October 19, 2021

October 19, 2021
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Divine lemon soufflé at Cafe Jacqueline. Yelp photo by Jonathan H.

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The stunning Liberty duck platter at The Progress. Instagram photo via @theprogress_sf.

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The new dining room arrangement at Merchant Roots for their fall/winter experience, Stone Soup. Photo courtesy of Merchant Roots.

I know I was not the only one greatly concerned about the health of chef-owner Jacqueline Margulis of Cafe Jacqueline, and if ~CAFE JACQUELINE~ was going to make it through the pandemic and reopen, but it looks like the universe wanted to reward us all with some wonderful news! The 83-year-old chef-owner suffered some serious health issues (not Covid) in the early stage of the pandemic, and was in the ICU for over three weeks, but she made it through, and is reportedly feeling much better and getting stronger day by day. What a champ. She felt ready to reopen the restaurant, and they just finished their first week of service last week. It feels like a miracle. (Hat tip to @ornerypiglet for the great news.)

The beloved restaurant, known for Jacqueline’s epic soufflés, opened in 1979, and has legions of fans from all over. This really is an extra-special reopening and homecoming. In a recent post on their GoFundMe page (which helped keep the restaurant afloat, thank you all!), her daughter says, “I would like to say thank you and a million blessings to everyone here. All the support and love from the community is absolutely amazing and without this the restaurant would never have survived. Because of all of you Cafe Jacqueline is back!!!”

They ask all diners to “Please respect Jacqueline’s space and give her a safe work place.” She is an SF treasure, let’s treat her as such! (And don’t miss her French onion soup, it’s the perfect season for it.) The new hours are Tue-Sat 5:30pm-10pm. 1454 Grant Ave. at Union, 415-981-5565.

More great news: chefs-owners Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski have reopened ~THE PROGRESS~ after ten months of being closed. The team has redesigned the menu, and made a few aesthetic updates to the dining room as well. They’re excited to welcome people back and are thrilled to now have all three restaurants open and operational. Time to celebrate with a Prog Dog! Open Wed-Sat 5pm-10pm. 1525 Fillmore St. at Geary.

Just down the street, ~MERCHANT ROOTS~ has also returned, offering indoor dining and a new experience for fall/winter. Chef-owner Ryan Shelton has drastically changed the former communal dining experience, and even cut their custom-made Monkey Pod wood table (crafted by Berkeley’s Z&E Slabs) into four tables—it used to seat eight guests, but now parties can sit separately for the experience.

The latest theme is Stone Soup, based on the classic European folk story that imparts the value of sharing. The dining room looks fantastic, with a pot over a mock fire pit in the center of the room. (I’m ready for some whimsy, how about you?) The nine-course tasting menu ($134/food, $83/wine pairing) will be available starting today (October 19th) through February 19th, 2022. Two seatings per evening (5:30pm and 8pm) served Wed-Sat, with alternating Sundays as well. 1365 Fillmore St. at Ellis. 

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The exquisite enchiladas de mole at Donaji. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The cheerful entrance at Donaji. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Oaxacan chocolate tart. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

The space that previously held Foxsister/Great Gold in the Mission is now home to ~DONAJI~, a casual Oaxacan restaurant from the couple behind Tamalitos Catering, known for their stand at the Outer Sunset farmers’ market, CUESA’s Mission Community Market, and VA farmers’ market. Chef Isaí Cuevas and his wife Ally were doing a lot of lunch catering prior to the pandemic, and after the pandemic hit, they were trying to figure out their next steps. They spent seven months with Cuevas’s family in Zimatlan, Oaxaca, during the pandemic, and went even deeper into their love of maíz, from planting it to grinding it while they were there (they even brought a molino back with them). After an amazing offer from the landlord “seemed to fall out of the sky,” they decided to pursue opening their first brick and mortar on 24th Street, in the heart of the Mission.

Great Gold’s clubby booths and dark interior has been replaced with an airy, bright, colorful look, with bold Oaxacan artwork and pink and turquoise walls. Chef Cuevas “got his chops” working for chef Jan Birnbaum as a sous chef at (then) Epic Roasthouse, who was his mentor during the six years he worked there, followed by a gig as executive chef at Liverpool Lil’s.

His menu at Donaji is a celebration of masa, starting with some truly fantastic tamales made with organic/non-GMO masa harina from Alma Semillera (until they get their own molino going). The exquisitely tender and flavorful tamales include chicken, beef, cheese and peppers, pork, or vegan for $4.50—get some to bring home, thank me later (they’re even selling them from the front door 7am-9am if you want to grab some for lunch on your way to your morning coffee…or work!). There are also empanadas ($8) on the menu, and loaded sopes ($10). Of course, we had to have Cuevas’s enchiladas de mole ($15), two taquitos of chicken (or sweet potato), simmered in such a refined mole negro. There’s pozole, tacos, quesabirria, salads, and Oaxacan totopos, plus a delightful Oaxacan chocolate tart with cinnamon ice cream for dessert. Everything is presented with such care and composition.

Since Donaji is open for brunch and lunch (for now), there are chilaquiles ($14), huevos rancheros ($13), and entomatadas (tortillas dipped in salsa with cheese inside) with steak and eggs ($18)—I can’t wait to try this dish next. So yay, here’s your new brunch spot!

They hope to have their beer and wine license in a couple weeks, but for now, you can enjoy their iced horchata cafe and aguas frescas. It’s fast casual, so you order at the host stand and they bring your food to your table. What a welcome addition to the city—pay them a visit soon. Open Wed-Sun 9am-3pm. 3161 24th St. at Shotwell.

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Garden crudité bowl. Photo: David Varley.

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Rendering of the first floor bar and social dining area at The Bungalow Kitchen by Michael Mina.

I know many of you have been wondering about Michael Mina’s project opening in the former Guaymas in Tiburon, and it’s ~THE BUNGALOW KITCHEN BY MICHAEL MINA~, opening Wednesday November 3rd. It’s a sister restaurant to The Bungalow in Southern California’s Belmont Shore.

Mina partnered with Brent Bolthouse on this “community clubhouse,” with a menu of elevated California dishes from executive chef Joseph Offner (The Trident, Presidio Social Club, Alexander’s Steakhouse). The extensive menu includes a garden crudité bowl (with gazpacho shooters and three dipping sauces); a Dungeness crab “Pop Tart;” crispy Liberty duck wings glazed with Grand Marnier and black pepper; and housemade garganelli Bolognese with ragù antica and Parmigiano Reggiano fonduta (plus a bunch of other pasta dishes).

Brunch includes toasted coconut French toast and sweet potato pancakes, plus hot chicken and waffles with yuzu kosho honey and cabbage slaw. There’s a full bar, with cocktails starting at $17, but that stunning view won’t pay for itself!

The two-story space’s eclectic, “haute hippie” design is from AD100 designer Martin Brudnizki, complete with two patios and an upstairs Salon with a speakeasy-style bar, billiards table, and fireplace (it will be open after midnight, with cocktails and live DJs Fri-Sat). Open Wed-Thu 5pm-10pm, Fri 5pm-2am, Sat 10am-2am, Sun 10am-10pm. 5 Main St., Tiburon.

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A capricciosa pizza napoletana from ‘Na Pizza. Photo courtesy of ‘Na Pizza.

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The new pantry at Bernal Cutlery. Photo: Molly DeCoudreaux.

Some quick opening updates: over in the Marina, Dogukan Solmaz, Roberto Sbaraglia, and Alessandro Vasselli—who are behind the popular Roma Antica—are opening ~‘NA PIZZA~ in the former Pluto’s, most likely in November. Chef Domenico de Angelis will be serving authentic pizza napoletana, as well as calzone, appetizers like mozzarella in carozza (fried mozzarella croquettes), salads, pasta, panini, and more—the menu will expand in time, but take a peek at the initial one here. Hours will be daily 11am-10pm. 3258 Scott St. at Chestnut.

Thanks to Melissa of Salty Sweet for letting me know about the opening of ~EL YUCATECO BAKERY~ in the Mission, a Mexican bakery (she mentioned they used to bake together out of La Victoria Bakery and she would drool just looking at everything they made). They have an assortment of breads, sweets, cookies, and more, and their Instagram account notes they have some new items. Open Mon-Fri 6am-8pm, Sat 7am-7pm. 2907 16th St. at S. Van Ness.

Also in the Mission: ~BERNAL CUTLERY~ co-owners Kelly Kozak and Josh Donald have added a curated and carefully sourced pantry of Bay Area items (and beyond!) to their Valencia Street knife shop, including coffee from Queer Wave Coffee, vinegars, Rancho Gordo beans, and more from producers dedicated to sustainable practices. You’ll find Korean products from Queens, A Neighborhood Korean Superette; spices from Atomic Workshop (State Bird Provisions) and Diaspora Spices; and cheeses from Stepladder Creamery. One dollar from every transaction will be donated to Zero Foodprint, the San Francisco-based nonprofit aimed at funding renewable farming practices to fight climate change founded by restaurateurs and advocates Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz. The pantry and knife store are open daily from 12pm-6pm. 766 Valencia St. at 19th St.

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The light is sadly out at June’s Pizza in West Oakland. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Cacio e pepe arancini at Daytrip. Instagram photo via @this.is.daytrip.

Wanted to share some quick East Bay stories and links with you:

Sadly, the epically delicious ~JUNE’S PIZZA~ in West Oakland’s O2 Artisans Aggregate (alongside Soba Ichi) has closed (originally announced in this Instagram post)—ends up they were operating renegade-style and didn’t have any permits. But, good news: owner Craig Murli plans to open elsewhere (legitimately) and is on the hunt for a brick-and-mortar location. [Via Nosh]

Stella Denning and Finn Stern just opened their “fermentation-driven party food” restaurant and wine bar/bottle shop with a retro/70s-inspired style in Temescal: ~DAYTRIP~. Open Thu and Sun 4pm-9pm, Fri-Sat 4pm-10pm. 4316 Telegraph Ave. at 43rd St., Oakland. [Via Eater]

Nosh has an update on indigenous cook, activist, and educator Crystal Wahpepah’s ~WAHPEPAH’S KITCHEN~—which I mentioned back in September—which is due to open with breakfast and lunch service at the end of October! 3301 E. 12th St. at 33rd Ave., Oakland.

Reopening this Wednesday October 20th is ~MOCKINGBIRD~, relaunching with a new menu and style that is more Italian-inspired, but made in California. You can peep the menu here, and they’re also relaunching with inclusive pricing (the menu prices include a 20-percent gratuity): “this move away from the tipping and service charge models will enable us to provide our whole team with an equitable and predictable wage, and our guests with a more predictable bill.” New hours are Wed-Sat 5pm-9pm. 416 13th St. at Franklin, Oakland.