The Chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)
January 22, 2019
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The stylish bar à vin at Verjus. Photo courtesy of Verjus.

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Some of the stunning pâtés en croûte at Verjus. Photo: Kelly Puleio.

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Boudin blanc à la mer. Photo: Kelly Puleio.

Now open in Jackson Square is ~VERJUS~ from Michael and Lindsay Tusk of Quince and Cotogna, and new managing partner Matt Cirne. It’s a French-inspired cave à manger (which means “eat in a cellar”), which includes a wine bar, wine shop, and conserva bar, with vintage housewares and more that you can purchase in a retail shop.

It’s the most casual of their ventures to date: no reservations, and you even order at a counter. It should feel like a pintxos bar of San Sebastián, or a cicchetteria in Venice, where you can drop in for a bite and glass or two, and maybe grab a bottle to bring home. The wine selection will highlight small-scale, independent, organic wines, natural wines, and wines with a strong sense of terroir, along with Champagne, wines from overlooked terroirs, and more.

The all-day (and daily changing) menu from chef Michael Tusk and chef de cuisine David Meyer (The French Laundry, The Progress, and In Situ) will lean on French charcuterie such as pâtés en croûte, rillettes, and terrines, along with boudin blanc or noir, duck confit, Dungeness carb tartine, and a daily omelette with seasonal produce from Fresh Run Farm in Bolinas. The selection of tinned fish and shellfish in the conserva bar will be available to eat with bread, lemon, olive oil, salsa verde, and pimentón.

The historic space dates back to the 1850s, when it was the Eclipse Champagne Building, and Verjus occupies two formerly separate and now connected spaces at 528 and 550 Washington Street, flanking Hotaling Place Alley. The stylish design is inspired by France in the 1950s-1960s, with mid-century modern Luigi Caccia Dominioni and Gino Sarfatti light fixtures, and Pierre Chapo vintage tables and chairs, all under a lacquered burgundy ceiling, and the music is a soundtrack of yé-yé pop, jazz, and more.

The bar à vin is open Mon-Thu 4:30pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 4:30pm-late (12am), while the shop (la cave) is open Mon-Thu 11:30am-7:30pm, and Fri-Sat 11am-7:30pm. Lunch is coming soon. 528 Washington St. at Hotaling.

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Winner winner chicken dinner. The spread at RT Rotisserie. Photo: Kassie Borreson.

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Vive La Tarte’s incredibly delicious “California” cheesecake. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Khao soi with chicken or tofu at the new Kamin at SFO from Kin Khao. Instagram photo by @kamin_SFO.

There was a rumor swirling around the Western Addition and Nopa that Rich Table’s ~RT ROTISSERIE~ was opening a second location in the former Delessio Market & Bakery space (next to Falletti Foods and Nopalito) and whaddya know, it’s true! Evan and Sarah Rich, along with business partner Jonny Gilbert, will be opening another RT Rotisserie at the corner of Broderick and Oak, which means the neighborhood will have access to their awesome rotisserie chicken, roasted cauliflower, sandwiches, salads, sides, and fab chicken soup!

It’s going to be a bit bigger than the original Hayes Valley location, clocking in at 2,000 square feet, compared to 1,200 square feet, and outdoor seating will be available. Timing is unconfirmed at the moment, but they’re targeting spring. They’ll be delivering via Caviar upon opening, so folks further west will have easy access to delivery. 306 Broderick St. at Oak.

A quick note: in the meantime, ~NOPALITO~ has been popping up in the Delessio space while they remodel and upgrade a bit for the next week or so.

A third location of ~VIVE LA TARTE~ opens this Saturday January 26th in Noe Valley in the former Bliss Bar space (they designed the space in collaboration with Kilomade Studios and Planart). The Belgian-inspired bakery and restaurant from Arnaud Goethals and Julie Vandersmeech will not only offer their fab baked goods (their croissants are very popular, and I’m obsessed with their cheesecake, lawdy), but they are also offering brunch, lunch, and dinner service, and understanding the needs of the neighborhood, they developed a dedicated kids’ menu as well.

Everything from kombucha cocktails to natural wine to espresso service from Sightglass will be on offer. Bonus: they’re partnering with Caviar for fast delivery. Flour will be milled in-house in a dedicated milling lab, and bread will be baked on-site, so the neighborhood will be smelling extra-good. Hours will be 7am-10pm daily. 4026 24th St. at Noe.

Big news over at SFO: if you’re flying international, you can visit the new The Manufactory Food Hall, with three restaurants by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson of Tartine, Gabriela Cámara of Cala, and Pim Techamuanvivit of Kin Khao.

You can view the initial menu here (scroll through to see it). Tartine is offering three sandwiches, as well as a bakery counter (yes, there are morning buns!) and Coffee Manufactory has a full coffee bar, grab-and-go coffee, espresso drinks, and whole beans.

Techamuanvivit is offering a fine-casual menu at Kamin by Kin Khao, with Kin Khao wings, a fried chicken sandwich, gluten-free fried chicken or a fried tofu box, and a couple noodle soups, all designed for portability. Cámara is pulling inspiration from her daytime Tacos Cala and is offering six kinds of tacos, from egg and potato to fish tacos. There is a full-service bar, grab-and-go options, and some retail too. International Terminal Boarding Area A near Gate A5 (post-security). Open 6am-12am daily, bar until 1am.

Coming late spring to the former Farina Pizzeria space on Valencia in the Mission will be ~FLOUR + WATER PIZZERIA~ from chef Thomas McNaughton. Stand by for more details soon. 700 Valencia St. at 18th St. [Via Eater.]

More pizza: I’ve been looking at the Detroit-style pizza testing happening at ~CELLARMAKER HOUSE OF PIZZA~, and they are now open. This is a second location for the SoMa brewery (they took over the former Old Bus Tavern brewpub in Bernal). They’ll be offering more experimental beers on a four-barrel system, along with some guest beers. Open Wed-Mon 5pm-10pm. 3193 Mission St. at Valencia.

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Sherry-braised pork shoulder “tortillas.” Photo: Daniel Azarkman.

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Summertime fig toast. Photo: Daniel Azarkman.

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A rendering of the upcoming El Lopo. Courtesy of El Lopo.

Coming to Polk Street in the former location of The Pour House (which just closed over the weekend) is ~EL LOPO~, a Spanish-inspired, food-forward wine bar (through a California lens). Owner Daniel Azarkman’s concept is inspired by pretending if California remained a Spanish colony, what would our food look like? So the wines will be focused on Spanish varieties grown in California, along with some Spanish vermouth (on tap), sherries, and wines, plus beers as well.

The snacks will have some Spanish ingredients and inspiration, like a tortilla, but will change with the seasons—and don’t expect anything “authentic.” In fact, what he’s calling a tortilla is meant to bridge the gap between what the term means in Spain and what it means in Mexico: at El Lopo, they look and eat like Mexican tacos, but the flavors are much more Mediterranean, and the tortilla itself is made from potato and egg. During a test run pop-up at Blur, Azarkman served one with sherry-braised pork shoulder, wilted chicories, harissa, and pomegranate seeds.

Some other past dishes included a Galician-inspired empanada of pork picadillo, yellow peaches, and sweet peppers, topped with romesco; fig and ham toast with mission figs, jamón serrano, and queso fresco on Jane fig and walnut bread; and roasted Mary’s chicken wings in a sauce of almond butter, saffron, and oloroso sherry.

He’s working with the Butcher’s Local Union 510 on making custom Spanish charcuterie—they’re starting with a hard chorizo. There will also be canned seafood (like mussels and sardines) that will be served lightly embellished (think soft-boiled egg, greens, and bread), and he’s looking at featuring West Coast seafood, like herring from Oregon.

Azarkman was most recently working with Off the Grid for six years, helping entrepreneurs launch their own food businesses that past three years, and was inspired to give it a go himself—he was also an intern for tablehopper some years ago, so it’s fun to see this happening.

For now, El Lopo is planning to open around Friday February 1st as a bar with a very limited menu (think room temp items like canned seafood, salads, and charcuterie), and once some permits come through, the full food menu will launch. The rustic space will have 48 seats, with a long bar, and cooking will happen right behind the bar (Azarkman brought on a kitchen manager who has cooked at Octavia, Iyasare, and Octavia).

Hours will be 4pm-12am, with the full menu running from 5pm-11pm when things are up and running. Follow along on Instagram for updates, and I’ll keep you posted on the full launch. 1327 Polk St. at Bush.

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Garlic sesame miso ramen from chef Dennis Lee. Photo courtesy of The Saratoga.

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Salt and vinegar onion rings with everything bagel ranch at City Beer Store. Instagram photo via @citybeerstore.

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Saison’s famed uni toast. Instagram photo via @saisonsf.

Whatcha doing Wednesday evening? Chef Dennis Lee of Namu and Namu Gaji is popping up at ~THE SARATOGA~ and kicking off a four-week series of ramen specials. This Wednesday the 23rd, chef Lee is debuting his garlic sesame miso ramen, an exclusive dish available for just one night (crispy delicata squash, roasted tomato, bean sprouts, shiitake, mizuna, sesame mayu, nori, and onsen egg, $16). Then, The Saratoga’s chef Francisco Baca will be serving a different ramen special of his own creation each subsequent Wednesday (through February 13th). There’s plenty of Japanese whiskey to go with your bowl. No tickets or anything necessary, the ramen will be served in addition to the regular menu.   

After the closure of City Counter, I’ve been wondering where chef Sean Thomas was going to reappear, and it ends up he’s now at the new location of ~CITY BEER STORE~ in SoMa, which has launched its full-service kitchen. Lunch and dinner are served (12pm-10pm daily), check out the menu here, with dishes like salt and vinegar onion rings with everything bagel ranch, cider-steamed mussels with Chinese sausage, and Nashville Hot mochiko chicken on an Acme roll with yuzu kosho tahini. Perfect food to pair with their selection of craft beer, wine, and cider on draft. 1148 Mission St. at 7th St.

If you’ve always wanted to try ~SAISON~’s famed uni toast, and have been curious to try the food since chef Laurent Gras (L20) joined the team, but can’t afford the $298 tasting menu, they have officially announced a fixed bar menu for $148 for five courses, which also includes Millbrook Farms venison, which Gras air dries for a week, tempers in wagyu fat, and grills over embers. It’s seasoned with emulsified housemade butter and pink peppercorn, and served over a sauce of huckleberries, lemongrass, and black pepper with a garnish of beef tendon cracker, flower pollen, and spices, and a grilled avocado. You can also add dishes and supplements.

A wine pairing is $98, while cocktails are $19, and there are other options, like beer to go with the uni, or a junmai sake to accompany the fish course of king salmon cured over sake lees. The bar seats six and you can reserve for one or two people. 178 Townsend St. at 3rd St.

~NICO~ has launched an à la carte menu in the dining room, although their tasting menu is an affordable $85 for six gorgeous courses if you have the time and money. And be sure to order a cocktail, they’re unique and some of the city’s most beautiful beverages. 710 Montgomery St. at Washington.

Folks who live near the new ~LE MARAIS BAKERY~ in Lower Nob Hill will be happy to know they are now offering full breakfast, lunch, and brunch. Come by from 9am-3pm for scrambled eggs with smoked trout, salads, sandwiches, croques, and more. They’re also launching delivery on Caviar very soon! 1138 Sutter St. at Larkin.

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Some of the many dishes at Tawla. Photo: Smeeta Mahanti.

I was so sorry to learn that after two years, the delicious and unique ~TAWLA~ on Valencia has closed. Like many unfortunate outcomes in life, the closure was due to numerous reasons; you can read owner Azhar Hashem’s piece on Medium about the closure. Thank you for all the beautiful meals.

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The new tables and booths at Soba Ichi in West Oakland. Instagram photo via @sobaichi_oakland.

I was noticing some new tables on ~SOBA ICHI~’s Instagram feed, and it ends up they have some new hours to go with them! Dinner hours have launched, with a new menu of small plates, but now weekday lunch is no longer.

The new hours are Wed-Thu 5pm-9pm, Fri 5pm-10pm, Sat 11am-2:30pm and 5pm-10pm, and Sun 11am-2:30pm and 5pm-9pm. Just don’t show up at the end of service and expect to find their prized noodles waiting for you—when they run out, that’s it! 2311A Magnolia Ave. at Grand, West Oakland.

January 8, 2019
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The new Pizzeria Delfina Downtown. Photo: Elena Graham.

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The best pasta dishes as pizza (carbonara and amatriciana)! Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Burnt flour orecchiette with broccoli rabe pesto, fennel sausage, and ceci beans. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Snag those Souvla pita sandwiches! Photo courtesy of Souvla.

Now open on Mission Street is Annie and Craig Stoll’s ~PIZZERIA DELFINA DOWNTOWN~ in the former A.G. Ferrari space. I went by for a Sunday lunch, and it was busy with downtown shoppers, in spite of the monsoon-like weather conditions. There’s no stopping people from getting their pizza, am I right?

The space has 46 seats, divided between a dining area and another that feels more like a wine bar (with bright Pizzeria Delfina yellow seats)—and there are 14 seats at a counter too. Outdoor seating will have room for 22, we just need some nice weather to return. Envelope A+D is behind the design, which feels airy, simple, and clean, with white tile, California black walnut, concrete, modern lighting, and a fun mural by Shawn Bullen, which offers a playful spin on the classic Bay of Naples mural you see in all Neapolitan pizzerias, except this is about SF.

The menu includes their classic antipasti, like the chilled tripe (the best!), plus seasonal vegetables, and a few salads (the menu is updated weekly on Wednesdays), and then you can take your pick between red and white pies, 13 in all. We opted for one of each, and both were some of my favorite pasta dishes as pizza: carbonara (with guanciale, egg, pecorino, scallions, black pepper) and amatriciana (guanciale, chile, tomato, pecorino, black pepper)—both were $19 each. The pies had a fantastic and flavorful crust: so thin and crisp in the middle, with the perfect balance of bite and chew.

We also tried one of chef de cuisine Madison Montoto’s pasta dishes: burnt flour orecchiette, with broccoli rabe pesto, fennel sausage, and the rustic addition of ceci beans—what a hearty and delicious dish ($19). You can also opt for their meatballs, chicken alla diavola, and there was a special of mussel fettunta ($22).

Save room for dessert since they have Double 8 Dairy soft-serve (the California Street location just started serving it too!), which is made with creamy buffalo milk. I went for a swirl of fior di latte and chocolate ($6) and it was a dream.

The wine list is pretty extensive—you have a bunch of choices by the glass (both Italian and Californian) from wine director Sally Kim, and be sure to look at the two special wines for Pizzeria Delfina from Scribe and De Conciliis. There are seven beers on tap, and some non-alcoholic options as well. Hours are now Mon-Sun 11:30am-10pm and Sun 11:30am-9pm. 688 Mission St. at 3rd St., 415-286-9426.

Open today is ~SOUVLA~’s fourth location (the first opened in 2014). They are now in the Marina and it’s their most beautiful location yet, with a 16-foot ceiling, a recessed entrance allowing for a mix of indoor and covered/heated outdoor seating, a standing communal bar, a 400-square-foot dining room anchored around an eight spit Rotisol rotisserie with vintage brass and copper accents, a plant installation by Talc Studio, and black-and-white portraits from Greece. There’s a to-go window for easy pick-up as well, which they know will come in handy when people are heading to Crissy Field, and with all the Caviar delivery they will have in the neighborhood.

You know the menu well: rotisserie-roasted, quality meats, wrapped in warm, fluffy pita bread or in seasonal salads with Greek yogurt sauces, and Greek frozen yogurt for dessert. Open daily 11am-10pm. 2272 Chestnut St. at Scott.

One more expansion: it looks like ~THE LITTLE CHIHUAHUA~ is opening in the former Myconos on Polk Street (current locations include the Lower Haight, Mission, and Noe Valley). Hoodline says to look for a springtime opening. 1431 Polk St. at California.

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Beet-cured salmon at Abrazo. Yelp photo by Abrazo.

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Pull-apart za’atar bread with labne at Ungrafted. Yelp photo by Megan J.

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Laguna’s lobster grilled cheese and tomato bisque. Yelp photo by Cherylynn N.

Back in October, I broke the news that Russian Hill’s Zarzuela was closing after 24 years, and ~ABRAZO~ was opening in its place. Chef-owner Michael Pawlik (prviously Frascati) and his girlfriend and co-owner Amanda Banks Barker (Mamanoko) got it open just over the holidays. The updated menu has primarily Spanish dishes (you’ll still find octopus, but there’s a scallop tartare as well), and you’ll enjoy a refreshed restaurant inside as well. Open Mon-Sat 5:30pm-10pm, Sun 5:30pm-9pm. 2000 Hyde St. at Union, 415-872-9239. [Via Chronicle.]

Wine lovers, specifically Champagne lovers (raises hand) have a new spot to hang out in Dogpatch: ~UNGRAFTED~ has opened in Dogpatch, serving as a wine bar, restaurant, and wine shop. It’s from a married sommelier couple, Rebecca Fineman and Chris Gaither, who have brought on executive chef Nicholas Turpin (Boulevard) who has created a menu that goes much further than cheese plates: look for scallop ceviche, braised tongue tostones, salmon collar, Creole-spiced buttermilk fried chicken, short ribs, fries with sherry salt, and more (dishes range in a variety of sizes, mostly $10-$18).

In addition to wines by the glass, you’ll find a selection of half-bottles, plus beer, sake, and non-alcoholic options—all the servers are sommeliers, so you’ll be in good hands. The space has two levels and 90 seats, with some fun design touches. Open Mon-Sat 5pm-10pm and Sun 5pm-9pm (open for retail purchases at 12pm, and 2pm on the weekend). 2419 3rd St. at 22nd St, 415-814-2129. [Via Eater.]

There’s a new brunch and burger spot in Hayes Valley: ~LAGUNA~, serving that lobster grilled cheese sandwich (pictured) with tomato bisque ($18), pulled pork hash ($15), soufflé pancakes ($13), and build-a-Benedict ($17), featuring housemade English muffins. There are also salads, sandwiches (including fish or pulled pork), and a few kinds of burgers. There is an emphasis on using quality and local ingredients, and housemade items, including pie. Open daily 9am-3pm and 5pm-9pm for now. 602 Hayes St. at Laguna.

And I forgot to run this item last month, whoops: the ~HINATA~ team have opened a new location in Japantown called ~SASA~, serving Japanese lunch during the day, sushi, and a $60 kaiseki tasting menu in the evening. It’s from Hinata partner Weida Chen (Sushi Ran, Ijji), with chef Jing Huang (Sushi Ran, Kusakabe). [Via Eater.]

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Palio’s new and contemporary style. Photo: Kristen Loken.

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The final course for the upcoming Elements menu at The Table at Merchant Roots. Comet: a milk chocolate and mint ganache truffle wrapped in cotton candy and pulled through isomalt sugar. Photo by @amandalynnphoto via @chefshelton.

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Shakshuka at Tank18’s new Sunday brunch. Photo: Molly DeCoudreaux.

Congrats to ~PALIO~, the FiDi restaurant formerly known as Palio d’Asti, which is now sporting a new name, updated look, and menu that has expanded to cover many regions of Italy (instead of just Asti). I walked in to the new dining room (renovated by AnV Architects), and thought it looked molto Milano, with a large bar now as a focal point (and 19 seats), and there are three private and semi-private dining rooms. Owner Martino DiGrande brought on Matt Grippo and Shirley Brooks (Bottom of the Barrel cocktail consulting) to overhaul the beverage program, while maintaining executive chefs and brothers Mauricio and Jose Alberto Martinez, who first started working there in the 1990s. Come in to the lounge for a pizza from the wood-fired oven and a spritz, or stay for lunch or dinner of housemade pasta and Barolo-braised shortrib. Open for lunch Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm, dinner Mon-Sat 5pm-10pm, happy hour 2pm-6pm. 640 Sacramento St. at Montgomery, 415-395-9800.

The Table at ~MERCHANT ROOTS~ is now offering tickets on Tock to upcoming dinners. There are just eight seats, and guests are served a tasting menu from chef Ryan Shelton with a specific theme for $110, with the option of a wine pairing for $75 from director of operations Madison Michael. Tickets for the latest series, Elements (“inspired by celestial bodies and the elements that make up our universe”), are available for January 31 and February is open too. There is also a Valentine’s Day option for $205. Shelton has been working on this menu for a while, so expect some exciting things.

SoMa residents have a new brunch option: ~TANK18~ is launching Sunday brunch on January 13th, with dishes like shakshuka; seared polenta cake with white beans, grilled okra and pickled onion; skirt steak and eggs; and more. There is not only a selection of house wines, but a full bar offering brunch cocktails as well. Served 11am-3pm. 1345 Howard St. at 10th St.

A tablehopper reader tipped me off to a new Vietnamese pho restaurant in the Mission in the former Rhea’s—~PHO ON BRYANT~—take a peek at the menu here, which also includes some Chinese-style dumplings. Open daily 11am-9:30pm. 2200 Bryant St. at 20th St., 415-678-5560.

Over in Mission Bay, brothers Bobby and Dimitri Vardakastanis of ~GUS’S COMMUNITY MARKET~ just opened their fourth location, which includes their well-stocked grocery shelves and produce, as well as a deli and café featuring Andytown coffee. New offerings include a build-your-own ramen bar and pastries from Starter Bakery. Their father, the late Gus Vardakastanis, opened his first store on Haight Street in 1981. Open daily 7am-10pm. 1101 4th St. at Channel.

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Breadbelly breakfast sandwich. Instagram photo via @breadbellysf.

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The beautiful green tones of La Bande. Photo: The Ingalls.

Back in July, I mentioned Clement Hsu, Katherine Campecino, and James Wong, the trio behind the awesome ~BREADBELLY~ pop-up, was opening a café in the former Heartbaker on Clement, and they are now open! Maybe you saw my in-depth post on Table Talk about their Asian-inspired baked goods, like ham-and-cheese ensaymada and Malaysian kaya toast, and they’re also doing char siu sandwiches, and rotating kinds of Asian-American baked goods. There’s espresso service from Wrecking Ball, teas, and beer and wine too. Hours for now are Mon, Thu-Fri 7am-4pm and Sat-Sun 8am-4pm. 1408 Clement St. at 15th Ave.

The third component to the San Francisco Proper Hotel lineup of businesses is now open: ~LA BANDE~, a European-inspired café (joining Charmaine’s and Villon). It’s a gorgeous café designed by Kelly Wearstler, with Paris green tiles, black-and-white stripes, and brass, with indoor and outdoor with seating for 40 (there’s a heated patio).

Chef Mikey Adams has put together a menu of breakfast burritos, homemade yogurt topped with fresh fruits, sandwiches, French onion soup, and salads. You’ll also find fresh pastries from Firebrand (croissants, kouign amann, chocolate crumb cake, and more) and a full coffee bar featuring Counter Culture coffee, including nitro cold brew on tap. Wine and beer and limited cocktails are available in case you need a little something to get through your morning (you boozer). Open for breakfast and lunch Mon-Fri 6:30am-2:30pm. 1100 Market St. at McAllister.

And over in Bayview, there’s a new café called ~WORD. A CAFE.~, and they’re serving crab Benedict, salads, soup, and specials, plus baked goods, full coffee and tea service, and some pop-up dinners. And there’s also a Victrola! Open Mon-Fri 7am-2pm and Sat 8am-2pm. 5114 3rd St. at Bayview.

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The Almanac burger, with California beef, cheddar, onion, pickle, and secret fried tomato aioli. Photo via @almanacbeer.

Cruising through Facebook, I saw this post from ~ALMANAC BEER CO.~ that they decided to not renew their SF taproom lease and will be closing after their final service on Saturday January 19th. (They were on 24th Street for two years.) Go get that burger and a fresh beer while you can. They say: “With our incredible new brewery, barrel house and taproom now open on Alameda, we’re staying focused on making the Almanac mothership the very best it can be (exciting news coming later this spring).” 2704 24th St. at Potrero.

Over on Geary, East African ~ASSAB~ has closed after 28 years. You really should look at the farewell note from owners Matheos Yohannes and Mehret Tesfalidet, what dear people. Best wishes. 2845 Geary Blvd. at Collins. [Via Eater.]

A reader sent in a less-than-heartening note in the window at ~CHOW~ on Church: they have cut their hours (without any explanation—I reached out for more but didn’t hear back), and are now closed Mon-Tue. They are open Wed-Thu 11am-9:30pm, Fri 11am-10pm, Sat 8am-10pm, and Sun 8am-9:30pm. 215 Church St. at Market, 415-552-2469.

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Colin working three pots of pasta at a Casa de Case Cena Nel Magazzino. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Colin Dewey and his Parm Pop at the Jeremiah Tower screening party. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

I received some pretty heartbreaking news just after January 1st that a dear local chef, Colin Dewey, died in a tragic accident over the New Year (he reportedly fell down some stairs, how awful). So shocking. It’s hard to grasp that he is gone. Not only was Colin a thoughtful, talented, skilled, and completely badass chef, but he was just the NICEST guy. No attitude. He was all warmth, and so good-natured, and had a big, goofy laugh that I just loved.

I met Colin about 10 years ago when he was the chef de cuisine at Bix (and was behind my favorite cloth-napkin burger), while working for one of our other big hearts in this local culinary scene of ours, Bruce Hill. He left to work in New York (at Del Posto under Mario Batali and Mark Ladner, and at Felidia with Lidia Bastianich), but fortunately we got him back, and he was the executive chef at Zero Zero. He then went on a sabbatical to cook in Italy before becoming the exec at Florio, and he then went to Perbacco…

In past years, he has been working with Casa de Case importers as their chef, and I have been so fortunate to enjoy his cooking with the team at their annual warehouse dinner party (“Cena Nel Magazzino”). It was always such an impressive feat, seeing them cook a huge feast for so many guests, which seemed to grow massively each year. Tortellini in brodo, bollito misto, the biggest vat of polenta he had to stir with a huge paddle…he’d be in the makeshift kitchen, sweating and yet still smiling while manning three different pots on huge burners and berating me for taking pictures of him as he was about to burn the garlic. I remember cackling together.

For me, one of my favorite memories of his cooking was the incredible gourmet popcorn he created for the after-hours screening party I hosted for Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent. The Casa de Case crew recreated the famous Stars hotdog (Howard and Kris were big Stars regulars) and Colin made the most fantastic gourmet popcorn for the event since we were going to be in a theater: he made Parm Pop with 24-month parmigiano, oregano, and peperoncino, and Fish Pop, with colatura di alici, garlic, lemon, anchovy, chile, and bottarga grated on top. I swear, every chef at the party was losing their mind for this popcorn. Colin was so creative, and so prepared—I remember his station all set up just-so, and he was early. There was even a sign for the table. Come on! Such a pro. What a guy.

I can’t imagine the heartache everyone is experiencing who knew him well, loved him, worked with him, and grew up with him…he was such a special human. One who was tragically and unexpectedly taken from us, way too soon. Such a shock—it’s a tough one to grasp. Heartfelt condolences to his family and everyone mourning his departure, there are many. Rest in peace, sweet man. Heaven is so lucky to have their angel back, and they don’t even know about the Parm Pop.