chef Shawn Naputi and general manager Shawn Camacho just announced they will be closing after service on Saturday September 29th, after four-plus years of serving their Chamorro-style cuisine from Guam and building up a loyal community. Their farewell email mentions: “We are the latest causualty of the all-too-familiar San Francisco story of landlord disputes and rent increases. Though we are very saddened by this development we have our heads held high and are looking forward to the next chapter of our mission to spread our Chamorro culture through our food and hospitality.” 2847 Mission St. at 24th St.

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Ritu’s extraordinary pork vindaloo. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Luke’s Lobster rolls and Black Hammer lobster shell and kelp saison, it’s on. Photo: Isabel Baer.

Some fun pop-ups for you, starting with this amazing Sunday Supper at ~RITU INDIAN SOUL FOOD~ in the Mission (read more about the rebranded location in my Table Talk post), when chef-owner Rupam Bhagat will be cooking a three-course, family-style menu with his mom (Sudha), featuring family recipes. Sunday September 23rd, $40 per guest (exclusive of tax, gratuity, and beverages). The series will run every fourth Sunday of the month. 3111 24th St. at Folsom.

Chef Joe Sasto (previously of the fabulous Cal Mare in Los Angeles, Lazy Bear, and Quince), is doing a pop-up at ~TRUE LAUREL~ on Thursday September 20th, starting at 5pm until everytthing is sold out. He’ll be serving a few small dishes inspired by his favorite bar snacks, including nachos with puffed pasta chicharrones, parmigiano fonduta, refried ceci beans, and senise peppers, and “chicken Parm” tortelloni with mozzarella, pomodoro, garlic streusel, and basil (um, yes). Dishes will be $13-$15. A portion of food sales will be donated to the ACLU of Northern California. 753 Alabama St. at 20th St.

If you’re excited for the upcoming opening of ~LUKE’S LOBSTER~ in SoMa this fall (they’re looking at mid-October), you can have a warm-up at this pop-up at ~BLACK HAMMER BREWING~. You’ll be able to try Luke’s Lobster rolls for the first time, along with a lobster shell and kelp saison, brewed with lobster shells coming from Luke’s, while Black Hammer’s head brewer foraged for the kelp in the Pacific Ocean. Friday September 21st, 5pm-8pm. 544 Bryant St. at 3rd St.

September 4, 2018
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The bar area at ALX. Photo courtesy of ALX.

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Duroc sticky pork ribs. Photo: Nicola Parisi.

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The foie-gyu burger at ALX. Photo: Nicola Parisi.

There’s a new ofshoot of Alexander’s Steakhouse that has opened in SoMa called ~ALX~, a gastropub open day and night. Executive chef Jessie Lugo (who trained with Acquerello’s Suzette Gresham and was most recently at Alexander’s Steakhouse SF) and her best friend, executive sous chef Emily Lim, are offering an upscale pub menu with dishes like goat cheese tater tots (aka Totes M’Goats Tots), Duroc sticky pork ribs, and market greens dip (a play on spinach artichoke dip) with chicharrones for dipping.

Mains include beer can chicken with dirty rice, pickles, and yogurt, and of course an attention-getting burger: the foie-gyu burger ($35), a blend of foie gras and Wagyu beef with sun-dried tomato jam (there’s also a simpler cheeseburger for $15). Churro taco for dessert sounds like trouble. Dishes are made with well-sourced local ingredients and feature many housemade items, like the bacon, fries, chips, and hot sauces.

Beverage director Barry Horton has put together a list of Californian beer and wine, and the cocktails will rotate seasonally (right now, there’s the Stone Cold Summer, with Scotch and housemade peach syrup, finished with lemon, bitters, and soda water).

It’s a roomy space (5,525 square feet), with a capacity of 80 guests (split between the bar/lounge and main dining room); it was designed by D-Scheme Studio. Concrete floors contrast with live-edge wood tables and black leather bar stools. The bar also features three TVs, so here’s a place to go on game days. Open for lunch Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm, happy hour 5pm-7pm, and dinner nightly 5:30pm-10pm. 680 Folsom St., Suite 125 at 3rd St.

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The funghi and piccante pizzas at Doppio Zero. Yelp photo by Moe A.

Now open in Hayes Valley in the former Caffe Delle Stelle is ~DOPPIO ZERO~ (no relationship to SoMa’s Zero Zero) from Southern Italians Gianni Chiloiro and Angelo Sannino, who are also behind two South Bay locations of Doppio Zero and The Meatball Bar here in SF. They installed a Stefano Ferrara wood-burning pizza oven and are the 18th Californian pizzeria to be VPN-certified (from the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana in Naples).

The menu features antipasti, pizza (eight red pies, seven white), housemade pasta, and entrées like zuppa di pesce (seafood soup with clams, calamari, shrimp, fresh fish, in a light and spicy tomato broth), chicken Milanese, and roasted cauliflower. Something special on the menu is the Pizza Napule, which is fried and stuffed like a calzone with smoked mozzarella, ricotta cheese, tomato sauce, Italian salami, and black pepper. And on Tuesdays, you can order their off-menu Pizza Stelle, a pizza shaped like a star, with each of the five points holding different toppings of the chef’s choice.

The 68-seat space was designed by Alex Miramare of Naples, with a 12-seat marble bar where you can watch the pizzaiolo, plus there are leather booths and dark-stained wood tables; outdoor seating is coming soon. And there’s a full bar. Open Mon-Thu 11:30am-2:30pm and 4:30pm-10pm, Fri 11:30am-2:30pm and 4:30pm-11pm, Sat 11:30am-11pm, and Sun 11:30am-9:30pm. 395 Hayes St. at Gough.

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A rendering of the upcoming Freds at Barneys New York San Francisco. Rendering courtesy of Barneys New York San Francisco.

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Freds at Barneys New York San Francisco is coming to the top floor. Yelp photo by Charlie B.

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The 1881 Restaurant is coming to the Payne Mansion on Sutter. Photo courtesy of The 1881.

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A rendering of the upcoming Commons Club at Virgin Hotels San Francisco. Courtesy of Virgin Hotels.

Here are a few restaurants that are coming soon. First, Union Square is going to have yet another new project (in addition to ONE65) opening this fall: ~FREDS AT BARNEYS NEW YORK, SAN FRANCISCO~, opening in the top floor of the store. Chef Mark Strausman’s menu will feature classics from Barneys New York, such as Estelle’s chicken soup, Fred’s chopped chicken salad, and pizza margherita, plus some locally inspired additions. Steven Harris Architects and Lalire March Architects are creating a showstopping space, featuring a 36-foot-long faceted mirror lining the back bar in the lounge area and a dining area in the corner, with views of Union Square from the original historic windows. There will be 64 seats, with 17 in the lounge and 13 at the bar. Stand by for opening updates. 77 O’Farrell St. at Stockton.

Michael Mina and Hawaiian chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka and Wade Ueoka of Honolulu’s MW Restaurant will be opening ~TRAILBLAZER TAVERN~, a Hawaiian-inspired restaurant in the Salesforce East building this November. The menu will span pupus (snacks), dim sum, salads, sashimi, and crudos, plus noodle and rice dishes, sandwiches, seafood, and large meat plates for sharing.

The 7,000-square-foot restaurant includes a mezzanine with room for up to 72 guests, overlooking the Salesforce lobby. The main dining room and bar will feature 34-foot-high ceilings with 24 seats at the bar and an additional 47 seats at tables, banquette seating, booths, and flex tables. A private dining space will have room for up to 18 guests, and there’s a spacious outdoor patio that will offer seating for 54 guests (with heaters and strung lighting), plus accordion-style doors on the ground level that can open on nicer days.

You’ll feel mahalo vibes in the Hawaiian-inspired bar, with a list of tropical cocktails, along with local and Hawaiian beers, a boutique wine list, and a special selection of bourbon and Japanese whisky. 350 Mission St. at Fremont.   

The new owner of the Payne Mansion at 1409 Sutter is going to be opening ~THE 1881 RESTAURANT~, featuring seasonal Cal-French cuisine from chef Jean-Paul Peluffo, with dishes like diver-harvested scallops with turmeric leek fondue and Makrut lime beurre blanc. He was most recently brought on to update the Le Colonial menu and was the chef at Le Bistro for 10 years. Fun fact: Peluffo holds three master’s degrees. Owner Bernard Rosenson is also French, as well the GM, so you know the wine program is also going to be a big point of attention, along with a cocktail menu and local craft beers.

Timothy Quillen is designing the space, which will feature historic materials, colors, and furniture, with room for 90 in the dining room, 6 at the bar, and 14 on an outdoor patio. Look for a fall opening. Dinner will be served nightly 5:30pm-10pm, with weekend brunch and high tea coming later. There is also a hotel that is part of the property. 1409 Sutter St. at Franklin.

Another fall opening is ~COMMONS CLUB~, at the new Virgin Hotels San Francisco coming to SoMa, which began taking reservations for stays starting on November 15, 2018 (the first opened in Chicago in 2016). The chef is Adrian Garcia (most recently consulting for Stonemill Matcha, previously chef de cuisine at Quince, and he also worked at Benu). He’s going to be creating a technique-driven, globally inspired menu designed to share, with hyperlocal California ingredients. The restaurant is supposed to feel like a modern social club; stand by for details in coming months. 250 4th St. at Folsom.

There’s also a taker for the long-shuttered Oro space at Mint Plaza: the co-owner of Burma Superstar, Desmond Tan, is going to be opening a Burmese restaurant in the location (possibly ~BURMACLUB~). He’ll be updating the space, moving the bar, and hopes to open in four months. Will keep you posted. Let’s hope the employment situation and policies have been tightened up since the labor lawsuit brought against Tan and Burma Superstar in 2016. 8 Mint Plaza at Jessie. [Inside Scoop.]

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Lemon and herb chicken with chili and corn sides. Photo: Gamma Nine.

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The cheerful interior of Piri Pica, complete with Portuguese travel posters. Photo: Gamma Nine.

Bwok bwok, it sounds and smells like flame-grilled, Portuguese piri piri chicken… Yup, due to open this week in the Mission is ~PIRI PICA~ from chef Telmo Faria (Tacolicious, Uma Casa) and Khalid Mushasha (Lolinda, Black Cat), a fast-casual spot in the former Frjtz.

As I mentioned in a previous piece, it’s feisty chicken—with chile and garlic and citrus and herbs—that has its roots in Africa (supposedly Portuguese settlers brought the chile peppers to then-colonies Angola and Mozambique, where the sauce originates). You’ll be able to get it by the quarter ($8, or $12.95 with two sides), half ($14, $18.95), or whole bird ($26, $32.95), and you can also designate how spicy you want it, or if you want it with lemon and herbs. Faria grew up in Portugal’s Azores, so these are flavors he knows well.

There’s also grilled breast, a shrimp skewer, plus a crispy chicken sandwich, a chicken wrap (whole wheat tortilla, saffron rice, three-bean chili, cabbage-herb slaw), and four kinds of salads, from cabbage-herb slaw to couscous to wild rice ($3.95 as a side, or $7.95 as a main), or the salad mista (chopped romaine, kale, spinach, tomato, cucumber, avocado, grapefruit, croutons and feta) for $10.95—you can add chicken to any of them for $5. Sides include french fries, saffron rice, vegan bean chili, grilled corn, braised collard greens, and hummus and grilled bread ($3.95-$5.95). The menu strives to be affordable and healthy, while also being well made and full of flavor.

Local beers and a Portuguese-influenced wine list will also be on offer. C Walters Design is behind the cheerful 48-seat space, which includes a vivid yellow door and yellow chairs inside, and four custom-designed steel banquettes (there will also be outdoor seating, with room for 10). Open daily for lunch and dinner from 11am-10pm. Hopefully they will update their Instagram account with the news when they open! 590 Valencia St. at 17th St., 415-800-7994.

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An array of yakitori at the new Z & Y Bistro. Photo via Z & Y Bistro via Yelp.

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A deli sandwich at Palermo II. Yelp photo by Cole G..

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Chomp N’ Swig knows what you need to start your day. Photo via Facebook.

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The new Samovar Tea & Chai on Fillmore. Photo courtesy of Samovar via Yelp.

Some new openings to report on, starting with ~Z & Y BISTRO~, which just opened. This outpost from the SF favorite ~Z & Y RESTAURANT~ is focused on serving 18 kinds of Japanese-style yakitori “with a Chinese twist” (hello, bacon-wrapped shrimp), but you can also score their signature spicy dishes, like spicy fish in flaming chile oil and chicken with explosive chile pepper, plus hot pot and mapo tofu (peep the menu here). And wine! They are also open for lunch, when you’ll find a yakitori lunch combo (soup, appetizer, yakitori, and rice) and Lanzhou beef ramen.

But the biggest reason why you should go there is this note on Yelp about the business owner, chef Zhang: “Chef Zhang has been cooking since he was 14. He married 5 years ago and wanted to bring the best to his beloved. Opening his own restaurant is his dream. He enjoys cooking and he loves to eat. Most importantly, he wanted to feed the eaters. He will have big smile when he sees people enjoying his food.” I mean, okay, yes, that is all. Open Wed-Mon 11am-3:30pm and 5:30pm-8:30pm, closed Tue. 606 Jackson St. at Kearny, 415-986-1899.

Well, this is a feel-good, comeback story if there ever was one. ~PALERMO II~ has opened in North Beach from some neighborhood locals, brothers Frank and Vince Balistreri. They’re serving some winning-sounding deli sandwiches, including The Vince ($10.50), with imported mortadella, olive oil, fresh tomatoes, salt, black pepper, oregano, and provolone cheese. That’s exactly my kind of panino. Open Tue-Fri 9am-6pm, Sat 9am-5:30pm, and Sun 10am-5pm. 658 Vallejo St. at Stockton.

More sandwich comeback stories: ~CHOMP N’ SWIG~ has soft-reopened on Geary in the Richmond, serving sandwiches, breakfast burritos (so wicked, with hash browns inside!), and their bacon butter crunch sandwich. Beer and wine will be coming in a month or so. Open Mon-Fri 11am-4pm and Sat-Sun 10am-4pm for now. 5203 Geary Blvd. at 16th Ave.

Arepa fans, there’s a new arepa spot in the Mission called ~EL AREPAZO~, a family-owned and -operated business that started from their need to find Colombian food in San Francisco. They offer a menu of handmade arepas, from meaty to vegan, and all the arepas are gluten- and dairy-free (unless you order cheese on yours, of course). Each item of the menu was named after a region in Colombia, such as La Santandereana ($7.99), with shredded beef, tomato, onion, bell pepper, quail egg, and La Pastusa ($8.99) with Colombian chorizo. They also cater. Open Mon-Thu 4pm-8pm and Fri-Sat 4pm-11pm. 2169 Mission St. at 18th St., 415-283-9923.

Another location of ~SAMOVAR TEA & CHAI~ recently opened in the former Fraiche frozen yogurt on Fillmore, serving their tea drinks (and you can add boba), including matcha, turmeric golden milk, and house chai from big copper pots, and some bites too, from egg cups to toast to chia pudding to mochi muffins. Open Mon-Thu 7am-6pm, Fri-Sun 7am-8pm. 1910 Fillmore St. at Bush.

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Ta-da! Get ready for MORE!jones with Juanita MORE! and her trusty team, chef Cory Armenta and Cole Church. Photo: Molly DeCoudreaux.

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Sundays are all about Juanita’s open-faced chilaquiles sandwich at her drag brunch. Photo: Molly DeCoudreaux.

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Juanita at home with her famed fried chicken and biscuits. Photo: Mr. Joe Montana.

Some updates for you around town, starting with the news that over at ~JONES~, there’s someone in the kitchen and she’s gonna need a big hairnet! Local treasure and drag KWEEN Juanita MORE! is known for hosting her annual Sunday Pride Party there, but has now taken over the restaurant and banquet services, along with chef Cory Armenta (Fork & Spoon Productions, Hecho, Hi Tops) and food stylist Cole Church (who has cooked with Juanita for more than 10 years).

Starting today (Tuesday September 4th), it’s now called ~MORE!JONES~. Look for some more Latin-Mediterranean flavors on the menu, including her French-style carnitas, pizzas (there’s a meatball pizza, oh yeah), and her famous chicken livers. Of course, she snuck a poblano chile relleno and jalapeños en escabeche on her half-pound burger. You’ll see farm-fresh and peak-season ingredients from Feral Heart Farm on the menu as well, and there will also be a cocktail pairing menu. And tres leches cake for dessert!

Miss More has hosted numerous pop-ups over the past 15 years, serving her famed tamales and fried chicken at various venues. She previously had her own catering company, in addition to working the line in both New York and SF restaurants, as well as working for Dean & DeLuca and Williams-Sonoma.

Look for some fun nights during the week, including an affordable three-course, family-style dinner on Wednesday evenings for $35 (Sept. 12 is fried chicken with honey goo, Sept. 19 is pozole rojo, and Sept. 26th is beef and pork meatballs). And of course there will be an over-the-top drag brunch on Sundays with her open-faced chilaquiles sandwich and her hangovah pizza (with pork sausage, mushrooms, spinach, cheese, and eggs). And Biscuit Island. (Can I get a cabana there?) There’s that lovely patio and three bars, so this brunch is going to be a hit. No wig snatching! Dinner is Tue-Sat 5pm-9pm and brunch is Sun 11am-3pm. 620 Jones St. at Geary.

The newly open ~THEORITA~ from the Che Fico team (pastry chef Angela Pinkerton and chef David Nayfeld) is now serving dinner. You can take a look at the menu, which includes a few salads (like Asian chicken and a Cobb), a burger (of course), a fried chicken sandwich, vegetarian chili, and of course save room for dessert. The diner-inspired menu will ramp up in time. Dinner 5pm-11pm. 838 Divisadero St. at McAllister.

Another spot you can grab dinner is at Adam Mesnick’s ~THE BOARD~ in SoMa. Just look at his Insta and you’ll see the evil double cheeseburgers he’s grilling up, along with buffalo wings and other things that are oh so good, oh so bad. Wed-Fri 6pm-9pm.