The Chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)
March 26, 2020
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The Summer Elote Corn pizza at Square Pie Guys. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

I’ve been blown away with the outpouring of support from the restaurant community, with many individual businesses rallying and raising funds to feed healthcare workers right now, like:
-Escape from New York Pizza
-Le Marais
-Square Pie Guys
-Esposto’s
-Andytown (you can buy coffee, pastries, wellness shots from Happy Moose, and Nana Joe’s granola bars for local hospitals and senior care facilities)

Want to help? There’s the newly launched Feed The Line, where people can donate to pay restaurants to make food for overworked healthcare professionals. It’s a win-win: 100 percent of proceeds go to local restaurants, and the food they prepare goes to doctors and nurses. Contribute or sign up!

There’s also Frontline Foodsclick here to help them in their SF efforts, although they are operating in other cities too.

There’s also Feed the Frontlines, which includes charities.

Restaurants have also been signing up for the SF Clinicians Meal Support Restaurant Program to feed hospital staff

I was happy to read this article about authors Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon donating and privately raising money to feed healthcare workers with food from East Bay restaurants. Keep it up!

If you’re a hospital worker, these places will feed you if you show your badge. Please click the links to learn how to support these businesses in their efforts!
-The Melt
-Augie’s Montreal Deli in Berkeley

There are also many programs and generous restaurants doing all they can to feed the community:
-support Bistro SF in their affordable meal plan
-Horn Barbecue is raising money to feed the community (they launched their first free meal today outside of their Oakland restaurant)
-Tacos El Patrón is offering food and grocery boxes to anyone in need
-Toma in the Marina is offering to feed people in need (you can pay a meal forward here)
-sister companies Mixt and Split have pay-what-you-can and pay-it-forward meals

Up in Sonoma, Single Thread is offering a daily menu for pickup, and working in partnership with @sonomafamilymeal and Corazon Healdsburg to produce 200 meals a day from their kitchen for local families in need. Order and contribute on their Tock page.

Che Fico keeps chugging along with their awesome family meal, now feeding up to 250 people for free nightly (you can donate, or order a meal and pay for it in support of their efforts).

I’ve been posting about all these programs on @tablehopper on Instagram in my Stories as I hear about them, and archiving them in my Highlights. Please follow along to keep up and support these businesses, as well as the restaurants fighting to stay open by offering takeout, delivery, and now cocktails.

I also want to point you to the many ideas in this James Beard Foundation newsletter on how you can help save restaurants.

Speaking of, here’s a petition for you to sign called Save Restaurants, thank you.

And if you’re a restaurant/bar/service industry worker experiencing hardship, here’s a list of many resources to help you.

And last but definitely not least, if there is any way you can please help La Cocina support their many businesses, it would help more people than you can imagine (starting with their families). First, here’s a list of all their restaurants that have pivoted to takeout/delivery, linking to their GoFundMe pages, gift certificates, and more. La Cocina has also established the La Cocina Emergency Relief Fund to provide much-needed and most immediate financial support to their entrepreneurs.

Launching Friday March 27th, is the La Cocina Community Food Box, with prepared foods from ten La Cocina restaurants in one box (each restaurant is providing an item that is about 2-4 servings). 100 percent of total sales go directly to the businesses. They’re planning for a twice-weekly pick-up. The first box has sold out (awesome!), but please subscribe to La Cocina for updates on the next sale (scroll to the bottom of the web page) and keep an eye on their shop. 

If you can find a moment to read this op-ed by José Andrés, you’ll be inspired and ready to support this man in any way you can.

March 25, 2020
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@squarepieguys has useful info listed on their Instagram bio: hours and a call-to-action/link to their online ordering.

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Clear and effective messaging from @sonsaddition on Instagram about their new takeout.

Dear restaurants and food businesses and bars that serve food and wine shops and cafés and vendors and anyone else who is desperately trying to pivot and stay open right now:

Thank you for all your efforts. We’re so sorry for all the struggle and loss and overwhelming fear and hard decisions. But there are ways to help your customers support you! As someone who has been looking at thousands of Instagram accounts and websites and Yelp pages trying to confirm and find information during this crisis, it made me want to write this checklist for you on free ways to help get the word out about your business and share/update your status and current offering.

I know you have a million things you’re doing right now, it’s a scramble, and you have limited resources and time. But think about asking for help! Break this list apart into action items and send to your coworkers, your publicist, your rockstar customers who want to help you. There’s more help out there than you may think.

SOCIAL MEDIA

-Is your Instagram account current? Update your bio with your hours, what you’re offering (takeout? delivery? curbside?), list your delivery partners (is there one you prefer your customers use because of their commission fee policy?), and be sure to include a link to your website or current menu. (If you are temporarily closed, please let your customers know.)

-Create a post with a picture of what you’re currently offering, and let people know how to get it. Announce your new meal kits, and show your followers how delicious they look! You can do a food pic, or even a few, and then a snapshot of your current menu for the second image.

-Some hashtags to add: #supportsmallbusiness #saverestaurants #savehospitality #toosmalltofail

-Try to do a daily update in your Stories. Share a pic of your menu, your special, your cocktail carafe, a video of your staff, you! Remind people you’re still open! It’s quick and effective.

-Do you need to close for the day, or a few? Send out a Story and a Post so your followers know you’re taking a break (and when you plan to be back).

-Ask your customers to share a picture of their meal/beverage from you and tag you!

-Reshare any Stories or posts people tag/feature you in—they’re creating easy content for you to share.

-Any posts/Stories you do on Instagram, push them to your Facebook page.

-I’m also seeing restaurants run sponsored ads on Instagram for more visibility…

-Try some live video content! From a mini cooking show in your kitchen to a message from the owner, everyone is creating video content to help put a face to all these takeout meals.

-Do you still have a Twitter account? Time to brush it off, update it, and send a post with your hours and menu—you have followers for a reason!

TAKEOUT MAPS

Get added to these maps that list who is open and doing takeout/delivery (and tag them in your Instagram post): Edible SF’s map and tag @ediblesf; Dining at a Distance and tag @diningatadistance; The Chronicle; Woso and tag @wososf; Takeout Covid; and even Bud Light launched a nationwide map.

EMAIL

-Do you have an email list? Send out an email about what you’re offering (did you just start offering cocktails to go?), your menu, your hours, a link to your social media accounts, how your customers can help support you!

-Some restaurants are sending daily emails with menu updates, or once a week with a weekly menu.

YELP

-Be sure to update your hours.

-Yelp is now offering the ability to add a GoFundMe link to your page (after stupidly adding this feature automatically, without asking restaurants first, WTF), as well as matching funds—check it out.

-Take a look at some additional offers right now, from free advertising support (if you offer delivery or takeout, they will set up a $100 Yelp Ads campaign free of charge for the month of April) to access to upgraded page features.

GOOGLE BIZ PROFILE

I’ve been hearing of a bug on Google: restaurants are trying to update their hours on their Business Profile and a bot keeps changing them back. If you know someone at Google who can help, please give them a firm nudge. (You can leave a comment on their latest Twitter post if you’re having the same trouble, follow updates here.) But they just added the ability to mark your status as “temporarily closed.” Some good tips in this article, like setting “holiday hours” and adding an event post.

FUNDRAISING/GCS

-Many businesses are launching crowdfunding/GoFundMe campaigns to raise money, or even creating a virtual tip jar and listing their Venmo handle. Some of your loyal followers will want to contribute and show their support to your employees and business. Make sure to share this to all your channels (social media, email list, website).

-Get added to this spreadsheet of SF restaurant GoFundMe fundraisers.

-Make sure to add your GoFundMe to your Yelp page (see above).

-Many businesses are encouraging their customers to buy gift certificates. Some businesses are offering GCs at a discount, like 25 percent off, as an incentive. Call it out as an option for your customers to help show their support.

-Get your gift certificate offer added here: Save Our Faves.

-Here’s a nationwide gift certificate map of small businesses where you can get listed as well: Help Main Street.

YOUR PHONE

Is your phone ringing, or just going straight to voicemail? Update your outgoing phone message with your hours and options (takeout, delivery, temporarily closed?). Make sure it’s easy for people to contact you, whether it’s a customer with a delivery issue or someone checking to see if you’re open.

SIGNAGE

-I’m seeing restaurants all over the city create signs in their windows, boldly listing what they’re offering, their delivery/takeout hours, their wine discounts, curbside options, their website. You can DIY this, or even better, hire local sign-makers to make it nice!

-And get your sandwich board out on the sidewalk (if you don’t have one—maybe get one?). I also recommend these customizable light-up signs for your window, they really get attention.

Hang in there. We’re all pulling for you!

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My takeout bounty from Nari. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

I know we’re all mulling about the safety of ordering takeout versus having food delivered, people are getting upset if their delivery person isn’t wearing gloves, we’re washing our hands like maniacs (good!)…we’re all trying to control our exposure, but imagine how these delivery folks are feeling right now. Trust, they want to lower their exposure as much as possible too. Seeing gloves may feel like a visual cue of cleanliness, but sometimes wearing gloves can be less sanitary (people leave them on for too long) versus being bare-handed and washing one’s hands more often/using hand sanitizer. Just something to think about.

I checked in with my badass sister, who is a Family Nurse Practitioner, about what would be best practices for receiving takeout/delivery into your home. The good news is the odds are extremely low for contracting coronavirus through food. But before diving in here, I strongly recommend this recently posted and well-researched piece by J. Kenji López-Alt on Food Safety and Coronavirus: A Comprehensive Guide—he definitely helped bring my OCD down a notch.

If you’re getting food delivered, you want to opt for no-contact delivery, and have them leave it by your door. (If you’re ordering alcohol, be prepared to have to show your i.d.)

Once you bring the bag inside, whether it’s takeout or delivery, don’t automatically place it on your table or counter! You can either lay down some newspaper or something you were planning to recycle, and put the bag on top of that. Or I just put it on the floor.

Wash your hands. Now’s the time to take the food out of the containers, keeping mindful that that exterior of the container could potentially be contaminated as well, so be sure to place the container on a protected surface area as well. Some folks are cleaning/wiping the outside of the containers. You can open the lid, and then wash your hands again. Take the food out and do what you were going to do with it—plate it, eat it, warm it up, whisper sweet nothings to it.

You can place any leftovers into clean containers of your own. And then wash your hands again before you eat. Don’t touch your face. And give any surface area a good cleaning after you’re all finished. Wash your hands again!

One more thing: if you live in an apartment building, take good care of yourself AND your neighbors! Spray/clean the doorknobs, door buzzers, mailboxes, handrails, and any other high-contact places in your building, daily. Cleanliness is truly next to godliness!

A quick note for restaurants:

Restaurants, please continue to keep an eye on what’s happening with couriers coming to pick up food. Are they crowding anywhere? I’ve been hearing of a few popular places getting pretty tight around pick-up areas. Create a safe and socially distant place for pickups—enforce it, keep cleaning it. Thank you.

March 20, 2020
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The katsu sando from Stonemill Matcha (which is sadly closed for now). Photo: © tablehopper.com.

On March 19th, Governor Newsom issued a statewide, stay-at-home order in California to “flatten the curve” of the spread of COVID-19. San Francisco was already ordered to stay at home on March 17th, making it literally impossible for food-loving San Franciscans to dine in restaurants. (As if things weren’t bad enough for restaurants of late.) Some restaurants have decided to offer take-out only, while others are scrambling to add third-party delivery (as you can imagine, there is quite a backlog). Some restaurants have opted to temporarily close for now, like Souvla, even though they already had a robust delivery and take-out business. So many are in danger of closing permanently (RIP to our dear Locanda, which has confirmed their closure is sadly permanent).

In all cases, restaurants are assessing what their employees want to do: do they want to work? Or do they want to go home and limit their exposure? Even running a skeleton crew in a spotless, sanitized kitchen with the utmost safety standards still presents proximity and contact with fellow workers, customers, delivery folks, products, money, and more. My mind reels at how many restaurant industry workers don’t have a job right now. And bars and clubs, all closed. It’s unfathomable. (And we should be especially concerned about our undocumented workers, who can’t collect unemployment.) More on how to support our F&B folks in another post.

It’s troubling that delivery—which has been destroying our city’s dining landscape—is now part of its survival right now. Sadly, these third-party apps have had a rather mercenary and unsupportive response to this current and unprecedented crisis. If you have the choice, please do takeout to save the restaurant the delivery commission fee they’ll be charged, which can go up to 30 percent. Takeout puts the money directly into the hands of the businesses, so that’s the best option.

Delivery happens, though, and it’s a sensible way to show your support, get fed, and minimize contact (most third-party apps have instituted no-contact delivery). And now that businesses that serve food and have a beer and wine (Type 41) or liquor license (Type 47) can now offer to-go and delivery of beer and wine, liquor, cocktails, and more, depending upon which license they have, well, wow, that helps. (More on that here.)

But not all delivery services are created equal, especially now. I’ve looked at the fine print of some of our local delivery companies and what they are and aren’t offering during this crisis. I’ve included my discount codes to incentivize you to order delivery to support restaurants, and in turn, thanks for helping me support them, too.

Postmates has waived commission fees for new vendors to the platform in SF (for now—no word on when the offer ends), so more money goes to the restaurant. Pre-existing accounts don’t seem to get any relief. At least they’re looking out for their workers with the “Postmates Fleet Relief Fund, which aids our Postmates in covering the costs of co-pays or medical expenses related to COVID-19, regardless of diagnosis. Additionally, in the event a fleet member tests positive for Covid-19 [sic], the fund can be used to cover 2-weeks paid sick leave.” You can use my code for $100 off delivery fees.

Uber Eats has waived delivery fees on thousands of restaurants, which is great for you, the consumer, but I don’t see anything about lowering or waiving commission fees for the vendors, who are the ones who really need the money right now. One good thing: restaurants can opt to receive daily payments on all Uber Eats orders, rather than weekly. Oh, and Uber Eats is committing 300,000 free meals to first responders and healthcare workers in the U.S. and Canada—interested officials and organizations can email here. Get $7 off your first Uber Eats order; use my code at checkout: eats-ubertablehopper.

GrubHub/Seamless made big noise about waiving fees, but in fact they’re just deferring them, which means they can come back to claim them (and you know they will). And partners have to commit for a year. In any event, take an extra second and make sure the restaurant you think you’re ordering from is actually delivering through that service, mmkay? And think about using someone else, they really don’t care one iota about the restaurants on their platform—just read their latest “support” initiative.

DoorDash/Caviar were the last to announce anything, but are doing similar lackluster programs. From now through the end of April, independent restaurants can sign up for free with DoorDash and Caviar and pay zero commissions for 30 days. This is not a deferral of fees, nor will merchants be asked to pay anything back, so that’s helpful. The small bone they threw existing DoorDash and Caviar partners is that restaurants will pay no commission fees on pickup orders. Which is pretty pointless—you could have just called the restaurant and ordered takeout. (AND: you can’t even leave a tip with their pickup interface, so bring cash.)

They mention they “are also providing additional commission reductions for eligible merchants that are already on DoorDash”—but no word about pre-existing Caviar accounts. And they also say they’re “earmarking up to $20 million in merchant marketing programs to generate more revenue for restaurants that are already on DoorDash,” when I say just give the restaurants the money to survive right now.

I do appreciate that they “are joining forces with community organizations to deliver an estimated one million pounds of groceries and prepared food through our national partner, United Way Worldwide, serving seniors, low-income families, and mobility-impaired individuals across the U.S.” And somehow, they are “shipping more than 1 million sets of free hand sanitizer and gloves to Dashers and Caviar couriers.” So, there’s that. Here’s $10 off your first two Caviar orders.

Delivery has become a necessary evil to help some restaurants even have a shot at survival right now. It feels like putting the smallest Band-Aid on a brain hemorrhage, but something is better than nothing. Sadly, none of the delivery services are offering true support. But if any restaurants have a positive story to share, like a pre-existing account getting a discounted commission fee, please let me know.

So, if you can’t do takeout, but you still want to show support through delivery, here’s an idea: after you place your order and you’re waiting for your food, why don’t you send a private message on Instagram to the delivery company you just used, and demand they lower or eliminate delivery commission fees for restaurants right now—not just new accounts, and not just deferral. Heck, send a message to all of them. Comment on their latest IG post. Post a picture of your food and say: “I wish I could have had this delivered without “X: third-party app” charging “X: restaurant name” a delivery commission fee.” Tweet. Write a Facebook post and tag them. Make sure your friends and fam know to #supportsmallbusiness.

I wish the consumer had the choice to reverse a no-delivery fee and be able to pay for the delivery and send the fee/money to the restaurant/vendor.

These commission fee policies won’t change unless we get loud about them. It’s not the time for these third-party apps to be profiting off of the businesses that are absolutely drowning right now—they need to be SUPPORTING THEM.

And PLEASE TIP YOUR DELIVERY PERSON. BIG. They are exposing themselves to all kinds of potential risk right now to bring you food and make a living. Tip your counter person if you’re doing takeout. Tip the restaurant. Almost every restaurant I know has launched a GoFundMe or virtual tip jar on Venmo or PayPal for their staff and survival. Contribute if and where you can. Ask a favorite restaurant how you can help if they haven’t posted anything.

Know someone who just got laid off? A senior? Someone who is self-quarantined? Food-insecure? Send them food! There are also restaurants that are offering affordable or free meals for those in need, like Che Fico, Bistro SF Grill, Split, and Mixt. (Check my Instagram Stories for details.)

I love the restaurant community so damn much. They are generous, talented, scrappy, hard-working, nimble, altruistic, and OG hustlers. They are scrambling to do what they can to survive. Many are pivoting to offer meal kits, family-meals, health-boosting dinners, meals for $5.50, pay-what-you-can meals, pay-it-forward meals…some are just offering delivery and takeout so they can pay their staff and are not taking any profit. Some have converted their restaurant into a general store/pantry, like Prairie and now Verjus.

Personally, I’m experiencing a deluge of emails, DMs, tags, tweets, and more. I’m trying to keep up but it’s daunting. (Apologies to anyone I haven’t replied to or RT’ed or reposted yet, please know I’m trying!) If you’re on Instagram, tune in to my Instagram Stories (what, you weren’t following @tablehopper already?), where I’m trying my best to quickly showcase which restaurants are adapting by offering new takeout menus and more. It’s super-inspiring to see these folks get so creative in tough times. Click through to the original posts for more details. Forward to friends. Repost! Hit save on any you want to support so you remember.

You can keep up in my Stories, and check the following Highlights for recaps. Please note d/t stands for delivery/takeout.

SF d/t
510 d/t
650 d/t
North Bay d/t

There’s also an F&B resources highlight, where I’m posting any updates to help service folks.

For those of you who aren’t on Instagram, I’m sorry, but you can always sign up for an account so you can access all this info. It’s easy. You don’t have to post a thing, just follow. ;) (Sadly I can’t forward many of these Stories to Facebook.)

I don’t have the bandwidth to maintain a comprehensive list on tablehopper—it’s like drinking from a firehose right now, and it’s just me over here. But you can check out some super-helpful interactive maps and lists from Edible SF, Dining at a Distance, Resy, and natch, the Chronicle. Woso has this map up to support small businesses that are open right now. RESTAURANTS: make sure your business is added! There are also these handy 510 roundups from Nosh and Eater.

Pantry full but you still want to support? Give yourself the gift of future delicious meals! Gift cards are an easy way to give these restaurants a much-needed infusion of cashflow now—and some are even offering them at a discount. If you are a restaurant and don’t currently offer gift cards, here’s how. Here’s a page (Save Our Faves) with a collection of gift cards you can purchase (and get your restaurant added to).

People: please keep in mind that if and when these restaurants get back up and running, who knows when, don’t all rush in to cash that gift card at once, they’re going to need to time to get out of the hole and make some revenue. And if they sadly close, please don’t try to collect. (Restaurants: please note you are legally liable for those gift cards—unless you declare bankruptcy—but hopefully people just look at them as a donation.)

Big props to my paesano Sean Timberlake for lending a helping hand with this piece. He and his husband, realtor dpaul brown, have been helping to amplify local restos who are pivoting during this time.

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Fellow restaurant owners/chefs and family,

We want everyone to know that during this crisis we at the Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA) are making all our resources and information available to our whole restaurant community, regardless of if you are a member or not. We have been working with SF officials closely over the past few weeks and are continuing to share out all information/resources/help we can.

I feel your pain personally, having closed my two restaurants, Terzo and Rose’s Café on Monday night and laid off all our employees. I took on this role of acting Exec. Director in January and promise our team is approaching this from understanding the real pain of owner/operators and chefs.

I know there is frustration and folks want to do separate asks, etc. but I suggest if we all share info and work together we’ll have a shot at accomplishing more.

You can join our GGRA Facebook page and connect to our newsletter/member blast list.

Here is a link to the latest newsletter, which is full of resources and important info.

You can reach out to me directly, or on my mobile 415-305-3020.

We will continue to work on several ways to get cash into our restaurants and employee’s hands as quickly as possible.

With love & hope,
Acting Exec Director, GGRA
(and owner Terzo and Rose’s Café)

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Chef Rob Lam serving a canapé to co-owner Lily Lieu of Lily at the tablehopper pre-opening party. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

We are watching our communities struggle, suffer, and try to survive during this international crisis, and we’re all wondering how to help, or receive help. Here are some resources, articles, petitions, and more. Thanks for helping in any way you can, and if there is something you think I should add, please let me know! I will keep this post updated.

I said this in my other piece, but again, many restaurants, cafés, and bars/clubs are running a GoFundMe or virtual tip jar on Venmo or PayPal for their staff and survival. Contribute if and where you can. Ask a favorite venue how you can help if they haven’t posted anything.

You can help out hospitality workers in need by giving to any number of funds for service workers; check out this spreadsheet of support for food industry workers, with many mentioned in these articles and posts from Food & Wine, Punch, Cherry Bombe, and Eater. I have also seen this: Another Round Another Rally, a nonprofit financial resource for the hospitality industry.

The USBG keeps getting donations to the Bartender Emergency Assistance Program, you can donate or apply here.

And while you’re at it, please don’t forget our artists, performers, and workersBroke-Ass Stuart has this to say, and there is also the newly launched SF Bay Area Queer Nightlife Fund. DoTheBay has this roundup of ways to help the service and entertainment industry.

So many people are working hard to find solutions. If you’re in the F&B industry and have been affected by this changing market, again, you can hit up this amazing list of resources that just might save your bacon. You might also be eligible for unemployment benefits, so take it where you can get it.

Are you an employer? The Office of Economic & Workforce Development has created a webpage with resources for San Francisco employers and employees concerning the COVID-19 outbreak. You can also donate. Watch this space for more.

Restaurateurs should also check into the Small Business Association’s Disaster Loan Assistance program to see if it can help through the lean times.

Still want to help but don’t have the scratch? Signing petitions costs nothing but your time. Urge Mayor Breed to set up a fund for interest-free loans for small- to medium-sized businesses so they can keep the lights on, and reach higher to demand government around the country to offer unemployment benefits, waive taxes, and temporarily bend permits to allow businesses to adapt. Come on, it’ll only take a sec.

The National Restaurant Association has posted this petition to Tell Congress to Support Restaurants and Our Employees! Please sign it and pass it on—it’s getting some momentum!

Call your Representatives and Senators and demand that independent restaurants are part of the federal stimulus plan. Call 202-224-3121 to be connected to the Capitol switchboard.

Got a car? Sign up to volunteer to deliver food to people in (really serious) need with Project Open Hand and Meals on Wheels. Upside: There’s, like, no traffic out there.

However you cope during these difficult times, stay safe, stay informed (here too), check in on folks, and wash your damn hands.

Props again to my pal Sean Timberlake for helping me with this piece.

March 12, 2020
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Mezze and mana’eesh at the new Reem’s Mission! Photo: Angelina Hong Media.

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The cheerful new space. Yelp photo by aL Z.

Wow, that was fast! Congrats to Reem Assil (Reem’s California) for getting ~REEM’S MISSION~ open in the former (and missed) Mission Pie location relatively quickly. Considering how slowly things move in restaurant opening and permit land, it’s downright impressive!

Her new Arab bakery and café will be offering the breakfast and expanded bread/pastry menu she originally envisioned for her business in Fruitvale. She’s also going to serve her popular mana’eesh (oven-baked flatbreads)—which you can add all kinds of toppings to—plus mezze with fresh pita, along with plenty of new items, including ka’ik sandwiches on sesame bread, stuffed with egg salad, the hipster with avocado and house chile spice blend, or La Gringa, with Oaxacan cheese, pickles, and broth. Check the menu here. Save room for her knefah for dessert, and more pastries in the case. Reem’s will eventually offer brunch and dinner service (there’s also beer, wine, and espresso service, plus non-alcoholic refreshments—check the menu).

The space is colorful, with cheerful tiles and punches of turquoise and bright green table stands (with some good-looking Thonet chairs). You can survey the baked goods in the pastry case, order at the counter, and then enjoy your stuffed savory or sweet goodie, cardamom latte, and more at your table, looking out on the busy Mission corner.

For now, they’re doing a soft opening until March 27th on weekdays (Mon-Fri) 9am-2pm. Head on in to check it out! And then get ready for their grand opening party on Friday March 27th (7pm-10pm). Stay tuned for full opening hours soon. And don’t miss Reem on the second season of Ugly Delicious on Netflix! 2901 Mission St. at 25th St.

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Get excited for a slice of bee sting (bienenstich) cake! Photo courtesy of Hahdough.

Back in June, I wrote about ~HAHDOUGH~’s upcoming brick-and-mortar bakery, and now Nopa can claim a German bakery to the neighborhood’s roster of cool businesses.

To recap, it’s from baker Ha Do, known for her stand at the Inner Sunset and San Mateo farmers’ markets. She has many fans of her vanilla cream or seasonal (and organic) fruit jam-filled Berliners, pretzel croissants, and German cakes and tortes. You now have a place to sit down for a slice of cake and Linea Caffe espresso, like black forest cake, bee sting (bienenstich) cake, mousse cakes, and traditional German cheesecake (made with quark). You’ll additionally find almond cookies, fruit pies, and hazelnut twists, plus other new goodies. There will also be a Hahdough window opening in Hayes Valley soon (at the Cakemaker space at 509 Laguna St.), will keep you posted.

Hours to start are Tue-Fri 8am-5pm, Sat 8:30am-5:30pm, and Sun 8:30am-4pm. 1221 Fell St. at Divisadero.

There’s a new taco spot open in the Castro, ~TACO BOYS~, with a variety of tacos, burritos, quesadillas, salads, bowls, nachos, and there’s even a chimichanga on there (dangerous). It’s right by the new Bonita Taqueria y Rotisserie (3600 16th St.), but hopefully the difference in the menus will be enough for them to coexist nicely. The late-night hours are extra-special, I’m going to remember this! Sun-Wed 11am-12am, Thu-Sat 11am-3am. 2312 Market St. at Noe.

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Chef Anthony Strong is ready to feed you in The Campfire Room at Prairie. Photo: Edna Zhou.

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The poke bowl at Horsefeather. Photo courtesy of Horsefeather.

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Meet Creator, the burger maker. Photo: Aubrie Pick.

There are some restaurant changes and tweaks happening, starting with ~PRAIRIE~ in the Mission—chef Anthony Strong is pivoting to highlight even more of a live-fire format on his menu (check it out) and there’s a new dining experience in their new private dining room: The Campfire Room. It’s a nightly (at 7pm) family-style feast of dishes cooked over their charcoal grills, a handmade pasta, and dessert by pastry chef Alison Sullivan, plus guests enjoy a cocktail on arrival. Reserve here. For the first month, use code ALLGRILLEDEVERYTHING for 10 percent off your ticket (starting at $78).

More fire and meat: after suffering a fire on New Year’s Eve, ~ITTORYU GOZU~ is due to reopen Thursday April 16th, and they are going live with Tock reservations this Thursday March 12th. The custom-made hearth has been fixed, and chef-owner Marc Zimmerman and co-owner/partner Ben Jorgensen have made some tweaks to the experience: the updated menu will feature more beef than before (layering in a variety of curing, aging, and fermenting techniques), and there will now only be one menu, ranging from $125-$150, and seatings at 5pm and 8:30pm.

Guests can also book a tasting experience in the Whisky Lounge, with their new whisky specialist Adam Riddle (previously Roka Akor), while seated around a custom-designed marble table.

Some new late-night eats for you are happening at ~HORSEFEATHER~ on Divisadero. They just launched a new “The Late Late” menu (served nightly from 10pm until 1am), with dishes like deviled ramen eggs, a tuna poke bowl, and fried chicken. You can also get the Burger Bundle ($20), and enjoy the double cheeseburger with a 12 oz. beer. Look for rotating specials from each kitchen staff member (prep cook Alba Martinez is currently offering El Salvadoran pastelitos (similar to empanadas) with potato, chicken, achiote, green beans, homemade rojo salsa, and curtido. 528 Divisadero St. at Hayes.

~PRUBECHU~ in the Mission launched a Second Sundays brunch, 11am-2pm. Tuck into Guamanian dishes like corned beef fried red rice with kimchee and eggs, and coconut milk toast with pistachio butter and agave. The next one should be Sunday April 12th!

And ~CREATOR~, the mechanized burger place, has expanded hours to Mon-Fri 11am-8pm, and is offering a happy hour menu 2pm-8pm (including a burger and beer for $10; add fries for $2). You can check out the full menu of chef collaborative burgers and new snacks here. There’s also a new vegetarian burger, in partnership with Hodo Soy. 680 Folsom St. at 3rd St.

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Bar Agricole, designed by Aidlin Darling. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The airy and colorful style of the upcoming AL’s Deli. Photo: Molly DeCoudreaux.

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L’enfant-Terrible ale from Social Kitchen & Brewery.

There are some unfortunate closures to announce: ~BAR AGRICOLE~ is closing on April 15th, after ten years in their award-winning and beautifully designed SoMa space. What they didn’t mention in their newsletter is they are moving to a “luxury residential complex at 1550 Mission St., in late 2020” (via the Chronicle). More on that soon. They’re planning a big farewell party for April 15th, and since it’s tax day, you may as well drink some brilliant cocktails and kiss it all goodbye.

San Francisco Business Times reports that ~MARKETBAR~ at the Ferry Building is closing after 17 years due to their lease ending and an ongoing dispute with their landlord. Their last day is Wednesday April 22nd.

I am sorry to learn that Aaron London has closed his fast-casual spot, ~AL’S DELI~—I thought that Montreal-style, smoked meat salad was pure genius. Eater reports it just never seemed to catch on over its eight months of business, and recent coronavirus-related catering cancellations didn’t help the situation. And so, the curse of the 18th and Guerrero corner continues. 598 Guerrero St. at 18th St.

A tipster alerted Eater that Dennis Leary is closing his bakery and sandwich shop in the FiDi, ~THE GOLDEN WEST~, at the end of the month. (8 Trinity Pl.) But on the bright side (sunny side?): coming soon will be his new, delivery-only project: ~A HUEVO~ (LOL), focused on a breakfast egg sandwich, and a steak and egg sandwich for lunch, plus crispy rice and green eggs and ham. Stand by. [Via Chronicle]

A tablehopper Twitter tipster let me know that the Marina location of ~THE PLANT CAFÉ ORGANIC~ has closed (here’s a pic on their door); their other locations in the FiDi, Dogpatch, and SFO remain open. 3352 Steiner St. at Chestnut.

Inner Sunset’s ~SOCIAL KITCHEN & BREWERY~ brewpub just closed, reportedly due to new lease issues with their landlord. The craft brewery and restaurant will be missed by the neighborhood and beer lovers from all over. 1326 9th Ave. at Irving. [Via Hoodline.]

This one is almost hard to believe: Lower Haight’s ~MAD DOG IN THE FOG~ is closing after more than 30 years! It has been an anchor of the Lower Haight for soccer lovers and beer lovers alike, with an international fan club. According to a post on Facebook, owner Cyril Hackett says, “We will return louder and more wicked at a new location. Thank you for your support, it has been our privilege serving you.” Their famed Tuesday and Thursday Quiz Nights with Peter Malone will move to their sister bar, The Kezar Pub (770 Stanyan St.). 530 Haight St. at Fillmore. [Via Hoodline.]

February 25, 2020
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The future home of Hong Kong Lounge Bistro at 99 Rausch in SoMa. Instagram photo via @99rauschsf.

Thanks to an eagle-eyed tablehopper reader (thanks Alex!), I learned that a business named ~HONG KONG LOUNGE BISTRO~ is coming to the 99 Rausch condominium development in SoMa. Yes, big cheer, it’s from the same owner (Annie Ho) of the beloved Hong Kong Lounge II formerly at 5322 Geary, which was tragically burned out when a gas line was breached and exploded into flames one year ago. Amazingly, no one was hurt in the fire, but hordes of dim sum lovers all over the city (and beyond) have been wondering if and when the eight-year-old Hong Kong Lounge II would return.

I spoke with a representative at 99 Rausch, and unfortunately, no one from Hong Kong Lounge Bistro wants to comment on the project at this time—they just want to get ready for their opening, which should be happening soon. As soon as I’m able to share details on their opening and more, you’ll see it here first! For now, we can be happy that this beloved business is rising once again from the flames. 99 Rausch St. at Folsom.

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The sleek pastry counter and shimmering chandelier at Maison Danel. Photo: Emily Martin Events.

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The tea salon at Maison Danel. Photo: Emily Martin Events.

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Tea service at Maison Danel. Photo: Emily Martin Events.

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The main dining room at Son & Garden. Instagram photo via @sonandgarden.

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The secret tea room at Son & Garden. Instagram photo via @sonandgarden.

Hey, Polk Street, you’ve got a couple cute new spots on your drag! Who knew a former sex shop and smoke shop would transform into the très charmant ~MAISON DANEL~, a French-style salon de thé (tea salon) and patisserie? There are exposed brick walls, tiled floors, a cobalt blue tufted banquette, upholstered Louis-style chairs that encourage you to sit and linger, a huge sparkling chandelier, and lots of natural light. The classic style is well-appointed and welcoming, without being too fussy.

It’s from husbands Danel and David de Betelu (the owners of Baker Street Bistro), who have wanted to open a pâtisserie/tea salon for years, and have brought on pastry chef Adrien Chabot, fresh from Paris. The extensive pastry case is full of viennoiserie—from all kinds of croissants to chausson aux pommes (apple turnover)—while the pâtisserie options include delicate macarons that actually made me like them again, tartes, and a version of pot de crème made with milk (pot de lait) that was lighter and lovely. I look forward to trying Chabot’s Saint Honoré. You can also have items packed up in cute boxes—perfect host gifts.

They have also made their own creation: the crioche, a dough that is a combination of croissant dough and brioche, which makes for a bready, buttery, layered (laminated) roll, which they are filling with savory combos, like smoked salmon and herbed cream cheese, and ham and cheese.

You can book a table for tea service (from 2:30pm-6pm), with towers of finger sandwiches, pastries, and mini viennoiserie, with the option to add Champagne, caviar service, and more.

Weekend brunch features eggs Benedict, Florentine, and oeuf cocotte (eggs baked with cream and cheese “en cocotte”), plus tartines, croques, soups, and salads; don’t miss the quiche Lorraine, what a decadent, eggy treat. Some lunchtime mains will include vol-au-vent du jour (puff pastry filled with chef’s choice of the day), steak tartare, and a burger Maison Danel with wagyu beef patty and truffle mayo.

There’s Champagne, wine, and beer, all kinds of tea, full espresso and coffee service, floats, kombucha on tap, and fresh juices. Hours are 7am-7pm: breakfast from 8am-11am, lunch 11am-2:30pm, and Champagne and tea from 2:30pm-6pm. Weekend brunch is 8am-2:30pm. Closed Mondays. And: you can make reservations. 1030 Polk St. at Post.

A bit further down Polk is another spot that will be a hit with the brunch crowd, ~SON & GARDEN~ full of floral displays, wallpaper, flowery plates, and tea cups. It’s from Kasem “Pop” Saengsawang and his Farmhouse Thai group (and Daughter Thai), and is softly open right now (they’ve been working on this project for two years!).

While the brunch offering includes creations like matcha mochi or ricotta pancakes and deep-fried French toast, there’s also bibimbap, a crabby omelet, and a beastmode, bone-in short rib Benedict and a lobster Benedict (these last two items will put you back $32, while the other items are more around $16). High tea will also be offered, with a house blueberry scone, bacon-goat cheese biscuit, smoked salmon sandwich, and club sandwich paired with your selection of tea and a drink.

And it’s not just a brunch or tea or lunch spot: there’s also dinner service that starts at 5pm, with an eclectic menu that includes fried calamari, pasta carbonara, a flaming bird (really), whole branzino, and a fried chicken doughnut with potato wedges and mushroom sauce. I feel like I just took some LSD while reading this menu.

The space is totally over the top—it’s full-on Instagram bait, but it looks like a lot of fun, and there’s a secret tea lounge designed for high tea that is already booked up through mid-March, with pink velvet scalloped chairs, gilded mirrors, and more delightfully vibrant floral wallpaper, plus a private bar.

It’s pretty wild when you consider the space was formerly Ken’s Kitchen Chinese Cuisine, what a transformation. Anyway, the grand opening is March 12th, but you can come by during their soft opening 9am-2:30pm and 5pm-9pm, and up to 10pm on Sat (closed Tue). Wine and shochu cocktails are available for now. 700 Polk St. at Eddy.

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The new pizza at Devil’s Teeth Baking Company Outer Richmond. Instagram photo via @devilsteeth.

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The new reception café in Dogpatch. Yelp photo via business owner.

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The classic-looking window at Portofino. Yelp photo by Vasu R..

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

Well, that was quick: the new second location of ~DEVIL’S TEETH BAKING COMPANY~ is now open in the former Marla Bakery in the Outer Richmond. Bring on the egg biscuit sandwiches, along with cookies, muffins, cinnamon rolls, some lunchy options—from quiche to sandwiches—and now pizza (cheese and pepperoni)! Way to put that gorgeous wood-fired oven to work. Eater notes pizza is only available Tue-Sat 11am-3pm. Open daily 7am-4pm. 3619 Balboa St. at 37th Ave.

More baked goodness: now open in the former Hearth Coffee space in the Castro is ~CAFE DE CASA~, a Brazilian café from Lucimar Canedo and her daughters, Thais and Amanda. They’re serving pao de queijo (those amazing little cheesy bread puffs made with tapioca flour), savory salgados (stuffed bready snacks, from empadas to coxinha to rissoles), açaí bowls, salads, fresh juices, and artisan coffee. If the name is familiar, they also have locations at Fisherman’s Wharf and in South San Francisco. Open daily 9am-7pm, expanding to 6am-10pm in time. 3985 17th St. at Castro. [Via Hoodline.]

Another new café to open is ~RECEPTION~ in Dogpatch, at the entrance of The Landing. The all-day café offers pastries from Mr. Holmes, a few healthy breakfast bowls, salads, pot pies from Pye, and pretty much every beverage you can dream up, from a full coffee bar featuring Four Barrel Coffee to raw juices to tea to wines from Scribe and beer from Harmonic. Open Mon-Thu 7am-10pm and Fri-Sat 7am-11pm. 1395 22nd St. at Texas.

Just in time for Mardi Gras, ~CREOLA~ is now open in Cole Valley, a sister to the location in San Carlos. The menu includes classics like boudin balls, hush puppies (made with Dungeness crab), shrimp and grits, jambalaya, gumbo, as well as wine and a variety of Abita beers. Open Tue-Wed 5:30pm-9:30pm and Thu-Sat 5:30pm-10pm. 900 Stanyan St. at Frederick.

~DUMPLING PARK~ is now open in the Inner Sunset in the former Howard’s Cafe, and even though everyone loves dumplings, they seem to be getting a bit of an initial thrashing on Yelp—looks like this one may need some time to ramp up. Beef noodle soup is made with hand-cut noodles, chow mein, and fried rice round out the menu. Open daily 11am-3pm and 5pm-9:30pm. 1309 9th Ave. at Irving.

Over in North Beach, there’s a new yet old school SF-style seafood spot called ~PORTOFINO~, serving oysters on the half shell, cracked crab, cioppino, and Louie salad, plus some East Coast-style dishes like clam chowder, crab cakes, lobster rolls, and steamers. Hoodline reported it’s a redux of the former Portofino Café, which opened on Columbus in North Beach in 1937 (it closed in the late 90s). Frankie Balistreri just reopened it in the former DIP Bistro and Adolfo’s on Grant—his father, Gaetano, previously owned Portofino for 26 years. Based on the classic gold leaf window lettering, it looks like it has been there all along. Hours for now are Tue-Sun 11am-10pm; no beer or wine at the moment, FYI. 1318 Grant Ave. at Vallejo.

Fans of the awesome khao mun gai (chicken fat rice) from ~ROOSTER & RICE~ have yet another location to procure this oh-so-simple but oh-so-delicious dish near USF in the Inner Richmond. The new location is at 1 Stanyan St. at Geary. Open Mon-Sat 11am-9pm and Sun 11am-7pm.

There’s a new brunchy café that has opened on Divis, ~THAT’S MY JAM~, serving an eclectic menu that includes a breakfast sandwich (egg on baguette) with a side of homemade whipped cream and berries (hmmm); eggs Benedict; pastries; and a couple daily sandwiches and salads. Rectangular plates, check. There’s also espresso service, wine by the glass, and beer. Open Mon and Thu-Fri 6:30am-3:30pm, Sat-Sun 7am-4pm. 324 Divisadero St. at Oak.

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The cheerful patio at La Guerrera’s Kitchen in Fruitvale. Instagram photo via @laguerreraskitchen.

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Opening night just getting underway at Off the Grid: Fort Mason. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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From Monday March 2nd through International Women’s Day (on Sunday March 8th), La Cocina is hosting the Week of Women in Food: seven nights of dinners featuring chefs of the upcoming La Cocina Municipal Marketplace. Unfortunately, most of the dinners are sold out, but you can still get tickets to the Sunday finale event with chef Guadalupe Moreno of Mi Morena at La Guerrera’s Kitchen (a La Cocina graduate business) and Mayra Velazquez of Xingones. It’s going to be an outdoor event on La Guerrera’s Kitchen patio, starting at 5pm in Fruitvale.

All ticket sales support the La Cocina incubator program and La Cocina Municipal Marketplace. Guests also have the opportunity to purchase La Cocina’s newly published cookbook, We Are La Cocina: Recipes in Pursuit of The American Dream (featuring five of the seven vendors) and make a direct donation to the Municipal Marketplace capital campaign goal (currently at $4.8MM of its $5.4MM goal). It will be the nation’s first women-led food hall, opening in the Tenderloin neighborhood this year. So excited.

It’s that time of the year again… Off the Grid is returning for its tenth season on Friday March 6th at Fort Mason Center! The Night Market will run until October 30th, from 5pm-10pm every Friday evening rain or shine, with more than 30 food creators. Get excited: new food partners include El Garage (the makers of a quesabirria taco which was pretty much the best thing I ate last year), OG Tacos! (also makers of quesabirria tacos), Taco Thai SF (love their flava!), The Golden Marrow, the return of Capelo’s Barbecue, along with Bini’s Kitchen, Bombzies BBQ, Curry Up Now, Jeepney Guy, Kolobok Russian Soul Food, Mestiza Taqueria, Senor Sisig, The Sarap Shop, and more. Rye on the Road will have your cocktail ready, and a dedicated Anarchist Wine Bar will feature a selection of premium wines.

Chocolate lovers, there’s a new event coming: the inaugural Craft Chocolate Experience, highlighting chocolate luminaries from around the world from March 6th-8th. Bean-to-bar makers, chocolatiers, pastry chefs, and cacao bean growers from over 25 countries will be at the Palace of Fine Arts, plus a marketplace with more than 85 artisans.

On stage will be some of the leading voices in craft chocolate, with some of the most renowned pastry chefs in the world, including Jordi Roca from El Celler de Can Roca, Spain; Chloe Doutre Roussel, expert in chocolate flavor and taste from Paris; Benjamin Figarede, the chocolate sourcer for Valrhona; and Greg D’Alesandre, “sourcerer” of Dandelion Chocolate. There will be panel discussions, pairing classes, and even some family activities.

The weekend kicks off on Friday night, with a celebration featuring chocolate desserts, specialty cocktails and beverages, and savory bites from La Cocina. ($95; 21+) Visit here for additional ticket info on the weekend marketplace, weekend pass, programming, and more. 3601 Lyon St.