August 21, 2018

August 21, 2018

Get ready for the Afro-Caribbean flavors of Isla Vida Afro-Caribbean Grill. Photo via Facebook.

I’m always happy to hear when farmerbrown’s Jay Foster is up to something, and this time it’s a new project coming to the Fillmore this mid-September: ~ISLA VIDA AFRO-CARIBBEAN GRILL~. This new restaurant is going to be a casual spot, “inspired by the islands, people, and lifestyle of the African diaspora. It’s a warm, vibrant place where flavors are rooted in the culture and prepared with love and craft. Expect wood-fired meats, tostones, Cubanos, great music, and good vibes.” He’s partnering with farmerbrown friends Matthew Washington and Erin Traylor and is excited to be able to open a project in the historic Fillmore District (it’s going to be the former Black Bark BBQ space). The team traveled to New York, Miami, and Cuba for some culinary inspiration for the concept.

There will be 40 seats inside, and 20 outside, and will have a counter/quick service model—Foster says they expect a fair amount of take-out and delivery. They actually want to handle their own delivery in order to keep control over customer service and offer a full circle of hospitality.

They just launched an Indiegogo campaign (please be sure to watch their video) for a final funding push to help add outdoor seating, purchase eco-friendly electric cargo bikes for delivery, and better signage and bar equipment. Please show some support to this black-owned business trying to keep the soul of the Fillmore alive—like they said in an email, even $5 helps.

Hours will be Wed-Sun 11am-8pm, and opening at 10am on the weekends for brunch. 1325 Fillmore St. at Ellis.


A selection of baked goods from Theorita. Photo via Facebook.


Now that’s an egg sandwich (on housemade English muffins). At Theorita. Photo via Facebook.


A look at the gray-toned Mendocino Farms. Photo courtesy Mendocino Farms.


One of the records for Outer Orbit’s jukebox: Yello’s Pinball Cha Cha. Photo via Facebook.

First it was the Boba Guys opening at 838 Divisadero under Che Fico, and now opening just next door is ~THEORITA~ from the Che Fico team. As I previously mentioned, the name is in homage to pastry chef Angela Pinkerton’s grandmother and is a pie shop and dinette. It’s reportedly opening this Wednesday August 22nd, serving some sick breakfast sandwiches, Danishes, salted pecan sticky buns, and coffee for breakfast, plus burgers, salads, and pie whenever you want it. Breakfast and lunch to start, and dinner is coming next week. The 60-seat space has booths and a kitchen counter. Open Wed-Sun 7am-3pm; dinner will be 5pm-11pm. 838 Divisadero St. at McAllister.

Downtown workers have a new lunchtime spot: ~MENDOCINO FARMS~, which originally launched in LA, but is gradually making its way up north (founders Mario Del Pero and Ellen Chen are NorCal natives). It’s a fast-casual chain primarily known for salads and sandwiches made with quality local ingredients—some menu classics include the “Not So Fried” Mary’s Chicken Sandwich, Mendo’s Original Pork Belly Banh Mi, and the Avocado and Quinoa Superfood Ensalada. There are also breakfast items and coffee (from Verve Coffee Roasters), and in a first for this location, there will be grab-and-go items as well. It’s located in the Merchants Exchange Building, a spacious 5,882 square feet designed by Valerio Architects. There is a variety of seating options, including a patio. Initial hours are Mon-Fri 11am-7pm, with breakfast service launching soon. 465 California St. at Montgomery.

Opening Friday August 24th in Bernal is ~OUTER ORBIT~, a family-friendly and retro-inspired pinball saloon that also serves food and drink. It’s opening in the former Bel from Christian Gainsley and Elisabeth Kohnke, with chef Sam DeCamp (Gibson, Finn Town) leading the Hawaiian-inspired menu. Dishes include musubi with spicy McFarland Springs trout; togarashi tots; a Hawaiian plate lunch; and a kalua pig melt with guava-smoked pork shoulder, wasabi-lime aioli, provolone, and house-pickled shallots, on toasted brioche dipped in au jus. Brunch includes mochi chicken and waffles, classic loco moco, mazemen ramen, and more. There’s also a kids’ menu, so Mom and Dad can enjoy some beer off the 12 taps while everyone plays pinball (there’s wine too).

As for the pins, look for nine machines, from retro to current, plus a vinyl jukebox that also spans many musical eras. Open Wed-Thu 4pm-10pm, Fri 4pm-12am, Sat 11am-12am, Sun 11am-10pm. 3215 Mission St. at Valencia.


An al pastor taco from Al Pastor Papi. Photo via Facebook.


The signature spicy ramen from The Story of Ramen. Photo courtesy of The Story of Ramen.


Spicy ramen with bone marrow at Ushi Taro. Photo courtesy of Ushi Taro on Yelp.

Some quick notes for you:

It’s tough to find some true al pastor tacos in SF with meat shaved off the trompo, but that’s what Miguel Escobedo (previously Papalote—he sold his portion of the business back to his brother) is doing at Al Pastor Papi. Escobedo’s new biz has opened in a hot pink trailer parked at the new Parklab Gardens in Mission Bay, next door to the Warriors arena. I’ve been following his al pastor obsession on Instagram after reading a preview of his tacos and look forward to checking out his Mexico City-inspired tacos (he’s using tortillas from La Palma and also offering carne asada, pollo asado, and a vegan option too). Hours are Tue-Fri 11am-3pm and 5pm-9pm, Sat-Sun 11am-9pm.

Here’s more on Parklab Gardens: it’s operated by Carlos Muela of food truck parks SF Spark Social and StrEat Food, and also plays home to Hookt doughnuts (from the Frozen Kuhsterd folks), rotating trucks, and there’s a bar serving beer and wine. A main feature is Stagecoach Greens, a high-tech, outdoor miniature golf course from Esther Stearns and Jan Cohn Stearns, with 18 holes inspired by cycles of boom and bust around the West. There’s also an app to keep score and book tee times (open daily). 1379 4th St. at Mission Bay Blvd.

A couple of months ago, I mentioned ~THE STORY OF RAMEN~ coming to the Mission, a weekday ramen shop that’s also a classroom at night. Founder Manville Chan says they are soft-opening for lunch this Friday August 24th, 11am-2pm. You can take a look at the menu, which includes a couple of kinds of tonkotsu, vegetarian, and chicken broth selections, plus add-ons and gyoza. For weekday evenings and weekends, their restaurant accepts advanced reservations for their educational and interactive ramen experience, when diners participate in making noodles and learning more about ramen and the broth. In the coming weeks, hours will be Mon-Fri 11am-2pm, closed on Labor Day. 3231 24th St. at Mission.

Since we’re talking ramen, there’s a place that has caught my eye: it’s called ~USHI TARO~ in the Inner Sunset, and they make a bone marrow ramen. With summer black truffles. Whoa, hearty—perfect for Fogust. It ends up their focus is on ramen with beef bone broth (shio, spicy, and paitan), and they also make oxtail and tomato ramen, and tsukemen. Other sides are available as well. I’ll report back! Open Mon-Fri 5pm-9:30pm, Sat-Sun 11:30am-2:30pm and 5pm-9:30pm. 1382 9th Ave. at Judah, 415-702-6014.

And now we’re taking a break from the beef: opening this Friday August 24th is ~NEXT LEVEL BURGER~, a plant-based burger joint in Potrero Hill. The menu includes plant-based burgers, hot dogs, salads, sandwiches, sides, and dairy-free (soy- or coconut-based) shakes. 450 Rhode Island St. at 17th St.


The cheerful exterior of Stones Throw. Photo courtesy of Stones Throw.


The dining room at Trestle. Photo courtesy Trestle.


Don’t miss the swell cocktails at Nico from Simone Mims. Photo: ©

A couple of quick updates, first in the Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group: chef Robin Song has moved on from Gibson (as I previously reported) and is now chef de cuisine of ~STONES THROW~ in Russian Hill. He’s collaborating with group executive chef Jason Halverson on updating the menu, come by for some of his summer dishes.

Meanwhile, over at ~TRESTLE~ in North Beach, the new executive chef is Claudio Dell’Anno (previously Belgium’s Ciccio, Le Gavroche in London, De Librije in the Netherlands, and LA’s Bestia and Papilles). Look for some updates to the restaurant’s popular $38 three-course prix-fixe menu.

Over at ~ASTER~, chef Brett Cooper has transitioned the four-course menu to a seven-course menu, now $135, with an optional sommelier pairing for an additional $79. I ran into Brett in the neighborhood, and he said guests were happy to have an upgraded tasting experience. And with summer produce in full swing, you can be sure his vegetable-driven menu is really shining right now.

Have you had a chance to check out the new ~NICO~ location in North Beach yet? It’s really a beaut, and they just launched their new six-course chef’s choice menu ($85) in case you want an excuse to return! They have also added a dish that is going to remain a constant: pithivier, with savory layers of aged duck, duck stuffing, and foie gras wrapped in puff pastry and served with seasonal purée and greens. (Lipitor supplement is up to you.) You can also opt for wine pairings from GM and wine director Gideon Levine for $75, and do not miss a cocktail from bar manager Simone Mims, they are magic.


A peek at the counter (during an evening preview party). Photo: ©


Sugar eggs puffs from Shanghai Dumpling King. Yelp photo by Christine C.

Man, these are some lousy pieces of news about places closing. Sorry to report that FiDi’s ~CITY COUNTER~ is no longer open and serving their luncheonette-inspired menu. We’ll have to see what’s next for owner Harper Matheson and talented chef Sean Thomas. 115 Sansome St. at Bush.

A major bummer is ~SHANGHAI DUMPLING KING~, home of the amazing sugar egg puffs (and affordable massive plates of steamed dumplings), has closed. According to a post on Yelp, the 696 Monterey Blvd. location remains open, and “an employee mentioned that his boss is retiring and wanted to close that [SF] location down because that location is too small and couldn’t keep up with the high demand of to-go orders.” (I have been guilty of adding to the dumpling delivery overload.)

Hoodline reports the new owner is Mary Feng Shimei, who will be reopening it as Bao Bao Noodle Bar in September. She will reportedly continue to offer the same dumplings at the same price. No word on the puffs. Sigh. That place was always a little pocket of no-fuss and vintage charm. 3319 Balboa St. at 34th St.

Since we’re talking bao, Hoodline also reported the brick-and-mortar Tenderloin location of ~THE CHAIRMAN~ has closed. The truck continues, and they may be seeking a new location. 670 Larkin St. at Ellis.

Due to close at the end of September will be ~HOFFMANN’S GRILL & ROTISSERIE~ in the Mission. An impending soft-story retrofit of the building was going to necessitate a yearlong closure, which chef-owner Karen Hoffmann and partner Chandra Asken didn’t want to weather. There’s a new business coming in, however, called Plain Jane, and according to the ABC beer and wine license transfer, it looks like the owners are behind the breakfast place Mymy cafe on California St. in Polk Gulch. 1000 Guerrero St. at 22nd St.