January 27, 2021

January 27, 2021
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The new La Cocina neon sign at the Municipal Marketplace is lit! Photo courtesy of Jay Foster.

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Jay Foster doing his magic (while at Isla Vida). Photo: Melissa de Mata.

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A selfie from Jay Foster with the new sign. Photo courtesy of Jay Foster.

Some uplifting news over here (my favorite): I know many of you listened to Jay Foster’s episode of On the Fly (our second-most-listened-to episode!), and it was a particular kind of heartbreak to hear about the discrimination he was subjected to in the workplace as a Black man and skilled restaurateur seeking work at an executive level. It was a rough episode, and one that has stayed with me, which is why I am particularly thrilled to learn about his new position as Marketplace manager for the upcoming La Cocina Municipal Marketplace in the Tenderloin. It’s the perfect position for him, in many ways. (Shout-out to La Cocina executive director Caleb Zigas on this hire!)

Right now, Jay is working closely with the six La Cocina entrepreneurs who will be opening kiosks in the Marketplace, and as of this week, they will start moving into the building. The Marketplace will be the country’s first women-led food hall, and the lineup includes BOUG Cali (a West Coast Creole shack from Bayview’s Tiffany Carter, known for her gumbo and po’boys), Estrellita’s Snacks (Salvadoran pupusas, tamales, and tostadas from chef Maria del Carmen Flores and her daughter Estrella), KAYMA (Algerian dishes—from soups to flatbreads to couscous, and baked goods and coffee—from chef Wafa and Mounir Bahloul), Los Cilantros (Mexican homestyle dishes from Dilsa Lugo, including her pozole and tamales, all gluten-free and featuring many vegan dishes, too), Mi Morena (chef Guadalupe Moreno brings her Mexico City guisados, handmade tortillas, and chilaquiles to the heart of SF), and Teranga (you may know chef Nafy Ba Flatley’s baobab drinks and energy bars, but she will be cooking her healthy Senegalese dishes here). In time, chef Bini Pradhan will be bringing Bini’s Kitchen Nepalese momos and stews and more. You can read about each business on this profile page. There will also be a bar—Jay is talking to some consultants right now.

Jay is so “blessed and honored and joyful” to be working with the entrepreneurs as they make these next steps into formalizing their businesses. He is honored to learn their stories and their family histories that are so entwined in these recipes and dishes—each entrepreneur has their own heritage and unique story, and they are all so committed to the upcoming work. You can look at my previous post from a couple years ago for a backgrounder on the project.

The plan is to start cooking in mid-February, and they’re look at early spring for an opening. It has been a long and arduous journey to get this project funded and built out—we all owe many thanks to Linda Tay Esposito, who tirelessly worked on the project for the past two-and-a-half years, managing the entire build-out, fundraising, and financing, all the way to permitting. Whew. What a superwoman. She has passed the torch to Jay, who is in awe of everything she got done and how deftly she navigated city bureaucracy. (She is currently consulting, if you’re looking for a powerhouse project lead and more.)

I was teasing Jay about being back in the Tenderloin—after 15 years of running farmerbrown at Turk and Mason, now he’s just a few blocks away, at 101 Hyde Street at Golden Gate Ave. As he says, “The Tenderloin won’t let me go!” He also has a long-view perspective on the neighborhood. When he opened farmerbrown, he mentions, “how everyone always thought the neighborhood would get better.” And instead, things are actually much worse, especially due to the pandemic, from the blatant drug dealing to the extreme suffering on the streets. Jay tells me more people have died from drug overdoses than Covid-19 the past year in the neighborhood. One of the city’s most notorious open-air drug markets is right around the corner from the Municipal Marketplace.

Jay knows it’s going to be a journey, but they are so committed to being a vibrant part of the neighborhood, to serve the community, and offer employment opportunities as well as provide affordable, nutritious, and delicious meals, especially for the many residents living in nearby SROs. In fact, Jay hired back his former doorman, Damian, who knows many folks in the neighborhood, and was a big reason farmerbrown didn’t get vandalized and tagged for the 10 years he ran the door.

I look forward to updating you as the project takes shape, but for now, I am so thrilled to see this next phase happening of this visionary project, with Jay leading the helm.

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The Margherita from DamnFine. Photo courtesy of DamnFine.

Now open in the Outer Sunset is a wood-fired pizza place, ~DAMNFINE~ serving some classics like a Margherita, to a pesto and purple potato pizza (with pancetta and Parmesan, alllll the Ps), to a clam pizza with garlic butter, mozzarella, and herbed ricotta, eight pizzas in all. You can read more about owner and (newly minted) pizzaiola Laura Seymour and partner Colin O’Malley (John Colins), who’s running the bar program (just a spritz and Negroni for now). Yup, there’s liquor. Coffee service coming soon, too. Keep track of updates at @damnfineco. Open Wed-Sun 4:30pm-9pm. 3410 Judah St. at 39th Ave. [Via Eater]

I mentioned ~JARANITA~ in my previous column, and this is just a quick note to let you know this Peruvian wood-fired spot is opening in the Marina this Friday January 29th, with takeout (the hours are now to 11am-8:30pm; last pickup at 9pm) and delivery to come soon, as well as an outdoor dining Shared Space. 3340 Steiner St. at Chestnut.

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The opulent Chinese New Year menu from Palette Tea House includes baked Maine lobster over ‘longevity” noodle. Photo courtesy of Palette Tea House.

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The new SF Proper weekly family meal. This week’s includes seaweed-rubbed brisket with sprouting broccoli and Japanese potato salad. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

In my previous column, I mentioned how supervisors Aaron Peskin and Sandra Lee Fewer—along with Chinatown neighborhood groups and SF New Deal—were trying to help keep ~FAR EAST CAFE~ supported through this challenging time after they announced they were closing (during their 100th birthday year, too tragic). One additional way you can help show them your support is by ordering one of their special Lunar New Year menus, ranging from $88 for four to $228 for eight. They’re featuring a special poon choi meal: a traditional Cantonese festival meal with layers of ingredients, served in large basins called poon (perfect to share with your pod). You can read more and view the menus here. (There’s also stuffed chicken with sticky rice, always a treat.) You need to order by 2/5 (5pm) for pickup from 2/10-2/12. Call Wing at 415-269-3960 to place your order. 631 Grant Ave. at Sacramento, 415-982-3245.

There are many more Lunar New Year menus and treats I am and will continue to be posting in my @tablehopper Instagram Highlights, from a fantastic Chinese New Year menu for 4 or 6, (and a set crab menu, featuring live Dungeness cooked in garlic butter sauce) from Palette Tea House (which is also opening their outdoor seating Thursday!), to a sure-to-be-elegant option from Eight Tables, to a treasure box from the awesome Koi Palace in Daly City, to a special Tết menu from Lily. Happy year of the ox!

Over at San Francisco Proper Hotel, chef Jason Fox has started offering a weekly menu based off their team family meals, which are often inspired by past trips and cuisines from abroad. Dishes have included pork belly rice bowl with soft-cooked egg, kimchee, and sesame; smoked paprika and yogurt-marinated chicken, roasted fingerling potatoes, and Brussels sprouts slaw; and last night, I tried seaweed-rubbed brisket with sprouting broccoli and Japanese potato salad (which came with an awesome yuzu kosho sauce I want the recipe for!)—it’s available through Jan. 31; and Feb 1st-7th is shrimp and chicken paella with chorizo, peppers, and aioli. All cost $23 for one serving. Instructions for easy reheating are included. Order through the SF Proper website, Tock, or with a free delivery special on Postmates. 

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Chef-owner Sarah Kirnon seated at her altar honoring her ancestors and community at Miss Ollie’s. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Jerk crab awaits at Miss Ollie’s. Instagram photo via @missolliesoakland.

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The 4505 Burgers & BBQ sign in Oakland. Photo courtesy of 4505 Burgers & BBQ.

I got a chance to catch up with chef-owner Sarah Kirnon of ~MISS OLLIE’S~ in Old Oakland, and she tells me things are in process for the next iteration, Sanctuary, with co-founder Miles Dotson. A recent mission statement states: “Sanctuary was birthed from chef Sarah Kirnon’s passion to provide a homestead to nurture, empower, and sustain the dreams of Black art and food creators in her Bay Area community. As a non-profit organization, Sanctuary will activate the talent of these creators to serve and feed the community in a series of active initiatives hosted in and around Oakland.”

This reconcepting of Miss Ollie’s from a restaurant to a community nonprofit was brought about because “they have been forced to rethink their purpose and impact on residents of the East Bay, and what it will look like to continue business into the future now, chasing meager revenue due to reduction of traffic by patrons and visitors to the city. In parallel, there is an increasing number of Bay Area families who now are unable to put food on the table and an unhoused population of people on their last limb as cold temperatures make survival that much harder.”

Sarah shares some difficulties that have come with the new year, beyond the usual endless pandemic challenges. It ends up their contract with World Central Kitchen—which had Miss Ollie’s preparing 1,500 meals a month for their unhoused neighbors (at $10/meal)—wrapped up at the end of December (as it did for other East Bay partners in the initiative). So, a significant part of steady income they were depending upon to weather this stage of the pandemic has dried up, and they’re looking for a way to continue to feed the community, which is an important part of their ethos at Miss Ollie’s (Sarah has always offered patrons who could not afford a meal the opportunity to receive a community plate).

Let’s support Sarah in her passion to do much more impactful work. Kindred will be the first initiative of Sanctuary, working to mobilize food distribution and CSA boxes for community members in need, starting next month (February). If there are any donors/companies interested and able made a tax-deductible contribution of $5K-$50K in order to help fund Kindred’s food program operations (and maintain their staff), please get in touch with Miles Dotson, who can send you a deck. Thank you for thinking about how to assist Sanctuary/Miss Ollie’s, and the community!

In the meantime, she is still operating Miss Ollie’s with her dedicated team Wed-Sat 12pm-7pm, and you should know she has a jerk crab that has been popping up on the menu lately! (She said it’s spicy, mmmhmmm.) She was selling the two-and-a-half pound crab for $40, serving it with yucca, sweet potato fries, chicory salad, homemade ketchup, sour cream, and grilled lemons. All the things! Keep your eyes peeled on their online menu and you can hope to crack some jerk crab soon. (I also see Dungeness crab and grits!) 901 Washington St. at 9th St., Oakland, 510-285-6188.

Some great news for Sarah’s new neighbors at Swan’s Market in Old Oakland: after suffering a tragic fire last year, ~HUANGCHENG NOODLE HOUSE~ has opened their new location in the the former Rosamunde Sausage Grill space (thanks in part to Good Good Eatz, Save Our Chinatowns, and so many generous community members for making this happen so quickly). Come by for chef-owner Jimmy Huang’s Shanxi knife-cut noodles, body-and-soul-warming soups, and more. Perfect for these wet and chilly days. Stand by for new dishes to be added in time. Open daily 10am-9pm. There are also some outdoor seats (coming soon). 911 Washington St. at 10th St. in Old Oakland. [Via Eater]

Something to track for later this winter: ~GHOST TOWN BREWING~ is opening a second location in the former 4505 Burgers & BBQ in Oakland’s Laurel District. They will be opening a taphouse and beer garden soon—the restaurant part of the concept is forthcoming. You can read further details in this Nosh piece. 3506 MacArthur Blvd. at 35th Ave, Oakland.

Another upcoming project will be the permanent brick-and-mortar location of the Salvadoran (and wood-fire-based) ~POPOCA~ from chef-owner Anthony Salguero at Classic Cars West in Uptown Oakland (read more in this Eater piece here). He launched a Kickstarter to get this exciting project off the ground (the plans include a restaurant, bar, retail hub, and micro-business incubator), please take a look and support if you can—$50 will get you a bomb Salvadoran breakfast for two! 411 26th St. at Telegraph, Oakland.