December 15, 2015

December 15, 2015
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Herring plate. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Gravlax. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Poulet vert. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Boeuf bourguignon with puréed potatoes. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Swedish princess cake. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Over the weekend, I was invited into the soon-to-open ~VOLTA~ for an exclusive look at the menu and cuisine. While the space is still in the final stages of assembly, the kitchen has been hard at work. To recap from our most recent post, this is the third restaurant from Umberto Gibin and Staffan Terje (Perbacco, Barbacco). Volta is soft opening in SoMa over the holidays, quite possibly by this Friday or Saturday, although the official opening is Wednesday January 6th.

They are returning to chef Terje’s French culinary roots with this modern brasserie concept, weaving in some nods to his Scandinavian heritage and California ingredients and seasonality too. He is collaborating closely with chef de cuisine Keven Wilson, who has been working with him at Perbacco the past three years. (By the way, with Wilson vacating his post at Perbacco, Colin Dewey is taking over—he was most recently at Florio.)

The menu (here’s your first look—please note prices are approximate) starts with some shellfish selections and six kinds of charcuterie, like a luxe torchon of foie gras with lemon confit (pointedly made of regular lemons, and not our overused Meyer), with notes of bay and pink peppercorn and brightened with turmeric. There is also a little jar of decadent pork rillettes with a layer of Hamada Farms plum marmalade. A personal favorite was the chilled pot-au-feu terrine, made with oxtail and beef cheek and the classic vegetables you’d find in the rustic dish, with the clever addition of foie gras as a substitute for the usual marrow (which is nice when the dish is hot, but again, this is a cold terrine). The sauce ravigote brightens up the dish like salsa verde does with bollito misto.

Of course there has to be some herring on the menu (this herring comes from the North Sea—local herring is too lean), and the Technicolor herring tasting plate will take you on a flavor journey, from a Swedish rendition with mustard and dill to a Southern Swedish and Danish version with curry and apple, five in all. Any tartness from the vinegar-curing notes is balanced with the Västerbotten cheese (like an English Cheddar) and the seeded cracker and herb butter on the plate. It’s also a good idea to order some of Terje’s house aquavit, made with caraway, fennel, dill flower, ginger, Scotch, and sherry.

Another dish that is sure to become a trademark is the gravlax, cured for two days and cut very thickly (my sister called it “Swedish sashimi”). The kitchen does a fast sear on the salmon skin, which gives the dish some excellent texture and heightened flavor without sacrificing the silkiness of the raw salmon. Brilliant flourish. It’s served with a mustard sauce, dill, endive, cress, and thinly sliced radish.

Other cold appetizers include brasserie classics like steak tartare, plus a beet salad, Nicoise salad, and another Scandinavian dish: skagen (with North Atlantic shrimp, brioche toast, and dill and horseradish sauce). Hot appetizers feature shellfish bisque, escargots simmered in pastis, and more.

There are 12 main dishes to choose from, and you can tell that Terje and Wilson were having fun cracking open their Larousse Gastronomique again. We tried the poulet vert, which is offering us all a break from omnipresent roast chicken and celebrating the singular pleasure of nicely poached chicken instead. The breast, thigh, and leg are napped in a vibrant velouté of fines herbes, with notes of parsley and tarragon, and you’ll note the turned carrots on the plate (the kitchen is getting charmingly old school!), plus pearl onions, potatoes, and celery. While you don’t get the roasted chicken skin with this poached preparation, you do get some cracklings crumbled on top (this place has a way with skin, I tell you).

The dish that really stood out was the boeuf bourguignon, one of the best preparations I have ever tasted. Volta’s version is made with braised chuck, cheek, and oxtail, offering different flavors and textures, with the classic button mushrooms, lardons, pearl onions, and carrots nestled in a totally glistening sauce, which has a little bittersweet chocolate added to it. And then you scoop up the velvety potatoes served on the side, loaded with more butter than I’d ever want to really know. What a dish.

You’ll also see skate meunière, sea bass, mussels poached in cider and Calvados, and of course steak frites and Swedish meatballs. Vegetarians will find a clever roasted squash “marrow bone” with mushroom broth, and gnocchi “parisienne” with pan-fried herb gnocchi and wild mushrooms.

Laura Cronin, the pastry chef of Perbacco and Barbacco, also gets to dip into some French pastry classics, from crème brûlée to baba au rhum to an éclair, and then there’s her deconstructed spin on Swedish princess cake, with vanilla-almond sponge cake, raspberry confiture, crème patisserie and chantilly, and housemade marzipan, plus a marzipan rose. All the flavors are there, just represented in an elegant and modern way. Swedish roots also pop up in the Swedish punsch-raisin ice cream, paired with the very crisp drommar “dream cookie.”

The 7,200-square-foot space is airy and open, but there are numerous booths, corners, and sections where diners can be tucked away. The room is chic and soothing, with many shades of gray (sorry, couldn’t resist) and sea blue from the patterned tiled floor. We’ll have a quick update next week with pics of the finished space—which is by Cass Calder Smith (CCS Architecture)—and more details about the bar, wine program, and more.

If you’re downtown holiday shopping and the chilly weather screams boeuf bourguignon, you know where to go. Like a good brasserie, Volta will be open for lunch (11:30am-2:30pm) and dinner (5:30pm-10pm) daily. Brunch will be coming in January 2016. Get ready for some fantastic egg dishes—again, Terje has been spelunking the Larousse. 868 Mission St. at 5th St.

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The main room at Mr. Tipples. Photo by Michael David Rose.

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Partners Jay Bordeleau, Joey Elenterio, and Chase Williamson. Photo by Michael David Rose.

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A trio of sliders. Photo by Michael David Rose.

Last week, we previewed the food and cocktail menus at ~MR. TIPPLE’S RECORDING STUDIO~, and now it’s time to take a look around the space. The official opening is tonight, Tuesday December 15th. Owner Jay Bordeleau (Maven) brought on G. Paoletti Design Lab to design this jazzy nightclub in Mid-Market, which serves craft cocktails ($12 each) from bar director Chase Williamson (Maven, Prospect, Nopa) and well-conceived bar snacks from chef Joey Elenterio (previously Wayfare Tavern, Chez TJ), like a pulled mushroom sandwich, lumpia, and a patty melt.

The 2,400-square-foot space features a bar (with 12 seats), a floor-level stage fronted by tables with room for 12 (plus some high-top tables farther back, with room for 32), and a semi-private lounge called the Opium Den (fits up to 15)—there are 80 seats in all. The look was inspired by 1930s colonial Shanghai and 1950s Chicago blues. Some details include a dark wood coffered ceiling, wood-inlaid concrete floors, and you’ll notice the glowing bar has a dark wood-framed glass bar top that is underlit.

The nightly live jazz will span acts like Manteca Latin Quartet, Le Jazz Hot, Jason Gillenwater Trio, and the Ed Chow Quintet. And there’s never a cover. So the next time you come out of an SFJAZZ show and you don’t want the night to end, you know exactly where to go. Open nightly 5pm-1am. 39 Fell St. at Van Ness.

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Wallpaper and lighting at Gipsy Darling. Photo via Facebook.

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Juniper- and dill-brined chicken with mustard cream, grilled red garnets, and frizzled turnips. Photo via Facebook.

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Flan with whipped pastry cream, caramel wafer, and local honeycomb. Photo via Facebook.

Opening in the former Yuzu in the Marina in mid-January will be ~THE GIPSY DARLING~, a New American restaurant that is a family affair: James Bourque is working alongside his Peruvian-born mother and owner, Margot Bourque (who is also working with the assistance of her husband). They come from a corporate dining background and are excited to launch their first public project.

Their vision is to offer an experience that is approachable, accessible, affordable, and casual. Their executive chef is Kevin Fietek (James Bourque met him six years ago). Fietek has worked in food service for 12 years, and he has been an executive chef in corporate/employee dining the past four years, most recently at Chevron’s global HQ in San Ramon. The menu is going to be updated weekly and will really be fine-tuned based on the dishes their customers like best. Some initial menu items include blood orange and pear toast with micro radish, pear, whipped chèvre, and cracked pepper; duck confit with sweet potato chips, housemade farmer cheese, parsley couscous, and celery slaw; and bacon-wrapped shrimp and grits with creamy Gruyère grits, roasted corn, and fig glaze.

The “gipsy” pays homage to a nickname Margot’s mother gave her, “gitana,” since she loved travel and world flavors. She is also quite the host, and her love of big gatherings drew her son James to food and restaurants. He really wants to create a personable experience for their guests and wants them to feel at home. (He began in corporate dining as an assistant manager for a restaurant group, and in four years, he was managing 26 locations across the U.S. and Canada for a major Silicon Valley company.) They care a great deal about using ethical ingredients and quality sourcing and will be working directly with a farm in Morgan Hill, which will provide produce. Look for some farmer’s dinners too.

What’s interesting is they have a short-term lease, just 18 months, which will then go month to month, so they’re having fun with the project, knowing that it’s pretty short term. The decor of the 64-seat place is definitely playful, with a midcentury look, plus some “new Baroque” elements with the wallpaper and other details. They are transforming the 14-seat sushi bar into an open kitchen experience, so guests can interact with the chef. There will also be some booths and regular tables too.

They will offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Look for a really strong espresso program too—James has learned quite a bit from some past work he did with the Google offices in Santa Monica and Intelligentsia. Breakfast will start at 9am, with lunch 11am-1:30pm or 2pm, and then dinner from 5pm onward; closed Mondays. Beer and wine will be offered.

You can follow along on Facebook and Instagram in the meantime, but we’ll keep you posted on the opening. 3347 Fillmore St. at Chestnut.

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The vintage neon sign is restored and aglow at Alamo Drafthouse New Mission. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The lobby. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Theatre one, the largest of the five. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The entrance to Bear vs. Bull. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Last week, we ran a preview of chef Ronnie New’s menu for the ~ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE NEW MISSION~—which is currently in soft opening mode until the grand opening this Thursday December 17th for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. So if you’re curious about seeing the space over the next couple of days before the grand opening, you can catch a movie for just $5 and get half off on all food and nonalcoholic drinks as they finish training.

I swung by last night to have a look-see, and I have to say, it’s so great to see a movie palace reopen and come back to Mission Street—it was a multimillion dollar restoration and retrofit. There are quite a few Deco details (the theater dates back to 1917, but was updated in the 1930s), and movie buffs will want to check out the vintage movie posters in the lobby.

There are five theaters, and Theater 1 is the biggest one with 326 seats—the other four range from 37-94 seats. This is Alamo Drafthouse’s first theater in California (they started in Austin, Texas—from owners Tim and Karrie League—and now have 21 locations), and this is the first theater in North America equipped with Sony’s 515DS Dual-4K projector, offering Sony 4K Digital, RealD 3D, and archival 35mm and 70mm capabilities.

All seating is assigned and can be reserved at the time of ticket purchase online or in person at the box office. Tickets are $13.25, and matinees are $9.25 (before 6pm); add $3 for 3D movies.

Alamo Drafthouse cinemas are known for their fun programming (including classic, indie, and more), their strict no phone/texting/talking policy, and the stealthy ninja servers who bring food and drinks to your comfy seat while watching a movie. There are menus tucked under each table (with a discreet light) and you place your order with the slips of paper and small pens provided.

There is an art to eating in the dark, and I’ll be totally honest, someone dribbled some of their trademark queso on her jeans last night, so be sure to spread a napkin over your lap (and maybe leave the winter whites at home). You can read over highlights of New’s menu here, which includes all kinds of popcorn, deviled eggs, pizza, and lovers of spicy and crunchy and fried things will want the Nashville hot chicken sandwich. The pancetta mac and cheese was restaurant quality and piping hot. You definitely want to try the warm cookies—you can get a trio of cookies, but I gotta tell ya, the peanut butter banana positively begs for a boozy adult milk shake (which is on the menu)!

Speaking of booze: just last night, I managed to visit the bar in its first 30 minutes of being officially open. To recap, it’s called Bear vs. Bull, and Isaac Shumway (previously Tosca Cafe, Alembic, Bourbon & Branch, and Heaven’s Dog) is the bar director. It has quite the entrance, and the wood bar, comfy swivel barstools, and dim Deco lights make it feel cozy and like it has been there for decades.

Shumway has created an extensive list of drinks, starting with three on tap: the bright Far Eastern Nitro Gimlet, a Boulevardier, and The Immortal Singapore Gin Sling. There are nine other cocktails, which would make Charles Baker proud (I tried the Surf Club Mangareva, with Calvados, honey, coconut-washed Cointreau, lime, and cracked ice—and it came in a custom-made pottery cup). And then there’s a long list of boilermakers, four frozen and blended drinks, plenty of California wines, and a massive array of beers (27 on tap!), with some large-format picks.

You can take your drink to your seat, and you’ll be able to order from a smaller menu of cocktails while in the theater too (but if there’s really something you want off the Bear vs. Bull menu, they’ll probably be able to accommodate you). I have to say, the fact I can order some Roederer Estate Brut Rosé ($15) or Wind Gap Trousseau Gris ($12) while watching a movie is pretty amazing. Sundance Kabuki, you are on watch! And a shout-out for the bike corral in the front. Follow along on Facebook for updates. 2550 Mission St. at 22nd St.

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The entrance to Rialto Mercato. Photo courtesy of Rialto Mercato.

Flora Gaspar of ~DA FLORA~ in North Beach is opening her new gourmet grocery and wine shop this week, ~RIALTO MERCATO~. (Gaspar’s adoration of Venezia continues with the Rialto name.) As Hoodline originally noted this past summer, she is opening in the former Wing Wah Tailor Co. shop, just a couple of doors down from Da Flora.

Da Flora has been open since 1994, and what you’ll find on the shelves of Rialto Mercato are Flora’s favorite and best ingredients she has found, purchased, and tested over the years, from the common to the elevated. It will be like exploring her pantry and cellar! There are Sicilian jams; honeys, pastas, and olive oils; and canned tomatoes. You’ll find Flora’s Red Fangs paprika (she has to pay homage to her Hungarian roots!), and she is exclusively selling chocolates from Christophe—she tells me he previously sold at Blue Bottle Coffee, and he has made a chocolate with paprika flakes in it for her. There are also wines, spirits, and some holiday items, like panettone and pan d’oro. You can browse some well-selected and unique books, and there’s even some artwork for sale.

She plans to be up and running by Wednesday December 16th or Thursday December 17th, and will be open from 11am-7pm. Over the holidays, she’ll be open until 5pm on Christmas Eve, and then closed until the 27th. So whether you’re looking for a holiday gift, a host/ess gift, or a little treat for yourself (or your pantry), she has you covered. 705 Columbus Ave. at Filbert.

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Local Mission Eatery’s location on 24th Street. Yelp photo y Luis C.

By Dana Eastland. We received an email this week that ~LOCAL MISSION EATERY~ is closing on Saturday December 19th, after five years in business. According to their note, they’ve struggled to stay busy in recent months, and the departure of Jake and Shauna DesVoignes for Lodi and the closure of Knead Patisserie in October didn’t help. Apparently, there were also staffing issues (a refrain that we’re hearing a lot these days). Local Mission Market and Local Cellar remain open, and reservations are available for their final week of business.

Fulton Street dessert bar ~CANDY BAR~ has closed, Hoodline reports. There’s a new omakase-style sushi place moving in, called ~JU-NI~, and it looks like chef Jessica Tanaka Noblia (previously of Nopa) is involved (in case her last name seems familiar, she’s married to local chef Mattin Noblia). We’ve reached out for more details and haven’t heard anything yet. 1335 Fulton St. at Divisadero.

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The dark interior of the current Tacolicious space on Chestnut. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

By Dana Eastland. The original ~TACOLICIOUS~ location on Chestnut Street in the Marina is moving, according to Eater. It’s only moving two blocks down the street, though, into a space with more natural light, and more importantly, space for more taco- and margarita-loving diners. Owner Joe Hargrave says that the new location will seat about 75 people when remodeling is complete, including a horseshoe bar. They should be ready to move by June 2016, but the current location will remain open until the new one is finished, meaning uninterrupted taco time. 2250 Chestnut St. at Avila.

Almost a year ago we reported that Singapore-based vegan fast-food chain ~VEGANBURG~ was opening its first location in the United States here in San Francisco. The location is now open, slinging vegan burgers, fries, and sweets; here’s the menu. Hours are Mon-Thu 11am-9pm, Fri-Sat 10am-10pm, Sun 10am-9pm. 1466 Haight St. at Ashbury, 415-548-8000.

Starting December 27th, ~ORO~ will be open seven days a week. The restaurant had been closed on Sundays, but now it’s another spot for your end-of-the-weekend suppers. 8 Mint Plaza at 5th St., 415-974-1212.

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Tacos from Michael Gaines’s Glena’s. Photo courtesy of Glena’s.

By Dana Eastland. Remember back in October we told you about Michael Gaines’s latest project, ~GLENA’S~? It’s going to be a casual taco and margarita spot, and you can try out his dishes on Sunday December 20th from 12pm-4pm. He’s popping up at Lord Stanley and serving al pastor tacos and Mexican Coke out their kitchen window. Tacos are $5 each (and we’re told they’re large); drinks are $4. 2065 Polk St. at Broadway.

The exceptional pasta pros at ~MATARELLO~ are popping up at Gourmet & More on Saturday December 19th from 1pm-4pm. You’ll want to preorder the caramelle di zucca, pasta nests, sauces, and more after perusing the menu. 141 Gough St. at Lily.

~THE YARD AT MISSION ROCK~ is hosting another Farmers’ Market with CUESA on Sunday December 20th from 10am-2pm. The market features lots of produce and gourmet items to make your holidays tastier, along with goods from restaurants and other food vendors. Here are all the participating vendors, plus information on free gift wrapping and the Christmas tree lot at The Yard, in case you still need to get yours. 3rd St. at Terry A. Francois Blvd.

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The counter at Artís Coffee. Yelp photo by Artís.

By Dana Eastland. After opening in Hayes Valley earlier this year, coffee roaster ~ARTÍS~ has opened another location in the Castro, according to Hoodline. The shop’s specialty is that they roast all of its coffee to order, so you go in, pick your beans, and then specify the darkness of your roast. While you wait, your beans are roasted. But don’t worry: if you’re in a hurry and just need a cup to go, there are preroasted beans too. There are also pastries and non-coffee beverages available. 506 Castro St. at 18th St., 415-796-3694.

The Castro has another brand-new coffee shop called ~WILDCRAFT~. Hoodline reports that they are offering some different options for your cup of joe, including sheep’s milk instead of cow’s milk for your espresso drinks. They are also offering $1 coffee in the afternoons and heated bone broth to go—a trend that definitely raises some eyebrows over here. The beans are from Ritual, and the small space is well designed. Owner Theresa Beaumont hopes to host special events and other happening in the space moving forward. 2299 Market St. at 16th St., 415-400-5036.

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Boxes of surplus from the Marin farmers’ market headed to ExtraFood. Photo via Facebook.

By Dana Eastland. It’s a time of excess, but it’s also important to remember that many in our community are in need. Of course, the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank can use any of your donations, now and throughout the year, but there are plenty of places where your excess food can find a home too.

Food businesses have long used Food Runners to donate excess food to the hungry, and now there’s even an app to make it easier. It’s available for iOS and Android. If you don’t own a business but do find yourself with excess food, here’s how you can help. Basically, there’s no need to let any of that go to waste—let Food Runners show you how!

There is also Feeding Forward, an app that helps connect excess food to those who need it most. Elan has a fantastic story on the 25-year-old CEO of the company, and you can download the app here.

Up in Marin, ExtraFood also helps connect excess food with those who need it most. They make it incredibly easy—all you have to do is reach out and donate.

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Michele Belotti’s agnolotti at Ristobar. Yelp photo by Joyce C.

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A bowl of noodles at Shiba Ramen. Photo via Facebook.

Bergamo native and chef Michele Belotti, who has been at SF’s ~RISTOBAR~ since 2011, left the restaurant a couple of weeks ago and will be opening his own project in Rockridge, ~BELOTTI~. It’s going to be a combination restaurant and pasta shop, where you can come by for his incredible housemade pastas (have you ever had his agnolotti?), sauces, and more, to eat there or bring home. It’s going to be 35 seats and open for lunch, dinner, and brunch. He’s aiming to open at the end of January, we’ll keep you posted! Belotti is moving into the former I Squared Kabobery/Homespun Fare space, FYI. 5403 College Ave. at Hudson, Oakland.

In the meantime, Ristobar is looking for a chef to take his place, and will be making some changes to the overall concept as well. Stand by for more.

In other noodle news, the ramen scene continues to bubble. Eater ran an update of Kyle Itani of Hopscotch’s upcoming project, ~ITANI RAMEN~, and here are some of the latest details. The project will open in January, and Itani plans to offer a range of ramen that celebrates the different styles of regions throughout Japan. He’s brought on chef Brian Ikenoyama (the pair worked with Sho Kamio at Yoshi’s together) to run the kitchen day to day, and they have some interesting things planned.

The exploration of regional versions of ramen will be paramount, and Itani looks forward to trying new and experimental things. As he says, ramen is not necessarily a rigidly traditional dish in Japan: “ramen broths, noodles, and toppings continue to evolve from generation to generation and prefecture to prefecture.” To this end, there will be a rotating regional ramen bowl on the menu, as well as signature dishes including a light, Northern-style broth, a rich, Southern-style one, a vegetarian choice, and a cold noodle salad, plus gyoza and donburi. To drink, there will be sake, shochu, and beer, with shots of cold shochu served out of a refurbished and modified Jaeger machine. There will also be an in-restaurant vending machine with Japanese desserts, including monaka ice cream sandwiches (with azuki bean), red bean ice cream bars, and Pocky—so, yeah, this place should be fun. 1736 Telegraph  Ave. at 18th St., Oakland.

In Emeryville’s Public Market, ~SHIBA RAMEN~ is now open and serving their ramen, which seeks to strike a balance between accessibility and authenticity. Shiba comes from a pair of married former chemists, Jake Freed and Hiroko Nakamura, who traveled to Japan and did extensive research (including measuring the salinity of ramen broth) before opening the project. Berkeleyside Nosh has lots of details on how much research has gone into the project and reports that they are serving five different types of ramen, all with English names (they don’t want ramen newbies to feel intimidated). The space is casual, with counter service, quick service, and not a lot of toppings or other options. The space is currently softly open, with a limited menu, and a grand opening with a full menu is coming in January. Emeryville Public Market Kiosk 10, 5959 Shellmound St. at 59th St., no phone.