May 25, 2010

May 25, 2010

Chef Michael Mina. Photo provided by Michael Mina.

I had a chance to catch up with Michael Mina about his plans for the former AQUA space at 252 California Street. His return to the space, where he was named chef de cuisine at the young age of 21 and worked for 13 years, is certainly a personal one. He has reassembled many individuals from the original team of architects, designers, and project managers that worked on AQUA when it opened in 1991, and who obviously know the space well. Mina is going to be moving and creating a newer and more-accessible version of ~RESTAURANT MICHAEL MINA~, which is currently in the Westin St. Francis on Powell Street, but will be wrapping up in August or so. At the California Street location, he’s going to be offering an à la carte menu that’s built for sharing instead of individual tasting menus, and swapping out the white tablecloths for walnut tabletops. And yes, the big mirrors will be staying.

The kitchen will be overseen by Jeremy Ravitz, the current chef de cuisine at the Westin location. The 18-seat bar is going to have a unique menu of “larger hors d’oeuvres” that you can order four or five of to make a meal (you’ll also be able to order these items in the dining room). But in an interesting twist, only the bar seating will be open for lunch—there won’t be any table service. There are also the 6-8 seats in the lounge, where you can take a seat for a seasonal cocktail and bar items in the evening. The restaurant will be open nightly; the plan is for an October opening. 252 California St. at Battery.

The fate of the Restaurant Michael Mina space in the Westin St. Francis is to be determined: Mina is meeting with the hotel union in June for a new contract, so we’ll have to see what kind of a deal is struck. If the intended and hoped-for deal happens, Mina plans to put a steakhouse concept in the space. Time will tell. 335 Powell St. at Geary, 415-397-9222.

Mushroom Gruyere.jpg

Photo provided by The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen.

I got particularly hungry looking at the menu of ~THE AMERICAN GRILLED CHEESE KITCHEN~, due to open this Wednesday for lunch in South Park. The project is from Heidi Gibson, a seven-time winner of the National Grilled Cheese Invitational (yup, she must make a mean grilled cheese sandwich), and Nate Pollak. The menu will feature seven sandwiches, like the Mushroom Gruyère (pictured) with Fontina, roasted wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, and thyme butter ($9), and some of Gibson’s winning sandwiches. A couple sandwiches come on levain bread from Pinkie’s Bakery (cupcakes from Pinkie’s will also be available). (Nice feature: you can order the sandwiches on gluten-free bread.) Also on the menu: a smoky tomato soup, salads, a savory bread pudding, and when breakfast launches at the end of June, there will be bread pudding, oatmeal, granola, muffins, and more. Oh yeah, and Gibson’s winning sandwich from this year, the Sunday brunch grilled cheese sandwich (the recipe is in the link—and here’s a video about her entry in the Grilled Cheese Invitational). There are plenty of bevvies, from house-made, mixed-to-order sodas (like spicy pomegranate), to coffee from De La Paz, to beer and wine. You can look at Gibson and Pollak’s winning “New Deal” for Small Business Contest by Vertical Response video, which was made during their plywood phase—it lets you in on their philosophy behind the project, and more.

The historical building features 950 square feet inside, and 450 square feet on the outdoor patio (room for 26). Inside, there will be 18 counter-top seats, plus a kid’s bar top, with room for three-four tykes. The designer is Wylie Price (Presidio Social Club, The Monk’s Kettle, Fatted Calf Charcuterie), with a look that evokes the feel of a 1950’s American bakery-café. (Check out the images on Eater for more.) In the history department: the building was originally a tobacco warehouse—look for the freight-train tracks in the patio and lobby.

Hours for this opening week are 11am-3pm, and then starting Monday the 31st, hours will be Mon-Fri 11am-7:30pm. (The idea is that it’s more of a lunch/pre-ballgame/happy hour spot, and not necessarily a late-in-the-evening destination.) Late June means breakfast will launch, with hours beginning at 7:30am. Closed weekends, until July or August.


Flickr photo by bstorage.

Dennis Leary, chef-owner of Canteen and The Sentinel, has a new baby (but this space is quite a bit bigger than his usual MO for spaces): the century-plus-old ~HOUSE OF SHIELDS SALOON~, which is just next door to The Sentinel. Leary, who has adored the historic space for some time, is looking forward to giving it some TLC and restoring it. His design team consists of designer Charles de Lisle, and Jason Langkammerer, who heads up At-Six Architecture. They intend to update the lighting and refinish the wood, plus restore the chandeliers, the statues, and fix up the floor, plus replace some of the upholstery on the booths—but nothing else will really change. Leary is planning to close it on July 1st, and reopen in mid-September. He’s debating about the food offering, if at all, and if he does something after all, he says in an email to me, “I will focus on simple regional dishes with some sense of historical reference. And by the way, I have decided not to serve any froyo, pizza, offal, cupcakes, or pretentious/fascist coffee.” Ha. But one au courant component that he’s integrating is that he’s talking to several high-profile bartenders around town (and is interested in talking to more). It’s gonna be a beaut. 39 New Montgomery St. at Mission.

As if this wasn’t enough on the Leary fire, he is getting close on opening his new takeout shop in the Financial District, the ~GOLDEN WEST~. He’s going to serve to-go lunch, pastry, and the like. A peek at the preliminary menu includes such potential dishes as butter kuchen or a baked egg with spicy pork and beans for breakfast; sandwiches like pickled herring with sour cream and dill on rye, or a croque-madame; soups; and larger entrées like pork goulash or cheese fondue with mushrooms. And dessert? How about mascarpone macaroons? I’m also hanging on for cassoulet Fridays. His head baker for the project is Rita “flowers” Williams, who opened the baking department at Orson, and is currently at Michael Recchiuti (she last worked for Leary at Rubicon). And true to Leary form, it’s located in an alley, Trinity Place, at Sutter and Montgomery. It’s set to open at the end of June, and Jason Langkammerer and Charles de Lisle are also the architect and designer for this space. 8 Trinity Pl. at Sutter.


Photo from Another Monkey.

Aom Phanthong of local SoMa Thai favorite Koh Samui and the Monkey is opening ~ANOTHER MONKEY~ in the former Conduit space on Valencia—the soft opening for dinner is this Thursday. Phanthong is installing a number of Thai furnishings (the container just arrived from Thailand ten days ago) to warm up the industrial interior by architect Stanley Saitowitz. In a brilliant stroke, she is also creating a lounge area, with large tables made from antique drums (I always wondered why the spacious restaurant didn’t have a lounge area). The menu will have many Koh Samui favorites, but she’s also adding some new dishes you can’t find anywhere else, like the spicy jungle curry with catfish (and no coconut), house-made Thai sausage, and authentic relish. Next week, lunch will kick in from 11:30am-3:30pm, and she also plans to be open for parents picking up their kids at the San Francisco Friends School next door, offering some food on an afternoon menu.

I guess the opposite may be true: when one door opens (Another Monkey), another one closes? A tablehopper reader alerted me that ~DUPONT THAI~ has closed (which means a farewell to their delicious pumpkin curry). 1398 Grant Ave. at Green.


After months of delays and inspections and the like, if everything goes according to plan, ~ZAYTOON~ is finally opening in the former Bistro Annex space in the Mission. This casual Mediterranean place from owner Christopher Totah will serve falafel wrapped in lavash ($6.95, or $7.95 with potatoes and eggplant); chicken or lamb shwarma ($7.95)—the meat will reportedly be “natural” but not organic; and a “mazza platter” ($7.95) with the usual suspects: falafel, dolmas, hummus, baba ghanoush, tabouleh, cucumber and tomato salad, feta cheese, seasoned onions, and tahini sauce. Hours will be 11am-11pm. It’s due to open on Tuesday June 1st but call first before heading over—delays could still occur.

I was asked to keep this one under my hat, but since the cat is out of the bag, here are some details on ~SPIRE RESTAURANT & BAR~ opening on 3rd Street in SoMa. The former warehouse is going to be a two-story restaurant and bar, serving contemporary American cuisine, mostly small plates-style, but there will be a few entrée dishes on the menu. The restaurant will have a raw bar, and a bar menu for the happy hour/ballgame crowd. The chef will be Laird Boles; he’s originally from Orlando, Florida, and is currently one of the sous chefs at Waterbar. Spire, on the main floor, is 4,200 square feet, while the upstairs is a lounge with a separate entrance that will be called Third Degree. The open date is still tentative, but the managing partners (Richard Huang, Sean Hung, and Roger Lwin) are hoping it happens before the end of June. You can follow their progress on Twitter. 685 3rd St. at Townsend.

With the transformation from Acme Chophouse to the new ~PUBLIC HOUSE~ and ~MIJITA~ restaurants, executive chef Thom Fox has left his position to cook at Oracle, taking a different job within the Bon Appetit Management Company family (the parent owner of Acme, and now the new establishments). I caught up with co-owner Traci Des Jardins, who said she knew his departure was imminent, so they set up the kitchen to be able to run efficiently once he cut ties. She has four sous chefs and created a new hierarchy, promoting one to be a kitchen manager, and two are now executive sous chefs. Traci is staying in her role as chef/partner and will continue to manage both Public House and Mijita. She mentioned the restaurants are continuing to evolve during this early stage, and she’s excited to keep learning what people want on the menus at each place.

I’m going to avoid any puns about tides, ebbs, and flows on this one, but chef Vincent Schofield is stepping away from the ~EBB & FLOW~ project in the Mission and selling back his portion of the business. He said it’s an amicable departure, but it came down to having a different vision for the restaurant then owners Craig and Tony Dropalas. Schofield’s last day is May 31st, and then he’s going fishing. Truly: he’s planning to do some albacore fishing on a boat up in Washington for the next month.


Yelp photo by Genevieve Y.

A tablehopper reader tipped me off to a new sandwich place called ~LUNCH GEEK~, now open in the former Broaster Cafe (how many times did I ride my bike past that place and wonder who ate there). The new concept sounds much more up my alley: a range of sandwiches with names like I Flunked Gym Class (free-range chicken breast, Swiss cheese, mayo, Geek sauce, spicy jalapeño sauce, mixed greens, tomato) and many more, and on Acme bread to boot (Grub Street reprinted the entire menu here). The husband and wife team of Phillip and Lean Ma are also making drip coffee to order from Barefoot. According to a tip on Yelp, Asian-inspired sandwiches and tacos are also in the works. For example, today’s special was a Southeast pulled pork sandwich. Hours for now are Mon-Fri 7am-5pm, and Sat 8am-6pm. 1400 Market St. at Polk, 415-626-8888.

Thought I’d do a few quick updates: in the Western Addition/NoPa, it looks like the former B’s BBQ & Grill is morphing into ~EL RANCHO GRANDE~, announcing burritos and quesadillas on their awning. No idea about when they plan to open, but it’s reportedly close. 855 Divisadero St. at McAllister.

Down the street, I had a peek at the replacement for On the Corner—while the working name is ~PANINI~, it’s TBD. Actually, the whole thing seems TBD—they only had some coffee going on the espresso machine (Lavazza) the day I swung by, with limited baked goods on offer. But based on the extensive wine racking system, and a (potential) name like Panini, the offering is sure to be expanded once they get more underway. The look is pretty spare, but with a look at the Kartell lamps overhead (did they buy those from Metro Kathmandu?), I have some hopes for some style to manifest as well. 359 Divisadero St. at Oak.

According to liquor license permits, there’s a new place called ~SKOOL~ opening in Potrero Hill. Grub Street has the deets: “Andy Mirabell, formerly director of operations for Blowfish Sushi, is opening a new fish-focused restaurant in a Potrero Hill space that’s been vacant for about a decade. The name: Skool. The large space is in one of the neighborhood’s many design complexes at 1725 Alameda Street (at DeHaro) and has never before been used for a restaurant—the owner has previously refused multiple offers to lease it for restaurant use, but he liked Mirabell’s business plan enough to say yes.” The net/net (har): fab patio, seafood focus (but not sushi), seasonal cocktails, a pizza oven for Spanish-style flatbreads, and more. In the kitchen is former Bushi Tei sous chef Toshihiro Nagano, and his wife, Hiroko. Targeted opening: end of June for lunch service, and dinner around July 4th. 1725 Alameda St. at DeHaro, 415-255-8800.

More seafood, and more from Grub Street: moving into the Lingba Space on Potrero will be ~ROCKETFISH~, a “Japanese Tapistro & Lounge.” It will reportedly feature “a unique blend of old-school Japanese cuisine with classic global tapas and sushi, all in a bistro-esque environment.” Tapistro. Hmmm. Don’t confuse it with something you could order at Starbucks. 1469 18th St. at Connecticut.

This new café slipped by my radar: after months (years?) of being in the works, ~RANCHO PARNASSUS~ has joined Passion Café and Split Pea Seduction in putting a stake in the 6th Street corridor. This project, brought to light with the assistance of Urban Solutions, is a “creativity café,” meant to stimulate and encourage people to work on art projects (even together), and show them at the café. Their website states, “Our open kitchen will focus on doing a few things well—excellent coffee, offbeat beers, really good wine, good grub and comfort food favorites—simply served and affordably priced.” Katy St. Clair’s Bouncer column mentions, “It had a National Parks-mod ’60s-fern bar thing going on. The walls were painted a darkish blue and the floor had a green pattern, and there was enough rustic wood around to lend a cabin feel to the room… The Rancho had a selection of wines and a bunch of beer, but is also a coffeehouse and cafe. All I saw, however, was the beer, which I thought was a brilliant move, considering that the only nearby booze competition comes from a few scattered corner stores and Anu.” Unfortunately no one picks up the phone and their voicemail is full, so I couldn’t confirm more details like hours, menu items, beer list, etc. Looks like a check-it-out is in order. 132 6th St. at Minna, 415-503-0700.

Way to add more real estate to the ~FERRY BUILDING MARKETPLACE~ mix: there are six small “niche” shops opening between now and June 1st. The new shops, all existing Bay Area businesses, are Alfieri Farms (known for their nuts at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market), Beekind Honey Shop (from Sebastopol), Benedetta Holistic Skincare (a Sonoma County-based skin and body care line), Charles Phan (he will be selling items like cooking kits, broths, marinades, spices, and sauces), El Porteño Empanadas (Joseph Ahearne follows an Argentine recipe, using quality meats and ingredients), and Pepples Donuts (100% organic, vegan donuts). These shops join the existing niche shop, Mariposa Baking Company (gluten-free baked goods). The niche shops will be open daily from 9am-7pm.


My idea of heaven: the chilaquiles at Los Jarritos.

A tablehopper tipster let me know that the ever-cheerful and cute ~LOS JARRITOS~ in the Mission is being forced to change its name by the manufacturer of the Mexican soda pop, “Jarritos.” The new name is reportedly going to be Sanjalisco. But that’s the only change—the kickass chilaquiles, and everything else, will remain the same. 901 S. Van Ness Ave. at 20th St, 415-648-8383.


This Thursday May 27th, I will be doing a reading and signing at Books. Inc. Market St. (Castro), and we’ll have some red wine, and a delicious trio of truffles from Neo Cocoa. Since I’ll be in the Castro, I have a feeling this is going to be an extra-sassy reading! 7:30pm, free. 2275 Market St. at 16th St., San Francisco.

Next Saturday June 5th, I’ll be trucking up to Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma for a 2pm reading and signing, and yes, it’s free. 140 Kentucky St. at Western Ave., Petaluma.

And then on Sunday June 6th, I’ll be signing books during the VIP Reception at COCHON 555. Read all the details about the event here.

Hope to see you! Cheers, darlings.


Flickr photo by kowitz.

The Bold Italic is putting on a free, fun event tonight (May 25th) called ~MEET A MICROHOOD: FOLSOMA~ to highlight all of the businesses that have popped up on Folsom Street between 7th and 8th Streets. Spots include Bloodhound, Gama Go, Radius, Triptych, City Beer Store will be offering seasonal brews for $5 and hosting Adobo Hobo and Bike Basket Pies, Sightglass Coffee will be open, and more. There will be free beer, tons of specials, and Hubba Hubba Revue will be doing some guerrilla street burlesque performances. Over 400 people came out to celebrate a small block in the Mission back in March, so depending on the weather, it should be a party. The event is free but you must RSVP so they can get a headcount.


Photo from SF Crawfish Boil and Ho-Down.

There’s no shortage of crawfish boils in SF: first, this Wednesday May 26th, ~MAGNOLIA GASTROPUB & BREWERY~ is going to be serving crawfish by the pound, all the usual sides, and plenty of beer. It all starts at 5pm until the crawfish are gone.

And then on Saturday June 12th is the seventh annual ~SAN FRANCISCO CRAWFISH BOIL AND HO-DOWN~ (Ed. Note: Shouldn’t that be “hoe-down”?). This event takes place outdoors on the Marina Green, and it’s an all-you-can-eat affair for $25, and during the first hour, beer is free (after that, it’s $5). The first dump o’ crawfish is at noon, but it starts at 11am, which I guess is the beer hour of power. GumboCart will also be there.

Elizabeth Falkner is going to be offering a preview of the baked goods that will be available at ~CITIZEN CAKE~ on Fillmore in a “pop-up bake sale” at Orson this Friday and Saturday at 11am—until the goodies are gone. There will be new cakes, cookies, and sweets the team has been working on, along with assorted French macarons. (And you know the flavors won’t be your standard fare). Orson, 508 4th St. at Bryant.


~DIRTY DISHES~ is back at the Lookout this Thursday May 27th, pairing DJs spinning indie electro, dirty house, and future bass with food from the food cart scene: Gobba Gobba Hey, Good Foods Catering, and White Lotus Thai. Work.


Housemade Calabrese salumi. Photo: ©

Mmmmeat! Especially cured meats. Swing by ~CHEESE PLUS~ on Tuesday June 1st for an exclusive (and free!) tasting of delicious handmade artisan cured meats from the Bay Area and the Pacific Northwest. Brady Lowe, creator and host of COCHON 555 and Primal, who is in town for his COCHON 555 SF event on June 6th, will lead you through a tasting of cured meats of salami and charcuterie from his recent COCHON 555 events in Portland and Seattle. The lineup includes meats from Olympic Provisions in Portland, and Seattle’s Salumi and Zoe’s Meats. You’ll also be able to taste meats from our own local chefs, in addition to a selection from Cheese Plus. Yes, fo’ free.

Beginning in June, ~QUINCE~ will be open for dinner on Sundays. The restaurant will then serve dinner seven nights a week, from 5:30pm until 10pm. Reservations are taken up to two months in advance, and can be made on weekdays between the hours of 10am-6pm by telephone at 415-775-8500.

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