This week's tablehopper: blame it on the rain.

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Stellar glamping bites at SuperStella Van! Succulent pieces of grilled Maine lobster that you dunk into a fermented chile broth, fondue-style. Yes, it was incredible. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Hello, dear readers. I hope you’re keeping toasty during this cold and wet and windy AF weather. (My apartment is fuh-reeezing right now.) Yup, my column is a day late, partially due to an inability to focus and write—honestly, I have been so lethargic the past couple days. Mental malaise. Distracted. I have also been quite busy working on something exciting for you (more on that at the end of this intro!). Too much input, and it’s messing with my output. I decided I would just send this once it was done, I don’t care what day it is. And so, here we are. Hi!

I know most of us have whiplash from the abrupt announcement on Monday that the stay-at-home order has been lifted, and we have returned to the purple tier here in SF. I see my hairstylist friends praising the heavens (my roots do as well, ha), while many restaurateurs in San Francisco are scrambling to open outdoor dining once again this Thursday (or soon—the weather is pretty brutal for the next week), while East Bay and North Bay places are already reopening.

We have mostly returned to the former outdoor dining regulations (up to six per table, two households only—please respect it), but we still have a 10pm curfew in effect, so businesses will not be seating and serving as late as before. Then again, we’re all eating at grandma hours these dark winter days, am I right? Another change is that barriers between tables can no longer serve as an alternative to distancing tables six feet or more (I’m sure that messes up a number of Shared Spaces that have already been built).

After limping through the past two months with lackluster takeout numbers and no crucial holiday bump, outdoor dining offers a bit more of a glimmer of hope for survival (and it allows restaurants to hire some staff back) since our federal government continues to withhold any substantial relief or bailout for the industry, and state aid isn’t enough. If only we were further along in our vaccinations, and able to protect and fully prioritize our restaurant/foodservice workers. Did you see the news about the recent UCSF study that shares this chilling insight: “Cooks hold the most hazardous occupation among essential workers in the state, with 828 deaths?” You can read the top ten hazardous jobs in California, which the study recommends are prioritized for vaccines. We must protect our essential workers, who don’t have the luxury to work from home, they have immense fear of losing work if they get exposed or sick, and many can’t collect unemployment.

I checked in with a number of restaurant owners, and some are going to take their time reopening—and with the rainy weather over the next week, Bruce Hill of Zero Zero wants to see how things go (Bruce mentioned they may try having flexible days for their Shared Space—depending upon the weather conditions, they’d announce whether they are open or closed for outdoor dining on Instagram each day—and they will also try offering special dishes you can only get on-premise). The Tenderloin Community Benefit District (TLCBD) announced Larkin Street will be open for outdoor dining and personal services starting this Thursday January 28th, SF’s first official day. El Buen Comer and Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack in Bernal/La Lengua will also open outdoor dining on Thursday, same goes for Palette Tea House (time to enjoy some dim sum!), while A16 will reopen this Friday. These are just a smattering of places I have seen announcements for. (Over in the East Bay, Daughter Thai Kitchen in Montclair is already open.) And then there’s The Vault Garden in SF, which had already planned celebration dinners for the first weekend in February before the stay-at-home order was lifted—partner Ryan Cole is always looking ahead. (They’re also launching Tits Up—A Drag Brunch with Bobby Friday & Friends Sat-Sun.) Others are waiting to get to February and will see how things are going, like Yuka Ioroi at Cassava. It’s such a rollercoaster. I’ll be posting updates on my @tablehopper Instagram Highlights when I can (but I can’t post every reopening, I will lose what’s left of my mind).

I know many of us are questioning the safety of returning to outdoor dining and gathering when we are just barely out of the ICU capacity woods, along with this pernicious California variant in our midst. My mind has been spinning over all the ramifications, positive and negative, of what reopening entails. I was grateful to be part of an impromptu forum on Clubhouse Monday night (thanks for having me, Maggie of 86Fund!) to talk through some of our shared thoughts and concerns.

While it’s important to want to support restaurants and show up for them, we need to do it in the right way, and that’s by heeding the guidelines and keeping each other safe (namely, keeping our mask on when we aren’t actively taking a bite or drink, and limiting the mix of households to two or less)—otherwise, we’re going to return to another rollback and lockdown, and further compromise the future of our restaurants. They can’t keep closing and reopening—they lose so much money with each fluctuation, and their poor staffs are greatly affected by each change. Yet again, it’s up to us.

I already noted comments on Instagram by people excited to get together for bottomless mimosa brunches with the gang, and that’s exactly the behavior that will turn Grant Avenue in North Beach back into Covid Alley, the Valencia Street party into Virus HQ, and the Marina into the Pandemic Playhouse. Please don’t. I certainly agree it’s better to sit outside with a pod-mate over a glass of wine or meal than inside someone’s apartment, but don’t make it a posse. I know, we all miss each other so much—I have barely seen anyone the past two months. Please keep each other and our beleaguered service industry as safe as possible. Sigh. (And I wonder why I’m tired?)

In sunnier news, this past weekend, I was beyond thrilled to have an epic sunshine Saturday up at William Tell House in Tomales for their seventh annual crab feed, which they turned into a socially distant tailgate! Genius. And for those of you who were jealous of my pictures, you’ll be happy to know they’re hosting another crab tailgate on Saturday February 13th, which is also a fundraiser for the Golden Gate Salmon Association! Get your ticket here!

I also had such a special private dining experience last week (on Inauguration night!) at chef Anthony Strong’s new SuperStella catering van! You gotta check out my pics of what is one of the coolest tables (and glamping dining experiences) in town. He’s such an incredible chef, and certainly one of our most innovative. Don’t miss it.

So, I’m happy to announce I’ve been busy putting together another tablehopper restaurant gift bag, this time to celebrate tablehopper’s 15th anniversary next month! That’s right, yours truly is having her quinceañera! (WHERE DOES THE TIME GO?) It’s also the Lunar New Year, and Valentine’s Day, and Black History Month, so this bag is going to be full of many celebratory treasures, from Lunar New Year chocolates from Socola, to truffle XO sauce from Lily, to blue and red tortilla chips from La Palma (hopper colors!). I’m so fired up to share the entire lineup ready for you, stand by for an email hopefully tomorrow. The bag will be ready for pickup from China Live (or delivery) February 12th-14th, so you’ll have it in time for all the celebrations that weekend. It will be much better than a dozen red roses, let me tell you. Thanks again for all your support!

Now, since we’re stuck inside for the next couple days with this rain, order some takeout and here are some movies I’ve been enthralled with: “Small Axe” on Amazon (this anthology has the best films I saw last year, simply incredible), “White Tiger” on Netflix is really well done, and if you want a good laugh at the end of the night, “History of Swear Words” with Nicolas Cage on Netflix has had me guffawing, it’s light and fun! Just what we need.

More soon! Mwah!
Marcia Gagliardi

View tablehopper Newsletter from Wednesday, Jan 27 2021