Update on Doc Ricketts (Justin Deering Announced as Chef)

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Chef Justin Deering at 15 Romolo. Photo © Balthazar Digital Media (via Facebook).

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The former entrance at The Purple Onion. Yelp photo by Luis C.

In January of this year, it was announced that Christopher Burnett of Darwin Cafe in SoMa is going to be opening ~DOC RICKETTS~ in the original (and historic) Purple Onion comedy club space in North Beach.

I caught up with Burnett for an update, and there are some announcements to make about the team and space. Charlie Brown, who has been the restaurant manager at Prospect since it opened, is going to be in charge of operations. The chef is Justin Deering, who has most recently been the chef at 15 Romolo (it was a temporary gig that happily went a bit longer than expected; he is departing in two weeks). Deering was previously at Café des Amis and prior to that, Conduit. Deering explains that while he has been doing very approachable food at 15 Romolo, he’s looking forward to developing the menu for Doc Ricketts, which will have lighter flavors (there was also a mention of charcuterie and a curing room).

Deering is also going to be honoring the legacy of Doc Ricketts: he was considered the father of marine biology, and was an early conservationist (John Steinbeck was a friend, and the character Doc in Cannery Row was based on Ricketts). Owner Burnett grew up in the Monterey area, hence the affinity for Steinbeck. So perhaps some sustainability and seafood will come into play in the concept. Deering’s culinary style is creative and very seasonal, so I look forward to seeing what he has in store—he said it will be casual and affordable. There will be lunch and dinner service—nearby workers will be able to swing by for takeout, or opt for a sit-down lunch instead.

As for the building, it’s a unique one—it’s 102 years old and was brought down to the studs. Yeah, it has been a major renovation as the team converts it into a full-service restaurant (the entrance and staircase were both moved, and the former barber shop is no longer there). There will be oak floors, bistro tables with cast-iron bases topped in white marble, plus there will also be redwood, and hot-rolled steel beams in the kitchen. The layout is a little quirky: the kitchen is on the second floor, while the 49-seat dining room (previously Caffè Macaroni) will be on the first floor. The basement, which used to be the Purple Onion, will be Doc’s Lab, which will have a full bar and will be a space for music, book readings, comedy, and local talent to gather (look for the place to be open until 2am on the weekends). While a bar manager hasn’t been named yet, there will be barrel-aged cocktails and they will be making their own bitters. They are looking to open in October; stand by for updates (and pics!) between now and then. 124 Columbus Ave. at Jackson.