03/07/06

A new business is bravely moving into the ever-cursed corner of Divisadero and Bush, ~TORTILLA HEIGHTS~, the former location of the Greek establishment, Minerva Café. The soft opening is possibly next Mon, and it should be officially abierto on Tuesday the 14th. The partners are Diane Mulligan (one of the owners of Hobson's Choice in the Haight), Paul Owens (former owner of the neighboring Fish Bowl bar) and chef Erik Reese (Cypress Club, Aqua, Scala's, and chef-partner of local biz Asqew Grill). Expect a place that is planning to balance the magic combo of being a great spot for drinks and equally great for Mexican food (not unlike the attempts of recent newcomers Mamacita, Velvet Cantina, and Tres Agaves). There will be over 50 tequilas and a wide selection of bottled Mexican beers, which equates to a very strong possibility you will get your buzz on.

Apps include shrimp cocktail, a hot Tex-Mex queso you can order with chicken or chorizo, and a classic Tijuana Caesar salad (apps range from $5-$8), while entrées include fish tacos, chile rellenos, and blue corn enchiladas ($11-$14). Desserts bring churros or "plantains Foster." ($4). The casual space is styled to feel like a hacienda patio, with Mexican star lights overhead and palapas over two of the booths. Patrons looking for a place that's good for groups should be pleased, and all will be digging on the fact that the reasonably priced dishes are made with free-range and hormone-free meats, and no farmed fish. Here's another thing I'm fired up about: they will offer a taqueria-style menu, with burritos, tortas, tacos, quesadillas, and nachos, until 1:30am. ¡Fantastico! Open seven days a week, 11am-2am, with brunch Sat-Sun 11am-5pm. 1750 Divisadero St. at Bush, 415-346-4531.

On March 18, ~ABIGAIL'S BAKERY AND CAFÉ~ will be opening their Dutch doors in the former D Den Thai restaurant space in the Marina. It will serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, with some killer coffee from Mr. Espresso. The chef is Josh Bush (Foreign Cinema) whose Cali-bistro menu will be straddling that zone between semi-refined yet casual, with a focus on organic ingredients. Think classic pastry or stone-ground oatmeal for breakfast;Champagne omelet with Fontina, fines herbes and fried potatoes for brunch; croques and skirt steak sandwiches for lunch; and for din din, dishes like roasted mustard-glazed chicken or jasmine-scented pork chop with pear and bacon stuffing, chanterelles, and braised bok choy. The space will feature a granite counter with an extensive pastry display, a dining area that seats 36, an open kitchen, and a back patio that will seat 15-20 (opening soon). If everything sticks on schedule, they'll be holding a neighborhood night the week of 3/23. 2120 Greenwich St. at Fillmore, 415-929-8889.

Another bit of news in the Marina: the owner of ~COZMO'S CORNER GRILL~, Mick Suverkrubbe, is bringing on some additional partners who hail from the club Dolce in North Beach. Some interior changes will occur, bringing a different vibe along with a new name. The bar area will be made more comfortable and truly loungey with some big booths and different lighting, while the dining room will also be swankified, with less booths and more tables. The mezzanine will transform into a cocktail party space, ideal for large groups or private parties. Cozmo's is probably closing for the remodel in June, with a reopening planned for July 1. Architecture TM (who did some finishing touches on Scott Kester’s recent project, Frisson) is overseeing the remodel. Executive chef Eric Hopfinger will stay on, and will be totally redesigning the menu to reflect more of his skill with a creative contemporary American style. Not sure if that means the fried chicken will be M.I.A.—I'll keep you posted.

I've received some inquiries about a couple up-and-coming places already covered by the Chron, but here's an update for you. First off, Daniel Patterson's new fine dining restaurant, ~COÍ~ (pronounced kwa) will be opening on April 4. The name is an archaic French word that means quiet or tranquil, and it's how the tone of the intimate 30-seat dining room will feel: warm, inviting, and cozy. Scott Kester is designing the space, who incidentally did almost all of the fantastic design of Patterson’s former location, Frisson. It's where the parallels stop, however: Patterson stated, "The food will be more focused on the delicious, rather than the challenging or new." Which I translate to mean less foam, more fromage blanc. We shall see! He is proud of his tight-knit and talented team that is small in numbers but high in caliber: John Marquez, Jeromy Sung, and James Syhabout (Manresa) will be in the kitchen, while Jake Godby will be whipping things up the pastry. Dinner only, Tue-Sat, 373 Broadway St., between Montgomery and Sansome, 415-393-9000.

Another eagerly awaited project is ~NOPA~, opening in early April in the North of the Panhandle (get it?) neighborhood. The former laundromat is being massively transformed into a hip dining destination that will seat 110, with high ceilings (try 19 feet), exposed rafters, a dark-stain concrete floor, warm colors on the walls, an open kitchen, a massive poured concrete bar that seats 17-18, a mezzanine that overlooks the bar and the kitchen, and a communal table that will seat 12-14. Whew. Quirky fact: it ends up the space was a bank in the ‘20s, and the vault is now going to be used as the wine room. Maybe it can double as a drunk tank.

NOPA's partners are Laurence Jossel (chef/hails from Chez Nous and all three Chow locations), Jeff Hanak (wine/former partner of Chow and Park Chow), and Allyson Woodman (service/managed Chow). The sous chef is the talented Marcella Lew, formerly of Andalu. The Southern-Mediterranean and organic ingredient-centric menu will be shaped as much by the seasons as by three pieces of my favorite kitchen equipment: a wood-fired grill, a wood-fired rotisserie, and a wood-fired pizza oven. (The neighborhood will be wafting.) Apps will hover around $10, entrées around $20, and $7 or so for desserts. They have a full liquor license (score) and plan on staying open late, like 1am. I will be beyond thrilled to have a non-Thai, non-diner, non-pizza late-night dining option in this side of town. 560 Divisadero St. at Hayes.

IN THE HOPPER: The word is after a successful run of something like seven years, ~SLOW CLUB'S~ chef, Sante Salvoni, has left. Rumor has it that he has something else, possibly of his own, in the works. Once I'm able to get in touch with him, I'll get the story.

Potentially opening this weekend (or next) in North Beach is ~FRISCO FISH AND CHIPS~, opposite from the Grant & Green, and just next door to Gino & Carlo. 532 Green St., between Grant and Columbus, 415-989-FISH.

SIGHTED: The Chinese restaurant next door to the Transfer bar (on 14th and Church) is now called ~WILL'S AUTHENTIC VIETNAMESE~ with "pho" broadcast on their awning. At last, some Vietnamese in the Castro.