May 6, 2014

May 6, 2014

The new dining room at Big 4. Photo from Facebook.

All is well on Nob Hill, with the reopening of ~BIG 4~ at the newly renovated Scarlet Huntington Hotel. We broke the news last week about the new chef, Kevin Scott, whose menu will be in place May 23rd. For now, there is an interim menu you can take a look at here. Once the new menu launches, look for many of the previous menu staples but with new twists.

As for the dining room, fortunately the green leather banquettes remain, and look at that, they decided to keep the white tablecloths as well (small cheer over here). The bar, grand piano, and artifacts on the wood-paneled walls all remain in place, but you’ll notice refreshed things like a newly carpeted floor. The big change was really with the plumbing, so that’s why it was closed for some time.

The new cocktail menu (which is being served now) offers classic Big 4 cocktails, as well as some new ones. They speak to Nob Hill’s history, as well as the hotel’s railroad and mining history, with drinks like the Golden Spike (Sheep Dip Scotch, apricot liqueur, Licor 43). The three sparkling options by the glass make it an excellent spot for celebration. Many of the beloved bartenders and staff remain, including Ty himself. Here’s the menu.

For now, they’ll be open for breakfast and dinner daily from 6:30am-10:30am and 5:30pm-10pm, with lunch service coming later (yay again!). When that new menu launches on the 23rd, we’ll be sure to give you a peek too. Welcome back, Big 4!


A sneak peek of the new kitchen (and the eye-catching architectural feature along the ceiling). Photo: Dave Muller.


Another look at the new ceiling feature in the original space. Photo: Dave Muller.

Last week we broke the news about the new chef at the about-to-reopen ~OUTERLANDS~, Greg Kuzia-Carmel. Now we have a few details to release about the expanded space and what to expect. Owners Lana Porcello and Dave Muller moved into the former restaurant space next door (Wo’s Chinese), and now have 20 more seats, plus large party seating is now available (there’s an eight-person table that can also be joined with a smaller three-person table in the new room). What’s impressive is, they designed it themselves! And don’t forget they have that parklet out front too.

In the new area, the full bar will be taking on a much stronger presence, with 10 bar seats, and there are a few high bistro tables across from the bar that are the same height—an ideal spot to have a meal, not just cocktails. Speaking of bevvies, Chris O’Brien is the new bar manager, and Kevin Dowell, the bar manager at Foreign Cinema, is consulting for Outerlands. Dowell actually lives just down the street.

The existing dining area got some upgrades (including double-paned windows and insulation, so it’ll be a lot cozier). You’ll notice a modern-looking white wave above the kitchen, an architectural feature that extends into the new area and lightens up the space. Since there’s a lot more room for prep, Outerlands will be able to now have brunch on Saturday and Sunday. There will also be an abridged breakfast service during the week (Mon-Fri 8am-10am) with some savory items (think eggy, bready, and vegetables too)—pastry chef Brooke Mosley will be very involved in the development of it.

So, the big question: when are they opening? They are really hoping to open this Saturday for brunch (9am-3pm), but since construction often has last-minute surprises, check the website or call before heading over. UPDATE: THEY WILL NOT BE OPENING UNTIL TUE MAY 13TH. After running weekend brunch, they plan to open for lunch next week (10am-3pm). The breakfast service will launch soon after, along with evening hours for dinner and bar bites (evenings will initially be walk-in only, with reservations coming later). Also look for a few pop-up bar nights as they get the bar portion ready to launch.

I’ll keep you posted on their new mealtimes as they add them, menus, and will be sharing some images of the completed space too.


A barbecue plate at Smokestack. Photo courtesy Smokestack.

~SMOKESTACK AT MAGNOLIA BREWING~ officially opened its doors yesterday, Monday May 5th. We gave you a sneak peek in February with lots of details about the interior, and now the project is up and running.

To recap, it’s a barbecue joint from Dave McLean of Magnolia, with chef Dennis Lee of Namu Gaji running the kitchen. The barbecue will be “nondenominational,” meaning not exclusive to any particular region of the Americas or elsewhere. There’s influence from Kansas City, the Carolinas, Texas, along with the Asian and international styles that Lee is so adept at. J&R Manufacturing has made two smokers for the space, along with two wood-fired grill pits, giving Lee a lot of options for how to cook meat. Each day, seven different meats will be on offer, all by the pound (you order from a display counter, so you know what you’re getting). Of course sides are also available, like burnt-end beans, coleslaw, kimchi, and pickles. Unfortunately no menus are available for you to look at, but that’s the general plan at this point.

They’ll also have the largest selection of Magnolia beers available anywhere, because the extra space in the new neighborhood means they’ll be able to brew more beers at the same time. In addition to Magnolia classics like the Proving Ground IPA and Blue Bell Bitter, as well as more experimental brews, like the New Speedway Bitter, there will be some cask-conditioned choices and the barrel-aged Out with the Old Ale. The cocktails, from bar manager Eric Quilty, are largely focused on American whiskeys, with mezcal and other smoky spirits in the mix as well (because of the smoke theme, get it?). Right now, hours are daily 4pm-12am, with lunch coming soon. 2505 3rd St. at 22nd St., no phone.


The bar at Schroeder’s. Photo: Dana Eastland. ©


The front bar dining area. Photo: Dana Eastland. ©


The main dining room. Photo: Dana Eastland. ©


Beet with goat cheese, honey, and pumpernickel crisps. Photo: Dana Eastland. ©

A report by Dana Eastland. As we noted back in December, 120-year-old downtown German icon ~SCHROEDER’S~ sold and is reopening under the ownership of Andrew Chun and Jan Wiginton of Press Club. The new version of Schroeder’s opened its doors yesterday, Monday May 5th, and here’s a peek.

The new space, which was designed by BCV Architects, has maintained the cavernous feel of the original, and the fabulously quaint murals by Herman Richter have happily remained. The space is more sleek now, though, with long wooden tables that evoke a rustic beer hall, but with a modern perspective. There are three distinct areas: the bar and beer hall area in front, the main dining room, and a private dining room in back. Illuminated glass shelving serves as a partition between the different dining areas and the kitchen, and the shelves hold the beer steins from the original, so they’re still there to check out and marvel at. There are also industrial mesh curtains cleverly arranged to separate the private dining room from the main one, and the main dining room from the bar area.

And about that bar. It’s the original one, made of rosewood, and is serving a variety of cocktails, beer, and wine. The cocktails come from bar director Claire Jane Hunter, and each one contains at least one German ingredient. In some cases, that means you’ll find a sparkling riesling, like in the Big Apple (sparkling riesling, Leopold’s sour apple, Kuemmerling, pressed apple juice, salted apple chip), or a Radler (a radler is a beer-based cocktail) made with Andechser doppelbock. There are also many German liqueurs and brandies on the drink menu, including an old-fashioned made with German brandy in addition to rye. Take a look at all the options here.

The beer selection comes from cicerone Rich Higgins, and of course German beers are featured prominently, along with selections from California and the Czech Republic. There are 15 beers on tap, and as is to be expected with Higgins, they are intended to pair well with food. Look out for Maisel’s Weisse, a German hefeweizen, or Magnolia’s Kalifornia Kolsch; the beer list is right here. Wine comes from beverage director Mauro Cirilli of Press Club, and again, you’ll see many German options, along with choices from California and Austria. Rieslings are heavily represented, ranging from sweet to off-dry to dry, and all intended to pair well with the food. Here’s the bottle list, and here are the options by the glass.

The food comes from chef Manfred Wrembel, who previously worked at Plum and Incanto, and whose parents emigrated from Germany to California. His menu is rooted in German traditions, but also utilizes seasonal California ingredients. Look for appetizers like beets with goat cheese, honey, and pumpernickel crisps ($12), or potato pancakes with cheddar, beer, and apples ($11), or meatier choices like beef tongue with asparagus, capers, horseradish, and crème fraîche ($14). Entrées are meat-focused and hearty, including a Wiener schnitzel made with veal and served with celery root and fava beans ($24), or pork loin with sauerkraut, spelt, and mustard ($26). There is also a bar menu with a dry-aged cheeseburger ($15) and smothered fries with cheddar beer sauce, mustard seeds, and pickles ($10).

Hours are 4pm-10pm Tue-Sat this week, and moving forward will be Mon-Fri 11:30am-10pm and Sat 5pm-10pm. 240 Front St. at California, 415-421-4778.


The half rack of ribs at 4505. Yelp photo by James G.


Interior of the new Hog Island Oyster Bar. Photo: Paul Dyer Photography.


The new oyster bar (with a great view!) at Hog Island Oyster Bar. Photo: Paul Dyer Photography.


Hole #1: Quake! (par 3) at Urban Putt. Photo: Cesar Rubio.

Our dining scene is experiencing a slew of openings, so here’s a quick roundup for you with details on the who, what, and when of the latest spots to join the fray.

First up, the lines were long over the weekend at Ryan and Cesalee Farr’s ~4505 BURGERS & BBQ~, and the ad hoc picnic tables that were set up in the parking lot were full of customers feasting on brisket, ribs, burgers, and more. Barbecue by the plate or pound, check. You can check out the takeout menu here, and don’t forget you can get beer to go. Hours are Sun-Thu 10:30am-10pm and Fri-Sat 10:30am-11pm, with the burger window open until 2am. For details on the space, look at our previous piece here.

Last week we shared details and menus about the new ~HOG ISLAND OYSTER BAR~ location at the Ferry Building Marketplace, and now we wanted to share the news that it’s officially open (yay). Although there’s one thing to note: they have to close on Thursday May 8th to install a bit more equipment, so call to double check that they’re all done if you have your heart set on a platter of Kumamotos on Friday.

In the meantime, you need to see a couple of pics, because it’s quite the looker, so we have that for you (check out that view at the oyster bar!). You can read last week’s piece, which is full of details here; don’t forget they now have a full bar. Hours are Mon-Thu 11:30am-9pm, Fri 11:30am-10pm, Sat 11am-10pm, and Sun 11am-9pm. 1 Ferry Building, 415-391-7117.

Last week I attended a preview party of ~URBAN PUTT~, the whimsical mini golf and restaurant project in the Mission by Steve Fox. The 14-hole course has a bunch of SF references, from the Transamerica building to a section dedicated to the 1906 earthquake (Lotta’s Fountain in effect), plus you’ll see some Steampunky effects and Rube Goldberg-style stuff too, and there’s even Jules Verne’s Nautilus. You can quickly see how it took quite a geeky crew of designers, robotics engineers, welders, and artists to pull it off (viva geeks!).

We previously ran the news about the Urban Putt chef Dane Boryta and his menu here. You can sit down and eat in the upstairs restaurant, or you can just grab a beer or a glass of wine while you play downstairs with some bar bites and fairway bites (which are available whenever the mini-golf course is open). Mini golf is first come, first served ($12 adults, $8 kids), although large parties can make special arrangements. Mini golf: Mon-Thu 4pm-12am, Fri 4pm-2am, Sat 10am-2am, Sun 10am-12am. Restaurant hours: Sun-Thu 5:30pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5:30pm-11pm. Guests under 21 are not permitted on the mini-golf course after 8pm, so bring the kids early. 1096 South Van Ness Ave. at 22nd St.


The new Bay Bridge Room bar at Chaya. Photo courtesy Chaya.


The Kaisen platter at Chaya. Photo: Dana Eastland. ©

A report by Dana Eastland. ~CHAYA BRASSERIE~ on the Embarcadero has remodeled their dining room and added a second bar, and I had a chance to check it out a couple of weeks ago. They’ve also just put their spring menu on rotation; let’s take a look, shall we?

First, the new bar. The space has two dining rooms, and the larger one also includes the main bar and entrance. The smaller dining room, called the Bay Bridge Room for its unbeatable view, hosts the new, smaller bar. The new space will be a place for those waiting for tables, or those looking for a quieter place for a drink, since the front bar can get quite boisterous. It will also be available for private happy hour events, so if you’ve got a co-worker with a birthday or something to celebrate with friends, it’s an excellent place to have a bar space (and a bartender) to yourselves, while still participating in a fun scene. And because their happy hour menu and $7 cocktails are available all night in the bar area, it should be a fun spot all evening long.

They’ve also got lots of ways for groups to dine. The Kaisen platter is gorgeous, brimming with chilled seafood that changes regularly depending on what’s freshest. There are oysters, three different kinds of sashimi, and ceviche, to name just a few of the choices. Everything is served with Japanese-style accompaniments, including a seasoned, aged black vinegar. The menu also includes seasonal sushi rolls that extend beyond seafood, such as a house-smoked duck breast roll.

Happy hour begins at 4pm and continues until closing, every day. Hours are lunch Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm, dinner Mon-Wed 5:30pm-10pm, Thu-Sat 5:30pm-10:30pm, Sun 5:30pm-9pm. Bar is open Mon-Wed 11:30am-11pm, Thu-Fri 11:30am-11:30pm, Sat 5pm-11:30pm, Sun 5pm-10pm. 132 The Embarcadero at Mission, 415-777-8688.


The first staff cupping of Paramo coffees. Photo courtesy of Robert Myers.

Due to open (hopefully) in a couple of weeks is ~PARAMO COFFEE ROASTERS~ in Embarcadero Four, a side project from Robert Myers (one of the founders of Highwire Coffee Roasters in Emeryville and Modern Coffee in Oakland; he has been involved in the coffee world since ‘91 and is helping with operations). The front man for the venture is Gabriel Boscana, previously a buyer at Sightglass Coffee, with roasting experience with Intelligentsia/Ecco Caffe and Ritual and will be leading the project.

Talking with Myers, he said that first and foremost they want to create a personable vibe with friendly baristas, and they are also changing up the way coffee is presented and sold. They want to tap into their Midwestern roots, bringing some sensibility and practicality to it all. He said, “How would I explain this coffee to my mom? That’s how we want to be able to talk about it, in the customer’s language.” They are going to be offering five different coffees, all single origin, and each will represent a different flavor profile, starting with the “light, ethereal, floral” group and another for “bright, expressive, citrus,” and so on (although don’t expect anything that’s roasted too dark). They beans will change with the seasons, but they will always be searching and fine-tuning what will fit each profile best. There will also be a decaf and one espresso to start (Journeyman).

They are roasting off-site (up in Healdsburg at Flying Goat) and will be buying beans from a variety of local importers to start. They will be pulling shots off a La Marzocco Linea PB (the 20th anniversary model), and they decided to batch brew the coffee instead of doing pour-over. They want to change people’s perspective of batch brewing, and found the coffees taste just as good. And they also want to respect people’s time (especially in the busy FiDi).

As for the name, a páramo is a pristine type of ecosystem found in very high elevations in Central and South America (above the canopy) that many coffee agricultural areas rely upon; check out this video to learn more. (Boscana was very struck by the beauty of a páramo he got to see.)

They hope to open in a couple of weeks or so—you can follow along on Twitter and Facebook. Hours to start will be Mon-Fri 6am-6pm, and weekends are possibly looking like 8am-4pm or thereabouts. The space is in Embarcadero Four, just off Drumm Street and the Sacramento alley that leads to Justin Herman Plaza.


Chef de cuisine Edward Higgins at Bix. Photo: Kristen Loken.

We have quite a few new chef appointments to announce, starting with ~BIX~, who now has Edward Higgins as chef de cuisine (executive chef-partner Bruce Hill continues to be busy with Fog City). His background includes NYC’s Craft, Hearth, and Insieme, plus Ekki at the Four Seasons Hotel in Marunouchi, Japan, and Palo Alto’s Quattro. Some new items on the menu include: Bix chile-glazed fried chicken, Zuckerman’s asparagus soup with saffron aioli and toasted brioche, and Goodman Ranch veal chop pounded with king oyster mushrooms, garlic, and parsley.

Also in the city, SFoodie notes that ~SPARROW~ in the Upper Haight has a new chef, Rachel Stobel, whose background includes Chamber Eat + Drink and Range. 1640 Haight at Clayton, 415-622-6137.

Meanwhile, over in the 510, since ~GATHER~ chef and managing owner Sean Baker is busy with Verbena here in the city, a new executive chef has been promoted at Gather: Charis Wahl. She was opening sous for Baker in 2009 and was most recently chef de cuisine; she was previously at Rivoli Restaurant in Berkeley and Ozumo in Oakland. Her current menu includes steamed mussels with Calicraft kolsch, pickled green tomato, and cilantro; forbidden black rice with poached egg, crispy yuba, and spring vegetables; and roasted young chicken with injera purée, berbere, greens, and preserved citrus.

Big news in Oakland: the talented Charlie Parker has left Freddy Smalls in Los Angeles and returned to the Daniel Patterson Group to lead ~HAVEN~ (he was once opening chef at Plum). The previous executive chef, Chris Johnson, who has been at Haven since fall 2013, is returning to Coi.


Yuk hae (beef tartare) and banchan at To Hyang. Photo: ©

I was so sorry to receive a tweet from ~TO HYANG~ last week that they were unable to renew their lease and were going to close at the end of May. No! And then things got worse: the experience was so stressful for the chef-owner, Hwa-Soon Im, that they decided to suddenly close the restaurant because it was bad for her heart. Sadness! So we didn’t even get to say goodbye. The family is searching for a new location, and hopefully we’ll hear some good news on that front soon. Best wishes to all, and thank you for six years of your wonderful kimchi and banchan, spicy pork ribs, and other very heartfelt and soulful dishes. We all hope to have them again. 3815 Geary Blvd. at 2nd Ave.

Fans of grabbing a midweek lunch at ~NOJO~ in Hayes Valley will be sorry to learn the restaurant decided to end their Wed-Fri lunch service. They will continue weekend brunch service, and if you have a need for a private lunch with 10 or more people, contact them!


The coconut shoyu ramen at Kaiju. Yelp photo by Dan B.

A report from Eater has the news that chef Kevin Chen, who previously worked at Umami, Ebisu, and Okazu Ya, and his business partner, Judy Chen, have opened a new restaurant in the Inner Richmond. It’s called ~KAIJU EATS~ and serves a creative spin on Japanese food. The pint-sized space offers ramen in interesting combinations, including a Mongolian beef ramen and a coconut shoyu ramen, as well as a broad selection of clam dishes, chicken wings, and sushi rolls. Hours are daily 12pm-3pm and 5pm-9pm, though they sometimes close early if they run out of items. 3409 Geary Blvd. at Beaumont, 415-742-4309.

Just a quick reminder: ~FLOUR + WATER~ is celebrating their fifth anniversary on May 15th, and will be be closed from May 7th-14th for a few updates in their space. They’ll be reopening on the 15th, with a new coat of paint and some new art pieces. Happy Birthday!


The dining room at Tosca. Photo by Sonya Yu via Tosca.

~TOSCA CAFE~ is now offering a special Red Sauce Sunday supper from 5pm to closing. The suppers are served family style for groups of four to eight, and will feature a selection of Italian classics like Caesar salad, garlic knots, braised meatballs, their awesome bucatini, pork shank and sausage with tomato sauce, and tiramisu for dessert. The suppers are $55 per person, not including beverages, tax, or tip, and reservations can be made by email.

~ICHI SUSHI~’s Ni Bar is now offering happy hour Monday through Friday from 5:30pm-6:30pm. Specials include $1 oysters, $6 yuzu chicken wings (so good), and a changing selection of $6 glasses of wine and sake, plus $4 pints of Sapporo. The regular bar menu will also be available.


The new Oakland Bissap Baobab. Photo from Facebook.

After noting some ABC license activity, we were wondering what was going into the former Sea Salt space on San Pablo in Berkeley. Scoop reports that David Stevenson of neighboring Paisan has taken over the space. He’s calling the project ~THE LONGBRANCH~, which is an homage to the Berkeley rock club Longbranch Saloon. The original Longbranch was quite the scene in the 1970s, apparently, with acts like Earth Quake, Band of Gold, and even the Grateful Dead playing. The full bar will focus on whiskey, rye, and bourbon, along with 25 beers on tap and an additional 50 by the bottle. On the menu, look for comfortable, American food, including a “nine-dollar burger.” Right now, Stevenson is aiming to open this July. 2512 San Pablo Ave. at Dwight.

~BISSAP BAOBAB~ has opened a location in Oakland, according to East Bay Express. Right now, they’re softly open, and mostly catering to the lunchtime crowd with wraps and savory crêpes. Their liquor license is coming, as are dinner hours, but for now hours are 11am-3pm Tue-Sun. 381 15th St. at Franklin, Oakland, 510-817-4722.

Shuttered downtown Oakland bar ~THE GOLDEN BULL~ has officially reopened under new ownership, East Bay Express reports. They’ve got a pool table, a renewed focus on cocktails, and beers on tap. Hours are Mon-Sat 4pm-2am and Sun 12pm-2am. 412 14th St. at Franklin, 510-452-2855.

JWeekly reports that ~AMBA RESTAURANT~ in Oakland is going to start serving kosher meat, after years of serving only vegetarian food. Look out for items like beef kebabs and chicken shawarma, in addition to their Israeli-style vegetarian choices. 6464 Moraga Ave. at La Salle, 510-339-8000.

And now for some coffee news: it looks like West Oakland is about to get a new spot for coffee. Bay Area Bites reports that ~KILOVOLT~ is now open, serving Sightglass coffee, pastries, and bagels out of the former Cypress Steel space. 1829 Mandela Pkwy at 18th St., 510-725-2822.

And Sprudge reports that a new coffee roaster is moving into Berkeley, ~SUPERSONIC COFFEE~. Under the leadership of John Laird (formerly of Verve), a group of collaborators including alums of Four Barrel, Dillanos, and Stumptown will be roasting and selling retail coffee, starting this summer. They’ll also be serving coffee to the public out of a restored 1965 Airstream trailer and plotting a flagship café somewhere in Oakland. 2322 5th St. at Bancroft, Berkeley.

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