November 14, 2006

First it was Enrico's, and now another San Francisco landmark has closed its doors: ~THE MANDARIN RESTAURANT~ at Ghirardelli Square, founded by Cecilia Chang in 1968, served its last meal on Sunday night. The restaurant is being converted into the Fairmont Heritage Place at Ghirardelli Square, a private residence club. I spoke with Max Scheutz, the owner since 2002 who was really turning things around over there. He mentioned the landlord offered moving the restaurant to another floor, but they would have lost the inimitable style of the Mandarin's current location with the cathedral ceilings. He said it just wouldn't be the same, so Scheutz opted to close. It's another sad ending to a place that played an important part in San Francisco's restaurant landscape for almost 40 years.

SIDEBAR: For you jazz fans out there who were bummed by how quickly ~ENRICO'S~ closed, I thought you'd like to know about this Enrico's Reunion Night at Jazz at Pearl's, and it's free. It's this Wednesday, the 15th, and will feature two sets of music, starting at 8pm and 10pm, with doors opening at 7:30pm.

I was trucking around the city this Sunday on my bike (gotta work off all my meals, yo), and I went to check out a couple spots on 24th Street a tablehopper reader tipped me off about. The first is probably the cutest coffee shop, excuse me, coffee lounge, I have ever seen in the City. Just last week ~SUGARLUMP COFFEE LOUNGE~ opened in the former annex to the Keller paint store. It's like a cool-yet-cozy post-modern furnishing store you'd find in Silverlake in L.A. that happens to serve good coffee—it's full of groupings of eclectic and well-curated chairs and loveseats and retro lighting, plus a groovy freestanding fireplace, wood floors, chocolate brown walls, and plenty of folks tapping away on their iBooks on the vintage tables due to the free Wi-Fi. Oh, and good art. (Art shows will rotate every three months or so, and will feature local artists.) The friendly barista set me up with a shot of espresso—sugarlump has their very own house blend from a local roaster (and it's organic). The munchies menu is a little slim at the moment: bagels, sweet and savory pastries from Artisan, but YAY, there are meat or vegetarian pies from Mystipied that I seriously j'adore. (You gotta try one—you can thank me later.) The owners behind this darling project are Martin Rapalski from the Make-Out Room and the Latin American Club, and his long-standing friend and colleague, Jill Rosenthal. Nice work, you two. Open 6:30am-10pm Mon-Fri, and 7am-10pm Sat-Sun. 2862 24th St. between Bryant and Florida, 415-826-5867.

Just across the street and a couple doors down from Roosevelt's Tamale Parlor will be ~CHURROS Y CHOCOLATE~, a family-style space that will be serving up the namesake treat, plus perfect tortas, like the Cubano and Milanesa versions. Why perfect? Because the torta-maker is actually quite well known on 24th Street (I just can't say who it is yet). When is it opening? For now we have to wait for the health department and zoning permits to go through, hopefully before Christmas. The classic and retro/Euro-styled space features a long diner-style counter, with the original chairs from the historic Vanessi's that used to be on Broadway. There are also dramatic bronze and marble lamps from the old Harry Denton's on Steuart Street that date back to 1918, and even the dishes are authentic Buffalo China. There will also be a patio open in the back where you can sit and enjoy your churros that will be made fresh and on-premise. Open 5:30am-10pm (closing earlier on Sunday). 2817 24th St. between Bryant and York St.

Commercial Dungeness crab season officially kicks off tomorrow, November 15th, in the San Francisco Bay Area. The recently opened ~WOODHOUSE FISH COMPANY~ is celebrating by holding the first annual Dungeness Madness Crab Feed from Thursday November 16th through Saturday November 18th—expect some incredible deals on fresh local Dungeness crabs, cooked to eat in, or live to take out. 2073 Market at 14th St., 415-437-CRAB (2722).

Happy birthday ~SLOW CLUB~! It's turning 15, and to honor its quinceañera, they will be offering a complimentary glass of bubbly this week, on Friday the 17th and Saturday the 18th.

It's official: ~SELLER'S MARKETS~ is opening its second location tomorrow (Wednesday the 15th), and will feature the largest outside dining patio in San Francisco. BLD will be served (that's breakfast, lunch, and dinner) with treats from the wood-burning pizza oven and rotisserie grill, plus there is an 'eco hip' wine list for you eco-hipster winos out there.

Looks like Joanna Karlinsky is no longer involved with ~THE ELITE CAFÉ~ in any capacity—her consulting role is no more… So now it's all about her biscuits.

Since the majority of you are as food obsessed as I am, here are a few tidbits about some other local publications with some good food coverage. Some of you know I write for the Northside paper, and this month is the annual Best of Food and Wine issue. Be sure to pick one up if you're over in that area—it's chock-full of good food features. And since 7x7 Magazine showed me some major love this year, I thought I'd point you to their first annual restaurant readers poll for their 2007 Eat + Drink Awards—nominate your favorite restaurants and get them some press!