June 23, 2015

June 23, 2015
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The bar at Cafe du Nord. All photos courtesy of Cafe du Nord.

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The bar.

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The stairs to the bar.

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Seating and the smaller bar in the Viking Room.

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A live band plays at Cafe du Nord’s opening party.

We finally got some images, so let’s take a look at the newly reopened ~CAFE DU NORD~, whose building dates back to 1907. To recap, The Bon Vivants and Ne Timeas Restaurant Group (flour + water, Central Kitchen, Salumeria, and Aatxe) are behind the project, and while it isn’t the live music venue it used to be, there will still be some live performances (more on that in a minute). The team also really wanted to honor the long legacy of the iconic space, which was designated a San Francisco Historic Landmark in 2015.

The design of the subterranean space is now more Deco than Victorian bordello—Ne Timeas partner David White drew design inspiration from the Cafe du Nord of the 1930s and ’40s (you’ll note wood wainscoting, vintage wallpaper, Deco light fixtures, and more).

There are two rooms: first, the bar, with 20 stools and an area with café tables (also room for 20). Farther back into the 4,500-square-foot space is the Viking Room, with a 5-seat bar, 30 seats for guests seeking a full-service dining experience (you can make reservations), and a stage for musical acts, which will highlight local artists nightly. Look for jazz, blues, and cocktail piano—so, no more punk, sorry. As a reminder, Noise Pop Concerts is behind all the music performances in the Swedish American Hall, which is just upstairs.

Chef and partner Thomas McNaughton’s menu (view it in its entirety here) is a salute to classic American dishes, so you’ll find raw oysters (which are just $1 after midnight, to go with the Champagne, you see), broiled oysters Kilpatrick (with bacon and Parmesan), shrimp cocktail, beef tartare, cioppino, chicken al mattone, and a rib-eye steak. And, naturally, a burger. There are also some bar snacks, although you can order off the entire menu throughout the bar area.

The Bon Vivants definitely gave the cocktail list an upgrade, highlighting spins on drinks from the past century, but with new ingredients. The list (all drinks are $12) includes the Södermalm (Rittenhouse rye, Punt e Mes vermouth, Cherry Heering, and Cafe du Nord Fika bitters), the Martini du Nord (Ford’s gin and oyster shell-infused Noilly Prat vermouth), the Golden Era (George Dickel rye, maple sugar, and fig leaf bitters), and the Diggers (Tequila Ocho plata, Chablis, peach, zaatar, and lime). See, it helps to know your SF history to understand the names of a few of them. Look for a long list of Scotch and American whiskey too.

Ne Timeas Restaurant Group wine directors Geno Tomko and Samuel Bogue are behind the wine list, with a special focus on Champagne and the wines found throughout that region, ranging from Grande Marques houses to small grower-producers. Best of all: all bottles of Champagne will be half-price after midnight, seven days a week. I KNOW. So let’s say cheers to what sounds and looks like a thoughtful renovation and upgrade to a beautiful and beloved venue.

Open nightly 5pm-2am. Food served until 1:30am. 2174 Market St. at Sanchez, 415-471-2969.

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The Ghirardelli Square Apartment House, where Le Marais Bistro & Bakery will be opening its new location. Photo courtesy of Le Marais.

Some exciting new tenants are coming to Ghirardelli Square (now owned by Jamestown, a real estate investment trust), including a project from chef Jonathan Waxman (Barbuto in NYC) and a second location of Le Marais Bistro & Bakery. Waxman’s project is a homecoming of sorts—he was born in Berkeley and, like a good Berkeley-born chef, has culinary roots at Chez Panisse. He will be opening a sit-down brasserie and a fast-casual café (currently unnamed) in the Square’s Mustard Building in the Upper Plaza, dating back to 1899, serving his seasonal and Italian-inflected cuisine (let’s not forget where Domingo Ghirardelli came from). The Chronicle mentions the opening is slated for the fall.

Meanwhile, Ghirardelli Square’s Apartment House will be the home of Le Marais Bistro & Bakery, which will have 116 seats in this two-level location. Husband and wife Patrick and Joanna Ascaso will be serving their artisan-made breads and exquisite array of viennoiserie (croissants, pains au chocolat, carrés, and Danishes), as well as pâtisserie selections (tarts, macarons, choux, and entremets). There will also be a bistro component, with dishes inspired by the French coastal regions, and cocktails. The historic location, which dates back to 1916, has a fantastic view of the water and Alcatraz, and fortunately there is an outdoor terrace where you can can really take it in. The look will include leather banquettes, classic bistro mirrors, cream-painted cabinetry, and penny tile floors. Look for early 2016 on this one, we’ll keep you updated. 900 North Point St. at Polk.

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Fab neon at Mr. Holmes Bakehouse. Photo courtesy of Aaron Caddel.

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La Boulange West Portal. Photo by David Vegne, courtesy La Boulange.

Last week, our local bakery scene was hit with some pretty crazy news. First up, there was a sad split over at ~MR. HOMES BAKEHOUSE~: pastry savant and co-owner Ry Stephen, the Willy Wonka of all that tasty madness, has departed (via SF Mag). And no one is talking about what happened, but you can bet it’s complicated. Stephen’s (now former) business partner, Aaron Caddel, appears to still be running the ship (Instagram remains full of cruffin pics), and there are plans to expand to Highland Park in Los Angeles in March 2016 (check out the Craigslist ad here).

Stephen is currently in France, baking at Chez Papou, a boulangerie and pâtisserie in Le Lavandou in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France (nope, one of the hardest working bakers I know didn’t even take a break) and will be back in SF in July. I’ll keep you posted on what he’s up to next. You can’t contain his level of creativity and expertise for long.

Badass designer and (also former) co-owner Aron Tzimas—the man behind their insanely cool branding and more—has reportedly left the creative brain trust over there as well, but he’s already cranking on a new and cool project, SF x SF. And the lines outside Mr. Holmes continue to stretch around the corner. 1042 Larkin St. at Sutter.

From the artisanal to the massive: the other wave of news that crashed through the city while we were all busy watching the Warriors win on Tuesday night is that Starbucks is closing all 23 of its ~LA BOULANGE~ bakery cafés by September of this year (and the Evolution Fresh location) after the company “determined La Boulange stores are not sustainable for the company’s long-term growth.” Pascal Rigo, creator of La Boulange, sold the company to Starbucks in 2012 for $100 million (in cash!) and was partnering with Starbucks on elevating its food offerings in all its U.S. and Canada locations, offering items under the La Boulange brand.

Rigo has now left the company as well; a press release from Starbucks additionally states, “Now that the rollout of La Boulange products within Starbucks stores in the U.S. and Canada is complete, Pascal will move on from Starbucks to continue his passion for food in San Francisco while dedicating more time and resources toward his nonprofit ventures in an effort to supply quality food to schools with underprivileged children and bring innovative after-school clinics to help children with learning disabilities.” Go Pascal.

Meanwhile, Starbucks is going to try to place as many employees as possible and help with their transition. And then you have a quote in the Business Times noting that all these prime locations are going to inspire a “feeding frenzy”—although in a piece on SFGate, Rigo alludes to having plans for a few of the locations. We’ll have to see how this all shakes out. (This article in the Business Times says Starbucks made the decision to close the locations after Rigo left.) AdWeek has an article that wonders if Starbucks just did it for the recipes—it’s interesting to think about. (Especially when they experienced a 16 percent jump in food sales in the most recent quarter—imagine how that translates when we’re talking about 12,000 locations.)

Say what you want about the brightly colored spots that were practically in every neighborhood in SF—they did provide a comfortable space to grab a sandwich, enjoy a café au lait, have a meeting, and hang out. There’s even a petition to save them. When the very first Boulange opened on Pine Street, it provided a taste of France that many of us were looking for (which sadly got watered down with each location that opened). I know we all look forward to see what Rigo does next and are wondering what is going to happen to all those locations. Stand by.

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A rendering of the upcoming CAW Pacific, courtesy of Craftsman and Wolves.

I know, many folks who live north of Market Street are wondering when the second SF location of ~CRAFTSMAN AND WOLVES~ is opening in Russian Hill, and we wanted to provide you with a little update. Permits have been secured and construction is starting, so the latest target is now August 2015.

When it opens, it will be a café and pâtisserie, with a small number of seats available. The space will have a “moodier” design, with a washed granite counter, waxed white-oak wood tables, and a motorcycle parts art installation (vroom!). As far as edibles, the ever-changing menu will include breakfast pastries, confections, confitures, cube cakes, and other desserts, as well as lunch and grab-and-go items. And yes, you’ll be able to get the Rebel Within. We’ll keep you posted. 1643 Pacific Ave. at Polk.

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The Cat Zone at KitTea. Photo from Facebook.

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A very happy visitor to the Cat Zone at KitTea. Photo from Facebook.

A report by Dana Eastland. Well this is just the most purrrrrfect news (sorry): cat café ~KITTEA~ is opening in Hayes Valley tomorrow, Wednesday June 24th. After successfully crowdfunding the project last year, they’ve finally opened after lots of construction and permitting. The café has partnered with local cat rescue organizations like Give Me Shelter and Wonder Cat to provide the cats that live in the café’s “Cat Zone,” where visitors can visit with cats while enjoying their tea. All the cats are available for adoption through the organizations, and proceeds from the café will go to providing homes for even more cats.

The café has a pretty specific structure: it’s divided into two spaces, the main tearoom, where food and beverages are prepared, and the separate “Cat Zone,” where you can actually hang out with cats. A reservation in the Cat Zone is $25 for an hour and includes a bottomless pot of tea. Reservations for the Cat Zone can be made here. Anyone can come into the main room of the café at any time, but there won’t be any cats roaming there, just to be clear.

As for the tea, it’s all sourced from the same tea farm in Japan, and varieties include a matcha green tea as well as a genmaicha with toasted rice. There is also a food menu with snacks like cheesecakes in flavors including matcha, strawberry, and banana cream pie; macarons; doughnuts; and pastries from Native Baking Company, including the special calico bar. For more answers to questions about the cats, their comfort, and health, check out the FAQ page on KitTea’s website. Hours are daily 11am-8pm, and reservations can be made for the Cat Zone on their website, though please note that due to their insurance policy, no children under 12 can enter the Cat Zone. 98 Gough St. at Page, no phone.

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The mega spread at Fogo de Chão in San Jose. Yelp photo by Tammy L.

Brazilian steakhouse ~FOGO DE CHÃO~ is opening a location in San Francisco, Scoop reports (based on some ABC license activity). The international chain appears to be moving into the former Chevys location at Third Street and Howard, making this the first San Francisco location for the group. In the tradition of Brazilian all-you-can-eat steakhouses, diners pay a flat rate for their dinner and then receive all the meat, salad, and side dishes they can manage. The nearest location, in San Jose, offers dinner for $55 per person and lunch for $35. 201 Third St. at Howard.

We previously mentioned that Jason Fox (of Commonwealth) and Timothy Felkner (of Vigilante Hospitality and formerly the general manager at Zero Zero) are planning to open a new restaurant in Mint Plaza later this summer. The name has been revealed: it will be called ~ORO~, named after the gold coins that used to be minted in the building during the Gold Rush.

The casual California-style restaurant will have a menu built around sharing and whole animal butchery, including housemade charcuterie. Some items will be available by the single piece, in the style of oysters, like salt cod croquettes or grilled spot prawns. Smaller shared plates include charcuterie like coppa di testa, and larger dishes are designed for two people, like a grilled rib-eye with smashed potatoes and sprouting broccoli. There will also be the option to order a family-style tasting menu. Fox will be working closely with chef de cuisine Travis Day, formerly of Central Kitchen and Yoshi’s. Randy Mariani, whose previous experience includes Foreign Cinema and Tupper & Reed, will serve as bar manager, while Kelly Evans, who previously worked as head sommelier at Saison, is the wine director. The whole thing is set to open in late summer; we’ll keep you updated. 8 Mint Plaza at 5th St.

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Donuts from Pinkie’s Bakery. Photo from Facebook.

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Noodle making on an Edible Excursions tour in Japantown. Photo from Facebook.

A couple Bernal-residing (and hawk-eyed) tablehopper readers have written in asking about why “Pinkie’s Bakery” is now showing up on their receipts from Mutsumi Takehara’s ~SANDBOX BAKERY~. We reached out to Cheryl Burr, co-owner of Pinkie’s (with Chris Beerman), who confirmed the news but couldn’t share details at the time.

A post just hit the wires on Bernalwood with the details: Pinkie’s is, in fact, now serving its American/comfort classics in Bernal Heights. In an email, Burr says, “I’d like to bring many of my signature Pinkie’s pastries over to Cortland, and I’m keeping a lot of Mutsumi’s products as well, but many of the Japanese items are gone because I feel like those were really specific to her and her vision of the bakery. We are also bringing in artisan breads, cakes, and a lot of afternoon treats. We do a lot of wholesale bread and are using the kitchen overnight for our production as well. I’m excited to serve the neighborhood and meet all of our neighbors. I have a four-month-old, so I really like the family vibe of Bernal; kid-friendliness and family was a big part of Mutsumi’s bakery and I definitely won’t be changing that as it becomes Pinkie’s Bakery.” 833 Cortland Ave. at Gates.

Culinary tour company Edible Excursions is celebrating 11 years in business, and you can get in on the party with a special discount on all tours this summer. Between now and the end of August 2015, all tours are 30 percent off with discount code CELEBRATE (not including private tours and packages). Current tours include Craft Cocktails, Mission 18th Street, and Japantown Eats and Spa Treats, which includes a massage! There are also East Bay tours available; check them all out here.

Cow Hollow has a new spot for Indian food, called ~LASAN~. It’s from the same team that ran Indian Oven in the Lower Haight, and this time around they are offering an extensive menu of staples. The menu includes a large selection of flatbreads from their tandoor oven and also calls out some of their ingredients, like Mary’s free-range chicken. 3145 Fillmore St. at Pixley, 415-346-4900.

After Guddu de Karahi closed recently, a new restaurant has already moved in. It’s called ~A DESI CAFE~ and is serving Northern Indian food. 1501 Noriega St. at 22nd Ave., 415-759-9088.

Financial District workers now have a new place for lunch. It’s a panini shop called ~PRESSED~, with a menu of sandwiches, salads, and lasagna, plus coffee and breakfast items. Hours are Mon-Fri 7am-6pm and Sat 10am-3pm. 3 Embarcadero Center at Sacramento, 2nd floor, 415-781-0302.

~GRUB~ on Valencia has reopened, this time under the same management as Toast. They are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with a menu of American diner-style classics. The breakfast and lunch menu includes omelets, egg combos, Benedicts, and waffles, as well as salads, sandwiches, and burgers. At dinner, look for entrées like fish and chips, Cincinnati-style spaghetti, and meatloaf. Hours are breakfast and lunch daily 7am-4pm, dinner Tue-Thu 5pm-9pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm. 758 Valencia St. at 19th St., 415-431-4782.

And just a small housekeeping note for you: in case I got you fired up to eat at ~CALIFORNIOS~, they will be temporarily closed from June 28th to July 7th. During the break, they are remodeling the bar to allow for a more comfortable dining experience, plus installing carpet to “add another layer of luxury for our guests.” When they reopen, the menu will also be slightly longer and set at a higher price ($97 for the menu and $65 for pairings), but guests will be able to have their tables for the entire night. So get ready to sit back and have a leisurely meal in July.

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The “brekkie” sandwich at The Richfield. Photo from Instagram.

According to a small mention in The Chronicle, local coffee roaster ~BLUE BOTTLE~ is going to discontinue their wholesale operations entirely over the coming months. That means no more Blue Bottle beans anywhere other than their own cafés, or from Blue Bottle at Home, their subscription service. The move, apparently, is about being able to control each drink to their very specific standards.

Speaking of Blue Bottle, as reported on tablehopper in March, it appears they might be moving into the former Tully’s space on Fillmore, and a neighborhood tipster says they are going into the neighboring space as well, formerly the home of Juicy News (before it moved). Blue Bottle wouldn’t confirm the news, but James Freeman would say that “Blue Bottle Coffee is pursuing a new café on Jackson and Fillmore streets in San Francisco. There are still many steps that need to take place in order to make it a reality, but we’re very excited about the prospect of joining the community.” So we’ll file that one under “developing.” 2453-2455 Fillmore St. at Jackson.

There is a new café in the Inner Richmond, according to Yelpers. It’s called ~THE RICHFIELD~ and is reportedly a sister café to Snowbird Coffee in the Sunset. In addition to coffee and espresso, they are also serving a limited menu, including Korean fried chicken wings, avocado toast, and a breakfast sandwich with egg, cheddar, bacon, and sauce on King’s Hawaiian toast, called the “brekkie.” 195 5th Ave. at California, no phone.

Darling Castro coffee stop ~CAFE SOPHIE~ has closed temporarily, according to Hoodline. Their building is undergoing a two-month seismic retrofit, but they hope to reopen in two months (sounds a bit TBD). They recently got their beer and wine license, so hopefully they will reopen soon, with more hours and offerings. 3463 16th St. at Sharon, 415-529-2972.

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The Dunmore Cobbler cocktail at ABV’s brunch. Photo by Melissa Chow.

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Breakfast sandwich at ABV. Photo by Melissa Chow.

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Avocado toast at ABV. Photo by Melissa Chow.

Mission bar ~ABV~ is now offering weekend brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 3pm. They’ve been trying the new menu out, and now it’s ready for some action. Their wild breakfast sandwich deserves some attention, which involves a gougère, breakfast sausage, egg, and cheddar Mornay sauce, mon Dieu. There’s also chicken karaage with cheddar chive biscuits and chicken butter, and their pimento cheeseburger makes an appearance too. Of course there are brunch cocktails, as well as cold-brew coffee and fresh fruit juice. Take a gander at the whole menu here. Note that brunch is served 11am-3pm, so the regular/daytime menu has been pushed back an hour to 3pm—but there’s plenty on the brunch menu to keep you happy.

Chicana-style pop-up ~CHICA~ is popping up at ~CEASE & DESIST~ on Sundays from 10:30am to 4pm. This bottomless brunch is “Chicana style,” which means a blend of Mexican and Californian culinary styles. Think dishes like cochinita pibil hash with fried eggs, or baked eggs over polenta in a smoky tomato sauce with cotija cheese. The menu changes every week, and you can get bottomless mimosas, cocktails, and more to go with your brunch. Register here for drink specials, discounts, and the menu. 2331 Mission St. at 19th St., 415-906-5571.

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Pig on the spit at the San Francisco Cheese School. Photo from Facebook.

~THE CHEESE SCHOOL OF SAN FRANCISCO~ has been offering their Cheese Makes Me Happy Hour on Wednesdays for a while, and now they are making it all the more happy on the first Wednesday of the month with a special menu. Starting Wednesday July 1st, chef Jocelyn VanLandingham will be roasting a whole pig in their wood-fired hearth oven, along with mac and cheese, salads, biscuits, and other side dishes. Tickets are $45 per person and include your first glass of wine plus the piggy buffet. In August, look for a paella night, and then there will be a wood-fired pizza evening in September. 2124 Folsom St. at 17th St., 415-346-7530.

Everyone likes burrata, right? Right. But how cool would it be to learn how to make it? Check out this casual burrata-making class and dinner at ~PRECITA PARK CAFE~. It’s on Saturday July 11th and includes a sit-down class on making fresh burrata, interspersed with a three-course dinner with wine pairings. You’ll also get to take your handiwork home with you, score. The class is $75 per person; tickets and menu here. 500 Precita Ave. at Alabama, 415-647-7702.

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