October 11, 2016

October 11, 2016

Making narezushi. Photo: Pete Lee.


Making narezushi. Photo: Pete Lee.

The ~BAR TARTINE~ team of Cortney Burns and Nick Balla have been hosting a Monday night series since August called Motze Mondays, where they have been exploring more Japanese-influenced dishes in a family-style format. It has also been a way for them to recipe test their new restaurant concept, ~MOTZE~, which they are going to open in the former Herbivore on Valencia.

This sequel restaurant is going to have a short-term lease, just 1 1/2 years, so they are avoiding sinking too much into the space for this self-funded and handmade project. It will have 40-something seats, and it’s going to have high energy and feel lively and experimental.

They have lined up a great team and are excited about putting forth a fusion-y menu that has more Japanese influences, with a rustic and spicier profile than Bar Tartine (as Balla says, “more heavy metal!”). It will integrate family influences from how and where they grew up, which will include input from their sous chef from Laos. Balla explains further: “It’s the food we really like to eat—especially on the couch at 2am after a couple beers.” Expect lots of tastes, flavors, textures, and yay, good value.

When they launched Motze Mondays, the initial family-style menu included a range of bites like salmon belly in chrysanthemum sauce and black koji and flaxseed crackers with salmon roe, followed by larger dishes like chicken fat dumplings with egg and shiso, and eggplant with rye shoyu, plus some sweets (like quince steam cake). Of course the menu has been been evolving each month.

Like we previously mentioned, the name isn’t a spin on matzoh: the name is in honor of a fifth-century Chinese philosopher, Motze.

The plan is to be open five nights a week, expanding to seven, and they are considering daytime too. The opening should be within the month, I’ll keep you posted. 983 Valencia St. at 21st St.


This is what won’t be happening (fried chicken!) but it should give you an idea of what RT Rotisserie will feel like. Photo via Instagram.

I have been wondering who would move into the closed Mandarin Villa space in Hayes Valley, and it’s Rich Table’s Sarah and Evan Rich—their primary restaurant is conveniently just a block away. They will be opening a casual rotisserie chicken restaurant, ~RT ROTISSERIE~, in early 2017. (We all hoped it would be “Sally ‘Sarah’ Hurricane’s” fried chicken, but this is probably better for the longevity of all of us.)

There will be an approachable menu, with the kind of food you’d be happy with any night: rotisserie chicken and sides, soups, big Cali salads, and sandwiches, plus some oysters for good measure. And wine. It will be an unpretentious spot, designed by Fine Root. Hours will be 11am-9pm, with an all-day menu. Stand by for updates. 101 Oak St. at Franklin.


The updated dining room and booths at Elite Cafe. All photos: © tablehopper.com.


Chicken jambalaya.


Muffaletta chopped salad (keep in mind this was a family-style serving).

Just before I left town, I had the chance to check out a preview of the updated ~ELITE CAFÉ~, and let’s just say you should be pretty pleased that they are now open!

The 78-seat space is all spiffed up, with a fresh gray-blue paint job on the historic mahogany booths (which were extremely weathered), lots of Carrara marble tabletops (reminiscent of classic New Orleans eateries), a new penny tile floor (which is more like how it originally was in the 1920s), and plenty of shiny brass. Everything has a crisper look, instead of the previous tones of brown.

I have covered a lot of details in past pieces, but let’s talk about the menu from chef Chris Borges, a New Orleans native. It’s full of flavor and fun touches, like vadouvan with the lightly fried okra, and there’s a muffaletta chopped salad with ham, mortadella, salami, smoked provolone, Gruyère, giardiniera/house pickled vegetables, and Little Gems. There are plenty of classics, like a crawfish étouffée made with plump Louisiana crawfish and uni butter, and a duck gumbo with a pleasing thickness and house-smoked duck sausage. Stewed okra makes for a fab vegetarian dish, but meat lovers will be pleased with the house-pickled pork and grilled andouille in the red beans and rice. And there’s Southern fried chicken, oh yes (it’s buttermilk-soaked Mary’s chicken).

The bar program got a nice update from Kevin Diedrich (Pacific Cocktail Haven/P.C.H), with a spirituous spin on a Sazerac (made with Cognac). You’ll be tempted to walk out the front door with the frozen Irish coffees and Hurricanes in their plastic go-cups, but don’t do that, you’re in SF.

Hours are Mon-Fri 5pm-10pm, with a bar menu that’s served through midnight; the bar is open until last call (or 2am, if the party doesn’t want to stop). Brunch starts at 9am Sat-Sun and just keeps going into dinner. Welcome back to the Fillmore! 2049 Fillmore St. at California, 415-346-8400.


The tiffin thali meal at Dakshin. Yelp photo by Judy H.


The new look at Spices. Photo courtesy of Spices via Yelp.


Bowls at Sweetgreen. Photo courtesy of Sweetgreen.


Café seating at Foundry & Lux. Photo by Nader Khouri.

There are some new openings around town, starting with ~DAKSHIN~, a fast-casual South Indian spot in the former Batter Bakery space on Polk in Russian Hill. Take a peek at the menu in this pic, which includes a thali plate, dosas, uttapam, and curries, like a prawn curry, Mangalore chicken, and more. A previous Eater post mentions the owner is Pradeep Paniyadi of Sangeetha in Sunnyvale. Open Wed-Mon 11am-10pm. 2127 Polk St. at Broadway, 415-400-4906.

Fans of ~SPICES! AND SPICES!II~ and the amazing numbing spicy beef tendon should know there is now just one ~SPICES~ (the exclamation point has been sadly dispensed with). The 6th Avenue space has received quite the update (the 8th Avenue location is closed). The menu still has all the favorites, plus some new additions (including iron pot—a dry pot without the broth used for hot pot), and the beers got an upgrade. Open daily 11am-11pm. 291 6th Ave. at Clement, 415-752-8885.

New Yorkers and Angelenos are familiar with ~SWEETGREEN~, a fast-casual shop known for its salads and grain bowls and more, made with seasonal, fresh, and local produce, with everything made from scratch (they are very committed to sourcing locally). They are opening their first SF store in SoMa today, Tuesday October 11th. There are also warm grain bowls and fresh, locally sourced vegetables. Check out the menu here. One nice touch: 100 percent of opening day sales will be donated to CUESA. Open Mon-Sat 10:30am-9pm. 171 Second St. at Natoma.

Garaje in SoMa has a little brother open, ~GARAJITO~, in the former Cafe Clementine. It’s more of a grab-and-go operation, with just eight seats, serving zapatos (a burrito that spent some time getting flattened by a panino press), tacos, sandwiches, and salads—no burger, take note. Have a peek at a pic of the menu here. No beer and wine, but breakfast and coffee are coming soon. Cash only. Mon-Fri 11am-2pm (for now). 257 3rd St. at Tehama, 415-644-0838.

Tenderloin fried chicken and waffle slinger ~SOUL GROOVE~ has opened a second location in the restaurant space at the Cova Hotel, formerly Mr. Crave. Owner Jason Fordley is happy to offer sit-down dining, while the original location (422 Larkin St.) will be more about takeout, delivery, and catering. Hoodline reports the expanded menu has lots of egg dishes, mac and cheese, cheesy grits, and more, plus dishes like the Jamaican-Me-Waffles: plantain sweet corn waffles with coconut-lime butter and a choice of regular or vegan jerk chicken. A beer and wine license is in effect, with TVs for watching games, and parties will be coming soon. The admirable (and much needed!) goal is to eventually be open 24-7, but for now, hours are 6:30am-3pm (and until 7pm very soon). 655 Ellis St. at Larkin, 415-771-3000.

Congrats to Howard and Amanda Ngo for getting ~DUC LOI’S PANTRY~ open in the Bayview, providing the neighborhood with a full-service and affordable 14,000-square-foot grocery store selling meat, fish, and produce, plus household items, beer, wine, and spirits. There is also a deli serving banh mi sandwiches, and there will be a coffee kiosk from Peet’s Coffee & Tea. Hours will be 8am-8pm. Read more in Hoodline. 5900 3rd St. at Carroll Ave.

Folks closer to South San Francisco should know about ~FOUNDRY & LUX~ from Bon Appétit Management Company at The Cove. They will be serving morning coffee and more, while lunch and dinner include items from the wood-burning pizza oven, rotisserie meats, sandwiches, and salads made with fresh produce from the on-site garden. All ingredients are sustainable, humanely raised, and seafood meets Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guidelines. Plus, there’s a bar, a pool table, bocce, fireplaces, and more. 151 Oyster Point Blvd., South San Francisco.


The sign at Elena Una. Photo via Facebook.


Juanita More! Photo: Aubrie Pick.

This column is already getting toooooo looooong, so I’m just going to give you some quick updates, and you can click through to the original sources for more details if you’re interested. Okay? Okay!

The short-lived Gipsy Darling in the Marina will be replaced by a casual Filipino pop-up called ~ELENA UNA~ from chef Janice Lazaga and her wife, Kaye Otbo. Look for some updated Filipino dishes; Eater reports they plan to open October 27th. Tue-Sat 8:30am-2pm and 4:30pm-9pm. 3347 Fillmore St. at Chestnut.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed local performer, promoter, and activist Juanita More! mentioned in her newsletter that she wanted to open a restaurant in the Tenderloin, Compton’s, inspired by Gene Compton’s Cafeteria (the site of the seminal Compton’s Cafeteria Riot in August 1966, one of the first recorded transgender riots and revolts against police harrassment in the U.S.). Just this year, at the conclusion of the San Francisco Trans March, a new street sign was unveiled, renaming the 100 block of Taylor Street as Gene Compton’s Cafeteria Way—the cafeteria used to be at 101 Taylor.

Hoodline followed up on the story: her proposal is to open an LGBTQ-centric restaurant in Group i’s development at 950-974 Market St., instead of the proposed Magic Theatre project, in an attempt to preserve the queer history of this part of the Tenderloin—several gay bars used to be where the new development is going in. (Read the comments in the Hoodline piece to understand more of the controversy behind it all.) The San Francisco Planning Commission hearing takes place on Thursday October 27th at noon, City Hall, Commission Chambers (Room 400) and is open to the public.

A Korean fried chicken place is coming to the Tenderloin, ~THE BRIM~, from Min Choe (Tamashisoul and Sushi Hon), partnering with Nathan Choi and Jae Jung of food truck Kokio Republic. The plan is to open in early 2017. 711 and 715 Geary St. at Leavenworth. [Via Hoodline.]

Bayview-based distillery and brewery Seven Stills (which makes whiskey from craft beer) has taken over ~LAWTON TRADING POST~ in the Outer Sunset and will be opening a beer taproom, with some food offerings too. 3645 Lawton St. at 43rd Ave. More in Hoodline.

A Middle Eastern sandwich shop called ~TAHINI~ is coming to the Mission from first-time owner Monti Majthoub, who has had enough of the mediocre shawarma around town. Go on! His plans are to just serve shawarma, kebab, kanafeh, and french fries, with bread made in-house and falafel fried to order. Look for an opening in summer 2017. 2859 Mission St. at 25th St. [Via Mission Local.]

There’s a proposed microbrewery and American restaurant from North Beach’s Cafe Delucchi going through the SF Planning Commission right now, which would turn Delucchi Sheet Metal into a 3,989-square-foot restaurant and outdoor area, serving brunch and dinner. (Owner Richard Jones is losing his Cafe Delucchi lease soon, so he’s trying to keep his business in the neighborhood.) Delucchi Sheet Metal Works would remain as a tenant and continue to work at the location, but in the basement and on the second level. 1526 Powell St. at Green.


The roast beef sandwich at Merigan. Photo: Dana Eastland. © tablehopper.com.


Chicken Parm at Merigan. Photo: © tablehopper.com.


Citizen’s Band, photo by Jennifer Yin.

I originally wrote this last week and posted it on social media since I was dark for the week, but to recap, here’s the unfortunate news (along with some other sad news):

I am really unhappy to report on the closure of one of my favorite places in SF: ~MERIGAN SUB SHOP~ closed at the end of service on Saturday October 8th, after almost three years of business in SoMa. I don’t like to think about an SF without the terrina sub, let alone a Giants game without one.

Owner Liza Shaw is heartbroken to close the shop, after so much hard work, but she said it just didn’t work out. She said she could blame a lot of things, from the cost of food to the labor shortage. Even though the shop was near the ballpark, it’s seasonal business, and it’s a bit of an odd neighborhood (a bit too far for some to visit). She didn’t want to cut corners either—her whole animal butchery program and using only quality products were too important to her.

There is a buyer for the space (to be announced soon), so she’s going to let it go. Shaw plans to take a much-needed break and will be doing some travel, plus consulting on some projects in the near future.

Thanks for all the excellent Italian combos and eggplant Parms with a burrata supplement, damn! Best to you, Liza. Thanks for all the subs made with so much care and love!

Another SoMa sub shop closure: Adam Mesnick has decided not to renew his lease for ~RYE PROJECT~ (180 7th St.) and closed the shop. Eater says Mesnick’s other sandwich shop, Deli Board at 1058 Folsom St., will be taking on some of Rye Project’s Jewish dishes, and he has extended its hours to include Sun 11am-3pm.

More disheartening closures in SoMa: SFGate reports that both ~CITIZEN’S BAND~ and ~PINKIE’S BAKERY~ have closed (damn it, no more of Chris Beerman’s amazing burger, and Pinkie’s made the bread for Merigan, so it’s all just sad). Multiple reasons were cited, from tech company dining rooms snatching diners with free meals to the high cost of doing business in SF. Fortunately, Pinkie’s will continue on with its location in Bernal.

My friends at the Marina Times (where I write a monthly tablehopper column) tipped me off that the ~LIL’ MAMA’S~ project, the spin-off of the popular Mama’s that was trying to open in the vacant Piazza Market, won’t be happening. Scoop followed up on the tip, confirming that the Sanchez family decided to look for a location elsewhere in the city—the endless red tape and costs of opening in this location ultimately weren’t worth it. Cole Hardware is now going to be taking over the space. 627 Vallejo St. at Columbus.


Recipe testing at Onsen: sweet potato and mushroom dumplings with dill, scallions, and bok choy in a mushroom broth with dill oil. Photo: Grace Sager.


A preliminary look into Onsen’s restaurant space (furniture is coming soon). Photo: Raquel Venancio Photography.


Ivy-draped wall at The Garden at Del Popolo. Photo: Eric Wolfinger Photography.

Here are some updates at places around town, starting with a look at who is going to be cooking at the upcoming ~ONSEN~, a Japanese-inspired bathhouse opening in the former City Automotive building in the Tenderloin. While it’s primarily about a soaking pool (in the former mechanic’s pit), sauna, steam room, treatment rooms, and more, there will also be a casual 20-seat restaurant area (open to anyone, not just bathhouse guests). Chef George Meza, previously the executive sous chef at Oro in Mint Plaza, will be at the helm. Expect NorCal, seasonal, and Japanese influences in his dishes, which you can check out on Instagram. Look for an opening at the beginning of November; dinner will be the initial focus, then lunch. Sake, beer, and wine will also be served. 466 Eddy St. at Hyde.

FiDi workers have already been enjoying lunch at the Middle Eastern ~SABABA~, and now chef Guy Eshel has launched dinner as well (it’s the same menu, with freshly made pita). Luckily for all of us, you can also order it for delivery on Postmates. Hours are Mon-Fri 5pm-9pm. 329 Kearny St. at Bush, 415-800-6853.

You know who else is serving dinner? ~NUTE’S~ is, on Saturday evenings, in their 903 Cortland space. A post on Facebook mentions “ramen and Thai noodles, along with our tasty small dishes and lots of Japanese craft beer selections.” Sat 5:30pm-9:30pm. 903 Cortland Ave. at Folsom.

If you’re looking for a private dining space, ~DEL POPOLO~ has opened an outdoor garden area with room for 32 (seated) or 40-45 (standing). It can be tented (and heated) since the weather is tending toward the wintry now—plus each seat has tartan blankets. There’s also an outdoor grill. 855 Bush St. at Taylor, 415-589-7940.

Fans of beef Wellington will want to check out Wellington Wednesdays at the newly named ~MAYBECK’S~ in the Marina (formerly Spaghetti Bros.). A whole beef tenderloin (prime, dry-aged) from Flannery Beef will be sliced and served until sold out. $24 per person; it comes with a side of creamed spinach and black truffle jus. Starts at 7pm. 3213 Scott St. at Lombard, 415-400-8500.


Blue Bottle’s kiosk at Heath. Photo from Facebook.

A couple of coffee closures around town: Blue Bottle Coffee has decided to close its four-year-old kiosk in the Heath Ceramics building—the last day will be Sunday October 16th. (I kind of wondered how long it was going to be there with the opening of the Tartine Manufactory just next to it.) Eater’s report says, according to Blue Bottle, it has “simply outgrown its 250-square-foot environs and is ready to make the leap to a larger space.” Meanwhile, things are getting closer for Blue Bottle’s 2 South Park location in the former Jeremy’s (sniff sniff). November 4th is the opening date.

Castro residents have probably noticed ~ARTÍS COFFEE ROASTERS~ (at 506 Castro St.) closed about a month ago, while their Hayes Valley location (at 537 Octavia St.) remains open. ~EUREKA! CAFE~ also closed (at 451 Castro St.), so it seems the Castro coffee scene is a bit tough. [Via Hoodline.]