July 16, 2013

July 16, 2013
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A corner of the dining room (the Mezcaleria will eventually be nestled where the red panel is). Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The rustic furnishings on the wall above the bar and open kitchen area. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Stunning tiles from Mérida. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Looking toward the tiled patio area (you can see where the tree will go). Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The incredible mural by Zio Ziegler that will eventually be a part of Mercado Urbano. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

As previously reported on tablehopper, things are gearing up for ~LA URBANA~ in the former Plant It Earth space. Everyone who walks or drives by the eye-catching mural by Zio Ziegler can’t help but get excited to see what will be contained within (I know I am). The project comes from local entrepreneur Eduardo Rallo and Mexican architect and restaurateur Juan Garduño, and will be a modern Mexican restaurant with an attached mezcaleria.

Chef Benjamin Klein, who previously worked in restaurants in Hawaii, will head the kitchen (his chef de cuisine is Julio Aguilera). The menu will offer modern takes on traditional regional Mexican dishes, like Manila clam menudo with cabbage tostadas and hominy, or a carnitas torta on freshly baked brioche. Northern California ingredients will figure prominently. Think contemporary cantina by way of Mexico, D.F.

The mezcal-centric bar is helmed by Lucas Ranzuglia. He’ll be shaking up an Urbana Margarita, of course, plus a mezcal-based take on the dry martini called an Acapulco-Manila. There will also be wine and beer, though no word yet on the focus of those lists, plus more than 30 different mezcals.

The space is designed by partner Garduño’s architecture firm, and will be a mix of old and new, the urban and the rustic. We got a hardhat tour of the space, which is currently gunning for an August 14th opening. The heart of the space is the spacious bar, which will be topped with aged zinc and room for 20. Behind the bar is a collection of colorful, rural furniture from Puebla, Oaxaca, and Toluca affixed to the wall like an art piece, and will be custom-lit, plus there’s an open kitchen.

Adjoining the bar is a lounge area with seating for about 10, and a patio area to the right of the main entrance, where guests will be able to stand around a tree surrounded by a high table. (You can look at a rendering here.)

The day we toured the space, they were putting down the gorgeous tile in the patio area, which is from a fourth-generation tile-maker in Mérida. La Urbana is featuring tiles from many different decades—just wait until you see the massively tiled bathrooms! The beautifully curved glass doors for the main entrance were salvaged and shipped from Mexico as well.

The dining room (with room for 60) will feel more like a contemporary cantina, with a charcoal-tiled floor, but there will still be a few colorful tiles strategically placed throughout. The room will have plenty of light from the large windows (peek here). Eventually a portion of the space will become the Mezcaleria, with more than 30 mezcals for sale and an entrance onto Divisadero.

The design team worked with an extensive list of Mexico-based artisans and artists to handcraft all elements of the restaurant: the custom-made tables are very ingenious, inspired by Mexican domino-playing tables with room for your mezcal bottle (or beer) on the table leg. The midcentury-looking chairs also feature woven leather backs. You’ll notice handmade pottery on the tables, and colorful cups—there will be many bright touches throughout.

The exterior façade of the building will feature a 10-by-6-foot mural by Mexico-based artists Héctor Falcón and Fernando Llanos (and get this: it will be lit with LED!). Look for more pieces of contemporary art within as well.

Sometime in the early fall, the Mercado Urbano will open in the adjoining garage, which will offer casual street food during the day (whatever the employees are cooking), and a lounge area in the evenings for cocktails and bar bites. The stunning external mural that Zio Ziegler painted on the plywood will be reinstalled on the walls of the Mercado, and look some t-shirts to be for sale with his designs. Other items will include some limited Oaxacan Pujol pottery and other unique items sourced in Mexico. There are plans to have a parklet outside, and a partnership with a La Cocina vendor in the Mercado (TBA). One more biggie: there are plans to open a roof deck later on as well. Yowzers.

To start, the La Urbana space will be open for dinner daily from 5pm-1am, with additional daytime hours in the bar added in the fall. We’ll keep you posted on the opening, you can also follow along on Facebook and Twitter. 661 Divisadero St. at Grove.

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The patio at Rustic. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.

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The interior and specials chalkboard. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.

A report by Dana Massey-Todd. Thanks to a tip from a reader, we caught word that there’s a new place for artisanal pizza coming to the Mission, called ~RUSTIC~. The new spot is in the former location of Pizza de Mano and Popo’s Pizza, and comes from a team of partners helmed by Tom Elliott, who will also be serving as the restaurant’s pizza master. The space is divided into three areas: the front room, which has limited seating and a counter, will be for to-go orders and slices. Then, in the back, there’s a small dining room that opens out onto a large patio that seats 40 people. They’ll be installing two bocce ball courts back there in the coming days, plus umbrellas and heat lamps. The patio is also protected by the wind, which is a great bonus in this town. The patio backs up to a major construction project at 24th St. and Mission, but once the project is done they’ll be able to enlarge the patio further.

The menu is decidedly pizza-focused, and the pizzas are cooked napoletana-style in a 600 degree oven from a sourdough-based dough. There is a full list of specialties, plus the option to “build your own pie” from a list of ingredients. They’ve also got salads and appetizers that will change seasonally, and a weekend barbecue that’s available after 4pm Fri-Sun. Take a look at the full menu here (the top got a little cut off; their menu is bigger than our scanner). They’re waiting on a beer and wine license, but they’ve got their lists all worked out, with four red wines, four whites, one rosé, and one prosecco, all available by the glass or bottle. They’ve got eight domestic beers on tap, like Mirror Pond Pale Ale, plus 12 more by the bottle; take a look at the choices here. They’re hoping to open in the next couple of weeks, but it will depend on when the ABC license comes through. When they do open, hours will be 11am-11pm daily, with a to-go counter open Thu-Sat until 3am. 3331 24th St. at Mission, 415-800-8266.

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The interior at Bouli Bar. Photo from Facebook.

The new project from the Boulettes Larder team has opened in the Ferry Building. The new project, which, as previously reported on tablehopper, moved into the former Culinaire space, is called ~BOULI BAR~. They’ll be serving lunch from 11:00am-3pm Tue-Sat; look for items from the wood-burning hearth and other well-sourced seasonal specialties. From 12pm-2pm, you’ll also find a lunch counter with takeout, and a larder window will be open Mon-Fri from 11am-5pm and during the Saturday Farmers Market from 8am-2pm. We’re still waiting on details about the menu; when we’ve got more info we’ll let you know. Boulette’s Larder is still closed and is slated to reopen in August for breakfast, lunch, and private evening dinners.

Update: a fab reader sent in a scan of the menu; take a peek here.

1 Ferry Building Marketplace, 415-399-1155.

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The interior of Muka. Photo from Facebook.

The neighbors in the Upper Haight and Cole Valley who happened to like the smell of bacon from ~BACON BACON~ will be happy to know the café got permission to reopen (news via NBC). Owner Jim Angelus will just need to update the ventilation system and a few other things. Look for a reopening very soon. In the meantime, Bacon Bacon will continue to be popping up at Brick & Mortar and using their kitchen as their commissary kitchen for the truck. And this hopefully concludes the Bacon Bacon saga reporting. 205A Frederick St. at Ashbury, 415-571-8516.

There is now an indiegogo fundraiser page in effect for The Tamale Lady (Virgina Ramos) to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant in the Mission. Since she is no longer allowed to sell her tamales at some of her regular haunts, either she was going to need to find a certified kitchen to make her tamales, or have her own place. She just turned 60, and you can imagine she’s tired of the schlep from bar to bar late at night; having a restaurant is a way for her to have something to pass on to her kids. Kick down a little dough for the lady who saves you with her masa! Every dollar helps.

Coming to Bernal Heights is ~LITTLE BEE BAKING~ in the former Rock Candy Snack Shop from Stacie Pierce, previously a pastry chef at Chez Panisse (via Bernalwood). On the menu: “ice cream treats, fruit tarts, cookies, and cakes. Little Bee will also offer take home and bake cookie and tart doughs, special occasion cakes, cupcakes, candies and tarts.” You’ll be able to try items like a Santa Rosa plum tart, cookies like ginger snaps and rosemary-cornmeal, and ice cream sandwiches, plus Four Barrel Coffee. Look for an opening after Labor Day. 521 Cortland Ave. at Moultrie.

In Hayes Valley, the ~BLUE MUSE~ on Grove now has ~MUKA~ in its place, the wine and dessert bar that started in the Alliance Français on Bush. Hayeswire reports that owner Jean-Luc Kayigire will keep both locations open until his lease is up on Bush, and then will transition all his focus to the new location. Look for wines and sweet bites aimed at the ballet- and symphony-going crowd. 370 Grove at Gough, 415-346-7029.

More sweets in Hayes Valley: a former sewing machine shop is transforming into a candy store called ~PAPABUBBLE~. Hayeswire reports that it’s a chain founded in Barcelona, with locations in Los Angeles and New York. They make artisanal handmade candies in fun shapes and colors; no word on an opening date quite yet. 488 Fell St. at Laguna, 415-533-0524.

According to Chowhound, ~FOUR SEASONS~ has opened on Larkin. No, not that Four Seasons—this is a Vietnamese place, with a renovated space, serving pho, noodles, and rolls. 721 Larkin St. at Ellis, 415-674-4146.

A reader writes in that there’s a new Hong Kong-style dessert shop and juice bar on Clement, called ~PINEAPPLE KINGDOM~. They’ve got ice cream, egg puffs, and yogurt-fruit drinks. 2960 Clement St. at 31st Ave., 415-379-4090.

ABC activity reveals yet another ramen spot, called ~SLURP RAMEN~. It’s located downtown; no word on details. 710 Commercial St. at Kearny, 415-399-1042.

Tipster Jason B. writes in with some tips: falafel joint ~AL-FANOOSE~ in the Lower Haight has papered windows and looks closed. The phone has been disconnected. 531 Haight St. at Fillmore.

Yucatecan restaurant ~KÚUUP~ has changed its name to ~CASTILLO YUCATECO~. When we called, it sounded like the ownership has stayed the same, though it was a bit of an ESL situation/our Spanish isn’t stellar. 2052 Mission St. at 16th St., 415-621-5510.

Yelpers report that ~L’AVENIDA~ in the Inner Sunset has closed, and the kitchen crew has resurfaced inside ~TART TO TART~. They’re serving Mon-Sat 11am-9pm and Sun 11am-8pm, but it’s a new thing, so call ahead to make sure they’re there. 641 Irving St. at 7th Ave., 415-504-7068.

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Chef Alex Ong, giving us a cryptic smile for now. Photo by Brooke Gray Photography.

Last week, Bay Area Bites dropped the news that chef Alex Ong has decided to leave ~BETELNUT~ after 12 years there. I had a chance to catch up with chef Ong while at CUESA’s Summer Celebration on Sunday, and he mentioned his decision to depart was not tied to the Betelnut-Hutong transformation that flopped earlier this year. It ends up he was planning to depart Betelnut even before the Hutong concept came to be, but stayed on to help the Real Restaurants team develop it and see it through.

Ong is the father of two, and tells me he is eager for the next step in his career path, which means being his own boss. He doesn’t have anything concrete lined up at the moment, but plans on doing some consulting and other projects until his next move takes shape. I know I am not alone in mourning the (hopefully only temporary) loss of his soulful cooking on our dining circuit. He’s a talented chef who rocks the flavor spectrum.

As previously reported in tablehopper, Betelnut has brought on chef de cuisine Mario Tolentino, who will now be taking over for Ong. (I look forward to trying his food soon!)

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Jalea at Pucquio. Photo from Facebook.

There’s some news brewing in Rockridge at the former Guest Chef location: ~PUCQUIO~, which had a stint as a pop-up there, will now be there permanently. Carlos Moreira’s Peruvian street food will be available starting Tuesday July 16th (that’s today!) for dinner, and the plan is to add brunch soon. The tentative menu, which you can peek at here, includes ceviches, starters, and a few entrées like jalea and octopus. Seafood is definitely the focus, but that bistec looks pretty rockin’ too. They’ll be open Tue-Sun at 5pm to start (though tonight they’ll open the doors at 5:30pm); hours may change going forward. 5337 College Ave. at Bryant, 415-690-3052.

There’s a new fried chicken kid in town, and this time it’s made with masa and is gluten-free. East Bay Express reports that ~GREASE BOX~ opened their brick-and-mortar location on Monday July 15th, with chef Lizzy Boelter’s pastries in the morning, fried chicken for lunch, and barbecue dinners. The first barbecue dinner is Friday July 19th; check out their website for more details. 942 Stanford Ave. at Lowell, Oakland, no phone (yet).

Chowhound reports that ~AMADEUS~, a new café and grill, is now open. The new spot will offer a daily changing menu of roasted vegetables, pizzas, and burgers, much of it cooked on a specially made grill that’s a hybrid of Argentine and American styles (according to Berkeleyside). There will also be desserts (think cupcakes), coffee, and housemade breads. Rock me, Amadeus! Open Tue-Sat 5pm-1pm, Sunday brunch coming soon. 2050 University Ave. at Shattuck, Berkeley, 510-900-5555.

Back in June, tablehopper broke the news that Donato Scotti of Donato Enoteca in Redwood City looked to be involved in a takeover of ~BORGO ITALIA~ in Oakland. A press release confirms he is going to be opening ~DESCO~ in its place in late July or early August; Scotti is partnering with wine director Eric Lecours (and in case you were wondering, desco means “dinner table” in Latin).

Scotti’s menu will include fresh pasta and pizza (gotta take advantage of the wood-fired oven there), plus classic cocktails, and Italian amari, aperitivi, and digestivi (and vini, natch). And just in time for summer, there is also outdoor seating and an afternoon happy hour with Italian bar snacks. It’s a gorgeous historic building (with tile flooring that is about a century old), and ultimately one that Scotti couldn’t resist moving into. Lunch and dinner will be served. 499 9th St. at Washington, Oakland.

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One of Cafe Valparaiso’s empanadas. Yelp photo by Ashley M.

Some ABC license activity pointed to the opening of ~CAFE VALPARAISO~ in a new location (1403 Solano Ave. in Albany), serving their variety of empanadas, and Chilean sandwiches and entrées. Meanwhile ~CAFÉ LA PEÑA~ has opened in Valparaiso’s previous location in the La Peña Cultural Center. 3105 Shattuck Ave. at Berkeley.

Another switcheroo: ~BRASA~ in Berkeley (the rotisserie chicken place from Veronica and Christopher Laramie) is closing at the end of the month, and ~BRAZIL CAFÉ~ will be moving in (via Scoop). 1960 University Ave. at Milvia, Berkeley.

A reader wrote in to tell me ~LOCAL CAFÉ~ next door to Adesso had closed, and moving in will be ~SLICER PIZZERIA~, a venture from Colin Etezadi (Boot & Shoe, Pizzaiolo, Camino) that will serve affordable but quality pizza (via Scoop). 4395 Piedmont Ave. at Pleasant Valley.

Vegetarian wine-and-tapas joint ~ENCUENTRO CAFE AND WINE BAR~ is moving into a larger location in Jack London Square and plans to open this November, according to Eater. Both locations will remain open—the original (200 2nd St.) will be more of a wine-and-beer bar working with a smaller menu. 550 2nd St. at Clay, Oakland.

And in the bummer news department, a tablehopper reader writes in to let me know ~RICO’S DINER~, a neighborhood favorite, has closed and been sold. You can view the goodbye note in a picture on Yelp. As my reader said, “This place has always been a solid choice for lunch and will be missed.” 400 15th St. at Franklin.

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