July 19, 2022

July 19, 2022
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A rendering of the upcoming Yokai.

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Birdbox’s Claude the Claw sandwich from Birdsong. Photo: Annamae Bafia.

A couple new and casual projects are brewing from two higher-end SoMa restaurants, Gozu and Birdsong. Coming in early 2023 from the MZ Dining Group (Ittoryu Gozu) will be ~YOKAI~, a Japanese-inspired, hi-fi bar and restaurant, focused on shareable plates and skewers cooked over binchotan charcoal, like king salmon belly with matcha, buttermilk, and dill; and Wolfe Ranch quail with fresh wasabi and double-fermented shoyu. Smaller shareable dishes may include coal-seared wagyu carpaccio, fermented truffle dressing, preserved ramps, and black trumpet mushrooms. Large-format dishes may include slow-roasted wagyu neck served with accompaniments and steamed whole Japanese sea bream. Chef Marc Zimmerman has named Gozu (and former Alexander’s Steakhouse) colleague Jessie Lugo as Yokai’s chef de cuisine.

Yokai, which means “spirit” in Japanese, will focus on Japanese whisky and cocktails, as well as brandies, Cognacs and the burgeoning Japanese gin scene. The 60-seat restaurant is opening in a post-Quake, five-story building with soaring ceilings and exposed brick, just four blocks away from Gozu. The space will have a vintage McIntosh sound system and an extensive vinyl collection. 545 Mission St. at 1st St.

Meanwhile, the two-star ~BIRDSONG~ team (led by chef Chris Bleidorn and partner Aarti Shetty) is going to open a brick-and-mortar location of ~BIRDBOX~ in South Park later this month. Studio SAINT, the firm who also designed Birdsong, is behind the 50-seat, two-level restaurant.

The fast-casual, fried chicken concept originally debuted as a pop-up in March 2020, which got attention for the claw that was left intact on the leg. It will still be an option on the menu: “Claude the Claw,” a deboned thigh and drum with the claw attached, served on a potato bun with housemade yeayo sauce (does it make your face numb?), and pickled and fresh vegetables. There will be half and quarter fried chicken “Birdboxes,” with cornbread, double-fermented hot sauce, and seasoning choices like classic yeast, sour cream and onion, and spicy falcon. Caw.

Birdbox will highlight free-range, humanely raised, organic chickens raised in local family farms. This fried chicken has a very detailed process, with seasoning made with rendered schmaltz and roasted bones, and pickle juice is repurposed in the poultry brine.

Counter service will be offered for lunch and dinner, as well as to-go and delivery options. For those dining in, wine and beer selections from mostly local producers and breweries will be on offer. Due to open in July. 680 2nd St. at Townsend.

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Duroc pork wontons from Dumpling Club. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Xiao long bao at Dumpling Kitchen. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

During depressing times, it’s nice to have a bunch of dumpling updates, amIrite? First up, Cathay Bi of the wildly popular ~DUMPLING CLUB~ subscription service (did you know you can also order them via Pastel!) suddenly announced a pop-up for takeout dumplings at her Mission kitchen last week (she recently took over the Tinker Kitchen space!). You can read all about the permitting process to operate as a restaurant in order for her to be able to do this. She timed the pop-up last week with the Mission Farmer’s Market (Thursday 4pm-7pm), offering ready-to-eat shrimp and pork wontons, plus sauces and sides (edamame, kimchi), and frozen goodies to take home. I checked in, and the team is doing it again this week. Here’s hoping it becomes a regular thing (peek at @dumplingclubsf for updates), and the retail offering will assuredly expand in time. 3233 22nd St. at Bartlett.

Sandy Zheng and Julia Zhu of ~UNITED DUMPLINGS~ in Bernal have been tagging me in their Instagram updates on their upcoming Marina location (they took over the short-lived Cancha location on Chestnut). Things are getting close—they have a few more inspections, and are hiring staff and finishing some decorating. XLB are coming soon! 2015 Chestnut St. at Fillmore.

According to Hoodline, Outer Sunset’s ~DUMPLING KITCHEN~ is opening a location in the former Papi Rico in the Castro—I love that the shower room is going to be converted to the dumpling room, where you can soon watch dumplings be stuffed instead of men grinding in Speedos. They already have a nice patio, and are applying for sidewalk seating out front. Their Shanghaiese menu will include “Shanghai-style pork buns ($11.50), chow mein ($12.50), and rice cakes ($13.80), five-spice beef noodle soup ($15.30), and sweet vinegar spare ribs ($14.80).” (Dumpling Kitchen rocks.) They are targeting late August to open for lunch and dinner service. 544 Castro St. at 18th St.

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A birria plate from the new Chuy’s Fiestas Taqueria II in the Tendernob. Instagram photo via @chuysfiestastaqueriaii.

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It’s snack time with Fluff Nugget popcorn. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small.

The popular ~CHUY’S FIESTAS~ on Folsom has opened ~CHUY’S FIESTAS TAQUERIA II~ in the former El Tesoro in the Tendernob. They’re serving tacos on handmade tortillas, vampiros, quesabirrias, quesadillas, burritos (including a new California burrito with fries, and a crispy flat-top burrita, which is always the way I order one: dorado!), plus breakfast, and seafood plates (which they are known for at the Chuy’s mother ship). Open Mon-Sat 10am-10pm. 710 Post St. at Jones.

Over in the Marina, there are new owners of ~GREEN STREET MARKET~, serving well-made sandwiches (including bagel and breakfast sandwiches), fresh produce, wine and spirits, and a good selection of corner market items. Yup, Sam, the foul-mouthed, racist cashier is gone. (I would have changed the name after burning some sage in every corner, but that’s me.) 1898 Green St. at Laguna.

Opening this Thursday in the former Smitten space next to Ritual in Hayes Valley is ~FLUFF NUGGET~, serving cones of gourmet popcorn with a variety of creative toppings, like chorizo and cheddar, pistachio pesto, and chocolate Aztec chile. It’s from the founders of Vino Volo, and the chef-driven, savory and sweet combinations are from chef Laurine Wickett. The first 100 guests at Thursday’s opening will receive a free Fluff Nugget popcorn. Open Thu-Sat 3pm-10pm, Sun 1pm-8pm. 432 Octavia St. at Linden.

The lineup of mobile food vendors at Presidio Pop Up at the newly open Presidio Tunnel Tops has been announced, with a number of rotating trucks and carts that will be there seven days a week, 9am-6pm. The initial lineup includes hopper favorites Borsch Mobile and El Pípila, Bulgarian cuisine from Kuker (cool!), and Vegan Mob from Oakland. There will be coffee from Red Bay Coffee Company, Route 1 Coffee, and cocktails from Rye on the Road, Chika, and Lady Victory. You can check out the daily lineup here.

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The iconic Two Jack’s Nik’s Place in Lower Haight has closed. Yelp photo by Murphy O.

A Lower Haight, Southern seafood staple for 45 years (since 1977!), ~TWO JACK’S NIK’S PLACE~, has sadly closed as of July 14th. Second generation owner Nikki Cooper, who took over 16 years ago, sold the remainder of her lease, but is relocating the staff to the Bayview location (at 984 Gilman Ave.). Two Jack’s was the first Legacy business in San Francisco, and was inducted into the Museum of Food and Drink in New York, such notable achievements.

Nikki also won the 2019 NAACP Entrepreneur of the Year award, and announced she accepted a new position as Program Director for the San Francisco African American Chamber of Commerce. Congrats and best wishes to her in this new chapter. You can read more in her heartfelt Instagram post here. Here’s to all the community memories in that iconic spot. 401 Haight St. at Webster.

A friend in Noe Valley let me know the ~PATXI’S PIZZA~ location on 24th Street has closed, with an eviction notice in the window, ugh. Seems like the place was in a backslide lately, with unhappy regulars over the past year. 4042 24th St. at Castro.

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A sampling of the scammer one-star reviews plaguing local restaurants on Google (these are from Town Hall’s page).

In the most recent tablehopper issue, I was the first to report on the flurry of one-star reviews for restaurants happening on Google, with scammers threatening to leave bad reviews daily unless the restaurant sends a Google Play card with the value of $75. Google has been mostly unresponsive to restaurants, but he GGRA (Golden Gate Restaurant Association) posted this update in a recent newsletter that they have “been working closely with our contacts at Google SF and have been reassured repeatedly that Google is very aware and working to correct the situation.”

They also add: “We are advising restaurants to continue monitoring their Google reviews and to flag any one star reviews that look fraudulent. This can be done online through your Google business page.” The GGRA wants you to forward your scam reviews to them, click here for more instructions on how to handle the shituation (because restaurants just aren’t busy enough trying to survive right now).

The GGRA also made a statement about a potential deal/modification to the (previously) permanent 15 percent delivery cap, a deal that would have DoorDash and GrubHub drop their lawsuit against the city. The proposal is being presented to the Board of Supervisors today (Tuesday). Here’s the GGRA: “Over the past several years, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association has worked to provide a fair playing field for our members in regards to third party delivery fees and practices. We are supportive of Supervisor Peskin’s proposed legislation, which modifies San Francisco’s existing permanent 15% delivery cap to allow restaurants and businesses more flexibility in contracting for additional services. This legislation would create an exemption from the 15% cap to allow delivery companies to charge for additional marketing and promotional activities starting January 31, 2023. 

“Businesses could choose to opt-in to pay for these opportunities such as advertising and other features. The companies would continue to be required to provide core services to all restaurants at the 15% level, including the listing on their service’s platforms, websites and mobile applications, and the delivery of food and/or beverages from the establishment. 

“The goal of these amendments is to provide flexibility for restaurants and other businesses interested in additional promotional and marketing services, but also to ensure that the core services of the delivery companies with a 15% cap, must continue. Restaurants and businesses with existing contracts will have a transition period until January 30th, 2023.  We are thankful for the hard work and collaboration from all sides. This is an example of how we can all work together to ensure a safe and fair business environment for all.”

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An array of dishes from The Anchovy Bar. Photo: Stuart Brioza.

A few fun events for your radar: Eric Danch from Danch & Granger will be taking over the wine list at The Anchovy Bar on Wednesday August 3rd, pairing classic and one-night only dishes with organic, low-intervention, and native wines from countries like Hungary, Slovakia, Serbia, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, and Romania. Book here.

The second evening of Greens Restaurant’s Guest Chef Summer Dinner Series features Besharam’s chef Heena Patel on Tuesday August 9th. Outdoor seating is available, as well! A portion of proceeds from each vegetarian dinner will benefit Foodwise, a local non-profit promoting fresh food education and food access programs. (There will be one final chef collaboration in this series with Ethiopian chef Adiam Tsegaye of Mela Bistro on September 28th.)

This Sunday July 24th marks the kickoff of the Hangar 1 Vodka Sip & Cycle brunch event series at its Alameda distillery. You’ll enjoy a two-mile bike ride on Alameda beach on a Solé bike, a trolley ride, and a Bloody Mary Bar with brunch bites when you arrive back at the distillery. The experience runs through September. Get a group of friends together, you need a group of four (minimum)—$85/pp.

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