March 4, 2008

Here are some more details expanding on my January post about the changeover of Soluna to ~CIVIC RESTAURANT AND BAR~. The operating partners include René Denis, the former GM of Biscuits and Blues, along with Ed Ivey and Matt Norris. They will continue operating under the Soluna name and concept (they have already made some tweaks to the menu) until mid-April, when they will close Soluna for four days while they put in new décor and spruce the place up—a designer from RISD will be overseeing the new look. When it reopens, Civic's menu will feature fresh and simple food with local, organic, sustainable ingredients. Lunch and dinner will be served, with the eventual goal of weekend lunch and brunch, and open hours seven days a week. Later hours (until midnight) will be happening, plus live entertainment. They are working with the City to gain access to the corner lot that just uselessly sits there with the fence around it (it was an old powerhouse site), and to convert it into an outdoor patio for guests. An organic garden will also be going into the lot behind the restaurant—which means fresh ingredients for the cocktails. 272 McAllister St. at Larkin, 415-621-2200.

Oh, and the chef they planned to hire didn't pan out, so they're currently looking for someone creative with culinary know-how to lead the restaurant. Get in touch with René at rene@solunasf.com if you're interested, or know someone who should apply for the gig.

I'm sorry to report that it appears the ~FRONT ROOM~ has closed for good, after 40-plus years of business (Sam Duvall originally opened it in 1967). After getting squeezed out of its 1500 California Street home by the [insert whatever adjective/string of descriptors you want] landlord Luisa Hanson, it moved down the street to the tinier space at 1550 California last year. The phone is now disconnected—anyone know how to get in touch with owner Lori Laghaei? Best wishes from a lot of people in the neighborhood, and beyond. 1550 California St. at Polk.

Got word that chef ~RYAN SCOTT OF MYTH CAFÉ~ is punching the clock for the last time there next Friday, March 14. Seems the closure of Myth is also imminent around that time, although nothing remains confirmed. Next week will be a busy one for Scott since the debut on the new Top Chef premieres on Wednesday, March 12. Ryan is also busy ramping up his new business, Ryan Scott 2Go (I hope it involves sandwiches).

Fellow night owls, did you know about ~FARMERBROWN'S~ late night special? A tablehopper reader tipped me off to this: after 10pm, you can get a plate of fried chicken, with mac-n-cheese, and greens, plus a cold pint of beer. For $15. Sweet. 25 Mason St. at Turk/Market, 415-409-FARM.

Burger news around town: first, ~BURGER JOINT~ on King Street near the ballpark has finally opened. I think I mentioned this was in works over a year ago. Anyway, now you can get your burgers and fries on. Hours are 11am–9pm, daily. 242 King St. at 3rd, 415-371-1600.

Then over in Hayes Valley, you'll find ~DOUBLE DECKER~ in the old Zoya/Midori Mushi two-story tower at the Days Inn. On the menu: classic American fare, like Niman Ranch burgers ($5.95, or $6.95 for a double decker), spicy Buffalo "inferno" wings, plus homemade chips and fries. And that's about it! Oh, and there's beer. You can dine upstairs, or downstairs. Open daily 10:30am–9pm. 465 Grove St. at Gough, 415-552-8042.

I was on a walk and took a peek at the new ~TATAKI SUSHI & SAKE BAR~ in the old Subway space (good riddance) on California at Divisadero. The tiny 25-seat space has kind of a Zen spa-naturalistic Japanese look. The menu is mostly what I call California-style sushi (lots of maki). A partner in the project and the sushi chef is Raymond H*, (I can't type his last name lest this newsletter end up in everyone's spam filter, egad). His background includes Hana-Zen, Hamano, and Benihana—with five seats available at the sushi bar, maybe he will do some groovy tricks for you. Some namesake tatakis on the menu include beef, albacore, kampachi, ahi tuna, and artic char. There are also premium sakes available. Hours are Mon–Thu 5:30pm–10:30pm, Fri–Sat 5:30pm–11:30pm, closed Sunday. Lunch is coming soon. 2815 California St. at Divisadero, 415-931-1182.

This week's fresh meat review is of ~THICK & THIN PIZZA~, where they're starting a monthly event on the first Tuesday of every month called Dining for Drag. BeBe Sweetbriar (the reining Miss Gay SF and Miss Desperate Diva) hosts these evenings where she and her drag friends wait tables and take turns performing in the restaurant—I can only imagine the scene. 15% of all sales go to a different charity every month. This month it will benefit BAAITS, an LGBT Native American Organization. And to celebrate Madonna's recent acceptance into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, BeBe is dedicating the evening (and music) to Madge. The next Dining for Drag event is tonight, March 4, from 7pm–10pm. 3600 16th St. at Market, 415-431-0306.

Do you have spring fever? I'd wager yes, unless you've been living in a cave the past two weeks. To get you further into the spirit, ~MILLENNIUM~ is hosting a Spring Equinox Menu, full of tender, succulent greens, baby root veggies, peas, shoots, and other springtime favorites! It's a four-course prix-fixe menu for $50/person with a $23 optional wine pairing. The menu is available Thu–Sat for the month of March. 580 Geary St. at Jones, 415-345-3900.

So back in December I mentioned ~FOURBARRELCOFFEE~, the new coffee place opening in The Hub/North Mission from Ritual's Jeremy Tooker. It's not going to open until April or so, but in the meantime, you can have a coffee pulled from one the La Marzocco Mistral machines set up on an espresso cart, from 7am–5pm. It also looks like there will be more space for seats than originally anticipated—it's coming out to about 1,000 square feet of café space, with room for 40 or so total at the tables and two bars. But remember, no Wi-Fi—it's just a place to enjoy your coffee. 375 Valencia St. at 15th.

Nearby, a reader tipped me off to a new spot, ~JACKIE'S VINOTECA & CAFÉ~, opening at Valencia and McCoppin. Anyone know anything, or anyone? A friend says it's looking close to finished. Bonus points if anyone has the owner's contact info! I didn't have time to cruise over and check it out this weekend—expect an update in next week's column!

In the meantime, things are getting closer on the Lower Haight's ~UVA ENOTECA~ from wine director/GM Boris Nemchenok (of Batali's Otto in New York and EOS) and executive chef Ben Hetzel (recently of the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton). The menu will feature an extensive list of antipasti, like semolina gnocchi with speck; locally crafted meats like bresaola, speck, lamb prosciutto, and nostrano; cheeses; inventive pizzas and panini (prosciutto with cherries and burrata, anyone?); and tramezzini and piadine. Some one-of-a-kind specialty items will also be available, like a custom cheese, artisan bread, and small-production gelato. There will be about 80–100 wines from small boutique Italian wine producers, with most sourced by wine consultant Jim Kennedy (Delfina, Sociale), and will be served quartino-style (a small decanter that holds a quarter of a liter). Chef Hetzel's wife, Camber Lay, (Epic, Laïola, Range, Frisson) will be consulting on a list of wine-based cocktails utilizing vermouths, wine-based simple syrups, and sparkling wines. The look is shaping up to be rustic and clean, with brick walls, dark wood-stained floors, marble countertops, and subway-style tiled walls, plus red cedar tabletops. The opening is looking like late March/early April for now. Hours will be Mon–Fri 5pm–12am, Sat–Sun for brunch—open from 10am–12am. 568 Haight St. at Steiner.

More wino news: ~THE PRESS CLUB~, the 9,000-square-foot tasting room opening up on Yerba Buena Lane in late April, just announced their two additional and final wine/vintner members (Fritz Winery and Landmark Vineyards). Other wineries include Chateau Montelena, Hanna Winery, Miner Family Vineyards, Mount Eden Vineyards, Pahlmeyer, and Saintsbury. Press Club will feature daily tastings, gourmet food, educational events, wine club opportunities, direct shipping, and private tasting areas for intimate gatherings, plus wine release parties and winemaker dinners. They also recently hired a GM, George Blanckensee, whose hospitality background includes the Westin St. Francis, and Sanibel Harbour Resort and Spa. 20 Yerba Buena Lane at Market, 415-494-2000.

Oh, and on Sunday, March 16, ~SOUTH~ is continuing their wine tastings and winemaker dinners with shirazaganza from 4pm–6pm. They'll be pouring 25 different kinds of shiraz, from Heathcote, to boutique brands like Craiglee and Clonakilla, plus Barossas from Torbreck and Elderton. Space is limited to 75 people. $35 includes tastes of 25 wines plus some heavy apps to keep you upright. Last time they sold out quickly, so RSVP early to events@southfwb.com with your phone number, and they'll call you for a credit card to hold your spot. 330 Townsend #101 at Fourth St., 415-974-5599.

~OTTIMISTA ENOTECA-CAFÉ~ has launched 2-for-1 Tuesdays! Every Tuesday in March from 5pm–7pm, all wines by the glass (of equal or lesser value) are two-for-one. Salud! 1838 Union St. at Octavia, 415-674-8400.

~THE PAGE~ has reopened after being closed for a short spell while they installed a new walk-in. Which means colder, and therefore better-tasting beer. A little taxidermy report: an elk and a bobcat have also been added. Lastly, they also win for one of the funnier FAQs. 298 Divisadero St. at Page, 415-255-6101.

Starting this coming Sunday, ~ALEMBIC'S~ Thomas Waugh is tending bar until March 12 at one of my favorite bars in New York, Death & Co. And in return, they are dispatching Phil Ward, their resident cocktail expert, to work behind the stick with Dan Hyatt. Look out.

Oh, and in case you missed the Valentine's Day Savoy Cocktail Night, the Alembic will be rolling it out on the last Tuesday of every month. Here's more: "The Savoy Cocktail Book is a famous old cocktail book, one of the first, and it contains hundreds of great recipes, and a few strange ones, the likes of which we have been hard at work re-creating behind the scenes. So you get the book, close your eyes and point, and chances are we have the stuff to make it for you. Anyway, Round 2 is on Tuesday, March 25." 1725 Haight St. at Cole, 415-666-0822.

On Monday, March 10, ~RYE~ is hosting their monthly mixing competition, this time with Bluecoat Gin! There will be some nibbles by Chuck Fitzgerald and fab deals on Bluecoat cocktails. The competition kicks off at 7:30pm, but the cocktailing begins at 5:30pm. If you are a bartender and want to compete, please contact Greg at greg@rosewoodbar.com. Ten bartenders total will compete for prizes, including the winner's USBG dues will be paid for a year! Rye Bar, 688 Geary St. at Leavenworth, 415-786-7803.