August 26, 2014

August 26, 2014
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The cheerful interior and communal table at L’Aviateur. Photo: Dana Eastland. © tablehopper.com.

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Window seating at L’Aviateur. Photo: Dana Eastland. © tablehopper.com.

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Vegetable “caviar” with pepper-carrot purée and quail egg. Photo: Dana Eastland. © tablehopper.com.

A report by Dana Eastland. As we mentioned back in March, there is a new bistro headed to 21st Street in the Mission, called ~BISTRO L’AVIATEUR~. To recap, the project is definitely a family affair, from husband-and-wife team Maha and Vincent Laforge, with Maha’s sons helping out in the kitchen.

I had a chance to attend a friends and family preview dinner on Sunday evening. The small, intimate space feels very warm and welcoming. It’s a cliché, but it truly does feel like dining in someone’s home. The name means “the aviator,” a nod to Vincent’s past as a pilot and the globe-trotting nature of the food. There are fun aviation-inspired decorative elements throughout the restaurant, including an Art Deco lighting fixture, prints of planes, and other pieces of fun memorabilia. The space seats 25, with a bar along one of the large windows and a communal table that can accommodate large groups. Eventually, there will also be sidewalk seating.

As for the food, the menu will change daily, with one salad, one soup, two appetizers, and two entrées (one meat or fish, one vegetarian) available at lunch and dinner, and Tunisian-style tea and pastries available in the afternoon (the kitchen will close from 2:30pm-5:30pm every afternoon, with tea, coffee, pastries, and juice available). The food is French, with influences from all over the Mediterranean, including Maha’s native Tunisia. At the preview dinner, there was a delicious beef bourguignon with mashed potatoes, and a vegetable “caviar” with carrot-pepper sauce and pesto. One of the teas served in the afternoon is mint with toasted pine nuts, and the pastries include marzipan with rose water and North African spices, along with French macarons. There will also be a small, reasonably priced wine selection with both French and Californian choices.

I was struck during my visit by how warm and friendly the Laforges are, and how comfortable their restaurant feels. It’s not high end or groundbreaking, but it’s comfortable, hospitable, and full of heart and soul. It’s also family-friendly, with high chairs for well-behaved children. They plan to open their doors for lunch and tea service on Wednesday September 10th, and hours will be Mon 11:30am-7pm, Wed-Fri 11:30am-9:30pm, Sat 5:30pm-9:30pm, Sun 11am-3pm, closed Tue. Hours may change in the coming weeks as they figure out what works best. 2850 21st St. at Alabama, 415-757-0272.

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Xan deVoss and Barbara Gratta. Photo from Facebook.

More exciting news coming out of Bayview: Xan deVoss of Fox and Lion Bread and Barbara Gratta of Gratta Wines are joining forces to open ~BUTCHERTOWN GOURMET~. It’s going to be a micro marketplace, with a bread bakery and wine bar (each running under their own name), plus a shared grab-and-go case with sandwiches, basic grocery items, and some items to pair with bread and wine. There’s also talk of some pizza nights.

In an email to me, deVoss says, “Barbara and I have been working with Earl [Shaddix] on the Bayview Underground Market for over a year since its inception at All Good Pizza, and from that effort we knew we wanted to create a welcoming atmosphere where families can come get food/coffee/wine or beer and feel a positive sense of community.” They are keen to keep prices low but quality high.

The space has been vacant for more than a year—it was previously a barbershop. But back in the day (say, 1934), it was actually an Italian deli called Babbes & Bogios Grocery, which ties in to the Butchertown Gourmet name, since Bayview used to be called Butchertown. It was a working-class neighborhood where Italians, Germans, Austrians, Portuguese, and other immigrants lived as shipbuilders, butchers, and other tradespeople (deVoss says it’s amazing to see how many immigrants planted fruit trees in yards all over the neighborhood).

Best-case scenario is that it will open in early October; we’ll keep you posted. For now, say hello to the ladies at the next two upcoming Bayview Underground Food Scene farmers’ markets on Thursday September 4th and Thursday September 18th at Pier 70, from 5:30pm-8pm. 5273 3rd St. at Williams.  

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Roy Choi backstage at Mad 2013. Photo by Mikkel Heriba via Facebook.

Anyone attending the MAD Symposium this past week has heard the news that LA’s Roy Choi and SF’s Daniel Patterson have teamed up for a new chain of fast-food restaurants, called ~LOCO’L~ (a bit loco, and local). Scoop reports that the new project will start with two locations, one in Los Angeles and the other in San Francisco’s Tenderloin. After the first two open, hopefully in early 2015, they’ll do a round of investment for expansion. The restaurants are all about offering a healthier, more sustainable alternative to the current fast-food choices, while maintaining low prices.

The idea came about after a talk about hunger Choi gave at the MAD Symposium in 2013, and grew from there. They are specifically hoping to appeal to youth in struggling neighborhoods, with a menu of “smashes” (burgers with beef, whole grains, and tofu) served on buns from Chad Robertson of Tartine. They are still looking for a space but we’ll keep you updated on the project’s progress.

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The Monterey pizza at Coffee Bar. And wood. Because it’s wood-fired pizza, yo. Photo via Coffee Bar’s Facebook.

Some changes over at beer HQ ~MONK’S KETTLE~—they are closing the restaurant on Wednesday September 3rd, and when they reopen two weeks (or so) later, there will be a sidewalk patio with room for around 20 folks, a dual-temperature draft system that will feature 28 lines and a cask engine (5 more than they currently have), and the men’s bathroom is getting an upgrade too. When they reopen, you’ll want to check out Porchbier, a collaboration with Almanac Beer Co. (it’s a session saison made with wheat berries and dry-hopped with Sorachi Ace and Amarillo hops) and a collaborative beer they did with Cellarmaker, Beertender’s Breakfast. Cheers!

Just a reminder that ~HOTEI~ in the Inner Sunset is closing after more than 15 years in business on Sunday August 31st. Owner Steve Fujii, who also owns Ebisu across the street, is slowly retiring after more than 30 years of owning restaurants, though he will continue to operate Ebisu. 1290 9th Ave. at Irving, 415-753-6045.

Also in the Mission: the folks at ~COFFEE BAR~ have started serving pizza from their wood-fired oven on the patio. Selections include the Monterey (mozzarella, Asiago, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, roast garlic, oregano, tomato sauce) for $12. (Pssst, they have been offering some free slices at lunch as they ramp up the program.)

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The pretty cream puffs at Choux. Photo from Facebook.

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The hot pot spread at Little Sheep. Yelp photo by Krystal L.

Back in December, we reported on a new French cream puff bakery opening in Lower Haight called ~CHOUX~. They are officially opening their doors Wednesday August 27th, serving cream puffs with unique fillings like pistachio, passion fruit, and raspberry, alongside more classic choices like vanilla and chocolate. Owner and pastry chef Laura Athuil is from Nice, France, and trained in Paris. Here in San Francisco, she’ll be making the cream puffs fresh daily, and offering coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. Hours will be Sun-Fri 10:30am-7pm. 248 Fillmore St. at Haight, 415-528-9673.

Chowhounders caught the opening of ~DIM SUM CLUB~ on Van Ness in Russian Hill, and Urban Daddy snagged some details. The new place is in the Da Vinci Villa hotel, but despite the odd location, it’s serving some delicious dumplings and other dishes, according to initial reports on Chowhound and Yelp. It’s from the same team behind Guangdong Barbecue Tea House, so there are also roasted meats on the menu—you can even order a whole roast pig in advance for a large group. 2550 Van Ness Ave. at Filbert, 415-529-2615.

International Mongolian hot pot chain ~LITTLE SHEEP~, which is well known in San Mateo (and has locations throughout the Bay Area), has opened in San Francisco. The new location is on the second floor of a building in Union Square and offers an extensive selection of meats and vegetables to cook in your hot pot. They take reservations for large groups too. Hours are daily 11:30am-2:30pm and 5:30pm-10:30pm. 405 Mason St. at Geary, second floor, 415-673-9919.

~THE ITALIAN HOMEMADE COMPANY~ is now open in North Beach. It’s a classic Italian deli, with grocery items to take home or flatbreads, sandwiches, and other items to eat there. They are making pasta in-house along with sauces, and importing a variety of goods from Italy, including deli meats, specialty oils, and cheese. Early Yelp reports warn that they do sometimes run out of pasta, so stop in early. Hours are Tue-Sun 9am-8pm. 716 Columbus Ave. at Greenwich, 415-712-8874.

A new frozen custard spot has moved into the former Yotopia space in the Mission, called ~THE VELVET SCOOP~. They’re serving frozen custard scoops, along with concretes (like a milkshake, with mix-ins) and specialty toppings. There will also be a special concrete each day—follow along on Facebook and plan accordingly. 3280 22nd St. at Valencia, 415-757-0735.

For even more dim sum, Glen Park Association reports that ~WIN GARDEN~ is now open. They’re serving dim sum, standard Chinese dishes, and a large selection of vegetarian options; check out the menu here. Open daily 11am-10pm, plus there’s delivery. 2784 Diamond St. at Chenery, 415-333-1331.

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A look at the new Modern Coffee. Photo courtesy of Modern Coffee.

Last month we told you about the big remodel ~RITUAL COFFEE ROASTERS~ was undergoing, and now the nearly 10-year-old coffee shop and roaster has reopened, and has some new changes to show off. Check our previous post for all the details of the new look, but one thing we didn’t mention is Ritual will now offer a 25-cent discount to customers who bring their own mugs and/or use one of Ritual’s new reusable jars (available for a $2 deposit). The jars can be returned the next day for a clean one—you don’t even have to wash it (but don’t tell your mom). Owner Eileen Hassi Rinaldi wants to reduce the number of paper cups by 50 percent in 2014 and move upward from there. Right on. 1026 Valencia St. at 21st St., 415-641-1011.

Farther down Valencia, ~FOUR BARREL COFFEE~ is turning six (!) on Wednesday August 27th and having a fun anniversary party to celebrate. What this means is you can enjoy free coffee from 7am-4pm, and you may want to time your visit for cake at noon (mmm, cake)! There will also be a photo booth, some burgers from 4505 Meats, and music. Four Barrel will be closing at 4pm so they can have their own celebration, so swing on by.

Over in the East Bay, the woman-owned ~SCARLET CITY COFFEE~ has opened their first brick-and-mortar café in Emeryville. Owner Jen St. Hilaire opened the shop with business partner Susanna Handow, which is where you’ll be able to score some beautifully pulled shots of their Northern Italian-style espresso while hanging out at the counter (yes, you get to pretend you’re in Italy and stand and quite possibly enjoy some conversation with the barista and people next to you). SFoodie also mentions the modern bar has some fun science-fiction touches (like pinball machines, and expect some readings from sci-fi authors—St. Hilarie is a self-confessed “sci-fi nut”). Trekkie jokes welcome. Open Mon-Fri 7am-3pm and Sat-Sun 8am-3pm. 3960 Adeline St. at 40th St., Emeryville.

A couple of months ago, we told you that ~MODERN COFFEE~ was opening a second location in Uptown Oakland, and now we’re here to tell you it’s softly open! The space is still a work in progress, but coffee is being served. It’s about the same size as the original (800 square feet, with around 12 seats), with a quartzite counter and custom speakers. You’ll be able to try a variety of coffees from roasters like Stumptown Coffee from Portland, Counter Culture Coffee from Durham, North Carolina, and Northern California’s De La Paz Coffee (SF), Chromatic Coffee (San Jose), and Verve Coffee Roasters (Santa Cruz), plus teas too. For now, it will be open Mon-Fri 7am-5pm. 1814 Franklin (with the entrance at 381 19th Street, between Franklin and Webster).

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Tempura udon for lunch at Pabu. Photo by Kevin McCullough via Pabu.

Downtown’s ~PABU~ is now open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30am-2pm. The menu is a bit scaled back from dinner, with a selection of small plates, larger dishes, and sushi and sashimi. Look for okonomiyaki with squid and pork belly, tempura udon, and sashimi selections, to name just a few items. Here’s the full menu for your perusing pleasure. 101 California St. at Front, 415-668-7228.

~DARWIN CAFE~ is now offering weekend brunch, Eater reports. The menu isn’t huge, but offers a nice variety for everyone, with sweet choices like waffles and muesli with yogurt and fruit, or savory choices like poached eggs Darwin (that’s creamed spinach, roast beef, and béarnaise sauce, oof) or Turkish breakfast with egg, tomato, figs, kasseri cheese, olives, and toast. Weekend hours are Saturday and Sunday from 10am-2pm, with a “pastry hour” starting at 9am. 212 Ritch St. at Bryant, 415-800-8668.

If you’re looking for a Sunday evening spot, you can now head to ~TWENTY FIVE LUSK~. They are offering a menu of their “greatest hits,” with favorite dishes from the lunch, brunch, dinner, and lounge menus. There’s a lobster eggs Benedict with pancetta, or check out their small dishes like gnocchi with red pole beans, Sun Gold tomatoes, frisée, and black garlic. Brunch for dinner, yes! Dinner is served Sundays from 5pm-9pm.

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A course from the recent Fortress summer fig dinner. Fig, goat curd, vanilla vin chicories, quail egg, lard croutons. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

There are a variety of pop-up events happening in the coming weeks, starting with Sneaky’s BBQ popping up on Monday nights at ~THE RESIDENCE~. According to their Facebook page, the menu includes their famed wings, along with barbecue sandwiches (like their excellent pulled pork) and tacos. 6pm-10pm. (You can keep track of their other pop-up locations here.) 718 14th St. at Church.

Coming up on Saturday September 6th is the Dux Duck Dinner at ~NAKED KITCHEN~, another dinner in the Fortress: Solitude & SF series from Eddie Lau and Luis Villavelazquez. The gents are cooking up a six-course feast featuring duck (including Dux tsukemen with house noodles and roasted duck vadouvan butter); check out the ducky menu here. Dinner is $55 (gratuity included), and pairings are $20 (which you’ll want to do if you love Chablis, or even if you don’t love Chablis). Two seatings: 6pm and 9pm. Tickets here.

Remember when we told you about ~CHARIN~, the pop-up restaurant from Charles-C Onyeama that will be open once a month in Noe Valley? Well, a few more details have emerged: first, Michael Ireland will be doing the wine pairings and will be on the floor at the event (he is currently consulting on the wine list at Verbena and was formerly the wine director at The Restaurant at Meadowood and a sommelier at Benu, Quince, and The French Laundry). So yeah, there will be killer wines. Secondly, the opening dates have been announced: Sunday September 7th and Monday the 8th. Sign up for the newsletter for reservations, cost, and more details.

Greg Lutes has announced he is phasing out of his Kinfolk pop-up brunch and dinners at 903 in Bernal in order to prepare for his new restaurant, which will be called ~3RD COUSIN~. The last dinners will be next week. Mid-October is the targeted opening date for 3rd Cousin; we’ll follow up with more soon. 919 Cortland Ave. at Gates.

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Bites at 2013’s Luckyrice Festival. Photo by Richard Patterson via Luckyrice.

Don’t miss the Luckyrice Festival’s visit to San Francisco at the Bently Reserve on Friday September 5th. The event is a celebration of Asian flavors of all sorts, with bites and beverages from some of the best local restaurants and bars. Participating restaurants include Azalina’s, Kin Khao, Dosa, Chino, E+O Asian Kitchen, and Butterfly, to name just a few. In addition, bartenders like Kevin Diedrich of Liholiho Yacht Club, Suzie Robinson of Novela, and Ian Adams of 15 Romolo will be on hand, mixing cocktails from official sponsor Bombay Sapphire EAST gin to pair with the food. Check out the full menu of food and drink here. But, trust us, don’t read it if you’re hungry. Beer, wine, and ginger ale will also be on hand.

The event runs from 8pm-10pm for general admission, with VIP entry at 7pm. Tickets are $88 for general admission and $150 for VIP. Proceeds benefit the Center for Asian American Media. Bently Reserve, 301 Battery St. at Sacramento.

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Chef, writer, and person-you-need-to-know Samin Nosrat. Photo from Facebook.

Local writer, educator, chef, and all-around food expert Samin Nosrat will be at ~DOÑA TOMAS~ on Wednesday August 27th sharing stories from her kitchen and her global travels from 6pm-8pm. She’s a true Bay Area treasure, don’t miss this peek into her world! Tickets are $15. The evening is hosted by Social Eats, a part of the Edible Schoolyard project. Small bites are included, and drinks will be available at the bar. 5004 Telegraph Ave. at 51st St., Oakland, 510-450-0522.

Beginning in September, check out the new PBS series Food Forward. The series is a half hour per episode, with 13 episodes, and aims to redefine the current state of food television. Rather than celebrity chefs or competitive challenges, they series is focused on examining our food system and finding compelling narratives and characters who are changing the way we eat. Check your local listings here.

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The interior at Jack’s Oyster Bar & Fish House. Yelp photo by Michael R.

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The ploughman’s plate at Café Underwood. Photo courtesy Café Underwood.

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Outdoor seating at Café Underwood. Photo via Facebook.

Rick Hackett and Meredith Melville, owners of Jack London Square’s Bocanova, have opened a new restaurant in the neighborhood. It’s called ~JACK’S OYSTER BAR & FISH HOUSE~, and, as the name suggests, it’s all about seafood. Peter Villegas, whose previous experience includes La Mar and Campton Place, is the executive chef, and the menu includes classic seafood dishes like clam chowder, a lobster roll in a housemade pretzel bun (which we mentioned in this 7x7.com piece on new lobster rolls!), and fish and chips. There are also modern classics, like a charred octopus dish with potatoes and piquillo pepper, or squid ink carbonara with bone marrow. Non-seafood choices include a burger and T-bone steak. Take a look at the menu here.

There is a full bar, with a focus on refreshing drinks that play nicely with seafood—think tallboys like the herbaceous “Dill-icious” with blanco tequila, lime, St. Germain, cucumber, dill, and soda. The wine list features a large selection of sparkling wines from around the world, along with local wines on tap, and there is also a selection of local beers.

The space—from architect Michael Guthrie and interior designer Ann Rockwell—has seating for 100. There is a 20-seat raw bar, with custom seating from Berkeley’s Wooden Duck, and banquettes in the main dining area. A semi-private dining room is available for groups up to 36. A collage-style mural on the back wall celebrates Oakland’s waterfront, and outdoor seating offers a view of the bay. Hours are 11am-10pm daily, with reservations for dinner after 5:30pm. 336 Water St. at Franklin, Oakland, 510-271-7952.

Speaking of Jack London Square, it looks like a big new project will be landing there in October. It’s called ~PLANK~ and is a dining space and event venue clocking in at 50,000 square feet, indoors and out. It comes from Los Angeles-based Trifecta Management Group and will include entertainment like bowling, bocce ball, video games, and an outdoor beer garden. There will also be food options, offering a wide range of selections for many tastes. 98 Broadway at Embarcadero West, Oakland.

There’s a new hangout in North Oakland we’ve been tracking for quite awhile, ~CAFÉ UNDERWOOD~, and we’re happy to report Dominick Scala has opened its doors. Scala is a former bartender from Dogwood and a freelance writer (hence the hat tip to the famed typewriter in the name), so he understands the kind of third place-meets-coworking space people seek.

There is great coffee from Highwire Coffee Roasters (and there’s also nitrogen-infused, cold-brewed coffee on tap—Scala says it comes out like Guinness, mmmm), Italian-influenced sandwiches, and a rotating selection of housemade and seasonal items like grits, frittata, baked pasta, eggplant Parm, and garbage bread (stuffed with meat and cheese), charcuterie and cheese plates, and yes, there’s WiFi. There will be plenty of outlets, and instead of having to leave your computer at your table to reorder (always a gambling or annoying moment when you have to pack up), servers will come to your table to take your order. And when it’s time to shut the laptop and hang with your friends, there’s quite a curated selection of local beers (including Ghost Town) and wine (like Donkey & Goat).

You’ll find indoor and outdoor seating, plus a mezzanine with rentable chair space (or you can book the entire mezzanine, which has room for about 20). There are many handcrafted touches, from the welding to the woodwork and tiles. Oh, and on the weekend, they had some live music in the evening, and served until 1am. Open Mon-Thu 7am-10pm, Fri 7am-1am, Sat 8am-1am, Sun 8am-5pm. 308 41st St. at Broadway, Oakland, 510-995-6660.

~TAIWAN BENTO~, the Taiwanese-style restaurant we reported on in June, is now softly open, until their Friday August 29th grand opening. They offer Taiwanese-style bento boxes, with options of proteins and sides. While they are softly open, the menu will be limited and the hours will be weekdays 11:30-2:30pm; once open, look for wider menu selections and expanded hours. 412 22nd St. at Boradway, Oakland, 510-250-9858.

If you’re looking for a fun Labor Day but don’t want to cook, check out the second annual Labor Day Barbecue at ~HOMESTEAD~ on Monday September 1st. The buffet-style menu includes baby back ribs, corn on the cob, potato salad, mixed greens, baked beans, and housemade popsicles for dessert. The buffet is $30 for adults and $15 for kids, with beverages available at the bar. Note that they accept cash only. 4029 Piedmont Ave. at Glen, 510-420-6962.