December 15, 2020

December 15, 2020
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The smoked egg bottarga from the State Bird Provisions Atomic Workshop. Photo courtesy of State Bird.

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Get excited to try ma’amoul cookies from Reem’s (with espresso-date, walnut, and pistachio fillings)! Photo: Reem’s California.

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The famed Miss G’s pepper sauce from Miss Ollie’s Oakland. Instagram photo via @missolliesoakland.

I’m so thrilled to announce the launch of the first-ever Hopper Holiday Restaurant Gift Bag! This is a last-minute idea, and I must be certifiably crazy to be doing this, but this elf has a few tricks up her sleeve and access to Santa’s spare turbo sleigh to make this happen. We all know how much our independent restaurants are suffering, especially this brutal month, and yet they still manage to make beautiful food and products and holiday treats that fill us with delight.

So just imagine an abundant gift bag packed full of some of the most delicious, local, hand-crafted, and exclusive restaurant treats! I’m talking about 17 or so stellar San Francisco Bay Area products, my friends, like the smoked egg bottarga from Atomic Provisions (the amazing pantry line from State Bird Provisions), Miss G’s pepper sauce from Miss Ollie’s (one of my favorite hot sauces, made according to chef Sarah Kirnon’s grandmother’s recipe), the black bean chili sauce from China Live (one of my top secret weapon condiments to cook with), ma’amoul cookies from Reem’s (traditional Arab cookies with espresso-date, walnut, and pistachio fillings), and some custom goodies you can’t even get, like Nopa’s chili honey that comes with their superlative fried chicken (obsessed!). Everything will be shelf-stable, so you don’t have to worry about getting anything into the fridge after you receive it.

The gift bag also includes a donation to SF New Deal, an incredible organization that has been helping restaurants feed our communities in need during the pandemic.

This run is going to be limited to 25 gift bags, so you’ll want to hop to it. This will be an extremely short order window, running until Saturday afternoon, and then I’ll be super-busy in Santa’s workshop for a couple days getting this all together. In-person pick-ups will be available at Nopa Tuesday December 22nd through Thursday December 24th (and you can pick up some house-smoked trout and cocktails while you’re at it). Delivery in San Francisco will also be available on those same dates for an additional fee. Sorry, no shipping (I’m crazy, but not thaaaat crazy), and I won’t be able to offer the gift bags any earlier than next Tuesday. There are additional terms as well, like no substitutions or custom orders, sowwy.

I’ll be finalizing all the products and final details by tomorrow (Wednesday), and will be sending another newsletter out as soon as the hopper shop is live. (I will also be announcing it on social media, so keep your eyes peeled!)

The Hopper Holiday Restaurant Gift Bag is going to be around $200, and 100 percent fabulous. You can order it for yourself, you can split up the gift bag into stocking stuffers for your friends, or you can even send a gift bag to someone who would really love it (and maybe can’t afford it right now). Imagine giving someone the gift of supporting local restaurants…I know, it’s a good one.

Okay, Champers the elf has a lot of work to do, stand by for the details and a link tomorrow. On behalf of all our local restaurants, thank you. I appreciate all your kind and generous support, and this gift bag will be a great way to share and show the love.

(If there are any elves who have a car and/or spare hands to help me out with product pick-ups or bag assembly on Sunday or Monday, I’d be so grateful! Please send me an email and I’ll get back to you. Mwah!!)

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The exterior of the Cliff House. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The lounge area and seating at August (1) Five. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The blue velvet booths and large-party dining table at August (1) Five. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Photo of Mission Cheese by Jeannie Choe for The Feast.

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It was last call for Lucky 13. Photo via Lucky 13’s Facebook page.

On Sunday evening, I received word about the upcoming permanent closure of the 157-year-old ~CLIFF HOUSE~ on December 31st, due to a mishandling of the contract by the National Park Service (NPS). Dan and Mary Hountalas have been proprietors of this historic location since 1973, and the way they’re being mistreated (and the 180 employees losing their jobs) is a heartbreaking ending to their 47 years of stewardship (as if the closure earlier this year of Louis’, their neighbor, wasn’t already sad enough).

You can read more in their note on the Cliff House website about the issues with the NPS, their contract extensions, and their “offer” to have the Hountalas family “continue guarding and maintaining their building with all costs to be paid for by us without any compensation whatsoever from the NPS” for one more year. With the pandemic and unknown timing of a return to business, that “offer” is on a particular level of insanity—especially when it costs thousands of dollars every month to maintain the San Francisco landmark.

It gets worse: since there isn’t a successor operator, the Hountalas family “must remove all personal property in the building including all memorabilia as opposed to being paid for our property by the ultimate successor operator as provided in our contract.” A lot of it is going to be auctioned off, separating the property from its precious artifacts. The property will be enclosed and boarded up, and it could be another two to three years before another potential operator has a contract. What that operator will discover is a building that has been left to be a victim to the harsh elements—perched on the cliff, the saltwater and winds will take their toll on this beloved location.

This is a landmark that has burned and been rebuilt twice. The first Cliff House even suffered damage when a schooner loaded with dynamite ran aground on the rocks below. But even in its third and neoclassical iteration, it has always had that captivating view. We have seen countless black-and-white images of Victorian ladies and gentlemen in bowler hats in front of the Cliff House. Many of us remember visiting the Arcade (and being terrorized by Laughing Sal) when the Musée Mécanique used to be underneath it.

I have seen some comments on social media that the food wasn’t that good and was overpriced. Some of that is true, but not entirely. After walking across the City for my friend’s 50th birthday celebration, we ended our journey with a delicious meal (and Manhattans) while taking in one of the most iconic and breathtaking views in the City. It was one of those restaurants where I could recommend out-of-towners visit the bar and café for some clam chowder if they couldn’t afford the main dining room experience—you could still enjoy some unique atmosphere and bask in the glory of the Pacific Ocean. There’s nothing quite like it at sunset, or even on a foggy day, it has its charms.

In their letter, Dan and Mary Hountalas say, “This is certainly not the way to thank us, a local small business owned and operated by native San Franciscans, for taking care of this San Francisco treasure this past year at a significant financial loss. Again, this all could have been prevented by the award of a long-term contract two and half years ago.” It’s a shameful ending, and robbing future visitors of a special experience for at least the next few years.

You can write to the NPS and share your disgust with their failure to maintain one of our landmarks, and their mistreatment of the Hountalas family, and the 180 emplo􏰂yees. You can email the NPS directly. You can also call Nancy Pelosi at 202-225-3121 and voice your concern.

After the temporary closure of outdoor dining a little over a week ago, we knew there would be some impending closures of restaurants who can’t survive this impossibly bleak winter season without federal assistance (and on takeout alone). But the mental preparedness doesn’t make it hurt any less when you find out a special place like ~AUGUST (1) FIVE~ is closing. Owner Hetal Shah was a dedicated and thoughtful operator, someone who left tech and followed her passion for elevating Indian food and hospitality to open this stylish and modern Indian restaurant. My recent meal in her cozy parklet reinvigorated my affection for the sophisticated and creative and incredibly delicious dishes (and cocktails!) they served, and so receiving her email about their upcoming closure on December 21st hit hard.

She opened the restaurant in November 2016, and has had to suffer through all the construction on Van Ness, along with the many challenges of running a profitable restaurant in SF, and now a pandemic. I know she and her team tried so hard. In her heartfelt note, she says, “I truly believe that this industry plays a pivotal role in shaping the youth and immigrant population of this country, and some fortunate ones like me walk away with a treasure chest full of lifelong lessons of humility, learning what it truly takes to hustle, and most importantly the art of kindness.”

They will be missed so much. You can order takeout/delivery through December 20th, be sure to enjoy the palak chaat and spinach and paneer lasagna one last time. 524 Van Ness Ave. at Golden Gate.

I was also dismayed to see the Instagram post from ~MISSION CHEESE~ announcing their closure at the end of the month after “nearly 10 years of slinging amazing American cheeses.” Like many independent businesses, they have been struggling greatly since March to make it through this period with little relief. It’s a shame to lose this place that championed craft American cheeses so passionately, as well as so many local product makers.

Mission Cheese was the site of many first dates, first meetings, and friends gathering over cheese flights. Thanks to the founder, Sarah Dvorak, for creating one of the best third places in the City. You have two weeks to swing by for one last wedge of Harbison and a bottle of En Cavale s.b. Thanks to the team for all their dedication to offering such a thoughtful experience. 736 Valencia St. at 18th St.

And one last thud: ~LUCKY 13~ has officially thrown in the bar towel after so many closure close calls over the years (those sad condo conversion plans have been looming for five years). You can read more in this post from Broke-Ass Stuart. Like the closure of The Stud, it’s so sad to have to close a longtime business (27 years!!) during the pandemic, with no farewell party, no last shot, no final thanks to the bartenders. So many San Franciscans have popcorn-scented memories in that tried-and-true dive bar. Raising a glass. 2140 Market St. at Church.

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The cheerful new space at Reem’s California Mission. Yelp photo by aL Z.

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Tuscan fried chicken at Tosca. Photo courtesy of Tosca.

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The new Frita Cubana at Media Noche. Photo: Media Noche.

I wanted to share some quick notes with you on some fab takeout options you can take advantage of, and this one is especially important: sadly, last Wednesday morning (December 9th), the central oven at ~REEM’S CALIFORNIA MISSION~ exploded, creating damage beyond repair. The five employees who were present were thankfully not in the crossfire of the explosion and were unharmed. Thank goddess.

It has already been challenging enough for Reem’s to open this new location the first month of the pandemic, and now this. It could be months before a new oven is shipped and installed. Sadly, a bakery without an oven simply can’t exist. For the duration of December, they will pause takeout and delivery services from their Mission location, but will continue to pay their workers through this time. A couple ways you can help them do this is to purchase their holiday meal kits and special holiday treats, or purchase gifts from their newly launched online merch store with gift cards, t-shirts (proceeds from all sales will go towards operations and workers), and Right of Return posters, which can be shipped nationwide. Help keep the dReem alive.

While the temporary suspension of outdoor dining is a disaster for our restaurants, you gotta look for the tiny silver linings, and one of them is you can now order takeout from the new ~THE ANCHOVY BAR~ from the State Bird team. They launched a new line of sandwiches, including an oyster po’boy and a schnitzel sandwich, which look fantastic. Plus, there’s a beef cheek and bone marrow stew, oof. Open Wed-Sat 11am-4pm. You have this week to check it out before they close for a holiday break (from Saturday December 20th-January 6th).

Another thing to note: after a quick blip of outdoor dining, ~TOSCA CAFE~ is once again offering their to-go menu with a different family meal each night ($55 per person), and it looks fantastic. Wednesday: lasagna, Thursday: tomato-braised ribs, Friday-Saturday: Tuscan fried chicken, and Sunday: spaghetti and meatballs.

Lastly, launching this Friday at ~MEDIA NOCHE~ in the Mission is their new Frita Cubana, their take on the traditional Cuban “burger.” The grass-fed beef patty is seasoned with a special blend of spices and their secret red sauce on a brioche bun and served with plantain shoestring “fries” for $14.50. Generously, they are offering 10 percent of proceeds to benefit the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank. They will only be making a limited quantity daily and it is only available in-house for now (i.e. takeout and online ordering—not via third-party delivery). 3465 19th St. at Lexington.

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The Noche Buena feast from Pinoy Heritage, on Feastin. Photo: Hannah Wagner.

If you follow me on Instagram, I’ve been posting up a STORM of holiday eats and treats, from Peking duck dinners to latke parties to prime rib feasts for Christmas. There are too many for me to write up, so check my Highlights for Holiday! and look for the menorah for brisket and more. In tablehopper a couple weeks ago, I mentioned a bunch of items as well, including gelato-stuffed panettone. Uh huh. Here are a few more places to look for holiday meals and things:

The Feastin platform, which I have mentioned here before, supports a bunch of restaurant partners who are offering special holiday feasts for delivery, including a Noche Buena kamayan feast from Pinoy Heritage, a whole snow crab dinner from Alamar Oakland, and more.

What I especially love is for every single Feastin order during the month of December (through December 24th), Feastin will donate a meal box to feed a family of four, including a whole chicken, two pounds of potatoes, two pounds of carrots, and a selection of fresh fruit (current food bank partners include Alameda County Food Bank, Redwood Empire Food Bank, and Second Harvest Silicon Valley). You can purchase additional meal boxes for families in need for just $5 each. Be sure to place your order this week! Pick up some uni from ABS Seafood while you’re at it, you deserve it.

I know a bunch of us have some messed-up holidays happening, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat like the king or kweeeeen you are. Are you a good home cook? Check out this Holiday Feast for Dining Solo from Four Star Seafood & Provisions (a local purveyor founded by local chefs) that you can cook up: you get half a Dungeness crab, 12 oz. Flannery dry-aged ribeye steak, 1 bunch of organic carrots, 0.5 lb. king oyster mushrooms, plum mostarda, and a Petit Pot dark chocolate pudding, which I love; ($61). If there are a few of you, check out this cioppino kit ($80)! Free delivery throughout the Bay Area.

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Empanadas vallunas at Chao Pescao. Photo: Barbara Ve.

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The mariscos (seafood) paella from Destapas. Instagram photo via @destapas.

There’s a new Latin-Caribbean restaurant in the former Soluna: ~CHAO PESCAO~, which translates to “see you later alligator.” Soluna owner Rene Denis is pulling from his Cuban-Colombian upbringing, offering homey dishes like empanadas vallunas (three kinds of Colombian empanadas, made with a masa dough and fried), pan de bono (gluten-free cheese bread), soups, ropa vieja (one of Cuba’s national dishes, with shredded flank steak, green olive, red bell pepper, tomato, bacon, and oregano), choripan, a Cubano sandwich (on housemade bread), plus some fun dishes, like Tajin fried chicken. Dishes are affordable, and all entrées come with black beans from his late-grandmother’s recipe. There are also a variety of cocktails, from a daiquiri with 12-year-old rum, to a Santería Sling (Havana Club blanco, lime, pineapple, house grenadine, benedictine, angostura, soda), plus some fun wine packs.

Keeping most of his kitchen staff employed, and some of the front of house as well, he and the team completely remodeled the restaurant, doing much of the work themselves. Go team! Pick-up and delivery are available. 272 McAllister St. at Larkin.

There’s a new sandwich spot operating out of Swirl Wine Bar in the Castro called ~HEROIC DELI~, an offshoot of the original location in Santa Monica. Read the Eater post to learn more about the folks behind it and a creative pandemic solution they had with the location. There are four sandwiches and salads, and the idea is these smaller but crafted sandwiches (on rolls from Montesacro Pinseria) will be appreciated by sandwich lovers who don’t necessarily need a huuuuge hero. The OMG ($16) has Italian prosciutto, spicy salami, capocollo, mortadella, porchetta, smoked mozzarella, roasted artichokes and tomatoes, lettuce, housemade giardiniera, French’s mustard, and mayo with Italian black truffle infusion (sounds fun, but I’m going to need some convincing with that French’s). Open for takeout Thu-Sun 12pm-6pm. 572 Castro St. at 19th St.

I’ve been tracking the opening of ~DESTAPAS~ in the Mission, and I love it when a tablehopper reader tips me off to the opening! This new spot is from a Spanish catering company based in the East Bay, and their menu is focused on paella (three kinds—seafood, Valenciana, or vegetarian), and they offer a smaller size with a salad for lunch, sweet. There are also a couple sandwiches, and I think this soup sounds amazing: patatas a la Riojana soup, with Spanish chorizo, onions, bell peppers, smoked paprika, and chicken broth. Yes, please. More dishes and sangria coming soon; takeout only for now. Open Mon 11:30am-2pm, Tue-Sat 11:30am-2pm and 5pm-9pm. 2708 24th St. at Potrero.

And out in West Portal in the former Paradise Pizza, John and Elena Duggan have opened ~LITTLE ORIGINAL JOE’S~, serving pizza (a first for the OJs restaurant group), pasta, and parm, plus rotisserie chicken, soups, salads, sandwiches, and more. You can pick up at the counter, and there’s a market too, with some retail offerings and items in the cold case. Open daily 10am-10pm. 393 W. Portal Ave. at San Fernando Way. [Via Eater.]

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Tamal de pollo mole rojo from La Guerrera’s Kitchen. Instagram photo via @laguerreraskitchen.

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A selection of dishes at Jayna Gyro. Photo courtesy of Jayna.

I was so sad when La Cocina entrepreneurs ~LA GUERRERA’S KITCHEN~ closed their Fruitvale location in March, their first brick and mortar, but great news: owners Reyna Maldonado and her mother, Ofelia Barajas, are reopening in the former Tamarindo Antojeria space in Old Oakland (another beloved business). The maiz warriors are back!

Eater reports the menu is going to include their tamales (just in time for Christmas!), their fantastic barbacoa, and green pozole, but with the bigger kitchen, they’re going to be serving additional specialties, like tacos dorado con consomé, tacos al vapor, and more. How wonderful. Order some tamales for Christmas and welcome them in their new digs. There’s an outdoor patio they look forward to being able to open when that time comes. Hours for now (pick-up only): Fri 12pm-3pm, Sat-Sun 12pm-3pm. 468 8th St. at 8th St., Oakland.

Another new opening for you includes ~JAYNA GYRO~ at Public Market Emeryville, which according to their Instagram knows how to stack one helluva gyro spit! This fast-casual place is from Yusuf Topal of Tarla Mediterranean Grill in Napa, and the chef is Jason Naaman of Tarla. The menu includes a chickpea sandwich (a nostalgic dish from Yusuf’s childhood, who grew up in Gaziantep, Turkey), chicken and beef gyros, their signature Greek salad, and appetizers like dolmades, spanakopita, hummus, and tzatziki. Open Mon-Thu 11am-7pm, Fri-Sat 11am-8pm, closed Sun. 5959 Shellmound St., Kiosk 14, Emeryville.