September 27, 2022

September 27, 2022

Some of the stellar nigiri you’ll find at Kuma Sushi + Sake. Photo: ©


Kuma’s Ryo Sakai doing what he does when you sit at his spot at the counter. Photo: ©

I’m so happy to have some positive news to report: owners Ryo Sakai and Cory Jackson of neighborhood favorite ~KUMA SUSHI + SAKE~ in Lower Polk are opening a second location, Kuma Valencia, in spring-summer of 2023. After opening their first location in August 2017, they have steadily built up a loyal clientele who know this is some of the best nigiri in town (spicy scallop, you have my heart forever). They also feature some incredible sakes (they pour by the glass or carafe, so you can try different sakes without committing to a whole bottle, and their list is always rotating). It’s also one of the friendliest sushi counters, with a fun, local vibe (it’s so good to back!).

They plan to keep all these elements intact in their new location, which will be right across the street from Zeitgeist on Valencia. They said to expect some neighborhood flair to appear on the menu, like names and dishes inspired by local industry pals and businesses (e.g. there’s a Jackalope roll on their Kuma Polk menu, named after the nearby bar).

They’re opening in a new condo that used to be a garage/smog station. They’re excited for the sunny corner exposure, and are working with Pablo Ortiz (Pop /A Design) on the design/architecture. The plan is to have 12 seats at the bar (same as Kuma Polk) and 12-16 seats at tables inside; outdoor is TBD. There will be stone, metal elements, and wood screens, with dynamic lighting (which is going to be given special attention in this location, allowing for better photos for guests and the chefs alike—they’re currently using black cutting boards for more appealing images). They’re working again with general contractor Conor Sweitzer of Sweitzer Inc., who did their original location.

There will also be some custom ceramics by Ryo’s wife, Linnan Ye of Neko.Co.Neko., like sake cups and chopstick rests (you may have noticed them at Kuma Polk). I’ll keep you posted on how the project is going. 198 Valencia St. at 13th St./Duboce.


Chefs-owners David Fisher and Serena Chow Fisher of Marlena. Photo: Dana Plucinski.


A look at the curving bar (and bright barstools) at the updated Causwells. Photo: ©


Enjoy a tableside pour of the Deconstructed Pimm’s Cup. Photo: ©

After being closed temporarily for an update to their dining room’s interior design, husband-and-wife chefs David Fisher and Serena Chow Fisher of ~MARLENA~ are back in their Bernal Heights home, and their popular $65, four-course tasting menu is back with them, too! During the summer, they cleverly ran Summer Camp at Hotel Zeppelin as a pop-up (I wrote it up for Nob Hill Gazette). But now they’re open in their home base, featuring a significant redesign from M. Chad Kellogg of architecture and design studio AMLGM, bringing a comfortable, residential feel, with lots of curving elements to build a relaxed vibe. There’s spacious banquette seating, lots of plants, and soft lighting, too.

The new menu reflects the seasons, with dishes like shaved celtuce with kombu broth, tofu purée, and nori powder; a hamachi crudo with apple vinegar, green peppercorns, and sour gherkins; raviolini with smoked rosa bianca eggplant, early girl tomatoes, and baby leeks; grilled beef cheeks with beef sausage, honey nut squash, and broccoli di ciccio; and a kabocha squash “cheesecake” for dessert. There are also new supplements to the menu (“snax!”) and aged Liberty Farm duck breast as well. Open Sun-Thu 5pm-9pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm. 300 Precita Ave. at Folsom.

~CAUSWELLS~ in the Marina reopens tonight (September 27th) with a refreshed interior, food menu, and cocktail program. I had a chance to check it out on Sunday evening, and am happy to see chef-owner Adam Rosenblum and beverage director/managing partner Elmer Mejicanos stretching their wings after being open for eight years (with owner Tom Patella). The menu has expanded with numerous small plates, like oysters with Angostura mignonette; light dishes like salmon tartare and heirloom tomatoes with melon vinaigrette; heartier bites like Detroit-style cheesy bread and juicy “Cali hot” chicken wings; mains include pork belly confit, salmon filet in a summer broth, and your table should tuck into the Causwells mac and cheese, featuring four cheeses and savory pasta from Bayview Pasta. Of course, the Americana burger sits tight on the menu, but now you have numerous other dishes to choose from, whether you want snacky bites or more of a proper meal (hello, date night).

The cocktail program is extensive and ambitious—you’re going to need to return numerous times to make your way through it. A great place to start is the Deconstructed Pimm’s Cup (as beautiful as it is tasty) and the Open Sesame, with Milagro tequila, bianco vermouth, cold-pressed poblano, lime, agave, and toasted sesame offered layers of savory, kicky flavors. A favorite at our table was the Cantélope Cruz, made with Reyka vodka, Lillet Blanc, cantaloupe juice, honey, ricotta, and lemon juice, topped with fresh-ground black pepper—it’s like cacio e pepe when you get a whiff of the pepper with the cheesy notes, so good. Fig News (Mommenpop, kumquat, green walnut, fig leaf cordial, sparkling wine) was a beguiling highball, and the Causwells Grasshopper is a hopper-approved liquid dessert. Have fun! (Check their website for the new menus soon.)

The interior has a luxe Deco flair, with a new, curving bar, bright yellow barstools, and richly toned wallpaper. Love the update, and the parklet is still there, with heat lamps. A new martini and oyster happy hour will run Tue-Fri 4:30pm-6pm, and late night Fri-Sat from 11pm to midnight. 2346 Chestnut St. at Scott.


The Old Skool Cafe during a Behind the Cart event. Photo: ©

Some great news coming out of Bayview: my longtime chef pal Eddie Blyden is now Director of Culinary Education at ~OLD SKOOL CAFE~, the youth-run, 1920s-style, jazz-themed supper club. He started in July, and has been getting situated and handling staffing (they have a new GM as well). He met founder/CEO Teresa Goines when he used to volunteer with kids in Bayview back in 2005, so this feels full circle for him.

All I can say is the youth who work at the supper club (who come out of the system of incarceration, foster care, and other challenging situations) are going to learn so much from this talented chef who has cooked all over the world (he’s originally from Sierra Leone)—they will become farmers’ market insiders, and chef Blyden also loves to grow his own food.

We met back when he was the opening chef at The Alembic, where he became known for his jerk-lacquered chicken wings and oxtails served as a two-cheese Welsh rarebit (unforgettable!). He has been private cheffing of late (“A lonely existence!,” he exclaimed to me), so it’s great to know he’s back in the mix. I’m seeing his touch on the international soul food menu, which includes his famous clam chowder from his days at Miss Pearl’s Jam House. You’ll see many names on the menu, which highlight recipes from students working at Old Skool, like Jordan’s fried chicken and Daniel’s gumbo; chef Blyden tells me some mothers come in to teach their family recipes, so amazing.

Each cohort includes 20-30 students (ranging from age 16-22) who learn cooking skills (some have cooked at home, but many are new to the kitchen), front-of-house duties, and they also learn life skills, like banking. Chef Blyden mentions they go on field trips to places like a horse ranch, and will be learning how to harvest walnuts in Colusa soon.

Old Skool Cafe serves dinner Thu-Sat 5pm-9pm (happy hour runs 5pm-7pm) and live entertainment is from 5:30pm-8:30pm. Saturday brunch has returned, with sweet potato waffles with fried chicken and honey pecan butter and live jazz, 10am-2pm. Plus, they added outdoor seating during the pandemic, and there’s also takeout and delivery. Please keep Old Skool Cafe in mind for holiday events, buyouts, and catering—your support makes a big difference. This impactful organization is also holding their 10-year gala on October 22nd, I will share more info on that very soon! 1429 Mendell St. at Oakdale.


Sweet heat pineapple pizza from JoyRide Pizza. Yelp photo by Jarred M..

Fans of the Detroit-style pies at ~JOYRIDE PIZZA~ will find them at two new locations: 685 Market Street (at 3rd St.) and inside craft beer bar Woods Lowside at 530 Haight Street in the Lower Haight. (Click the links for hours and menus.) You can get a whole pie or slice, and vegans, you should check out their pizza (they also make a gluten-free crust).

If you’re in Bayview, you’ll be waking up and smelling the coffee, because there’s another coffee shop that just opened: this time, it’s ~BUTCHERTOWN COFFEE~. It’s a Mexican-American, family-owned business from married couples Octavio and Yessenia Gomez, and Eric and Irma Ramirez—Octavio and Irma are siblings. They partnered with a local master roaster here in town, and came up with their recipe of arabica beans “as unique as our neighborhood: sweet, smooth, robust.” Can’t wait to taste it. This new shop is serving coffee, espresso drinks, pastries, breakfast bagels, and breakfast sandwiches, and it’s open early: Mon-Sat 5:30am-12:30pm. 5191 3rd St. at Thomas Ave.


Malaysian laksa lemak by Tracy Goh of the upcoming Damansara.. Instagram photo via @eatwithtracy.

Just wanted to get a few upcoming openings on your radar. First, I’ve been looking at ~XICA~, coming to Levi’s Plaza this fall. This “Mexican kitchen, Chicana style” is an offshoot from Maria Esquivel’s Chica in Oakland, which opened six years ago—Nosh just reported the Oakland location closed on September 18th, in preparation for this new project. There will be homestyle cooking (her chilaquiles and pozole are delicious), indoor and outdoor seating, a full bar, private dining, and more. Stand by for updates. 1265 Battery St. at Greenwich.

Been seeing posts of test dinners and more for Tracy Goh’s Malaysian restaurant ~DAMANSARA~, opening in the former Ardiana in Noe Valley, it’s looking like it’s almost open! Read more here, stand by for the opening date. 1781 Church St. at 30th St.

A recent newsletter from ~JOHNNY DOUGHNUTS~ mentions they are looking at an opening in early October at their new Pacific Heights shop (in the former Smitten) at 2404 California St. at Fillmore.


The iconic Roosevelt Tamale Parlor sign; Yelp photo by Marina N.


The interior at Outerlands. Photo via Facebook.

Just in case you didn’t see these updates on social media (I post breaking news in my Instagram Stories all the time), after over 100 years in the Mission, ~ROOSEVELT TAMALE PARLOR~ has sadly closed. Owners Aaron Presbrey and Barry Moore (since 2012) cited pandemic-related challenges and uncertainty about renewal of their lease for the closure. Mission Local originally reported: “Pablo Wong, a commercial real estate consultant for MEDA, told Mission Local that the restaurant space is expected to host a new Mexican eatery that has already signed a 10-year lease: La Carreta Rotisserie is listed in city records as the new business on the block.” How sad to lose this iconic Mission business—for the past year, they tried to find someone to take it over. Best wishes to Presbrey and Moore, thanks for everything they did to keep it going during such exhausting, challenging times. 2817 24th St. at York.

Last week, Dave Muller and Lana Porcello of ~OUTERLANDS~ posted on their Instagram account that “After 14 incredible years, we will be stepping away from ownership of Outerlands at the end of this month.” Their last day was September 26th, and the post mentions: “After that, the restaurant will be temporarily closed, with plans to reopen, with all your brunch favorites, very soon.” According to SFGate, they are passing the keys and business on to new owners, who will be keeping things status quo, and possibly bringing dinner back, too. More on that soon.

Outerlands had many talented chefs come through their kitchen (including Brett Cooper, Yoni Levy, and Greg Kuzia-Carmel), contributed a great deal to San Francisco’s bread culture, and highlighted so many local makers. It was a pleasure to watch them grow over the years, adding and renovating the space next door, getting a full liquor license, expanding their pastry program, and more. Thanks for creating such a quintessentially San Franciscan experience and space. 4001 Judah St. at 45th Ave.

According to this Instagram post, Sarah Kirnon of ~HOLDER’S HOUSE~ (previously Miss Ollie’s) has announced their last day as a pop-up in the Forage Kitchen space in Oakland is October 7th. The post mentions: “Keep your eye on this IG for dates and times opening over the next 11 days. I’ll have 50 mason jars of pepper sauce on Wednesday made with local scotch bonnets, it’s a first come first served situation. I’ll be also announcing pop up tours of the bay over the next week.” Swing on by while you can, and I’ll signal boost any future pop-ups I see. I imagine Kirnon would appreciate any tips on pop-up venues/calendar openings/invites. 478 25th St. at Telegraph, Oakland.