October 11, 2022

October 11, 2022
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Al Carajo’s incredible quesito rico taco, with tiger shrimp, griddled cheese, chorizo, potato, and onions, in a flour tortilla. Photo courtesy of Al Carajo.

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Al Carajo’s aguachile Tulum with tiger shrimp in recado negro. Photo courtesy of Al Carajo.

After driving his bright red ~AL CARAJO~ trailer around town at locations like Spark Social and District Six, chef-owner Javier León has found a brick-and-mortar location in the Mission for his Mayan restaurant, which will have both his classic Yucatecan dishes as well as his creative and seasonally inspired dishes, too. You may recognize him from behind the bar at Loló, but during the pandemic, he started working on his culinary concept instead.

Since he’s taking over the former Breakfast Little space (it’s next door to the House of Dim Sum), León decided to launch with breakfast service, offering a breakfast burrito (with potato and chorizo), chilaquiles with eggs and chicken tinga (he serves them in a Chinese takeout box!), and some classic Yucatecan breakfast dishes, like huevos motuleños (similar to huevos rancheros, but with a fried tomato sauce, ham, peas, and platanos on the side) and a torta de huevo (the omelet inside includes mint, with pickled red onion on top, and black beans). It all sounds so good, and he’ll also have some special secret menu items (IYKYK.)

His truck menu featured dishes like aguachile Tulum with tiger shrimp with recado negro (smoky charred chile condiment), lime, cucumber, serrano chile, cilantro, and onions; and ceviche yucateco, along with classic Yucatecan panuchos and salbutes. He’s going to continue to offer these popular dishes at the new restaurant. He makes everything from scratch, so all the flavors and ingredients really pop.

The truck also had a variety of tacos, from classic cochinita to fish tacos, plus a quesito rico taco with tiger shrimp, griddled cheese, special chorizo from LA, potato, and onions, all in a flour tortilla. Boom. His al pastor negro should also be on the restaurant menu, plus his birria pizza with flour tortillas, and a chicken tinga quesadilla. He said he’ll rotate some specials on in the evening hours.

It’s a tiny spot, with room for a few tables inside and outside, so it’s going to feel like a party. The space has a crisp look with a red-and-white interior and some plants. León probably won’t see his beer and wine license until early next year, so it will be BYO for now.

The targeted opening date is Thursday October 20th. Hours will be daily 7am-2pm, and Fri-Sat until 9pm or so—he’ll adjust hours based on what the neighborhood wants. Keep up with opening updates and more on their Instagram at @alcarajosf. Provecho! 3224 1/2 22nd St. at Bartlett.

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The bright awning and outdoor seating at the new Cassava in North Beach. Photo courtesy of Cassava.

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The cheerful and comfortable style of the new Cassava in North Beach. Photo courtesy of Cassava.

I’m so impressed with the speedy turnaround for ~CASSAVA~ to update the former Pinocchio in North Beach, pass inspections, train staff, and close their Outer Richmond location (they were there for over 10 years)—yeah, owners Yuka Ioroi and Kristoffer Toliao have been pushing hard. (The renovations were led by both a female general contractor and mechanical engineer, so there’s also that. Go fempire.) Fun fact: the now husband-wife team visited Pinocchio restaurant on their first romantic trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 2007. Awwww.

Cassava officially opens their doors on Wednesday October 12th for regular dinner service, although they had some fun for the Italian Heritage Parade. The space has 40 seats, with bar seating for 10, and dog-friendly sidewalk seating has room for 40, with woven, French bistro-style chairs. The space feels airy and cheerful, with large windows, an open kitchen, colorful murals, and a bright aqua awning (plus blue tiles under the bar).

Toliao’s menu will continue to focus on California cuisine, featuring local and seasonal ingredients, offered in their affordable, three-course, prix-fixe menu ($48-52) with supplements. Dishes range from their buttermilk fried chicken to Marin Coast wild king salmon crudo to SF black cod to slow-braised lamb belly. Look for some exciting pairings from Yuka, ranging from wine to beer to sake, and more.

Ioroi and Toliao are very passionate about wage equity, creating an inclusive work environment, and working to eliminate the classism, racism, and sexism rampant in the industry. This new location is yet another step in their ongoing mission to be an equitable restaurant operation with zero exploitation. Keep up with their opening announcements on Instagram (@cassavasf). Open Wed-Sun 5pm-9pm. 401 Columbus St. at Vallejo.

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Chef Carlo Middione. Photo by Daniel Bahmani via the New Fillmore.

I have a sad piece of news to share: chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, TV personality, and longtime champion of Southern Italian food, Carlo Middione, passed away on September 26, 2022, at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. He was 86. He was an early and proud ambassador of authentic Southern Italian food and culture, especially in our town of Toscani. His incredible culinary concept Vivande Porta Via on Fillmore was a beacon of deliciousness and cozy rusticity for almost 30 years, whether you wanted to swing by for one of their iconic eggplant sandwiches at the counter, or sit down to a homey, soulful dinner. It was a treasured neighborhood spot. (He also opened the splashier Vivande Ristorante at Opera Plaza with his wife Lisa back in 1995—I’d always think of him many years after it closed when I’d drive by the Roman “mouth of truth” entrance on Golden Gate.)

In 2007, Middione was tragically involved in a car accident that caused him to lose his sense of taste and smell, which then led to him closing Vivande Porta Via on New Year’s Eve 2009.

I posted about his passing on Twitter, and it was sweet to see people share fond memories of him. One of my favorite pieces ever written about him was by his former sous chef Mark Fantino, who wrote this wonderful homage on New Fillmore back in 2015. You’ll enjoy reading it.

Grazie, Carlo, for all the memories and hospitality and contributions to our culinary culture. You touched so many people with your kindness, enthusiasm, and expertise. Now you can be at the table with Lisa once again. Rest in Pasta.

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The Fatted Calf shop in Hayes Valley. Photo courtesy of Fatted Calf.

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The tea salon at Maison Danel. Photo: Emily Martin Events.

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The wild party that was Zuni Café’s 40th anniversary (in 2019). Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The breakfast fundido with carnitas and La Palma handmade tortillas at the new brunch at Hazie’s. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Big news from SF’s charcuterie HQ, ~FATTED CALF~—they’re going to be closing their Hayes Valley shop at 320 Fell Street at the end of October “for a variety of logistical reasons,” according to a recent email. (Founders Taylor Boetticher and Toponia Miller opened the shop in 2010!)

But yay, there’s good news: they will be reopening in the Ferry Building Marketplace (in “Lucky No. 13”), which feels like a sort of homecoming for them, since they had a place at the Saturday Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in their early days. They aim to have their doors open in early November: “We plan to start small and grow into this new space over time but we will be ready with all of your favorites in time for the holidays.” (That’s great, because I’ll need my New Year’s cotechino!) I know they’ll be missed by their Hayes Valley neighbors, but I’m happy this special business will continue on in SF.

According to a post on Instagram from @sfchinatown.today, longstanding Financial District dim sum restaurant ~CITY VIEW RESTAURANT~ is officially moving from their Commercial Street address to a new location: the sign on their window says they’re moving in late 2022 just a block up to 33 Walter U. Lum Place, bordering the west side of Portsmouth Square, between Clay and Washington. It will be on the ground floor of the same building that Empress by Boon is in, but will use the Walter U. Lum entrance (instead of Grant). I’ll update you with more details about the new location soon.

Big news at ~ZUNI CAFÉ~: executive chef Nate Norris has departed the restaurant after 14 years of truly leading the helm and culture there. You can read more in this farewell post from Zuni and this piece from SFGATE, which announced the new executive chef is Anne Alvero, and Phillipe Flores Francisco is the new chef de cuisine. Norris is moving to Maine with fiancée and former pastry chef Annie Callan, who departed Zuni earlier this year (she was there since 2009). Best wishes to them—their powerful SF voices and culinary contributions as keepers of Judy Rodgers’ flame will be greatly missed.

Also in the Financial District: ~THE BARREL ROOM~ is reopening for dinner on Tuesday October 18th. Co-founder and wine director Sarah Trubnick (CSW, CSWS, DipWSET) shuttered the wine bar and restaurant during the worst of the pandemic, but now it’s back with executive chef and owner-operator Manuel Hewitt. They’re ready to host your after-work get-togethers and holiday gatherings (there’s a 60-seat dining room, 25-seat wine room, and 16-seat cellar and bank vault/speakeasy bar).

Dinner is Tue-Fri 5pm-10pm, with a wine list and food menu that will rotate each quarter and will focus on a different region (there are over 1,000 bottles on the list, with 50 served by the glass). There’s also a full bar. The debut menus will highlight the best of the U.S. wine regions, highlighting familiar as well as more-unusual grape varieties. There are blind flights, too. Look for wine education, special wine club-style webinars and tastings (both in-person or at-home), seminars, and more coming in 2023. There will be an open-to-all launch party on Friday October 21st, when every table will be offered a complimentary glass of bubbles. 415 Sansome St. at Commercial.

After being forced to close due to damage from a water leak in their building, because the pandemic just wasn’t horrible enough, ugh, ~MAISON DANEL~ is back open for lunch, brunch, and afternoon tea. Their current hours are Mon and Thu 8am-3pm, and Fri-Sun 8am-4pm. 1030 Polk St. at Post.

The newly open ~HAZIE’S~ in Hayes Valley (with Bay Area chef and TV personality Joey Altman at the helm) just launched brunch, with an eclectic menu of dishes (it will expand in coming weeks) like latkes, a breakfast fundido, and a beef brisket sandwich (inspired by a Chicago beef), with Sicilian pepperoncini “salsa,” melty provolone cheese, and grain mustard aioli (perhaps watching The Bear made you crave one?). There’s also a lineup of brunch cocktails, including a Boujee Bellini (Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne, guava, mango, peach purée) and a Wake and Bake (bourbon, Mr. Black Coffee Liquor). It’s great to see that corner busy again. Sat-Sun 10am-3pm. 501 Hayes St. at Octavia.

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The Aurélia sweet crēpe with caramel au beurre salé and miettes de spéculoos. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Taco magic from El Ultimo Baile. Puro calidad. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Some new openings for you: ~LE MARAIS~ in the Castro just opened a crêpe window for to-go orders. If you haven’t had a chance to try the buckwheat galettes and crêpes at their Grande Crêperie in the Ferry Building, here’s your chance. (Read more in this Eater piece.) Open daily 8am-5pm. 498 Sanchez at 18th St.

This one is for sandwich lovers: ~HIDDEN SPOT—AVENUES~ has opened inside Neck Of The Woods in the Inner Richmond—you’ll need to walk up the stairs. They have multiple locations: I wrote about the one in SoMa back in April. The menu includes a bunch of hot meat sandwiches (pastrami, shredded chicken, oven-roasted turkey, sliced ribeye), wagyu burgers, karaage chicken burgers, wings, tots, and beer-battered onion rings. Open Mon-Fri 11am-9pm. 406 Clement St. at 5th Ave.

In the Outer Richmond is ~FUKU RAMEN~, “crafted from a ramen enthusiast,” according to the top of their menu. The menu is pretty edited, focused on three kinds of tonkotsu ramen (classic, red garlic, and black garlic tonkotsu ramen), which all come with chashu ($11.95), but you’ll need to order a soft-boiled egg as an add-on ($2.45)—unless you order the Fuku tonkotsu ramen, which comes with everything ($15.50). There are also some appetizers, like gyoza, chicken karaage, and takoyaki. Open Mon-Thu 11:30am-3pm and 5pm-9:30pm, Fri-Sun 11:30am-9:30pm. 2110 Clement St. at 22nd Ave.

Just have to do a shout of excitement for Dominic Prado of the amazing taco truck ~EL ULTIMO BAILE~, who is opening his brick-and-mortar location in Fruitvale (formerly Nyum Bai) on October 15th! Taco nirvana awaits: tacos al carbon, handmade tortillas, banging salsas. Looks like the outdoor patio will be in use; bring on the fiesta—it’s time to celebrate. 3340 E. 12th St. #11 at 33rd Ave., Oakland.

A couple newer openings are closing after just six months of business—you know that has to be tough. The Korean-Chinese junghwa spot ~HOTLINE~ from the Queens superette team (Clara Lee and Eddo Kim) has announced their last day of service is Sunday October 16th—they’re going to be closing with a tasting menu format this weekend, with two seatings. You can read more in their heartfelt post on Instagram. Sorry it didn’t work out. 3560 Taraval St. at 46th Ave.

Another business that is closing Sunday October 16th is ~MIDNITE BAGEL~, which just opened their slowly fermented, whole-grain sourdough bagel shop in the Inner Sunset in May. While the brick-and-mortar location is closing, Nick Beitcher will continue to bake out of his Dogpatch commissary, fulfilling online ordering and retail sales to Bi-Rite Market, The Epicurean Trader, and more. Their stand at the Saturday Ferry Building farmers market and Sunday Sunset and Stonestown markets will continue, with market sandwiches and more. 646 Irving St. at 8th Ave.

Lastly, over on Fillmore and California, Dino Stavrakikis has sold his pizza place, ~SANTINO’S VINO~ (previously Dino’s) after 34 years of business. Be sure to read this in-depth piece in the New Fillmore about why Stavrakikis is clocking out. I spotted some ABC license activity a few weeks ago listing Pinsa Rossa, from Ken Lowe of Ace Wasabi Sushi in the Marina. According to the New Fillmore: “New owner Ken Lowe has announced no decision on changing the popular storefront and is likely for now to keep the wine and pizza format and the longtime employees.” 2101 Fillmore St. at California.

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At Besharam, they really know how to do a family-style spread! Photo: Alicia Fischer.

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The Beacon Lounge at the new Beacon Grand. Photo courtesy of Beacon Grand.

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The Pig & Punch fundraising party from The Bon Vivants returns to SF. Photo: Allison Webber.

There are a bunch of events coming up, and I need to keep this succinct, so click through for more details!

You won’t want to miss this kickoff celebration for Diwali (the Festival of Lights) at ~BESHARAM~ on Saturday October 15th, a one-night-only feast from chef Heena Patel (Diwali begins October 24th). The prix-fixe menu ($125) will be family-style, featuring regional Gujarati flavors in dishes inspired by Heena’s favorite childhood memories of the holiday in India, with dessert from friend and guest chef Hetal Vasavada from Milk & Cardamom. The meal is vegetarian, with vegan and gluten-free options available; wine pairings from Besharam co-owner Paresh Patel are available for $30. Based on the complete flavor extravaganza I just experienced at dinner last week, you are in for something very special. Book on Resy (seatings begin at 5pm). 1275 Minnesota St. at 24th St.

Rose Levy Beranbaum will be in the Bay Area this month for events in support of the publication of her 13th cookbook, The Cookie Bible. The festivities will kick off with a cookies and ice cream party on October 18th at The Ice Cream Bar in Cole Valley (815 Cole St.). The Ice Cream Bar will make one recipe from The Cookie Bible, Rose’s Crescents, and two recipes from Rose’s Ice Cream Bliss, Passion Ice Cream and Raspberry Ice Cream, that will be available for sampling and for sale. Books will be available for sale courtesy of The Booksmith. This event is free to attend. 7:30pm-9pm.

Somebody’s Sister is having a one-year anniversary on October 18th, at Bay Grape in Oakland. After hosting nine pop-ups over the past year, Pamela Busch and Liz Rubin are “super excited for their one-year anniversary party and can’t wait to celebrate the magnificence of being lesbians, dykes, non-binary, trans, and hella queers (and allies) with the Bay Area community.”

San Francisco Restaurant Week is running Friday October 21st-Sunday October 30th, with restaurants offering prix-fixe lunch, brunch, and dinner menus for takeout, delivery, indoor, and outdoor dining at special pricing. Concurrent with Fall Restaurant Week, Eat Drink SF will feature four showcase events around town as well: 

Industry Party Appreciation Night (Monday October 17th, 6pm-9pm at Villon) An evening to celebrate San Francisco’s restaurant community; tickets are free for GGRA members and include specialty cocktails, beverages, and appetizers. 

Opening Celebration Dinner (Friday October 21st, 5:30pm-8:30pm at One Market Restaurant) This one-time-only, all-star dinner includes chefs Charles Phan of the Slanted Door and Chuck’s Takeaway, Mourad Lahlou of Aziza and Mourad, and Belinda Leong of b. Patisserie and Routier, joining chef Mark Dommen of One Market for a spectacular four-course menu, with each chef presenting one course. Beverages will include a welcome cocktail, as well as wine pairings from sommelier Tonya Pitts. Non-alcoholic beverages available. $175 ticket includes the menu, welcome cocktail, and wine pairings. This will be a seated event, please make reservations for your entire party.

Cocktail Party (Wednesday October 26th, 5:30pm-8pm at the Beacon Lounge) Celebrate the history and future of San Francisco at one of Union Square’s new hotels, Beacon Grand (formerly Sir Francis Drake Hotel). Beacon Lounge on the mezzanine is hosting a cocktail party featuring specialty drinks, bubbles, and appetizers from beverage manager Meg Benshalom, executive chef Chris Ahr, and special guest chefs Sharon Nahm from E&O Kitchen and Roland Passot from Left Bank. Tickets: $50.

Closing Brunch (Sunday October 30th, 11am-2pm at China Live) There will be a one-time-only Sunday brunch at China Live, one of the jewels of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Tickets include a specially created menu by chef George Chen, a choice of welcome cocktail, and paired beer or wine. This will be a seated event, please make reservations for your entire party. Tickets: $65.

Get your ticket for this one while you can! On Sunday October 30th, The Bon Vivants (Trick Dog, Quik Dog, Chezchez) are hosting the return of San Francisco’s Pig & Punch fundraising party at District Six (428 11th St.), from 12pm-5pm. There will be dishes from chefs Intu-on Kornnawong of Jo’s Modern Thai, Seth Stowaway of Osito, Timmy Malloy of Trick Dog, Quik Dog, and Chezchez (of course!), and more! There will be punches served from Tap Trucks and you-call-em-highballs, beer, and non-alcoholic beverages; swag; and tunes. Halloween costumes are optional but encouraged—there will be a costume contest with prizes! All proceeds benefit The Bon Vivants Scholarship in partnership with ScholarMatch, which helps first-in-their-family-to-college students in the Bay Area get to and through university.

Tickets: $50 in advance via Resy, $60 at the door.