table of contents

the chatterbox
the word on the street
fresh meat
new restaurant reviews
the regular
it's about time we met
the lush
put it on my tab

the socialite
shindigs/feasts/festivals

 

welcome to the tablehopper newsletter!

FEBRUARY 28, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Hi friends. Thanks so much for all the feedback and enthusiasm after last week’s first issue. So here we are, ready to roll with number two. This week you get to meet “the lush,” while “the starlet” is taking a break (shocking).

Just so you know, each week the content in the tablehopper newsletter is re-posted on tablehopper.com, so you’ll always be able to refer to the site for past reviews.

Some of you with hotmail accounts reported that your issue of the tablehopper was M.I.A., and then arrived a couple days late… don’t know what to say, except that’s hotmail for ya. Please let me know if you discover any other weird tech issues!

Grazie and ciao,
~Marcia

 

FEBRUARY 28, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO This week is all about some casual dining spots popping up around town.

Two of my favorite folks in town, Will Linn and Monika Milk Bernstein, are mostly known for their event-producing work as Blasthaus, and for their hip lounge/art space, RxGallery. But on March 20, they will be opening ~BOCA~ (Bar of Contemporary Art) in SoMa on the newly developing Jessie Street at 5th Street. Boca, as you Spanish speakers are well-aware, means “mouth,” and BOCA will be offering plenty of opportunities to fill it. The sociable space will be a combo café/gallery/club, with a tasty menu of gourmet pizzas, panini and salads; chef Eric Hopfinger of Cozmo’s in the Marina is crafting the menu. They’ll also have a new concept for a European coffee bar, where you’ll be able to sample different kinds of gourmet coffee—the unimpeachable local darlings, Blue Bottle Coffee Co. will be one of the coffees in the grinder. The space has a liquor license (yay) so it’ll be a cool space where you can swing by for lunch or a snack, and dip into some cocktails in the evening. They should be getting an after-hours permit soon, too. Talk about fully loaded. And then there’s the art: monthly exhibits of tech-driven/robotic/video art/mechanical/new media-oriented work. Yes, different. The opening week is going to have a slew of events, check out the line-up, and I can hardly wait for when Jessie Street becomes the pedestrian-only area it’s slated to be within a year or so. There will be outdoor seating, the SF Museum across the street in the old Mint building… good stuff, Maynard. 414 Jessie St., open Mon.-Sat., hours TBD but looking like 11am-2am, closing earlier during the week.

Meat lovers will be mourning the closure of ~WORLD SAUSAGE GRILL~ at 2073 Market St. as of Sunday, March 5. Actually, the vegetarians will be sad too, because this place reportedly had an amazing vegan dog (I wouldn’t know, I’m too much of a bockwurst and brat-lover myself). The owners were too busy on their new project to keep both businesses going, which is the San Francisco location of the much-awaited and weirdly-named ~BEARD PAPA’S~, a chain from Tokyo known for their cream puffs. The cream puffs are filled on the spot with flavors like green tea, chocolate, and of course, vanilla custard. Wicked—who needs cookies? I’ll take a dozen, please. It will be opening by April or May on Yerba Buena Lane, the new walkway between Mission and Market and 3rd and 4th Streets. Moving into its place will be a seafood restaurant called ~WOODHOUSE FISH COMPANY~ from Dylan Woodhouse MacNiven, the son of Jamis MacNiven of the cult-like Buck’s of Woodside; the Woodhouses have four generations of fishermen in their family tree. The restaurant will be a fast-casual destination for Dungeness crab, prawns, lobster, and all other delicious seafaring creatures we want to eat but don’t want to go to the Wharf for. They will be giving the space a total facelift, and expect to open in May with a pier-side restaurant/New England diner look.

Residents in the Western Addition (and vegetarians) will be fired up to know a second location of the somewhat healthy and popular Mission taqueria, ~PAPALOTE~, is opening in a couple weeks in the former “Tango 20!” space at 1777 Fulton St. at Masonic. Helllllllo fish tacos.

I for one will not lament more Peruvian food in town. Bring on the aji amarillo. So the latest is a new place called ~INKA'S~ that moved into the former Strayfish Sushi spot at 3299 Mission St. at 29th. (Before Strayfish, it was Rock Soup—it’s a funky space that used to be a bank). They supposedly are cranking out some roast chicken—let’s see if some chicken wars start between them and Goood Fricken’ Chicken across the street. Open for lunch and dinner Tue-Sun, closed Monday. 415-648-0111.

Well, since Tita’s Hale ‘Aina is closed, some folks are down a Hawaiian restaurant where they can get their SPAM groove on. Not like there are a lot of those people, but they do exist. Ends up the former greasy spoon (and coffee cup, and plate, and…) JT’s Diner is under new ownership, and reopened as ~JT’S ISLAND CAFÉ~ in the beginning of the month. The new owners are Burton and Melinda Louie (she was a former manager at Star’s). And check this out: it’s open for 24 hours. So you can say mahalo to some macadamia nut pancakes or hula with some furakaki chicken or giddy up with some cowboy short ribs at whatever hour you please. Only bummer is it’s waaaay out near 19th Ave., but who knows, you might find yourself all bleary and hungry out there some night. 901 Taraval St. at 19th Ave., 415-661-3303.

 

Couleur Café
300 De Haro St.
at 16th St.
San Francisco, CA 94103

415-255-1021
website

Apps $4-$13.50
Entrées $9-$16
Desserts $5-$7

Mon-Fri 11am-11pm
Sat-Sun 10:30am-11pm
Brunch Sat-Sun 10:30am-4pm

FEBRUARY 28, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Scene: Tuesday night, 7pm. Your sh*t is hungry. Work sucked. Your frig only has olives and ketchup and, like, one egg. (One egg, so annoying.) You’ve had enough of the Chinese-Thai-Indian tribunal with their meals and deals on the pastel pieces of paper piled up in your kitchen drawer. You don’t want to spend a lot of dough. And dag, parking is such an ordeal in this town, there are some nights you’re just not up for the battle.

So I’m here to tell you there is an easygoing little place where you can find a simple dinner for under $20, you’ll be greeted warmly, and you’ll find parking right out front. I’m talking Doris freaking Day, my friend.

Vector yourself in to ~COULEUR CAFÉ~, the latest addition to the Jocelyn Bulow empire (Chez Papa, Chez Maman, La Suite, Baraka). It’s at the base of Potrero Hill, off 16th Street where the monster Gold’s Gym is located, and is right next door to Sally’s in the mini-mall. And hey, there’s your parking spot! Hi!

The open space has burgundy walls, dim lighting and is très casual. I’m not too stoked on the flat-panel TV on one wall, but I guess they occasionally play French movies on it, which is somewhat redeeming. Just no Jerry Lewis, merci. My banquette seat also had a nice vibration going for about 45 seconds, but I am not sure that’s meant to be a feature. Heh. Friends were chatting at the bar, couples were tucked into their corner tables, and there were also a few starter families dining with their tykes, asking things like “So you wanna go home now and have a Tofutti?” Oh, SF.

So, about that dinner. Remember, this is not destination dining. This is “I don’t want to cook tonight” dining. For a starter, there is some tasty merguez sausage ($7) that you can dunk into some harissa (love that stuff) and a good Dijon. My friend unfortunately discovered a couple tiny bone shards in his sausage, but that’s the purveyor’s fault, not the restaurant. Easy with the trimming, François. The warm frisée salad ($8.50) was pretty “meh”—it was somewhat soggy, its poached egg needed to be cooked a smidge more, and the vinaigrette was lacking in the verve department; all entirely fixable.

They also have burgers, some fish dishes (salmon, ahi), salads, and crêpes like the angioplasty-inducing crêpe Savoyarde ($9.50) with béchamel, tomato and prosciutto, or wicked quesadillas like a Beastmaster version made with duck confit, Gruyère and onions ($13). Oh, and crème fraîche. Thanks. You should consider hightailing it across the street to Gold’s after that one.

My friend, who is one fit mofo, could afford to indulge in the somewhat unconventional pasta carbonara ($10), which included thick ribbons of tagliatelle doused in a creamy sauce made with bacon, white wine and too much parsley for my taste, but the winning touch was the just-right runny egg resting on top, under a cloud of parmesan cheese. See you on the Stairmaster. For, like, nine hours. There are 7-8 different kinds of pastas, including tomato and meatballs, which smelled pretty good on a neighboring diner’s plate. I didn’t ask for a bite. That would be rude.

But here’s the top reason why I’ll be returning: the chicken ($12.50). Now, I normally do not go for “the chicken.” Unless I’m at Zuni. Duh. But man, this chicken hits the mark. Bwok! It takes a spin on a rotisserie, so it’s sporting a perfect crackly skin, and comes with a jus that the pile of fries are happily soaking in like it’s Palmolive.

Desserts included some Euro bistro classics like crème caramel, or an affogato (espresso poured over ice cream). A few bonuses: they serve an affordable brunch on the weekend, and you can enjoy it (and lunch) outside in the sun. The music was also good, a French-ified mix of some Motown, funk, soul and jazzy tracks. Serge Gainsbourg would have dug it. (That’s a wink to those of you who “get” the restaurant’s name.)

 

Pesce
2227 Polk St.
at Green St.
San Francisco, CA 94109

415-928-8025

Small plates $3-$14
Desserts $6-$9

Daily for dinner starting at 5pm
Brunch Sat-Sun starting at noon

FEBRUARY 28, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO For a town known for its seafood, it sometimes feels mighty challenging to indulge in some quality and tasty fish here. What gives? And I’m not talking sushi, or crab and garlic noodles. So yes, there is Yabbie’s and Café Maritime, and sit tight—a review of Bar Crudo is coming up soon (which I loved). And while I adore Swan Oyster Depot, Tadich Grill and Sam’s Grill, sometimes I’m just not up for the time warp. I want something of this millennium. That’s where ~PESCE~ floats my boat. (Sorry, I’m a dork like that.)

The format is based on “cicchetti” (say chee-ketti), the Venetian variation of tapas/small plates. I used to live in Venezia, and it’s how people there would eat because they’re so damned social. They cruise from bar to osteria to bar, nibbling on small plates of tasty fish dishes and other savory delectables, slinging back numerous glasses of “ombra” (Venetian slang for a little glass of vino) and gossiping about their neighbor who’s cheating on her husband, or the signora across the street whose mink coat looks cheap. Man, Venetians can be fierce that way.

But fear not: Pesce has only imported the cicchetti style of eating, and no one will be talking smack about you (unless you deserve it). It’s owned by Ruggero Gadaldi, the same mastermind behind Antica Trattoria (also on Polk) and most recently is the new owner of the Last Supper Club. Granted, Pesce has old-school bistro chairs and penny tile floors, but the vibe and crowd that sometimes packs in at the zinc bar are definitely new school. Actually, I prefer to dine here mid-week to avoid all that primetime mayhem, because it’s a cute and cozy place to hang out.

So, about that bar. They make some killer cocktails here. Being a Sazerac queen, I can definitely give them a high-five on their mixology skills. You can just sidle up to the bar and have a couple small plates and a glass of ombra and you’ll be too legit to quit.

Or, like most folks, you’ll park it with a pal at a table and start grazing. Pesce has a menu of 7-8 cold cicchetti, like their oyster shots (not Venetian but totally tasty, $3) or the messy but finger-licking-good roasted pepper bruschetta topped with alici ($8), a type of anchovy that is similar to Spanish boquerones. I personally can’t resist the traditional plate of house-smoked salmon, trout, and sturgeon with horseradish, capers, onions, and some sourdough bread ($14). And don’t think you need to go straight for a Vermentino or Sauvignon Blanc—consider the nicely acidic ’03 Lagrein Rosato, Cantina Terlano, from Alto Adige ($9). Delish with the fish.

As for the hot plates, octopus salad ($8) is always a winning combo in my book: potato, celery, and a lemony vinaigrette, done. The Sicilian swordfish rolls ($11) may be a little too puckery for some, with their sharp spoonful of green olives and capers on top, but I love both of those ingredients. I’m Calabrese, and those two items are practically considered food groups in my family.

For the record, not everything is fish-oriented: Pesce also has some meat dishes, like a heavenly braised pork with cream, bacon, and polenta ($12). Yeah, really light, I know. Some folks swear by the black olive gnocchi ($11), and they usually have great daily specials.

The hands-down finale for me is a sgroppino, a fantastic frothy blend of lemon sorbet, cream, vodka, and prosecco that is then poured into a champagne flute. Molto Venexiano. Cin cin!

 

222 Club
222 Hyde St.
At Turk St.
San Francisco, CA 94102

415-440-0222

FEBRUARY 28, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO A fave little Tenderloin haunt, the ~222 CLUB~, just landed their liquor license (they scored it from the now-closed Sno-Drift Lounge). Which rocks, because “the grotto” (as me and my pals like to call the triple-deuce) was already a choice little spot, even though they only had wine and beer, and my favorite, bubbly. Not only is the staff mighty kind, they also crank out some fab little eats behind the bar, like a scrumptious pear and blue cheese thin-crust pizza. Bar pizza, genius. They’re actually expanding their menu to include some salads, salumi plates, and now five kinds of pizza. Yeah, it’s on a sketchy street, but once you’re inside the grotto you’ll be glad you came.

RockIt Room  
406 Clement St.
at 5th Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94118

415-387-6343
website

FEBRUARY 28, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Out on Clement St., the Last Day Saloon morphed into the ~ROCKIT ROOM~ last year, but the renovations are actually complete this week. The former roadhouse has been brought up-to-date and modernized, and will be featuring more of a sleek/industrial/urban look. The downstairs is supposedly working the loungey tip, while upstairs (where the live acts take place) has booth seating and a clubby music venue vibe. The music format has also changed: goodbye jam band, and hello eclectic format, that includes a DJ night and an open mike night on Tuesdays.

Hawthorne Lane 
22 Hawthorne Lane
Off Howard St.
b/w 2nd and 3rd
San Francisco, CA 94105

415-777-9779
website

 

FEBRUARY 28, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO ~HAWTHORNE LANE~ has added some in-house oak barrel-aged tequila to their list o’ infused spirits. Guillermo Rodriguez, their kitchen manager of ten years and a Guadalajara native, has been barrel aging some high quality tequila at the restaurant that he brought back from Jalisco over six months ago. He learned from his brother-in-law, who is a government tequila inspector, so you can imagine it’s good. It’ll put you back $11, but that’s how much is costs to avoid nasty hangovers from the cheap stuff. I don’t know if there’s a worm, sorry.

 

Purcell Murray
185 Park Lane
Brisbane
website

Saturday, March 4
11am–1:30pm
$55

Reservations/info:
415-330-5557

FEBRUARY 28, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Okay, I am so totally going to this: on Saturday March 4, kitchen goddess and Provence princess, ~GEORGEANNE BRENNAN~, is doing a cooking demo on springtime ingredients for a perfect Provençal menu. Think lamb, and early spring produce like morels, asparagus, and fava beans. There will be a lunch following the demo, with wines paired from, where else, Provence. Here’s the funky part: the demo is in Brisbane. It’ll be at the sleek Purcell Murray Culinary Lifestyle Center where you can salivate over gorgeous Euro kitchen appliances you wish were in your kitchen. A girl can dream.

K&L Wine Merchants
638 4th St.
Between Townsend and Brannan
San Francisco

415-896-1734
website

Saturday, March 25
1pm-4pm
$50

FEBRUARY 28, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO As if you need further inspiration to visit ~K&L WINE MERCHANTS~, but here you go: on Saturday, March 25, they will be offering a special tasting of wines from small producers who make organic/biodynamic wines from the Loire Valley, Burgundy, Jura and Southern France. The wines are imported by Louis/Dressner Selections, known for their unique selection and cult following. But this is where it gets even better: Hog Island will be shucking oysters, and Slanted Door’s Charles Phan and staff will be floating around with some hors d'oeuvres during the tasting. Score. There will also be some cheese in the hizzouse, served by Doralice Handal of The Cheese Shop of Healdsburg.

No, it’s not free (try $50), but a portion of the proceeds will be going to the Community Foundation of the Napa Valley to benefit victims of the recent Napa flooding. Tickets can be purchased by calling 877-KLWines (toll free 877-559-4637), visiting either K&L store (Redwood City or San Francisco), or online.