December 22, 2015

December 22, 2015

The endive and spinach salad at Little Gem. Photo by Kimberley Hasselbrink, courtesy of Little Gem.


The dining room at Little Gem. Photo by Kimberley Hasselbrink, courtesy of Little Gem.

Hayes Valley has a new hangout, ~LITTLE GEM~, which just opened for dinner on December 17th. As we mentioned in our piece earlier this year, the project is from Eric Lilavois (former COO at the Thomas Keller Group), partnering with chef Dave Cruz (formerly chef de cuisine of Ad Hoc) and John DiFazio (CFO).

The place is meant to have a fast-casual ease (you’ll order at the counter and food is brought to you), but the product is definitely elevated. The menu is truly NorCal, featuring “produce that is responsibly grown or raised by local farmers, without harmful chemicals, processing, or modification, and free of gluten, dairy, and refined sugar.” But these aren’t some mountain resort hippies making your meal—expect some really good technique that will make everything taste flavorful and delicious.

Meat, fish, and produce are the anchors of the menu, and you’ll be able to choose what you want. For example, you can opt for the Marin Sun Farms slow-roasted pork shoulder ($12) or go for the pan-seared king salmon ($14), and then choose from vegetables like chickpea lentil stew or quinoa with olives and almonds (vegetables are $5.50, grains $5).

When breakfast is added, you’ll find grain and egg dishes, almond and quinoa flour pancakes, and hearty dishes like the Hayes Braise (Swiss chard, black garlic, poached egg, and almond-bacon crumble, $9.50) and frittata (with Tuscan kale, wild mushrooms, potatoes, and Fresno chiles, $6.50). Check out the menu here.

Lunch (and dinner) include broth-based soups (chicken, vegetable), salads, and wrap-style sandwiches (served until 4pm) filled with vegetables, slow-cooked pork shoulder, or pulled chicken. The wraps (averaging $9) will feature pan-made flatbread, tapioca crepe, or tortillas made from the Ethiopian grain teff. There is also a kids’ menu with a few selections, and desserts too. You can also come by for a smoothie, teas by Song Tea (brewed using Silverton tea dispensers), and espresso and coffee by Counter Culture Coffee.

The 2,000-square-foot space has 78 seats (the furniture is locally made—and all of the wood on the bar, shelves, and ledges is reclaimed American elm from a single tree sourced in Marin), with large windows, plants, and a small patio too. Boor Bridges is behind the natural-modern design, which is in a newly constructed building, so it definitely looks fresh and clean. Initial hours are Tue-Sun 5pm-9pm, with breakfast and lunch coming in January. 400 Grove St. at Gough,


The center of Volta’s dining room (with such fantastic tile). Photo via Facebook.

We ran an in-depth preview of the French (and Scandinavian-influenced) modern brasserie cuisine of ~VOLTA~ last week, and we’re happy to report the restaurant is now softly open for lunch and dinner. You can come by for lunch from 11:30am-2:30pm and dinner 5:30pm-10pm nightly. (It’s worth noting they are open on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, but closed on Christmas.)

So if you’re running downtown for some last-minute shopping, here’s where you’ll want to take a load off and sit in one of their modern gray flannel chairs or beckoning booths (and yes, there’s a bar with cocktails from bar manager Zachary Gray). The soft gray French oak, soothing blue tiled floor, and airy feeling will all make you feel relaxed and at ease, and then there’s the buttery potato purée and boeuf bourguignon that will seal the deal. Enjoy. 868 Mission St. at 5th St., 628-400-6200.


Meat on the grill at Fogo de Chão. Photo via Facebook.

By Dana Eastland. As reported on tablehopper in June, San Francisco is getting our very own location of Brazilian steakhouse ~FOGO DE CHÃO~. It’s opening in the former Chevy’s location in SoMa on Wednesday December 23rd. The large space includes a centerpiece “market table” that offers seasonal salads, soups, feijoada, and other side dishes, as well as an open kitchen, private dining rooms, and a large patio. The format of the restaurant is in the tradition of Brazilian steakhouses, meaning diners pay a flat rate and then fire-grilled meats are brought around until diners simply can’t eat any more. Diners also have unlimited access to the market table.

There is also a full bar, which of course serves caipirinhas, plus an extensive wine list. All of the meats are butchered in-house, as well. Dinner is $60 per person, while lunch is $37, and there is a sea bass option for those not eating red meat. This is also the first location offering the “gaucho lunch,” a convenient option for downtown workers that offers just the market table for only $15, or the market table plus a limited meat choice (price varies). Take a look at all the pricing options here, and start planning your visit with your favorite glutton.

There is also a happy hour Mon-Fri 4:30pm-6:30pm with small share plates and drink specials, and the outdoor patio is sure to be a hit once the weather improves. Hours are lunch Sun-Fri 11am-2pm, dinner Mon-Thu 5pm-10pm, Fri 5pm-10:30pm, Sat 4pm-10:30pm, Sun 3pm-9pm. 201 Third St. at Howard, 415-427-0004.


The pastry case at Le Marais bakery in Ghirardelli Square. Yelp photo by Michelle S.


Seating at the new Marla Bakery location in the Ferry Building. Photo courtesy of Marla Bakery.

There is a new location of ~LE MARAIS BAKERY~ in Ghirardelli Square. The small, 500-square-foot location is technically a pop-up in the former Kara’s Cupcakes space while Patrick and Joanna Ascaso work on opening their newest location. Its time in this space is more or less indefinite, and there is a possibility that they’ll stay on after completion of the new bistro in late spring. It’s smaller than their Marina location and will focus on pastries, including their excellent viennoiserie, as will as tarts, quiche, cookies, and some salads and sandwiches. There is also Stumptown coffee and espresso, indoor seating at bistro tables and black Thonet chairs, and outdoor seating in the square when the weather improves. Hours are Mon-Thu 8am-8pm, Fri-Sun 8am-10pm. 900 North Point St. at Polk, no phone yet.

~MARLA BAKERY~ has a brand-new location in the Ferry Building’s new arcade, and it is opening today. They are offering their popular pastries, including kouign amann, bagels, English muffins, and other pastries. There is also a daily lunch box special, with a sandwich, two sides, and a cookie. During the holidays, their famed panettone and stollen are also available. Wrecking Ball coffee will also be served. Hours are Mon-Sat 7am-5pm, Sun 9am-5pm. Ferry Building Plaza at Embarcadero, no phone.

We have been tracking the opening of a project called ~SLURP RAMEN~ for a couple of years, and it’s finally in its soft opening mode. You can come by this Chinatown ramen shop for lunch (for now, hours are Mon-Fri 11am-2:30pm—closed on Christmas, FYI), and they’re serving a variety of tonkotsu and shoyu broth variations, plus some lunch combos with gyoza, chicken karaage, and more. 710 Commercial St. at Kearny, 415-399-1042.

Chowhounds sniffed out the news that the former Roadside Barbecue on Geary in the Inner Richmond is now ~GOURMET NOODLE HOUSE~. According to Yelpers, the food is Shanghainese, with dishes that include Shanghai-style wontons and xiao long bao. 3751 Geary St. at 2nd Ave., 415-688-1582.

There is a new coffee shop in Mission Terrace serving Guatemalan and American food, according to Yelpers. It’s called ~YO SOY CAFÉ GUATELMALTECO~ and serves coffee and bagels, as well as Guatemalan dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You’ll find caldo de res, Guatemalan tamales (wrapped in a banana leaf), and other snacks, as well as breakfast platters. 4794 Mission St. at Onondaga, no phone.


A colorful Frida, one of the pieces you’ll see at Flor de Cafe. Photo courtesy of Flor de Cafe.

We have been tracking a project coming to 1020 Valencia for longer than you would imagine (try a couple of years). Some initial details are finally emerging about what’s coming, and it’s refreshingly sounding like a project that would have opened on Valencia 15 years ago. It’s going to be called ~FLOR DE CAFE~, featuring Latino dishes, music, art, and coffee.

There will be 36 seats, with a basement that has room for 16 for various events and more, like live jazz. They are also installing some large acrylic paintings in the space, including multiple images of Carlos Santana, Frida Kahlo, and…Marilyn Monroe. Because why not. All the art will be for sale.

The varied backgrounds of the owners help explain why there will be empanadas from Chile, plus pastel de choclo and curanto, a seafood soup. One of the partners is from Patagonia (he’s a graphic designer) and another reportedly has a lot of experience with restaurants in Mexico. Partner Eugenia Raphael tells me the food will have some healthy options, fresh salads, and will be light on oil. Look for fresh fruit drinks (no sodas), and the coffee will be from Central and South America (one of the partners is reportedly big on coffee). Breakfast and lunch will be served. Look for an opening in May or thereabouts; we’ll keep you posted. 1020 Valencia St. at 21st St.


The Cubano from Bacon Bacon. Yelp photo by Brandon C.

By Dana Eastland. We spotted the ABC license, and the Scoop followed up to learn that, yes, there will be another ~BACON BACON~ location opening near AT&T Park, in the former SBC Pizza location on 3rd Street. In addition to the bacon-heavy menu, there will be beer and wine to enjoy with all the porky goodness. The plan is to open late January for breakfast and lunch and then add dinner in the spring. 737 3rd St. at King.


Fantastic selection of Spanish and Portuguese wines, ports, sherries, and more at SF’s The Spanish Table. Yelp photo by Joyce Z.

Back in July, we reported that Andy and Tanya Booth of ~THE SPANISH TABLE~ were opening an SF location on Clement Street, and our dear Joyce Goldstein tells us it’s now open. Which means you no longer need to drive over a bridge to get to their Berkeley or Mill Valley locations when you need to pick up some paella ingredients. And if there’s someone in your life who deserves some awesome Spanish chorizo, or a cazuela, some Spanish wine, Portuguese port, or perhaps some vinegar (ha-ha!) this holiday season, you know where to go. Pantry items in effect, from rice to cookies! And sherry fans, there’s a huge selection for you to check out.

The size of the new location falls in between their other shops and includes a small deli, serving Spanish and Portuguese cheeses cut to order and meats like chorizo and jamón. There are also plans to serve bocadillos, seasonal dishes, and offer coffee service, too, including café con leche and cortados. Open Mon-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 10am-5pm. 130 Clement St. at 3rd Ave., 415-702-6199.


The brightly colored exterior of Lucky Penny. Yelp photo by Stephen P.

By Dana Eastland. The famous (infamous?) 24-hour diner ~LUCKY PENNY~ is officially closing this week, Hoodline reports. The old-school diner certainly never won any awards for its food, but it provided a rare spot for late-night dining, and its cheap, old-fashioned platters garnered many fans. They are staying open until they run out of food, which will likely be this week, so head in soon. The building is being torn down to make room for a seven-story mixed-use building, which Hoodline reports will include 21 units of housing, plus office space, retail, and parking. 2670 Geary Blvd. at Masonic, 415-921-0836.

We reported in 2014 that ~KING OF FALAFEL~ on the corner of Divisadero and Bush streets would be closing in 2015 to make room for a new tenant. Hoodline reports that the landlord, Rick Howard (who owns Harry’s Bar, Bruno’s, Eddie Rickenbacker’s, and the Owl Tree), had originally intended to evict the family-owned business in early 2015, but extended the lease to the end of this year. The restaurant’s owner, Nawai Kharsa, says that his family has been in the location for 41 years and is unable to find a new space. Howard, for his part, is planning to retrofit the space and find a new tenant, rather than open a business of his own. Across the street, a condo complex is opening in early 2016, with ground-floor retail that may include a restaurant. Regardless of what moves in, be sure to stop by for your last falafel before the end of the year since they are closing at the end of December. 1801 Divisadero St. at Bush, 415-931-5455.

Over in the Outer Richmond, The Richmond Blog reports that pint-sized ~HOT SAUCE AND PANKO~ is moving to a new location because their building is slated for demolition. According to a post on Facebook, they are moving to the former U-Lee location at Hyde and Jackson, depending on when the demolition requires them to vacate. In the meantime, note that they will be closed until January 2nd for vacation, but you can get your fill of wings, waffles, and hot sauce in the new year. 1545 Clement St. at 17th Ave., 415-387-1908.


The sunny bar at Penrose, perfect for brunch and a cocktail. Photo via Facebook.

By Dana Eastland. Beginning on Sunday January 3rd, Oakland restaurant ~PENROSE~ will be serving weekend brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am-2pm. Like the dinner menu, the inspiration for brunch comes from North Africa, Sicily, and Andalusia. There is an option for the Moorish breakfast, which is served for the whole table and includes flatbread with spreads and yogurt, merguez sausage and eggs, fruit, and feta with za’atar oil, for $25 per person. Peek at the whole menu here, and remember that their full bar will also be in action. 3311 Grand Ave. at Elwood, Oakland, 510-444-1649.

Chef Chikara Ono of AS B-Dama is opening a small sushi restaurant in Swan’s Market, according to East Bay Express. The space will offer quality, unusual sushi options, but at a moderate price. The plan is to open in February or March of 2016. 536 9th St. at Washington, Oakland.

~NICO’S HIDEAWAY~ is now open in Berkeley, according to their Facebook page. The new spot serves approachable Italian food for daily brunch, lunch, and dinner (the menu is on their website) and also offers a full bar. Hours are daily 10am-10pm. 1508 Walnut St. at Vine, Suite B, Berkeley, 510-280-5920.