May 30, 2006

Big news: just when you thought Blue Plate and Emmy's Spaghetti Shack had cornered the market on SF-funky/eclectic restaurants in the Outer Mission, the executive chef of Emmy's Spaghetti Shack for the past five years, Sarah Kirnon, will be taking part in a new restaurant called ~THE FRONT PORCH~. Her partners in the venture are Josie White, a waitress and manager of Emmy's, and the ever-amicable Kevin Cline from Bix, who started tending the bar and made his way up to GM during his five years there. For the record, everyone at Emmy's is being really supportive, treating the Front Porch like a "sister shack." Emmy's is considering promoting their current sous chef to take over for Kirnon, and it's also being discussed to have Kirnon continue consulting on the menu.

The Front Porch space is the former home of Dominic's Club, which prior to that was known as The Venetian, a hotspot in the '50s for high rollers (29th Street used to have a light rail station, and was a really vibrant area). The space dates back to 1933, and is being renovated to have a homey and New Orleans-inspired feeling, while still preserving some of its Brat Park-clubbiness. The owners envision making this a fun, hip, and affordable destination where people can come together, catch up, and can actually afford to make it their weekly hangout spot. There will be booths along the wall, an imprinted tin ceiling, antiques and retro touches, pictures and mirrors, tables that feature vintage tabletops that have been re-set on new bases, a mahogany bar, an open kitchen, and about that front porch: the front will offer outdoor dining and will double as a waiting area, or just a spot where you can kick it. It's meant to have a beer garden-feeling (albeit a small one—there's room for about 15 people), with plants plus four or five rocking chairs. The interior will seat 55-60, with room for 8-10 at the bar. They're starting with beer and wine, and are hoping to secure a liquor license. (Fingers crossed.)

Okay, so the vittles! It's going to be based on the British concept of a "gastropub," a restaurant style that has been traveling its way west and making some appearances on the New York dining landscape. A gastropub is a classic pub venue with a distinct neighborhood vibe, and known for serving better-than-usual pub fare. Kirnon, who is from Barbados, will be preparing a menu of simple fare and comfort food, but with some heavy Caribbean influence, and a world-class chef's touch and execution. The ingredient-driven menu will feature organic meats and veggies, with dishes like tuna tartare paired with green plantains, duck breast with a spicy papaya sauce, house-cured salmon and salt cod fritters with tarragon crème fraîche, grilled items like a pork chop with a caraway coleslaw, and they plan on serving the best fried chicken in town, using a recipe from Kirnon's grandma. The food will be incredibly affordable, with most entrées running from $9-$15, and nothing over $20. Even cuter—some of the food will come in the old-school little plastic baskets. Cline is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, and is keen to bring back the $6 delicious glass of wine. You'll be able to start making it "your joint" come July. Dinner will be served nightly, and the hours will be Mon-Thu 5:30pm-10:30pm, and until 1:30am Fri-Sat. There will also be a lunch/brunch on Saturday (12pm-11:30pm) and Sunday (12pm-9pm). 65A 29th St., at Mission and San Jose, www.thefrontporchsf.com (eventually).

The long-vacant corner on Duboce and Sanchez will soon have a neighborhood café from the owner of the Dolores Park Café, Rachel Herbert. The space was formerly Cooper's Gourmet, a wine and cheese place, and by late June-early July will be transformed into ~DUBOCE PARK CAFÉ~. It will follow the very successful format of Dolores Park Café, serving coffee, smoothies, sandwiches, salads, and soup. There will be the same focus on organic ingredients, including Niman Ranch beef and ham, and there will also be beer and wine offered. There will be outdoor seating, and a large window was added so patrons can look out onto the park from the L-shaped bar inside. The interior will look slightly more modern than Dolores Park Café, utilizing lighter wood, with greens and oranges on the walls. Herbert stressed she is striving for the café to be a community space, a true café where the neighborhood can come together, hang out, and enjoy a fresh meal. Duboce Park Café will be open daily for breakfast, lunch, and a light dinner, from 8:30am-8pm.

Those who live and work near the SOMA roundabout will be happy to know a spiffy patisserie will be opening in August called ~PATISSERIE PHILIPPE~. The location will be in the new Roche Bobois building, across from the SEGA building. After four years with Pascal Rigo's Bay Bread, you can bet Philippe Delarue knows his pastry. The space will feature an Art Deco look, with light pink and silver figuring prominently, plus vintage cake stands, and chandeliers that were sourced in France. There will be two large mahogany cases, each with a marble top—one for making sandwiches, like panini and baguette sandwiches, and the other for the pastry. There will also be salads and it wouldn't be truly French unless there was some pâté (which there will be). It will have ten tables inside—outdoor seating is TBD. The patisserie will be open from 7am-6pm, closed on Sundays. 655 Townsend at 8th St.

The Portland-based ~MOONSTRUCK CHOCOLATE COMPANY~ will be opening up in the Marina in the old Mrs. Field's space this September. Moonstruck is known for its hand-crafted artisan chocolates and award-winning truffles. The café will also serve chocolate-based desserts and beverages with chocolate in them, like their Chocolate Chai drink. 2109 Chestnut St.

Sadly, I saw on Chowhound that Berkeley's ~BENDEAN~ has closed as of this past weekend. The owner, Lance Dean Velasquez, reportedly wanted to spend more time with his son (Ben) and less at the restaurant. He was formerly the chef at NeO (remember that joint?) and JohnFrank (later Home) on Market Street here in the 415. I wish him luck… people will miss his cooking, and especially that wicked early dinner deal he offered for $13.50!