The Chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)
November 13, 2018

The eggs Benedict at The Saratoga comes with house-smoked ham on a pretzel bun…and béarnaise! Photo: ©


You’ll be tasting through the trio of Westland Distillery’s whiskies (American Oak, the Peated, and the Sherry Wood). Photo courtesy of Westland Distillery.


The famed Jenga tots at The Saratoga. Photo: ©


Mole flautas at The Saratoga. Photo: Karey Walker.


I know, some time has passed since we had a tablehopper gathering, so let’s kick off December with a boozy holiday brunch with Westland Distillery! We’re going to be gathering on Sunday December 2nd at 12pm at ~THE SARATOGA~ in Polk Gulch, which has one of San Francisco’s best brunches going on right now. We’re going to be gathering in the chic downstairs dining room, complete with mohair walls and beautiful vintage art—it has such a swank supper club vibe.

I’m thrilled to be partnering with Westland Distillery on this event—this Seattle-based distillery is known for their single-malt whiskies that use ingredients from the Pacific Northwest to craft a uniquely American single-malt. You’ll get to taste through three expressions: the American Oak, the Peated, and the Sherry Wood. Western Regional Whiskey Ambassador Trent Simpson will be leading us through a tasting and educating us about Westland’s philosophy, process, sourcing, and bringing a few surprises as well.

The Saratoga’s barman and partner Brandon Clements is a wizard with cocktails, and he’s going to be creating three different cocktails for the brunch: expect a citrus cocktail, a Pacific Northwest Irish coffee, and egg nog—I’ll be sharing more details on the actual cocktails soon. And you’re going to be getting three neat pours of the whiskies (the American Oak, the Peated, and the Sherry Wood), so, yes, it’s going to be a boozy brunch. Drink your water.

Now, about the vittles. Chef Francisco Baca puts on quite a brunch every weekend (maybe you were drooling over my recap in Table Talk this week?), and our three-course affair is going to be no exception. The family-style brunch will begin with some canapés; followed by their famed Jenga tots; mole flautas with braised chicken; fried chicken Caesar; eggs Benedict (with soft-poached eggs, house-smoked ham, pretzel bun, English peas, béarnaise); billionaire’s bacon with molasses and whiskey; the killer coffee cake with walnut streusel and vanilla bean gelato; and mimosa doughnut with strawberry glaze and Pop Rocks. Yeah, it’s abundant—bring your fat pants!

Since it’s the holidays, we’re going to have a raffle for charity, with some awesome bottles of whiskey, some groovy Westland swag, some tablehopper t-shirts, and more. We’ll be selling raffle tickets for $5, so please bring cash. Let me just say, you’re going to want to make it rain—these raffle items will in high demand. All proceeds from the raffle will be going to the SF-Marin Food Bank, which could use some support as they keep everyone fed this holiday (every dollar can provide up to four meals).

Not only does your ticket include all three cocktails, but you also get three neat Westland whiskey pours, an abundant three-course brunch, and tax and gratuity are included. Woot woot! The entire ticket price is just $70, all-inclusive (Happy Holidays to you from us!). Seating is very limited (just 23 spots!), so jump on these as soon as you can. We look forward to having some holiday cheer and cheers with you!

The Saratoga
1000 Larkin St. at Post


The whimsical new design at Indian Paradox from Lorena Zertuche. Honk honk! Photo: Grace Sager Photography.


The colorful and patterned new look (and nooks) at Indian Paradox. Photo: Grace Sager Photography.


One of my favorite dishes: the sundal with warm garbanzos and unripe mango. Photo: Grace Sager Photography.

One of the first things people think of when they think of India is bright color, and walking into the newly updated ~INDIAN PARADOX~ on Divisadero, you’re going to get a blast of color, along with bold patterns, new lighting, and design whimsy. Owner and wine director Kavitha Raghavan worked with artist and interior designer Lorena Zertuche (co-owner of the vibrant Loló) to update the three-year-old space, and she has infused the wine bar with her trademark visual energy and clever use of materials.

Anyone who has traveled to India will immediately recognize the truck mural and artwork on the wall, an homage to the over-the-top adorned trucks you’ll see all over India, complete with a humorous “Blow Horn,” but leave it to Zertuche to add colorful milk crates which form a visual truck bed of wine shelving. It made me chuckle.

There are now upholstered and patterned banquettes in the window nooks, bright pillows, a checkered pattern under the bar, repurposed woven Indian floor mats that adorn the walls, and don’t miss the colorful turban installation above the doorway. So many playful touches and things to catch your eye.

There’s nothing like a new look to inspire some other changes, like new glassware to showcase Kavitha’s wine pairings. She’s so passionate about pairing wine with her region-hopping menu of Indian street food dishes, and now with chef Maribel Palomo, they have created a new tasting menu to take things to the next level. With the new four-course menu, you can sit back and enjoy the chaat experience for $35 per person, or go for chaats with four half-pour/2.5 oz. ($55) or four full-glass/5 oz. ($75) pairings for each course, which include both New and Old World wines.

Some sample pairings include the can’t-miss sundal (warm garbanzos with mustard seeds, curry leaves, asafetida, shredded coconut, and unripe mango) paired with a Hannes Sabathi 2017 sauvignon blanc from Austria. Another fun one is the dahi sev puri (semolina puffs filled with jaggery and mint chutneys topped with yogurt, sev, and cilantro) paired with the Ciu Ciu, 2013 sangiovese from La Marche.

I love coming in on a whim here (it’s a no reservations kind of joint), grabbing a seat at the bar so I can chat with Kavitha, but the new window seats are definitely going to be the hot ticket for date night.

Have you had Indian Paradox’s fab Saturday brunch yet? I’m obsessed with the egg akuri (soft-scrambled eggs cooked with Parsi masala, ginger, garlic, turmeric, onions, tomatoes, and cilantro, served with buttered toast). Who can say no to something called disco fry eggs? (You shouldn’t—just say “yes.”) The place is going to be so cute in the daytime. And starting January 20th, 2019, they’ll be extending brunch service to Sundays too (11am-2pm).

Dinner served Tue-Thu 5pm-10pm and Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm. Come on by for some color therapy. 258 Divisadero St. at Haight.


You lookin’ for some big bottles of amazing wine? These guys can help. Photo: ©


A peek at the new “field guide” to Lazy Bear’s 1,000-wine-label list. Photo: ©


The upstairs mezzanine will now be The Lazy Bear Den after 9:30pm. Photo: ©

Last week, ~LAZY BEAR~ hosted quite the kick-off party to celebrate their new wine list and late-night mezzanine experience they’re launching in December. Beverage director Matthew Dulle has been working for the past two years on accumulating a cellar that will offer one of the country’s deepest collections of old, historical California bottlings, including over 60 different labels from Ridge Vineyards alone. And now it’s time for the unveiling. You’re going to have fun scouting through the red, cloth-bound, vintage-style book. 

Dulle, an Advanced Sommelier, decided to let taste and quality drive his choices, and even though you’ll find some big game Napa cabs and the like, there are also some hidden gems from under-appreciated regions and vintages as well. You can dive deep with a rare bottle of Bordeaux from the 1920s, or try something from a current, small producer. The result is a 1,000-label wine list, which you can peruse before your dinner reservation if you want, or enjoy through pairings (the standard $95 or reserve $175 pairing) curated by Lazy Bear’s sommelier team.

But you won’t have to buy a ticket to the full dinner experience to access it. Starting December 1st, guests will be able to head up to the cozy midcentury mezzanine for The Lazy Bear Den (not to be confused with WesBurger’s Den around the corner on Mission). You’ll have access to the new wine list (as well as cocktails and spirits), along with a limited à la carte menu of dishes that you can pair with the wines. You can take a peek at chef David Barzelay’s preview/sample menu, which includes flavorful bites like their miso-cranberry bean soup (with miso they have been fermenting for the past year), ham and biscuits, and then there’s their tableside campfire section, with burnt ends of wagyu ribeye from Miyazaki with smoked beet BBQ sauce and bone marrow-infused tater tots. Yeah, that.

For dessert, you can have fun with the grill-your-own s’mores, with redwood marshmallows, dark chocolate, and graham crackers. Expect things to change—of course that creative kitchen will be working on new bites inspired by the season’s offerings and new flavor discoveries, through the lens of the wild and outdoors.

While it will mostly be about ticketed reservations on the mezzanine (via Tock, $25 deposit per guest to hold, and redeemable on food and drink), they plan to reserve a few tickets to be released day-of (or close to it) so diners can experience it without always having to reserve a month in advance. Tickets go live on Tock Thursday November 15th at 10am. The Lazy Bear Den will be open Tue-Sat 9:30pm-late. 3416 19th St. at Mission.


Calm in the Alfred’s dining room (just before we took it over for our Blue Fox dinner!). Photo: Blair Heagerty Photography.


Katie Kwan and Valerie Luu at the entrance of their new restaurant location. Photo: Andria Lo.

Some fantastic news for my fellow ~ALFRED’S STEAKHOUSE~ fans: after mysteriously closing over the summer, the 90-year-old steakhouse (SF’s oldest steakhouse!) will be reopening December 1st, and former owner Al Petri and his family will be involved once again. Daniel Patterson took over the restaurant from the Petris three years ago—Al Petri is coming out of retirement and he will be the majority investor, but Patterson will remain an investor.

When Patterson took the space over, it got a light update, and with it came a menu upgrade with quality and seasonal products, grass-fed beef, à la carte menu options, and…higher prices. The new format back under Al Petri will offer a fixed-price menu: guests choose which cut of beef they want, and it will come with an appetizer platter for the table; a choice of a Caesar salad, heart of romaine salad, or prawn cocktail; and two sides ($39-$68). Stand by for more updates on the exact opening. 659 Merchant St. at Kearny, 415-781-7058. [Via Inside Scoop.]

In the last tablehopper issue, I broke the news about the changes at Nomica (and chef Hiroo Nagahara’s departure), and a few more details have been released. The new name will be ~IZAKAYA SUSHI RAN~, and will offer “a casual and inviting pub atmosphere, with small, sharable plates, classic izakaya-style ‘tapas’ and a sampling of Sushi Ran’s most popular rolls, selected raw fish, and favorites from the hot kitchen.” They want to offer “neighborhood-friendly prices” and a fun, casual space where guests can swing by for a drink and a bite or more. Sushi Ran’s executive chef Seiji (Waka) Wakabayashi will be overseeing the new menu, which will launch in late November. 2223 Market St. at Sanchez.

Boom: ~HARBORVIEW RESTAURANT AND BAR~ is now open. It’s the new Chinese restaurant from Kinson Wong, a founder of Chinatown’s popular R&G Lounge, that took over the former Crystal Jade on the Embarcadero. There’s no menu posted yet, but look for dim sum and classic Cantonese dishes (some R&G dishes will be coming over). It’s open for lunch Mon-Fri 11am-2:30pm and Sat-Sun 10:30am-2:30pm; dinner is served nightly 5pm-9:30pm. Happy hour is also every day from 3pm-7pm. 4 Embarcadero Center, 628-867-7350

And now some unfortunate news: our dear Rice Paper Scissors ladies, Katie Kwan and Valerie Luu, just announced they unfortunately had to pull the plug on their Folsom Street/Mission location after working so hard to bring their first brick-and-mortar Vietnamese restaurant to fruition the past year and a half. In a post on Instagram, they state: “We experienced some major, unforeseen complications in the restaurant opening process in the last five months and are heartbroken to report that we’re no longer able to open a restaurant at Folsom and 22nd.” You can read more in the post. For now, they ask: “Please reach out to us for any lunch, event or holiday catering, and we encourage you to continue to support local business (like the ones at West Coast Craft this weekend, where we’ll also be—and especially ones run by rad women). We hope to see you soon.” So, do that. Best wishes to them both, they have a lot of fans who are here to support!


The Mission’s new ramen shop, Ramenwell. Instagram photo via @ramenwellsf.


San Diego’s Rakiraki is now in SF. Instagram photo via @rakirakiramen.

Okay ramen lovers, you have two new places to fill up with and enjoy a face steaming: now open in the former Ken Ken Ramen space is ~RAMENWELL~ from Chicago’s Harold Jurado (Yusho, Chizakaya).

You’ll find a variety of broths (a 20-hour pork tonkotsu, chicken, or vegetarian, which includes a mushroom-based broth and a spicy tantanmen broth). The chicken options include chicken tantanmen (a spicy broth made with ground chicken and ground turkey) and tori paitan with turkey chashu (instead of chashu made of braised pork belly, interesting!). Meanwhile, for the pork lovers/eaters, their pork chashu belly is smoked by 4505 Burgers and BBQ after being cured and marinated for two days—special! Bowls are $14-15, and there are some apps as well (like hamachi, a house salad, and the wagyu carpaccio looks amazing), with soft-serve for dessert (matcha-taro!).

The space was completely gutted and now has a sleek and minimalist look, with plenty of counter space for you to slurp in peace at. Beer, wine, and sake are available. Open Mon-Thu 5pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-10:30pm. 3378 18th St. at [Via Eater.]

Now open in Bernal Heights in the former Ichi Sushi is ~RAKIRAKI RAMEN & TSUKEMEN~, an import from San Diego and this is its fourth location. Tokyo-born, chef-owner Junya Watanabe is offering Hakata-style tonkotsu and Tokyo-style tsukemen, along with kimchee ramen, vegetarian miso, plus there are some special edition ramen bowls too (like black or red; peep the menu here). The bowls/ingredients get a little torching on top before they are served. You’ll also find some Yokohama jumbo gyoza, some pretty awesome-looking chicken karaage, sushi rolls, takoyaki, and more.

Inside, there’s a combination of counter seating and two-tops, with lots of plants and a very simple look. Soft-opening hours: daily 5pm-10pm. 3282 Mission St. at Valencia. [Via Eater.]


Of course there is some fun tile happening at Cow Marlowe. Instagram photo via @annaweinbergmarlowe.

~COW MARLOWE~ from the Big Night Restaurant Group (Anna Weinberg and James Nicholas) opens tonight for dinner in Cow Hollow (in the former Eastside West). Seems like a good idea to go have Jennifer Puccio’s burger, and soak in the always-fun style from Ken Fulk. Lunch and brunch begin Saturday December 1st, as well as Sunday dinner service and an all-day menu. For now, hours are Mon-Wed 5:30pm-11pm and Thu-Sat 5:30pm-11pm. (I’ll have pics and more details in the next tablehopper issue, the PR team didn’t have anything in time for our deadline over here.) 3154 Fillmore St. at Greenwich.

Meanwhile, Hayes Valley’s ~LITTLE GEM~ is going to be opening a second location in the former Umami Burger on Union. Co-founder Eric Lilavois and chef David Cruz will continue to offer their clean cooking, which is gluten-free, dairy-fee, and refined sugar-free. Eater adds on Inside Scoop’s story that the opening is slated for spring 2019. 2184 Union St. at Fillmore.

October 30, 2018

The chic counter at The Shota. Photo via Instagram: @theshotasf.


The cheerful counter at Mauerpark. Yelp photo by Matt B.

Opening Thursday November 1st in the former City Counter space in the Financial District is ~THE SHOTA~, an omakase-only sushi restaurant. Way to take over that long counter, it’s kind of perfect. Chef Ingi “Shota” Son will be offering both traditional Edomae-style sushi, integrating techniques like aging, curing, and marinating seafood flown in from Tsukiji Fish Market, plus some modern techniques as well. There will also be some kaiseki-style dishes using seasonal and local ingredients. There are two seatings Tue-Sat: 5:30pm and 8pm. 115 Sansome St. at Bush, 628-224-2074.

There’s a charming and stylish new German café that just opened at 17th Street and Church, ~MAUERPARK~. Cyclists have probably been watching the transformation of the former laundromat into this cute café since it’s on two popular cycling routes. For those who know their German history (or don’t), Mauerpark was formerly the militarized land between the parallel barriers of the Berlin Wall (known as the “death strip”), and after the fall of the wall in 1989, has been transformed into a public space, park, and flea market.

Owner Salome Buelow, whose parents are German immigrants, is offering a menu of breakfast and lunch boards (with meats, cheeses, müsli and fresh fruit, and sausages), plus German pastries, sandwiches, daily specials, toasts, snacks, coffee and espresso service, beers on draft, wine, and some German sodas. The space is super-cute, with a counter, tables, and some comfy upholstered chairs. She wanted to create an open, inviting, inclusive space, where all are welcome—no walls here. Open Tue-Wed 7am-5pm, Thu 7am-9pm, Fri 7am-10pm, Sat 8am-10pm, Sun 8am-5pm. 500 Church St. at 17th St., 415-525-4429.


Owner Sam Mogannam in front of the new Bi-Rite Cafe at Civic Center Plaza. Photo: ©


The exterior awnings slide up and down when it’s time to open and close at the café. Photo: ©

Last week, I paid a quick visit for the awning-lifting ceremony at ~BI-RITE CAFE~ at Civic Center Plaza, which is now open. Congrats to everyone who brought this project to fruition, it was definitely a complicated one (there were a number of entities involved). Owner Sam Mogannam was beaming, and is proud to offer something to the city he loves so much that will hopefully help turn the tide of that beleaguered area (you can read more in this interview with him), along with the new playground that is adjacent to the café. The last time I walked by the corner of Grove and Larkin, I saw a guy shooting up in broad daylight, and now there’s a café and outdoor tables, with bunches of flowers for sale and kids running around. Thanks to the Helen Diller Family Foundation for setting this in motion with their considerable donation.

The café is like a fully outfitted kitchen kiosk, designed to serve the neighborhood, with visitors to the San Francisco Public Library and Asian Art Museum, City Hall workers, residents, and commuters all swirling by. (Kids visiting the library can get a sticker to redeem for fresh fruit at the café.)

They’re serving Sightglass Coffee and offering full espresso service from the window, plus Bi-Rite’s awesome breakfast sandwiches, yogurt parfaits, bagels, toasts, and more in the morning. You can also order sandwiches (like their bacon grilled cheese on crusty bread from The Midwife & The Baker), salads, healthy bowls, soups, and there is also a kid’s menu too. Check out the full menu.

Of course, they’re using quality, local, seasonal ingredients, but are still keeping things at $12 and under. They really want to try to feed the community as best they can without compromising their core food values. They developed the menu for the past 8-9 months, and look forward to offering seasonal specials with produce from their Sonoma farm.

Have a sweet tooth? Soft-serve is available (using Double 8 Dairy water buffalo milk), plus sundaes, ice cream cups, sandwiches, and there’s an affogato. Hours are Mon-Fri 7am-5pm and Sat-Sun 10am-4pm. 52 Grove St. at Larkin.


Kin Khao’s Pim Techamuanvivit. Photo: ©

Some things to look forward to: Pim Techamuanvivit (Kin Khao, Nahm in Bangkok) will be opening ~NARI~ in Japantown’s Hotel Kabuki in spring 2019. Look for a seafood focus (Kin Khao chef de cuisine Meghan Clark will be the lead), a larger space (95 seats), and it will be a bit more “grown up” than Kin Khao. The name, which means “women” in Thai, will pay homage to all the women who have taught Pim how to cook (and the cherished recipes from home). 1625 Post St. at Laguna. [Via Chronicle.]

More details on ~HARBORVIEW RESTAURANT AND BAR~, which is taking over the former Crystal Jade on the Embarcadero: it’s from Kinson Wong, a founder of Chinatown’s popular R&G Lounge. Look for dim sum and classic Cantonese dishes (some R&G dishes will be coming over). They’re hoping for a late fall opening of the 200-seat restaurant. 4 Embarcadero Center. [Via Eater.]


The famed chicken in brioche at Nomica (with miso butter, shiso chimichurri, and chicken essence poured over the top). Photo: ©

Have you ever had the chicken in brioche at ~NOMICA~? Well, you better order it in advance and hustle over there if you want to cross it off your list, because chef Hiroo Nagahara is departing the Castro restaurant in a couple weeks to focus on opening his own project in the Arts District in Los Angeles, Bao Hiroo (remember, he was the chef behind The Chairman truck).

The team at Nomica tells me they are extremely happy for him, but super sad he is leaving. The Nomica concept and his food will disappear after November 15th, yes, including the chicken in brioche. A new concept will be brought over by the team from Sushi Ran to 2223 Market. Details are still being discussed, I will keep you posted on what’s next. Best wishes, Hiroo! LA is lucky to have you. 2223 Market St. at Sanchez.


Le Marais serves their own custom roast from Verve. Photo courtesy of Le Marais.


The open kitchen at the new Le Marais Bakery in the TenderNob. Photo courtesy of Le Marais.


Baguettes from As Kneaded Bakery. Instagram photo via @as.kneaded.bakery.

Hope you love your carbs, because you’re going to be surrounded with new options. First up, ~LE MARAIS BAKERY~ just opened their 3,000-square-foot commissary and bakery in the Tenderloin (with a 2,000-square-foot basement!). Owner Patrick Ascaso sees it as a pastry incubator and lab, a croissanterie, and says this is his most Parisian café design—it’s unique to have the whole kitchen open, so you can watch everything being made.

Head pastry chef Hikari Hori, formerly of Fournée Bakery, is creating inventive pastries like lemon cream-laminated brioche, pluot and chai tea jam beignets, and croissant cones and ice creams (coming in November!), and also coming soon are brunch boards, avocado toast, and croques. For now, you’ll find croissants, pastries, cookies, quiches, and yogurt bowls, plus coffee by Verve Coffee Roasters, featuring their own Le Marais French Roast blend, darker and richer than most roasts. Espresso service is provided on their three-group Strada machine, their largest yet.

They’re ramping up for a busy holiday season for their partnership with Williams Sonoma, shipping croissants nationwide, and a pastry sampler, plus they’ll be offering a peppermint chocolate croissant that tastes like peppermint bark, cinnamon buns, apple swirl danishes, and pumpkin kouign-amanns. And coming soon: a truffle croissant.

The design has a similar look as the Castro, with Joanna Pulcini Acscaso bringing in a mural by Sabina Addis, Paris Metro reproduction tiles by Tabarka Studio, peacock chairs and vintage lights above the pastry case from Chateau Sonoma, lights by Schoolhouse Electric, and outdoor signs by New Bohemian. Hours are 7am-2:30pm, extending to 7am-7pm in mid-November with a brunch and café menu. 1138 Sutter St. at Larkin.

According to ABC permit activity, SoMa’s ~VIVE LA TARTE~ is potentially coming to Noe Valley in the former Bliss Bar—stand by for updates on timing. 4026 24th St. at Noe.

There’s also word that the Inner Richmond’s ~CINDERELLA BAKERY & CAFE~ may be taking over the building that housed La Victoria Mexican Bakery & Cafe, which just closed after 67 years in the Mission. (At least Cinderella has been around since 1953.) Stand by for news as this develops further, owner Mike Fishman knows this deal will take some time. 2937 24th St. at Alabama. [Via Mission Local.]

And anyone near San Leandro is going to want to visit the new brick-and-mortar location of ~AS KNEADED BAKERY~ from Iliana Berkowitz, who is known for her breads at wholesale accounts and farmers’ markets around the Peninsula. It’s an artisan bread bakery specializing in sourdough loaves, French baguettes, challah, and noshes, like bialys and bostocks. It’s the first artisan bread bakery in San Leandro, and one of just a few woman-owned bread-focused bakeries in the Bay. She’ll be open weekends, and is hosting a grand opening this weekend (Saturday November 3rd and 4th) from 10am-5pm—they are offering their first 100 customers a free brioche bite. 585 Victoria Court, San Leandro.


Il Fornaio on Battery Street. Yelp photo by Ali R.

Wow, Italian stalwart ~IL FORNAIO~ has closed its SF location after 30 years at Levi’s Plaza (citing a rent increase, an aging building, and slow business). The other locations in Burlingame, Palo Alto, and San Jose are still open. 1265 Battery St. at Greenwich. [Via Hoodline.]

That construction on Van Ness has been an endless nightmare for many, and sadly it sounded the death knell for neighborhood bar ~BOOTLEG BAR & KITCHEN~, which is closing on November 1st. Their last night, this Wednesday the 31st, they’ll be pouring at going-out-of-business prices: $7 for any liquor, $3 for beers. Read more about the shituation for other businesses on Van Ness as well, like Helmand Palace and Tommy’s Joynt. 2360 Van Ness Ave. at Green.


BSK’s impeccable waffles. Yelp photo by Pei K.


Flora in Oakland. Photo via Facebook.

After 10 years of serving the best fried chicken and waffles in West Oakland, Tanya Holland has officially closed her famed and beloved ~BROWN SUGAR KITCHEN~ at 2534 Mandela Parkway. It just wasn’t profitable, in spite of its popularity, and the maintenance and upkeep (trash, graffiti) was expensive. [Via Eater.]

She’s focused on her two upcoming locations (2295 Broadway in Uptown Oakland and the San Francisco Ferry Building Marketplace), and news just came out that she created a menu for Whole Foods Market Oakland’s Floodcraft Taproom (at 230 Bay Place). You’ll find snacks like yam wedges with Creole spice and sweet corn and jalapeño hush puppies, small plates like jerk pork belly sliders with pineapple-cabbage slaw, and larger plates like a Creole BBQ burger on a Firebrand bun and a fried chicken sandwich (it was all designed to pair with Floodcraft’s beer list). Best wishes to Tanya on her new projects, we’re all looking forward.

Over at ~FLORA RESTAURANT & BAR~ in Oakland, Rebecca Boice (previously Zuni Cafe) is the new executive chef. She’s integrating some Italian influences on the menu—look for comforting “cucina della nonna” and dishes inspired by her travels, like calia e simenza (
a Sicilian street food snack of crispy chickpeas and pumpkin seeds), housemade focaccia, market-driven salads, pasta, grilled meats, braises, and meatballs. 1900 Telegraph Ave. at 19th St., Oakland.

There’s a second location of ~BEAUTY’S BAGEL SHOP~ now open in Uptown. Open Mon-Fri 7am-3pm for now. 1700 Franklin St. at 17th St., Oakland.

Whoa, over in Berkeley, ~SPENGER’S FISH GROTTO~ unexpectedly and abruptly closed after being open since, oh, 1890. Jamestown, the investment and management company that owns Spenger’s, along with the Fourth Street development it’s part of (as well as Ghirardelli Square) announced this: “”We look forward to repositioning Spenger’s with an innovative concept that makes the most of the DNA from the pre-1950s.” You can read more in this Berkeleyside post. 1919 4th St. at University, Berkeley.

October 16, 2018

Brenda’s famed crawfish beignets. Photo: Libby Truesdell.


Brenda’s famed fried chicken. Photo: Libby Truesdell.


A po’boy from Brenda’s Meat & Three. Photo via Facebook.

You know what makes me happy? When one of the first chefs I ever interviewed, oh, like 14 years ago (back in 2004!) gets in touch to let me know about her new project. That would be Brenda Buenviaje of local Brenda’s fame—I met her when she was working at Café Claude, way back when! It has been so rewarding to watch her business grow with her wife and business partner, Libby Truesdell, which includes our city’s beloved Brenda’s French Soul Food, Brenda’s Meat & Three, and Libby Jane Cafe.

But now, the ladies are heading across the Bay and will be opening ~BRENDA’S~ in Temescal! Brenda tells me they have been looking for a location in Oakland for a couple years, and are thrilled to be opening in a new building (which will include apartments above), the Maya, at Broadway and 41st. It’s about six months out, so we’re looking at late spring 2019.

Brenda’s will be fast-casual, and will feature the best of their signature items, like beignets, brunch items, fried chicken, and po’boys (with some new ones coming too). Since the area is more residential, they will have some kid-friendly additions like milkshakes, and some family meals (with chicken!) to bring home. It’s important to them to have Brenda’s be accessible to all.

The corner space is a new buildout, but will feature the Brenda’s southern diner style, with hardwood floors, ceiling tiles, murals, and there will be big windows, including exhibition windows from the street onto the kitchen so you can watch them make beignets! There will be some counter seats, and outdoor seating as well.

Hours will be Wed-Mon 8am-10pm (closed Tue), serving breakfast and brunch and then transitioning to lunch/supper/dinner service. Stand by for more details as the project takes shape. Oakland, get excited—the beignets are coming. 4045 Broadway at 41st St., Oakland.


The dining room at Prairie. Photo courtesy of Prairie.


Guanciale-wrapped mochi in a radicchio leaf. Photo: ©


Pane distrutto—get it while you can. Photo: ©


Berkshire spare ribs with a Calabrian XO rub. Photo: ©


The delightfully fizzy Suntory Toki highball with grapefruit. Photo: ©

I’ve been keeping you posted about the opening of chef Anthony Strong’s ~PRAIRIE~ in the former Hog & Rocks location in the Mission, and now I have a firsthand update for you since I was invited for an opening night meal last week!

He’s done an impressive remodel of the space, sporting a crisp look with white ash tables and natural modern chairs, and the walls feature wood panels dyed a deep indigo. Add in the modern light fixtures, groovy scene at the eight-seat bar, retro artwork, and eclectic, upbeat soundtrack, and you’ve got a fun scene happening here. Oh yeah, and a madonna at the door to greet you (nothing like sourcing some South San Francisco statuary to add some Neapolitan vibes). You’ll also notice that the infamous din that was at Hog & Rocks has disappeared—they added some sound-dampening panels, and even more should be coming soon.

Your server will check in with you, but it’s pretty much up to you to grab a red pencil on the table and start selecting what you want to eat off the menu. While Strong is known for his years of making Italian food, at Prairie, he’s showing his love of Japanese cuisine and ingredients, along with Chinese influences, and some other items he’s pulling from his food lover’s pantry. It’s freestyle, creative, and meant to be shared.

Start with the guanciale-wrapped mochi ($4 each), nestled inside radicchio, with some nori and a few dollops of syrupy aged balsamic. Another bite you’ll need to indulge in while you can is the pane distrutto ($4), a craggy piece of olive oil-toasted bread soaked with early girl tomato juices—it’s basically a total mouthful of end-of-summer bliss. I also stepped a foot into fall with the chicories salad ($11), with a dressing that nods toward a Caesar, but of course we added some hot guanciale on top ($4). The menu has plenty of vegetarian and vegetable-focused dishes, and there is even a keto designation on dishes.

Pastas include plump Gulf shrimp and burrata tortelli ($19), and buttered tagliatelle with a rich sugo of chicken bits and Parmigiano ($18), almost like a satisfying Italian stroganoff that you mix into the noodles, but with chicken.

The kitchen’s two charcoal grills (a Josper from Spain and a J&R Woodshow Broiler from Texas) are the masters behind half of the menu, giving a smoky kiss to dishes like meaty Berkshire spare ribs ($25) with a Calabrian XO rub (it’s almost like you’re eating in an awesome Chinese restaurant in Italy), and the platter of lamb blade chops ($27) with arugula and lemon at the table next to us looked like something I’d have at a dream grigliata for Ferragosto in Italy. I’ll be coming back for the marrow bones ($22) with a sherry luge, which are right where they should be: in the “fun” section on the menu.

The cocktail list features some fabulously carbonated highballs, thanks to the Suntory Toki highball machine (I was way into my Suntory Toki with grapefruit, so refreshing alongside the smoky ribs). Becky with the Good Hair ($13) is a beaut, a golden-orange gin cocktail with lime and a turmeric-sea buckthorn shrub that almost tasted healthy (I fell in love with sea buckthorn while traveling in Russia).

The Italian-leaning wine list has all kinds of food-friendly selections available by the glass or bottle (Anthony worked with LA-based Lucid Selections on it), and there are five beers on draft, with some Japanese beers by the bottle. Be sure to check out the “Not-A-Flamethrower” on a back bar shelf (it’s locked!), released in limited numbers by Elon Musk’s Boring Company. (Don’t worry, they won’t be using it on any drinks or customers.) There’s also some outdoor seating, and brunch is coming soon. Dinner served Tue-Sun beginning at 5:30pm.

Note that an 18 percent service charge will be added to each bill in lieu of tips (this allows them to provide better wages and benefits to every member of the team), plus a 4 percent surcharge for SF employer mandates (“Healthy SF”). 3431 19th St. (between Valencia and Mission), 415-483-1112.


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


Get ready to tuck into quite the Afro-Caribbean spread at Isla Vida. Photo: Melissa de Mata.

Congrats to Jay Foster, Matthew Washington, and Erin Traylor for getting ~ISLA VIDA AFRO-CARIBBEAN GRILL~ open in the Fillmore District—they just did a trial run over the weekend! Boom.

Isla Vida will be open again this Wednesday, serving up wood-fired meats like jerk rotisserie chicken, tostones, Cubanos, and made-to-order churros. Chef Jay Foster says, “”With Isla Vida, we explore the next chapter of soul food, through the African diaspora in the Caribbean. We even custom-made a wood-fire grill for the kitchen. Cooking on an open fire lets us prepare the food the way our ancestors did.”

To recap, this black-owned business took over the former Black Bark BBQ space, and they’re interested in hiring people from the Fillmore neighborhood (as they say in a press fact sheet: “Training and mentoring is an integral part to the Isla Vida mission and vision of bringing Black-owned businesses back to the Fillmore neighborhood.”).

They are offering a fast-casual experience, and intend to run their own delivery service. Hours will be Wed-Sun 11am-8pm, with plans to open at 10am on the weekends for brunch soon (there’s outdoor seating too!). Welcome to the neighborhood! 1325 Fillmore St. at Ellis.


The trio of half-rolls and seasoned fries at Luke’s Lobster. Photo: ©


A shrimp roll and slaw. Photo: ©


The back wall at Luke’s Lobster, complete with buoys and the historic building’s exposed lathe. Photo: Isabel Baer.

Last week, I attended a preview of ~LUKE’S LOBSTER~, an import from the East Coast (the founders are third-generation lobsterman Luke Holden and partner Ben Conniff). It’s a fast-casual spot, focused on lobster, crab, and shrimp rolls in buttered, split-top rolls, plus clam chowder, lobster-corn chowder, Patagonia Provisions’ smoked mussels, and more.

Luke’s Lobster is a vertically integrated seafood company, which means they oversee every step of the supply chain (“from dock to table”), and are committed to serving high-quality and responsibly sourced seafood. The chalkboard in the shop lists the harbors where the seafood is from, and is updated daily. One interesting thing they do is after lobster is purchased from their fishermen partners in Maine and Canada, it’s brought immediately to Luke’s Lobster Seafood Company in Saco, Maine, where it’s separated, size-graded, steamed, picked, and packed, and then distributed to Luke’s Lobster’s shacks nationwide. Luke’s Lobster Seafood Company is the only seafood company in North America to be both Marine Stewardship Council [MSC] certified for sustainability and Safe Quality Food [SQF] Level 3-certified for quality and safety.

I recommend trying their trio of half-rolls to start ($19), but if you know you want to hit the lobster, go for it—you get a 1/4 lb. of chilled, wild-caught lobster in a buttery split-top bun with lemon melted butter, mayo, and their secret seasoning (it’s $16). I like how lightly dressed it was, and because of the way they sort and prepare the lobster meat separately, none of the pieces were over-cooked. You can also trade out the bun for salad ($1 extra). A side of their poppyseed slaw ($2) and seasoned fries ($3) complete the picture. Here’s the current menu, which also includes calories (it’s not as bad as you may think) and their full happy hour offering (check out the Jonah crab claw platter!).

There are craft beers and wines as well, and there’s a unique beer they’re pouring in collaboration with Black Hammer Brewing—the limited-run beer was brewed with lobster shells and kelp!

The corner location in SoMa has a lot of historic touches, from the vintage terrazzo floor to the brick and exposed lathe walls, with large windows and outdoor seating. It’s in the Bourdette Building, which was the only commercial downtown building to survive the 1906 earthquake and fire (she’s tough like that). And you don’t want to miss the lobster boat soundtrack in the bathroom, complete with seagull squawks.

According to Yelp posts, the opening has been a little hectic, so think about giving them a little time, and then pre-ordering via their app would be the move. Open Mon-Fri 11am-9pm, Sat-Sun 12pm-7pm. There’s also a happy hour every day from 4pm-7pm, with $2 off all beer and wine, plus mini lobster rolls, and a special on a lobster roll and a beer for $19. 92 2nd St. at Mission, 415-483-1580.


The Twitter Building. Photo via The Market’s Facebook page.


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


The Ferry Building. Photo courtesy of Ferry Building Marketplace.

Another week, another new food hall project (you read about La Cocina’s big Municipal Marketplace project, right?)! This one is going to be an extension of The Market in the Twitter building: The Market Square Food Hall, a 14,000-square-foot project from Chris Foley, a local real estate investor and developer.

They are looking for up-and-coming chefs, breweries, and entrepreneurs who want to grow their business—there will be space for multiple food artisans, curated retail, a brewery, plus dining areas and an open kitchen. Partners will receive technical assistance with permits, constructing, and opening their space, as well as back office support like cleaning, security, marketing, and events. The team is particularly interested in speaking with entrepreneurs who are Bay Area-based, have an engaged online following, and want to be part of building community. Underrepresented chefs or retailers are strongly encouraged to apply. Deadline is October 18th!

The Chase Center has announced their restaurant and beverage partners, which includes La Cocina and Old Skool Café (the youth-run, jazz-themed supper club in Bayview-Hunters Point) as part of the Taste Makers program, along with local restaurants and specialty vendors Sarap Shop (Filipino flavors for vegans and omnivores); Omakase Restaurant Group’s Live Sushi and Dumpling Time; Chef BOUG (crab cake po’boys and other soulful fare from Bayview chef Tiffany Carter); CC Made (artisanal caramel popcorn from Cassandra Chen, a member of Working Solutions Group and Chase Entrepreneurs of Color Program); Earl’s Brittle (the “world’s tastiest peanut brittle,” made by Bayview resident and advocate Earl Shaddix); Yvonne’s Southern Sweets (from Bayview resident Yvonne Hines); Sugar & Spun (an unconventional spin on cotton candy, a member of Working Solutions Group and Chase Entrepreneurs of Color Program); and Five Dot Ranch beef.

They will be joining Tony G’s Pizza (from Tony Gemignani), Bakesale Betty’s, Tacolicious, Sam’s Chowder House of Half Moon Bay, plus the exclusive Hot Dog Bill’s Burger Dog (previously available only to members at San Francisco’s Olympic Club Golf Course), and they will be reviving Big Nate’s BBQ in homage to the Warriors’ history and late NBA Hall-of-Famer Nate Thurmond. (This is all in partnership with Bon Appétit Management Company and Levy Restaurants.) The arena is set to open in the fall of 2019 in Mission Bay.

Some big news rippled through the Bay Area that the Ferry Building and Marketplace has been sold to Hudson Pacific Properties and Germany’s Allianz for $291 million. Whoa. The farmers’ market is reportedly going to be expanded, and the tower will be opened to the public. The article in the Chronicle also alludes to the new owners raising rents for some tenants in 2019. Fortunately, CUESA and the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market have their lease locked in for the next 10 years and will not be affected.


Croissant perfection at Arsicault Bakery. Yelp photo by Stephanie L.


The colorful bar at the new SOMA Eats. Photo: Craig Hackey.

Fans of ~ARSICAULT BAKERY~ (famous for their croissants, and other amazing baked goods) will be happy to hear owner-baker Armando Lacayo is opening a new location in Civic Center next year, “where he’ll eventually serve more of his signature croissants and kouign amanns, plus new offerings like sourdough bread and classic French desserts.” This location will also have later hours, sandwiches, espresso service, and more seating. 83 McAllister at Leavenworth. [Via Eater.]

Shirley Azzghayer and Oussama Mannaa have opened a second location of ~SOMA EATS~ on the Embarcadero in the Rincon Tower on Spear Street. The fine-casual menu is Middle Eastern-inspired Californian cuisine, and includes breakfast items and a variety of salads and sandwiches for lunch. The new location will additionally serve a lamb tagine bowl, lentil protein bowl, and pomegranate chicken bowl. There’s also a staggering number of beers (over 300!) and wine, with 9 beers and 6 wines on tap, and they added espresso service.

The space includes a U-shaped bar, bright turquoise tiles, and a large TV to watch games. Hours to start are Mon-Fri 7am-2pm (breakfast and lunch), with happy hour, a full-service night menu, and craft low-ABV cocktails to follow. 121 Spear St. at Howard.

A tablehopper reader tipped me off that the owner of PPQ Crab Dungeness Island (Sam Chang) is opening a business in the Sunset called ~GOLDEN CRAB HOUSE~. It’s going into the Nami Ramen location, and is reportedly opening soon. 1830 Irving St. at 20th Ave.

The team behind Finn Town and Papi Rico are planning to open ~LITTLE FINN EMPORIUM~ in the Castro in spring 2019, offering sandwiches, soups, salads, charcuterie, and cheeses, as well as “Daddycakes” original baked goods (from Lori Baker) and Coletta organic gelato, plus catering platters designed for easy delivery. Stand by for more. 2215 Market St. at Noe.


A killer spread at Prubechu. Instagram photo via @restaurantprubechu.

Was sorry to read that ~LA VICTORIA BAKERY~ has closed after 67 years in the Mission. You can read more about the family dispute that brought it down in this Chronicle article. 2937 24th St. at Alabama.

~BOTELLÓN~ in the Castro has closed less than one year in business. Neighbor Brewcade is reportedly looking into possibly expanding into the space to have access to a restaurant kitchen. 2200 Market St. at Sanchez. [Via Hoodline.]

I received a note from the ~PRUBECHU~ team that their landlord has granted them an extension on their space until November 1st (they initially closed on September 29th), so you can come by for dinner and show support for chef Shawn Naputi and general manager Shawn Camacho until October 31st. Book your reservation now! Here’s hoping they find a new space soon. 2847 Mission St. at 24th St.


The Saucy Awards totally deserved a Saucy cocktail (thanks to Campari America). Photo via Facebook.

I have some local food news updates for you, starting with the announcement of the nominations for the Golden Gate Restaurant Association’s third annual Saucy Awards! Take a look to see who is up for Chef of the Year, Beverage Professional of the Year, and many more categories, 21 in all. (I was honored to be a part of the steering committee again this year—the committee was in charge of narrowing down the nominations to four finalists per category.) I’m also so happy to see Nancy Oakes is receiving the GGRA’s Lifetime Achievement Award. And Mayor London Breed will give a keynote speech recognizing the Bay Area hospitality community and all of the honorees.

Winners will be announced at a gala on Monday November 12th, at the historic Herbst Theater. Get your tickets here, $149 each, which include the awards ceremony and a post-reception catered by Meadowood Catering. The Saucys benefit the non-profit Golden Gate Restaurant Association Scholarship & Education Foundation (GGRASF). See you there! 7pm. 401 Van Ness Ave. at McAllister.

I haven’t had a free moment to tune in yet, but big congrats to Samin Nosrat for her new documentary series that just launched on Netflix, Salt Fat Acid Heat, based on her New York Times best-selling cookbook! You get to armchair travel to Italy, Japan, the Yucatán, and back home to Chez Panisse. Check it out (and you’ll improve your cooking skills).


Camino in the evening. Photo via Facebook.


Bardo’s upstairs dining room. Photo: Anna Wick.


The fun, midcentury style at Bardo Lounge & Supper Club. Photo: Anna Wick.


A dish from the duo behind Abstract Table. Photo via Abstract Table’s Facebook page.

It was already unexpected news when ~CAMINO~’s owners Russell Moore and Allison Hopelain announced they’re closing their 10-year-old Oakland restaurant at the end of December (operating costs and staffing are a challenge, a problem throughout the Bay Area, and they’re also ready for a break). Their other project, The Kebabery, will remain open.

But the surprises continue with the news of Camino’s replacement: a location of ~ZACHARY’S CHICAGO PIZZA~ will be opening there in 2019. The menu will be similar to other Zachary’s locations, and the pizzeria is also hoping to have full liquor, which would be a first for them—but no word about the fate of the hearth. Stand by for more. 3917 Grand Ave. at Sunnyslope, Oakland. [Via Chronicle.]

Another pizza takeover: a second location of ~BENCHMARK PIZZERIA~ has opened in the former Desco in Old Oakland. Owners Peter and Melissa Swanson (both Oliveto alums) are offering “Neo-Neapolitan” pizza with some California touches (think sourdough starter for the dough, and some creative toppings), plus housemade pastas, and some entrées too. There’s also a cocktail list, designed by Tamir Ben-Shalom of Bull Valley Roadhouse. Hours are Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm and dinner Sun-Wed 5pm-9pm and Thu-Sat 5pm-10pm. 499 9th St. at Washington, Oakland, 510-488-6677. [Via East Bay Express.]

Seth and Jenni Bregman have opened their first project in the former Michel Bistro in the Lakeshore neighborhood, ~BARDO LOUNGE & SUPPER CLUB~, and it’s a swanky and fun-looking spot. It’s designed to feel like a midcentury modern dinner party, with a retro living room atmosphere, complete with vintage furnishings and glassware. The food (from Anthony Salguero and Brian Starkey) and cocktails from Jason Huffman also have a throwback feel, with some modern touches. Come by for happy hour, dinner (served upstairs, for $59), or late-night bites—weekend brunch will be coming later. Open Wed-Mon 5pm-2pm (dinner from 5:30pm-9pm, Fri-Sat until 10pm; snacks until 12am, and 1am Fri-Sat). 3343 Lakeshore Ave. at Trestle Glen, Oakland, 510-836-8737.

Chefs (and conceptual artists) Andrew Greene and Duncan Kwitkor have made their Abstract Table pop-up dinner series a permanent fixture at The Gastropig in Uptown Oakland. They serve a five-course ($50 per person) and seven-course ($70 per person) tasting menu that rotates every three months, and is treated like a dining “exhibition,” but unlike most art galleries, is meant to be unpretentious and relaxed. Their next one will be “Blizzards,” beginning December 7th, and will take diners on a culinary journey through the winters of Japan and Scandinavia. Sake, beer, and wine are also available. Reservations for this series will be available on starting November 7th. 2123 Franklin St. at 21st St., Oakland.

He’s baaaaaack, just in time for Halloween nightmares. Chef Charlie Hallowell, accused of sexual harassment by more than 30 employees, has released a 12-point plan that is supposed to be a roadmap for his return to work after stepping away the past 10 months.

The fact that he thought the inclusion of a monthly dunk tank in the plan was a good idea (are you frigging kidding me?), and that (now) co-owner and managing partner Donna Insalaco signed off on it, shows a pretty twisted sense of reality (and of restaurant culture, and how to make amends). Yup, a dunk tank is really going to lighten things up. Way to diminish the weight of all the pain, damage, abuse, and suffering he has inflicted on far too many employees. Its inclusion nullifies every other point in his “plan.” And to think they are also gunning to open a new restaurant in Berkeley, Western Pacific. His hubris is as infuriating as it is staggering. It’s time for Harvey Weinstein to buy some remote property and create Shame Island—we have plenty of men to send there to keep him company, starting with this guy. One-way ticket only.

Let’s end this piece on a positive note by focusing on news from a female- and black-owned business: ~CUPCAKIN’ BAKE SHOP~ has relocated to Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. Owner and Oakland native Lila Owens has moved her five-year-old bake shop to a larger, brighter, and contemporary space, offering her scratch-made cupcakes in more than a dozen rotating and seasonal flavors, as well as gluten-free and vegan options. Owens will open two additional Cupcakin’ locations later this fall: the first in early November at Swan’s Market in Old Oakland, and the second in early December in the space formerly occupied by Virginia Bakery at 1690 Shattuck Avenue in North Berkeley. The Shattuck location will serve as the commissary kitchen for all three bake shops and the catering business. Open Mon-Sat 11am-9pm and Sun 11am-6pm. 2391 Telegraph Ave. at Channing, Berkeley.

October 2, 2018

The bar at Angler. Photo courtesy of Angler.


The open kitchen and hearth at Angler. Photo courtesy of Angler.


Purple sea urchin. Photo courtesy of Angler.


California king crab like you have never had it. Photo courtesy of Angler.

A couple weeks ago, I was able to take a peek inside the brand-new ~ANGLER~ at a preview party for World’s 50 Best Talks, and the former Chaya has been converted in quite the spiffy waterfront restaurant. Owners Joshua Skenes and Mark Bright of the three-Michelin-starred Saison have already proven their dedication to excellence of flavor, ingredients, sourcing, service, and wine and spirits, and at Angler, it’s all going to be a little bit more accessible than Saison’s $298 menu (appetizers are $12-$28, while mains are $20-$48).

Working with executive chef Nicolas Ferreira, Skenes has brought over his dedication to cooking over live fire: here, it’s a 32-foot wood burning hearth. With his finely tuned techniques, and micro-sourcing from local fishermen, hunters, gatherers, ranchers, and farmers, you can expect dishes that are designed to showcase quality ingredients at their best, while slowly and carefully nurturing natural flavors at peak taste.

You can take a look at the menu here, although it’s a cryptic one, and will be updated daily. While it’s a sea life-focused restaurant—with spot prawns, scorpion fish, and Monterey abalone, and there are massive fish tanks to keep them in—you’ll also find meats like hot grilled rabbit, vegetables, and a raw bar and selection of salads. Naturally, there is caviar service with their own private batch.

Mark Bright has assembled a wine cellar that is of course heavy on the Burgundy (he has access to some of the best), but other classic regions are represented as well, plus some aged selections. There is also a full bar, featuring small-batch distillers and well-known spirits too.

The front dining room has 46 seats, with 12 at the counter, and 28 in the bar and salon. The room has brick walls adorned with fish taxidermy and is anchored by the open kitchen in the back, with bouquets of drying herbs hanging, flowers, books, and ephemera that make it feel cozy and welcoming like a French countryside kitchen.

The back room, The Game Room, has a hunting lodge feel, with wood paneling at the back bar and the walls, tobacco upholstered banquettes, and an enormous taxidermied bear that is mid-pounce, along with other animals that would have made my Uncle Gino proud (he was such a hunter). There is room for 30, and it’s designed to also be used for private dining.

Initial hours are Sun-Thu 5pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm. You’ll want to book your table before it completely blows up, the word on the street is hot. Valet parking available for $20. 132 The Embarcadero at Mission, 415-613-4447.


At Pizzeria Delfina. Photo: ©

Well, this is exciting: Craig and Annie Stoll are expanding their ~PIZZERIA DELFINA~ mini-empire with a new downtown location, coming to the former A.G. Ferrari at 688 Mission Street at 3rd Street. Craig tells me they have been looking for a location in the area for about ten years—they love the bustle and energy. This will be their fifth location (the pizzeria is also in the Mission, Pacific Heights, Palo Alto, and Burlingame).

There will be 80 seats, with a wine bar inside, and sidewalk seating coming too. They will continue with their theme of featuring a mural of San Francisco Bay (mimicking the Neapolitan pizzeria tradition of always having a mural or picture of the Bay of Naples)—this one will be by artist Shawn Bullen (he is behind the bee in Hayes Valley).

The menu will be like the other locations, serving the same repertoire of dishes with seasonal changes, but they will also be adding soft-serve featuring Double 8 Dairy, and a deeper wine list. Look for a new Delfina chardonnay from their collaboration with Scribe Winery, poured en mag, plus 12 beers on tap. Lunch and dinner will be served daily.

If the pizza gods cooperate, they should be open at the end of November or early December. Stand by for news on when you can get a Purgatorio pizza! 688 Mission St. at 3rd St.


Tacos are coming to the former post office: get ready for the La Cocina Municipal Marketplace. Photo: ©


The old post office, and future home of the La Cocina Municipal Marketplace. Photo: ©


La Cocina businesses like Mi Morena were at the bread-breaking (and fed us, lucky us). Photo: ©

Last week was an important one for business incubator La Cocina: they celebrated a “bread breaking” at their future ~LA COCINA MUNICIPAL MARKETPLACE~ in the Tenderloin, with Mayor London Breed, Supervisor Jane Kim, La Cocina executive director Caleb ZIgas, and members of the community (La Voz Latina, Central City SRO Collaborative) speaking about the importance of supporting this project, not only for La Cocina, but for the neighborhood, the city, and beyond.

This all-women-led, 7,000-square-foot marketplace is taking over the former post office at 101 Hyde Street at Golden Gate, a particularly challenging corner in the city, especially since the post office closed. The city-owned location is eventually going to be developed and converted into affordable housing, but that’s going to take some time—so for at least the next seven years, La Cocina has a lease with extremely low rent, an absolute rarity in this city that is so challenging for small businesses, let alone ones owned by women, immigrants, and people of color.

It’s going to be the first women-led food hall in the country, with seven La Cocina graduates (primarily immigrants and women of color) who will have their own kiosks. There will also be a pop-up kiosk, a dining area, a marketplace bar, a community kitchen (offering below-market-rate kitchen space to entrepreneurs and community groups for food production), classes, and more. They want to feed the neighborhood, offering quality and affordable and delicious food, while also creating 30 jobs for low-income individuals.

Not only will the marketplace provide an equitable opportunity for La Cocina entrepreneurs to gain experience in building their businesses, but the food hall format will also allow them to diminish the burden of high commercial rent, as well as share labor, maintenance, and other operating costs. It’s also going to do a lot to activate that corner, and help support the neighborhood. This is such an innovative and inspiring project—which has been three years in the making—offering a replicable model for economic development for cities across the nation. It’s a win-win-win-win-win (there are a lot of wins).

La Cocina is still fundraising for the project: they have raised 65% of their $5MM goal, but still need some financial support to bring it home. If you would like to make a donation in support of the La Cocina Municipal Marketplace, or know someone who would support the project, please send Development and Communications Manager Jessica Mataka an email or call at 415-824-2729, ext. 307.

Construction is now underway, and they are targeting a spring opening. Congratulations and much respect to Caleb and the entire La Cocina team on this big next step. 101 Hyde St. at Golden Gate.


The wonderful Tamale Lady (Virginia Ramos). Photo via Twitter, source unknown.

What kind of a San Francisco is one without The Tamale Lady? Last Friday, the city was distraught over the terrible news that our dear lady of the tamal, Virginia Ramos, has left us at the far-too-young age of 65. She was a magical and mythical figure, who would appear like an angel at the bar or beer bust where you were most likely drinking far too much, and probably hungry. You’d turn, and suddenly there she was, usually with her beanie and always with her little cart and coolers in tow. You’d see a flurry of happy activity around her, with a “How you doin’, honey?” as she’d dip into her cooler and produce a warm tamal—you’d order two if you were smart—pour some salsa from her plastic dispenser, hand you a paper towel and fork, and give you a beaming smile and a hug.

She fed us all like we were her children. Granted, we were her drunk and disorderly children, but she loved us. She always knew when we needed her most.

For me, it was often at the end of the Sunday beer bust at The Eagle. She’d laugh at me hanging out in a sea of gay men and chaps. One time, I got smart and asked for her mobile number. I used to host a biweekly happy hour (a very blurry one) at Vertigo on Polk in the early aughts, and told her we’d have many patrons in need of her divine sustenance at the end of the party. It felt extra-magic to be able to summon her like that. Man, did everyone lose their mind when she would show up with her cart. TA-MAL-ES!

Tamales are already so ridiculously labor-intensive to make, but could you imagine schlepping around a cart and coolers and salsa and paper towels and forks and feeding a bunch of drunks? That is a rare human. Virginia was exquisitely rare.

It breaks my heart that she was so close to opening her brick-and-mortar location in the Mission, soooo close. The project was beleaguered with delays and issues, but it was heartening to see so many people rally around her and try to help when she got booted from selling her tamales at Zeitgeist (and other bars around town) when the city deemed her enterprise a violation of city health codes (a special shout-out to Nate Allbee and David Campos for spearheading the initial location search). Oh, the irony about the recent bill Governor Brown just signed into law that will help allow Californians to prepare and sell food from their home kitchens.

There will be a vigil in her honor on Tuesday October 9th at Duggan’s Funeral Service (3434 17th St.) from 4pm-7pm, with a rosary at 7pm. The funeral will be Wednesday October 10th at 11am at Mission Dolores Church. According to a tweet from her account, presumably a family member, she had heart trouble. Yeah, it was just too big.

Virginia, San Francisco is ever-grateful for all the love and care you took to feed us, love us, worry about us, and make us so proud to have the one and only Tamale Lady to claim as our own. You made our city that much cooler. (And delicious.) You will be sorely missed—you were one of those mythic and beloved SF characters who is irreplaceable and will never be forgotten. Condolences to her family and all her friends. Rest in peace.


Zarzuela’s prime corner location. Photo via Facebook.

Some big news on Hyde Street: after being open since 1994 (as long as I have lived in San Francisco!), Andy Debbane and Lucas Gasco’s beloved Spanish stalwart ~ZARZUELA~ will be closing soon for a new project and ownership that is taking over.

Executive chef Michael Pawlik—who has been cooking at Russian Hill neighbor Frascati for the past 12 years—is going to be moving in with his co-owner and girlfriend Amanda Banks Barker to open ~ABRAZO~ (which they are defining as “a warm embrace”). Pawlik will be paying homage to what Zarzuela has built there over the past 24 years, offering a Spanish-forward, Mediterranean menu, but it will not include traditional tapas. Banks Barker—who is the bar manager of mamanoko in the Marina—will be putting together the wine list, as well as offering sherry-based cocktails.

There is not a specific closing date set as of yet, so head over for a final paella and tortilla and “gracias” for all the years of great meals while you can. Zarzuela will operate until the transfer process is complete, and the new duo is planning on getting the keys the first week of November. They hope to get a couple soft openings done by the end of November and open to the public the first week of December.

The room will be updated with cosmetic upgrades and new furniture, fixtures, awnings, table tops, china, glass, and silver to create a warm and inviting ambiance. Pawlik is happy to remain in the neighborhood, and loves the idea of being able to continue offering a great dining experience. 2000 Hyde St. at Union.


The former location (as 398 Restaurant & Bar). Photo by Kelly Puleio.

The last time we heard about Union Square’s Hotel G, the Tartine team was planning a café project with April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman, but we know why that fell apart.

The replacement concept is ~AYALA~, and the new operators are LA’s Cast Iron Partners (who were part of the last project), with chef-partner Bill Montagne (coming from the East Coast: Snaggletooth in Chicago, and most recently at Paul Kahan’s Nico Osteria), executive chef Melissa Perfit (Bar Crudo, Hard Water), GM Essam Kardosh (Del Popolo), wine director Nick Tilly (who will also be working with Essam), and bar director Julian Cox (Tartine).

It’s going to be a seafood-focused restaurant, highlighting California seafood designed to be shared. You’ll be able to start with selections from the raw bar, with oysters, and seasonal picks like Dungeness crab, Santa Barbara uni, and abalone. Crudos and cured fish boards will be offered, along with seafood pastas (think tortellini in brodo with lobster consommé), and entrées and large-format dishes, like cioppino verde. There will be some meat dishes as well, like dry-aged strip steak.

Wines will influenced by the sea (whether they are coastal vineyards or it’s about soil composition), and look for new California wines, with a focus on organic and natural viticulture. Julian Cox’s bar program (to be clear, he’s consulting on this project in an ongoing basis, not just the opening, but is still with Tartine) will include spirits from small producers, seasonal ingredients, and having fun with the concept: some sea Navy Strength gin and rums, east India Sherry, port, and Madeira. They will also be featuring spirits that go well with oysters.

They want the style and vibe to feel fun and neighborhood-y, while referencing the California coast. There will be three areas: the oysterette (an extension of the bar, flanking the street, with floor-to-ceiling windows), the dining room (which will be a little more private, with ash tables and wood banquettes), and the raw bar, complete with marble and an oyster station, along with a VIP table with room for seven.

They are targeting a November opening, and the next time you’re at Benjamin Cooper (also a part of the Hotel G property), you can take a peek at their progress. (It’s opening in the former 398 Brasserie space.) 398 Geary St. at Mason.


The new booths and banquette seating at Magnolia Dogpatch. Photo: ©


The new back indoor beer garden. Photo: ©


The baked clams “cioppino” on the new menu. Photo: David Martinez.

Last week, I had the opportunity to swing by the newly updated ~MAGNOLIA DOGPATCH~, formerly Smokestack, and the new team has made some significant changes to the restaurant look and concept, adding a beer garden and neighboring 5,000-square-foot event space.

Hannah Collins Design did quite the makeover, adding dove grey and upholstered booths to the middle of the room, with smoky glass light fixtures, and other touches like black tables and grey tiles under the open kitchen counter for a look that is approachably stylish. You’ll see some nods to founder Dave McLean’s favored 60s and Haight Ashbury aesthetic and roots, including the poster in the main dining room and some of the fun vintage ads in the hallway. The space does a nice job of balancing the masculine and the feminine, and the vintage and the modern.

In the back room, it’s now an indoor beer garden, with picnic tables and bleachers, plus state-of-the-art TVs, along with planters and a large, groovy mural. Whether it’s a game night or a private party, there is room for some rumpus. And: dogs are allowed.

The new ownership team leading Magnolia Brewing Company is Dick Cantwell, co-owner, president, and director of brewing operations; Kim Jordan, co-founder of New Belgium Brewing Company and executive chair; and Brian Reccow, CEO. 

The new chef is Laurance Gordon, who is no stranger to beer-focused restaurants and breweries (Mikkeller, Belga, Thirsty Bear Brewing Company). They have done away with the previously limiting barbecue concept and expanded the style to more of a modern, all-day American menu (subject to change). There are plenty of snacky items (at a preview tasting, I especially dug the baked clams “cioppino”), plus salads (including a Green Goddess wedge with shrimp), sandwiches, a burger, and some mains, including choucroute garni and Magnolia roasted chicken with preserved lemon, plus plenty of vegetable sides. They really wanted to tailor the menu to be more neighborhood friendly, and a destination for guests who will be catching games at the upcoming Warriors’ Chase Center.

As for the beers, there are 20 taps which will feature Magnolia flagships like Kalifornia Kolsch and Proving Ground IPA, plus some new brews, including Cucumber Squeeze, an IPA which I was calling spa beer (it’s brewed with cucumber peel and pulp and Meyer lemon), plus Momomojo Smoked Peach Ale, and beers from New Belgium and Oud Beersel. Taps will change frequently, with new offerings weekly. Beer will also be available for purchase in cans and two-liter growlers.

Wine is now going to be a focus, with an emphasis on affordable but quality selections, with many from California. The bar and cocktail program are in development, so look for more soon (and a little less whiskey), but you’ll find a few cocktail classics for now. The bar still has its marble top, and is an inviting place to perch.   Hours to start are Sun-Thu 5pm-11pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-12am. Weekend brunch and a happy hour are also coming soon. 2505 3rd St. at 22nd St., 415-864-7468   Note: Magnolia Haight Brewery and Restaurant also has a new chef (Roque Mendoza) and menu that remains very pub-like. 1398 Haight St. at Masonic. 


The modern-chic dining room at Freds at Barneys New York, San Francisco. Yelp photo by Genevieve Y.

Now open in Union Square is ~FREDS AT BARNEYS NEW YORK, SAN FRANCISCO~. It’s a corner restaurant and bar on the sixth floor of the store, offering a dramatic urban view from the historic windows. The décor is chic and very ladies who lunch, with an inviting lounge with swanky little chairs that could be right at home at a vanity, and a bar complete with a 36-foot-long faceted mirror (you look marvelous). The elegant dining room is outfitted with mod swivel chairs in a soft green velveteen, and booths in a soft grey-blue. It’s all very pleasant and well-appointed, and the staff was gracious and charming.

But at a preview event last week, I feel like I should have worn a Designing Women power suit with the heftiest shoulder pads I could find, applied some heavy blush, and featured my vintage Gucci bag. The food was like a total throwback to 1991, complete with squiggles of balsamic on out-of-season asparagus, and the Freds [sic] spaghetti comes with pesto, shiitake mushrooms, more asparagus, and the kicker: sun-dried tomatoes. By the time the crab cakes came out with a smear of rémoulade, I was ready to head down to the perfume counter to douse myself in Poison. Or Giorgio. Anyway. I understand there’s some nostalgia about some of the salads and dishes (which date back to the original Freds opening in 1996), but I was really surprised at how anachronistic the menu was. I’d go back for Estelle’s chicken soup, and the perfectly fried Belgian pommes frites with some Champagne at the bar, but otherwise the menu was a head-scratcher. Entertaining, certainly. I guess it’s how fashionistas stay a size 4.

I also think it’s hilarious that I had a total download fail of my images from my camera of the evening. They completely disappeared. I think they got caught in a time vortex. I need to hop in a DeLorean and get back to the future to find them, along with a couple missing apostrophes, be right back.

Open for lunch and brunch: Mon-Sat 11am-4pm, Sun 12pm-5pm. 77 O’Farrell St. at Stockton, 415-268-3550.


Gioia Pizzeria’s exterior signage. Photo: Rebecca Kinney. ©


Hayes Valley is really lucky to be the future home of Gioia’s crazy-delicious pizza. Photo: ©

Some changes over on Polk: after six years in their location, Will and Karen Gioia are moving ~GIOIA PIZZERIA~ to Hayes Valley, and opening a slice shop in the former Two Sisters Bar & Books space in early 2019. They are closing the pizzeria this Saturday October 6th (come by to say goodbye and for specials, like $8 glasses of wine), and when they reopen in the tinier 900-square-foot space, they’ll be serving whole pies, pizza by the slice, meatballs, chicken and meatball Parm hero sandwiches, salads, and daily specials. You’ll be able to dine in or take out. They are going to miss their neighbors, but wanted to streamline into a smaller space with counter service (like their Berkeley shop, which they’ve had since 2004). 579 Hayes St. at Octavia.

Taking over their space will be a second location of Outer Richmond’s ~FIORELLA~, so at least quality pizza will continue from Boris Nemchenok and Brandon Gillis. Look for nightly dinner and weekend brunch too, stand by for dates and more. Get ready for some fun wallpaper. 2240 Polk St. at Green. [Via Eater.]

Over in the Castro, ~SOFIA CAFÉ~ has closed after two years of serving empanadas and café fare, and taking its place will be ~GAI~ from Kevin Lieu, serving Vietnamese-style chicken and rice plates for lunch and dinner in mid-October. 3463 16th St. at Dehon. [Via Hoodline.]

After opening in 1994, Brigitte and Andrew Thorpe have closed fondue palace ~THE MATTERHORN SWISS RESTAURANT~ so they can retire (off to Florida they go!). Eater reports “The Matterhorn’s landlord will retain the restaurant’s chalet decor and hopes to find a new operator from Switzerland.” 2323 Van Ness Ave. at Green.

In the Mission, the Mexican sports cantina from the Tacolicious team, ~BAR SAN PANCHO~, has closed—I’ll be sharing details about the new project, Elda, from Eric Ochoa soon. 3198 16th St. at Guerrero.

And across the water in Tiburon, the Michael Mina Group is taking over the ~GUAYMAS~ waterfront space after a big upgrade—they plan to open by summer of 2019. Stand by for more on the concept. 5 Main St., Tiburon.


A seasonal (and always vegetarian!) spread at Greens. Photo: Nader Khouri.

Some great news regarding our dear ~GREENS~, which has been closed for four months after suffering a kitchen fire before dinner service on June 20th. It’s going to reopen on Monday October 15th, just in time for its 40th birthday in 2019. The kitchen has been repaired, and the main dining room has been restored back to its original craftsmanship.

But with this reopening also comes some big news: executive chef Annie Somerville, who has been leading the Greens kitchen since 1985 (The San Francisco Zen Center opened Greens in 1979), is going to be transitioning into semi-retirement. But she will continue to oversee the culinary vision, and will be keeping her regular shopping schedule at The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Fortunately, she has instilled a strong culture of gratitude, humility, and being of service, which will continue as well.

When asked about the success of Greens, Somerville comments, “I really believe our stability is about goodwill. As food culture has grown, we’ve had greater access to the most incredible ingredients of all time. We can execute high-level dishes with all the exceptional produce we acquire. And at the core of Greens, we are very mindful, especially of our staff; they are everything to Greens. Guests feel welcome here, and the employees feel a part of something special. Being located within the Golden Gate National Park is such a gift. People’s lives are so busy, and they value these beautiful Bay Area open spaces more now than ever.”

So book your reservation, welcome the staff back, and get ready for a seasonal menu full of fall bounty from their partner, Green Gulch Farms.


Mixiote’s incredible morita salsa and lamb tacos at last year’s SF Street Food Fest. Photo: ©


Feasting at CUESA’s Sunday Supper in the Ferry Building’s Grand Hall. Photo ©Drew Altizer Photography via Facebook.


Get ready for a weekend of music, food, art, crafts, and more at Treasure Island Music Festival. Photo by Tom Tomkinson, courtesy of TIMF.

I hope you don’t have too many plans already for next weekend (October 13th-14th), because there’s a lot going on.

First, Saturday October 13th is the ninth year of La Cocina’s San Francisco Street Food Festival, returning to the Powerstation in Dogpatch. There will be 30-plus chefs and restaurants, 90 percent of whom are women, like Reem Assil of Reem’s and Dyafa (2018 James Beard semifinalist) serving pali Cali man’oushe (flatbread with sumac-braised chicken); Nite Yun of Nyum Bai (Bon Appetit’s Hot Ten Restaurant of the Year) serving Cambodian lemongrass skewers with prahok ktiss dip and and pickled veggies; Isabel Claudido of El Buen Comer, serving chilaquiles verdes or rojos topped with eggs and fresh green salsa; Fernay McPherson of Minnie Bell’s who will be slinging her famous rosemary fried chicken (typically only available in the East Bay); and Hang Truong of Noodle Girl sharing Vietnamese pork belly and five-spice chicken banh mi sandwiches. Look for some new vendors too! There will also be cocktails from Third Rail Bar!

Festival tickets are $6 and can be purchased online at or for $10 at the gate (if still available). 100% of each ticket sold is donated to La Cocina. Last year’s festival sold out so be sure to get yours early! And bring cash. 11am-7pm. 420 23rd St. at Illinois.

And then on Sunday October 14th, it’s CUESA’s Sunday Supper: A Farm to City Feast. 40 top chefs will be preparing food outside (it’s quite the setup!), while guests will enjoy an opening reception inside (with hors d’oeuvres, oysters, and cocktails), followed by a four-course dinner in the Ferry Building Grand Hall, with paired wines and tableside presentations. There is also a fantastic silent auction and live auction too.

Funds from the Sunday Supper gala contribute more than 50 percent of the cost of CUESA’s education programs, which serve farmers, kids, and educators in cultivating a healthy food future that nourishes all. VIP ticket: $375 ($250 tax deductible), doors at 5pm; General Admission ticket: $300 ($200 tax deductible), doors at 5:45pm.

And then across the Bay all weekend, it’s the Treasure Island Music Festival, returning after a one-year hiatus in a new location at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in Oakland. Tickets are still on sale (both VIP and GA), and I am so fired up to see Tame Impala and Cigarettes After Sex on Sunday. The food lineup is thoughtfully curated to feature many Oakland and East Bay businesses—you’ll find food from Aburaya (bring on the Japanese fried chicken), bling bling dumpling, Curry Up Now, Gerard’s Paella, Itani Ramen, Little Star Pizza, Mi Granny’s Kitchen, Rockos Ice Cream Tacos, The GrilledCheezGuy, and more.

There will also be some great on-site art installations, with many created by local Bay Area residents. Don’t miss “Cosmic Voyager” from the SF-based art collective Chromaforms, a massive laser-cut, stainless steel sea turtle offering horoscope readings that change based on the date and time after participants press buttons on the turtle’s fin. Burners will be happy to see Barry Crawford’s “Mechatheusis,” a mechanical giant squid kinetic sculpture. There will also be Workshop’s Camp DIY if you want to get crafty (try shibori dyeing bandanas or sewing beer koozies!).

Festival gates and box office open daily at 11am, with music kicking off shortly at noon each day. The only way to get to and from the festival is via the official complimentary festival shuttle service at West Oakland BART, or rideshare to the festival’s designated festival drop-off/pick-up area nearby.