June 20, 2006

So check out what's going on in the Presidio, and it's not just a Yoda fountain—hopefully this December the ~PRESIDIO SOCIAL CLUB~ will be opening its doors, courtesy of Ray and Shawn Tang, formerly of the popular Mariposa in Windsor. The menu is going to feature American classics (think steak, chops, and oysters) with a twist. Since Ray formerly worked at Boulevard and Postrio, you know it's going to be a good twist, not a bad one when you're like, "Huh? Who said shitakes and fresh crab was a good idea?" It's a beautiful historic century-old building (Building 563), just inside the Lyon Street gate and across from Lucasfilm. It's going to be a pretty simple and open structure, with a ton of windows. The architect is Olle Lundberg of Lundberg Designs (Slanted Door). There will be a mix of booths, tables and every restaurateur's new favorite addition, a communal table. There will be approximately 100 seats, with 18 at the bar and 50 on the patio. Yes, you read that correctly—there will be a very cool outdoor patio for dining and special events! And bless, a full bar, which will certainly help contribute to the Tangs' vision of the space having a convivial, warm, and unpretentious vibe with a hint of nostalgia, whether you're there for a cocktail or a full-on killer meal. Presidio Social Club will be open seven days a week, serving lunch through dinner continuously. Did you get a chance to see the cool logo on their site? The graphic designer is Mucca Design out of NYC (who recently won a James Beard award for outstanding restaurant graphics).

Soon, there will be a place opening in the Haight that I am rather excited about. (Yes, there is booze involved.) The vacant Maroc space (next to the Red Vic) will soon be the home of ~THE ALEMBIC~, a bar/restaurant concept from Dave McLean, who opened the Magnolia Pub down the street almost nine years ago. While Magnolia is more focused on artisanal beer brewing, this new venue is taking things one step further and will offer a means to highlight the burgeoning micro-distilling scene, with an emphasis on American products and whiskies. (An alembic is the original distilling apparatus that dates back to Persia from 800 or so, and some small-batch distillers use one to this day.) Here in the Bay Area we have Hangar One, and Old Potrero, and 209 Gin, but McLean has been busy sourcing artisan distillers (or large distillers who are doing single-cask releases) from Kentucky to Tennessee to Mexico (there will be a small but well-chosen number of tequilas "in the casa"). There will also be some single malts, small-batch Irish whiskies, and of course some Magnolia beer on tap (along with some bottled Belgians, and sakes too). Tasting flights will be offered and designed to educate while you sample.

To accompany all these fine liquors will be some creative food that's a departure from the pub-style cuisine at Magnolia. McLean has brought on Eddie Blyden, formerly of Sneaky Tiki and 21st Amendment, to craft an American menu of small plates. Incidentally, as of this Monday Blyden has taken over both Magnolia's kitchen full-time and the upcoming Alembic's since the prior chef, Sam Kimerling, has departed. Blyden also worked at the White Dog Café in Philly, which shares a similar "Chez Panisse" vision of sustainability/eating locally and organically. (It's also a philosophy that's important to McLean.) The menu is in development, but there's a possibility that Fatted Calf will be providing some of the charcuterie, yum.

They plan open in late July (optimistically), and the 40-seat space will have room for 20 at the bar/drink rail. Kom Siksamat of The Wooden Duck is doing a custom bar top out of the original bleachers from Kezar Stadium—you'll even be able to see some of the old row numbers burned into it. (Wooden Duck is also doing the drink rail, plus tabletops and chairs from beautiful reclaimed Douglas Fir wood.) The floors are reclaimed wood from an old barn in Pennsylvania that was torn down, and there will be a tin ceiling, with walls painted in mustard. It's designed to feel historically rich and authentic, with a turn-of-the-century vibe that's comfortable and a place where you can linger. Dinner to start, with some plans for lunch down the road. Dinner nightly, 4pm-12am, and the bar open until 2am. 1725 Haight St. between Cole and Shrader.

The ~PATIO AT AMERICANO~ at the Hotel Vitale is truly a force of nature. I was driving by (okay, speeding by) on the Embarcadero last week around 7pm, and I couldn't believe the explosion of blue shirts (you know, THE blue shirt) and skirted lasses on the outdoor patio. Like, whoa. It was like hook-up central. So after a recent renovation, the patio now has more seating, two outdoor bars, patio speakers, heat lamps, and a patio "enoteca" menu with about 15 easy-to-manage bites like risotto croquettes, carpaccio breadsticks, and pork polpette (meatballs) with tomato sauce. There are even some reserved tables with bottle service for you executive types.

Pascal Rigo's latest ~BOULANGE~ opened on Columbus today in the old Sophie's Crepes space. 543 Columbus Ave.

I got a call from ~SCOTT HOWARD~ about the changes he's making at his namesake restaurant—he's completely redoing the menu and wants to steer people away from the preconception that it's a special occasion-only/fine dining restaurant. Lunch was discontinued, and the vibe of the place should be changing, featuring a menu with lower prices, and it will be more reminiscent of the style of cooking he was previously doing at Fork. I say great—I like his cooking and what he does with ingredients, so perhaps now the much-maligned placemats will make more sense. I'll report soon on a dinner there!