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The Tablehopper’s Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco: Find the Right Spot for Every Occasion.

This week's tablehopper: a super Tuesday.

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A fellow diner scooping up shrimp étouffée by Fat Alley Foods at Behind the Cart. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Whoa, keep your hat on—it’s windy out there. So glad I’m not on my bike today, I’d be cursing like a sailor—not unlike how I was talking very early Monday morning when I jumped out of my bed like a shot with the first shake from that 4.0. Sonofab*tch! That was not my preferred way to start the week, and I know I’m not alone with that sentiment.

The weekend was beyond magnificent (I love summer in March!): I tooled down to San Jose with my dad to test drive the new Fiat 500 Sport (I had a smile on my face the entire time, I gotta tell ya). Am currently waiting to find out when the model with the specs I want is coming in. Yup, mama’s gonna have a brand-new ride—a red and shiny one! As a friend coined it, it’s like a ladybug on speed—what a little bomba. Beep beep.

Saturday night was a blast: I went to my second Behind the Cart event—this one was New Orleans/Mardi Gras-themed. It was a packed house at the Old Skool Cafe in Bayview, with a rowdy brass band (MJ’s Brass Boppers) and a delicious lineup of eats, from hush puppies by Angry Man Eats to an inventive gumbo pot pie by S+S Gastro Grub, plus locally made beer, and of course I had to indulge in a Sazerac. Loved the family-style dining format, and we all waddled out of there, let me tell you.

Tomorrow I’m looking forward to checking out the EWIP (Exceptional Women in Publishing) 2012 Women’s Leadership Conference, and will be feeling more lady pow-ah on Thursday at A16’s annual Festa della Donna dinner (there are a few spots that were just released on OpenTable, FYI!). Another option to celebrate International Women’s Day on Thursday is the Whisky and Women Unite event at The Boothby Center (get tickets here). No matter what you do, let’s all raise a glass to fabulous women everywhere.

Lastly, here’s today’s episode of You Gotta Eat This on KGO Radio, featuring the bountiful charcuterie and cheese plates at the Fifth Floor Lounge. You’re going to want to do a combo plate, mark my words.

Cheers gang!

Marcia Gagliardi

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)
Mar 6, 2012

Lucky Strike Lanes Opens Thursday March 8th

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Some of the groovy lighting. Photo from Allison Speer.

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Bowling shoes ready for you. Photo from Allison Speer.

Time to brush up on your Lebowski quotes, because the first of two new bowling lanes in the city is here. Opening this Thursday March 8th in SoMa is the first San Francisco location of ~LUCKY STRIKE LANES~, an import from Southern California. The former Borders location near AT&T Park has been transformed by Ray Azoulay (owner and creator of Obsolete Gallery): there are 12 state-of-the-art bowling lanes (the QubicaAMF bowling system has a string machine that reduces power consumption by 60 percent), giant projection screens featuring local artwork, a 40-foot bar with reclaimed 100-year-old wood beams, lounge seating, and “Alice in Wonderland oversized lamp shades.” There are a couple private rooms, including the Einstein room with two pool tables, two ping-pong tables, a competitive trivia game on a flat-screen TV, vintage chess and checker game tables, a carnival claw game, and a private bar (sure to be the setting for many a start-up IPO celebration party). Fun fact: Grub Street found out that the Giants’ Brian Wilson is an owner/partner, and that they renamed Lane 12 to Lane 38, his jersey number.

You can look at the eclectic menu here, which includes everything from a variety of sliders (prime rib French dip, cheeseburger, roasted chicken) and tacos (short rib, green chile, grilled fish) to sushi, Belgian fries, fondue, mac and cheese, and more. For dessert, there’s organic soft serve ice cream from Straus and Parisian macarons from local L’Artisan bakery. Hours are Sun-Wed 11am-12am, Thu 11am-1am, and Fri-Sat 11am-2am (21+ after 8pm daily). Reserve a lane online. 200 King St. at 4th St., 415-400-8260.

Radio Africa & Kitchen Opening This Week

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Radio Africa & Kitchen exterior. Photo: Daisy Chow. © tablehopper.com.

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As seen under construction, it looks like communal tables, banquette seating, and ceiling lights are in the works. Photo: Daisy Chow. © tablehopper.com.

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Still in setup mode, a shiny, new open kitchen is visible beyond the service counter. Photo: Daisy Chow. © tablehopper.com.

Report by Daisy Chow, tablehopper editorial assistant.
This Thursday March 8th, chef Eskender Aseged will introduce the brick-and-mortar site of ~RADIO AFRICA & KITCHEN~, serving the Cal-African-Med cuisine that’s been the star of his pop-up for the past seven years. Located on the ground-floor of the new condominium building at 4800 Third Street in the Bayview, the restaurant will initially serve dinner Tuesday through Saturday. Lunch will launch in April.

I spoke with chef Eskender about the restaurant’s concept, and it sounds like a natural extension of his Radio Africa & Kitchen pop-up—what he calls the “flavors of Africa with a touch of California.” He’ll continue creating modern versions of North African and Middle Eastern dishes, with influences from countries like Ethiopia, Morocco, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, Nigeria, and Senegal. He also wants to reflect the local neighborhood and plans to add dishes that include oxtail and black-eyed peas.

But there’s more than a touch of the California in Eskender’s cuisine, and it’s no wonder, given he’s worked under such big California names as Jeremiah Tower, Joyce Goldstein, and Nancy Oakes. Eskender says his philosophy is simple but spiced up with interesting regional flavors, and he’s also sourcing mostly organic and local ingredients. Some produce will come from gardens in the Mission and the Bayview, especially herbs, and some from local farmers markets and places like the Berkeley Bowl.

Expect dinner offerings to change weekly; in fact, Eskender plans to serve an entirely different menu each week, though variations of favorites, his roast leg of lamb for example, will likely see heavy rotation. The opening menu this Thursday will include edamame and fava bean hummus with green garlic ($6), saffron prawns with long beans and sea urchin harissa ($9), roasted leg of lamb with eggplant relish and couscous ($18), and grilled chicken breast with okra stew and polenta ($14.50).

Lunch service, set to begin on April 3rd, will be a straightforward counter service. There’ll be 5-6 sandwiches (meat, poultry, and vegetarian options will be available), 3-4 green salads, a couple soups, and 1-2 specials.

The 55-seat restaurant will also serve coffee from Coffee Bar, where Radio Africa was previously holding their weekly pop-ups (which will become a special event once or twice yearly), and where they also received their coffee training. A beer and wine license should be coming any day; in the meantime, try drinks like housemade lemonade and in mid-spring, drinks with lemon verbena. Dinner Tue-Sat 5:30pm-9pm, possibly until 9:30pm. Lunch, starting April 3rd, Tue-Sun 11am-3pm. 4800 3rd Street at Oakdale, 415-420-2486.

Thermidor in Mint Plaza Appears to Be Closed

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Thermidor at the end of service. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Seems Mint Plaza’s ~THERMIDOR~ went dark over the weekend. Inside Scoop mentions the restaurant’s voicemail and OpenTable are both off. Stand by for an official statement from owners Bruce Binn and Neil Jorgensen soon.

Thermidor - 8 Mint Plaza San Francisco - 415-896-6500

Criolla Kitchen Becoming Parish Eleven

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Interior photo by John Glenn.

Some more news over at ~CRIOLLA KITCHEN~ in the Castro: the transformation continues, starting with an impending new name of ~PARISH ELEVEN~ (there are 11 counties in the Bay Area, hence the inspiration for the name). The partners are shooting for a mid-April relaunch if everything falls into place.

In the meantime, chef Randy Lewis is going to offer Parish Eleven preview dinners every Monday night, starting March 12th. A sample of the $45 prix-fixe menu lists hors d’oeuvres like bacon-cheese straws, pimento-goat’s milk cheddar cheese spread, farmers’ market crudité, chicken and waffle (Redbro chicken liver mousse, wild rice waffle, barrel-aged sorghum jelly); Mendocino uni bisque with wild Atchafalaya crawfish tail tapioca pudding; cochon du lait with Rancho Gordo baby lima beans and fried cabbage; and chocolate brioche bread pudding for dessert. During this transition, there is a three-course $28 prix-fixe menu on Wed, Thu, and Sun nights as well. Chef Lewis has been sourcing more local and organic ingredients (beer and wine included) for his Southern menu, with the intention of ultimately being as local as possible. And Rob Renteria (Martini House, Redd) is now working with the group, so you can expect some great wine selections from the inimitable Robco. Note the restaurant will be closed on Tuesdays for construction—stand by for details on what the new look will entail.

Parish Eleven - 2295 Market St. San Francisco - 415-552-5811

New Indian Places: Mela Tandoori Kitchen and Gajalee

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Mela Tandoori Kitchen exterior; photo from Facebook.

After a tablehopper report about this almost two years ago, numerous delays, and a short run as a hookah lounge, ~MELA TANDOORI KITCHEN~ is finally opening for meal service, and will be holding a soft opening this Friday for lunch. A buffet lunch of Northern Indian and Pakistani dishes will be available (either $11.95 or $12.95, and all you can eat), featuring classics like tikka masala, aloo gobi, and channa masala, with rotating dishes daily. The Civic Center location has 50 seats, plus an upstairs level. Beer and wine are available. Open to start Mon-Fri 11am-3pm, and will be starting dinner nightly 5:30pm-10:30pm around March 18th. 536 Golden Gate Ave. at Van Ness, 415-447-4041.

After Maharaja Indian Restaurant on Valencia closed, it was believed to be opening as Taj Express, but I was very happy to be driving by and see a sign for ~GAJALEE~ instead, proclaiming “Coastal Indian Seafood.” Grub Street has further details, mentioning the owner, Boni Jacob, is from Udupi Palace down the street, and the cuisine will be “focused on the regions of Goa, Kerala, and Kamataka [sic].” According to someone at Udupi in Berkeley, the opening is Wednesday—I couldn’t get an answer from anyone at the Udupi on Valencia. 525 Valencia St. at 17th St.

Now Open: Darn Good Food

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Downstairs dining area. Photo from Facebook.

FiDi has a new face in the neighborhood: ~DARN GOOD FOOD~; Eater initially reported a couple months ago it’s a “new healthy weekday quick-service food operation …. from founder Ron Henoud [who] has brought on a consulting executive chef and dietitian to create breakfast, lunch and dinner entrées featuring locally sourced meats, lots of vegetables, and nutritional information listed for everything on the menu.” Think healthy breakfast wraps, soup and salad and sandwich combos at lunch, and make-your-own bento boxes for dinner with items like hummus and yogurt chicken. There is seating at tables, a counter for solo diners, and a communal table in the upstairs loft. Breakfast served Mon-Fri 6:30am-10:30am; followed by lunch and dinner until 8pm; daily happy hour 4pm-6pm. 322 Kearny St. at Bush, 415-402-5211.

New Brunches (Town Hall, Don Pisto's) and Longer Hours at Outerlands

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Town Hall exterior; photo from Town Hall.

This is definitely a brunching town, so here are a few more to add to your hit list. First, ~TOWN HALL~ is now serving a delicious-sounding weekend brunch, Sat-Sun 10:30am-2:30pm. Menu items include eggs Benedict ($15) on buttermilk biscuits, La Quercia speck ham, sautéed Swiss chard, chive hollandaise; chicken tasso hash ($14) with garnet yams, Yukon potato, melted onions, peppers, two poached eggs, pimento hollandaise; huevos rancheros ($15); Town Hall purgatory ($15) with brown rice-stuffed poblano chile, two fried eggs, bacon crumble, and spicy tomato sauce; and Southern Comfort ($16) with a sunny-side up egg, grilled pork belly, red pepper jelly, stone ground grits, ham hock collard greens, and bacon gravy. There is also cornflake-crusted brioche French toast ($12), chicken and waffles ($16), and steak frites ($19). Yeah, it looks amazing. Check out the entire menu here. Brunch cocktails include a bloody Mary, and the Hook, Line & Sinker (Negro Modelo, lime juice, Tabasco, Old Bay sea salt rim, house bloody Mary mix). Sign me up.

Starting Friday March 16th, ~DON PISTO’S~ in North Beach is going to be offering weekday brunch, Tue-Fri 11am-3pm, in addition to their usual weekend brunch. Yup, perfect for you industry or hooky-playing types. Look for a five-item brunch menu with dishes like huevos rancheros, chorizo and poached eggs, and brioche French toast, plus some tacos (I love the al pastor). And for those of you keen to take the entire day off, there’s also the option of bottomless “agua fresca” mimosas, sangria, and wine-based margaritas. On Sundays, Pisto’s is going to offer brunch all day, from 10am-10pm, with some dinner items later in the day (the bottomless beverage action ends at 3pm, however). The new Sunday hours kick off Sunday March 18th, the day after St. Patrick’s Day, how convenient.

Many folks will be happy to know ~OUTERLANDS~ has extended their weekend hours, now open Sat 10am-3pm for lunch and Sun 10am-3pm for brunch!

Pop-Ups: George Morrone Joins the Fray, The Window Opens, and More

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Hog & Rocks interior; photo from website.

Starting on Monday March 12th, you’ll be seeing chef George Morrone at ~HOG & ROCKS~ on Monday nights, working with the kitchen crew (I wonder if he’ll yell at them, ha ha) for the next six weeks (through April 16th) for Morrone Mondays. (Ends up he’s a neighbor and a regular, in case you’re wondering how this pop-up came to be.) For $55, you will get a four-course dinner, with the option of suggested wine pairings and two special cocktails, but those are extra. The dishes will balance the high cuisine of George’s background (AQUA, Fifth Floor—I had one of my best meals in the city when he was there) with some Hog & Rocks casual vibe; look for dishes like pork, oysters, and seasonal vegetables that are prepared and plated in a simple fashion. March 12th’s menu will include an amuse bouche; a first course with mushroom, Bloomsdale spinach, bacon vin, pickled pearl onion, turmeric brine; mussels, cilantro broth, hard chorizo, baguette, chorizo butter/aioli; five peppercorn pork tender, apple butter, braised red cabbage, parsnip (three purées); and dessert could be crème brûlée or pudding. Hog & Rocks is primarily walk-in only, but on these nights they will be accepting reservations for the entire dining room. And to add to the fancification, there will also be valet parking.

Over in SoMa, ~THE WINDOW~, a commissary for Coffee Bar that will be hosting pop-up vendors each week (read more details here) is shaping up their schedule: Soup Junkie will be serving lunch Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays starting March 15th, and Seoul Patch is booked for dinner on Friday March 16th and Saturday March 24th from 9pm-2am. Follow the online calendar and @TheWindowSF on Twitter for more. 1599 Howard St. at 12th St.

An organic juice pop-up called ~SŌW~ is trying to come to Pause Wine Bar on Market, but they need to fulfill their Kickstarter fundraising campaign first. Luisa Alberto and Derek Castro met through Blue Bottle Coffee four years ago, and now want to offer organic, seasonal, locally sourced, made-to-order juices (including unique combinations like carrot, orange, bell pepper, and turmeric). If they reach their funding goal, they plan to pop up Saturday and Sunday mornings in early May 2012. Check out their video here.

Parklet Watch

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Pizzeria Delfina parklet rendering; image via The New Fillmore.

There is all kinds of parklet activity happening around town, here’s the latest: guests waiting for a table at ~PIZZERIA DELFINA~ Pac Heights on California will soon have a place to sit, according to The New Fillmore. When it is completed in late March or early April, it will be the first parklet in the neighborhood. Architects Jessica Weigley and Kevin Hackett (Síol Studios) will be including sculptural benches and planters, along with four or five tables for Delfina.

My friend at farm + cellar pointed me to this lovely video they produced for ~FARM:TABLE~, the TenderNob café that is trying to get their Kickstarter funded so they can add some greenery to the neighborhood and expand their super-tiny space. 754 Post St. at Leavenworth.

Lastly, after an initial tip-off via Mission Mission, I checked in with Bill Clarke of ~MISSION BEACH CAFE~ on the status of their impending parklet, which he says was preliminarily approved, but a couple objections were raised after he posted a public notification of the parklet. Would you believe one of the objections was from a resident in COLE VALLEY? Excuse me? That is a whole other level of NIMBY: not in my backyard, or yours (a NIMBYOY?). Anyway, stand by for a hearing date and news from MBC soon on how to support them. The plan is to have a parklet that is tiered up the hillside, and in alignment with Clarke’s fantastic design sense, will also be a bit of a statement piece.

El Huarache Loco Opens a Brick-and-Mortar Restaurant in Marin

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Exterior of the restaurant. Photo from Facebook.

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Sopes with chorizo and potato. Photo: © John Ater.

Big congratulations to Veronica Salazar of ~EL HUARACHE LOCO~, the delicious food stand that is opening as a brick-and-mortar restaurant at Marin Country Mart (adjacent to the Marin Ferry Building) this Wednesday March 7th. Salazar has been working farmers’ markets for five years, and is the first graduate of La Cocina’s incubator program to launch a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

The extensive menu will feature traditional Mexico City antojitos like mini gorditas de chicharrón ($4, two thick masa cakes stuffed with braised pork) and an irresistible chori queso ($7, melted queso oaxaca with chorizo); a variety of salads, including ones made with nopales and jicama; and the namesake huarache ($7.50, a sandal-shaped corn masa cake filled with beans and topped with salsa, cilantro, crema, queso fresco, and onions)—with your choice of 13 different toppings. There will be a variety of breakfast dishes (including molletes, $7.50, a bolillo roll with beans, queso oaxaca and salsa, with two eggs any style) and a kid’s menu. Everything is very authentic and many dishes are made from family recipes, the corn tortillas will be handmade, and there’s a pastorero spit for al pastor pork. And since we’re talking about sunny Marin County, there is both indoor and outside seating. Open Sun-Thu 8am-8pm, Fri-Sat 8am-9pm. 1803 Larkspur Landing Cir., Larkspur, 415-925-1403.

Le Cheval Trots Back to Its Original Location in Oakland

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Original Le Cheval location. Photo from Yelp by Ed U.

After hearing rumors and receiving tip-offs from some readers, we can report that ~LE CHEVAL~ has officially reopened in its original Oakland location after getting squeezed out by their landlord back in 2010. Inside Scoop has more on the backstory on how they got their space back if you’re interested. Meanwhile, sister restaurant LCX (at 1019 Clay St.) is closed, and is reportedly due to reopen as LCX Noodle House and Wine Bar. Open Mon-Thu 11am-9pm, Fri-Sat 11am-9:30pm, and Sun 4pm-9pm. 1007 Clay St. at 10th St., Oakland, 510-763-8957.

the lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
Mar 6, 2012

A Gold Star for You, and Meet Big, a Very Little Bar

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Gold Star Bar. Photo by Michael David Rose via UrbanDaddy.

A couple new bars have opened near each other: UrbanDaddy brings word of ~GOLD STAR BAR~, a bar with some school-themed décor like student desks near the pool table and globes. Open 2pm-2am daily. 1548 California St. at Polk, 415-292-5004.

And Grub Street notes the upcoming opening of the ironically named ~BIG~, a tiny slip of a bar from Jones owner Peter Glikshtern and manager Jordan Langer. They are reportedly taking over a petite space in the Vantaggio Suites (previously Cosmo Hotel) and opening a bar in the coming months (no date at this time). 761 Post St. at Leavenworth.

Whiskies of the World Expo and Artisanal Spirits Fest is March 31st

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The San Francisco Belle; photo from Whiskies of the World.

The 13th annual ~WHISKIES OF THE WORLD EXPO~ grand tasting is back in San Francisco on Saturday March 31st aboard the San Francisco Belle, a Hornblower yacht, which will stay docked for the over 1,500 guests who will be tasting hundreds of whiskies and artisanal spirits and meeting whisk(e)y makers and ambassadors from around the world.

Embark at 6pm to explore three ballroom-sized decks of tasting booths—see the extensive pour list here. If it’s your kinda thing, head up to the open-roof top deck for cigar and whisk(e)y pairings. Also included: a full buffet dinner, artisanal food pairings, a live Bushmills Pipe and Drum concert, Masterclasses, live jazz music, and more. Get your tickets online, and use code TABLEHOPPER for $10 off the $120 general admission ticket price!

Saturday Mar 31, 2012
6pm–9pm
$120; use code TABLEHOPPER for $10 off
more info

Brew News at SKB

Master Cicerone Rich Higgins has stepped down from his position as brewmaster at ~SOCIAL KITCHEN & BREWERY~ in order to find the time to dedicate to his consulting business. Incoming brewmaster Kim Sturdavant—previously a brewer at Marin Brewing Company for the past six years—will be taking over for Rich.

Social Kitchen & Brewery - 1326 9th Ave., San Francisco - 415-681-0330

the socialite

Shindigs, Feasts, & Festivals (let's party)
Mar 6, 2012

All Kinds of Special Dinners and Events in March

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The Barolo room. Photo from Perbacco’s website.

Event Info

Thursday Mar 15, 2012 – Sunday Apr 1, 2012

March right in folks and eat up this month ‘cause there’s a boatload of special meals and events going on here. If you need an excuse, say it’s for National Nutrition Month (the meals will surely be nourishing), Women’s History Month (lots of women chefs), or just ‘cause the menus sound so dang tempting.

Sign up for Dinner Tales at ~PERBACCO~ on Tuesday March 20th, 6:30pm-9:30pm, for a four-course Italian menu paired with wine, plus cocktails, canapés, and jars of ‘nduja to go. Just a few spots remain. $125.

March 15th-18th, chef Alicia Jenish unleashes the first in her Misfit Dinner Series at the ~GRAND CAFÉ~, adding six whole-goat specials to the menu that you can order à la carte, like a mixed goat grill ($34), and goat tartare ($16).

Carlos Moreira of Allpa Culinaria is doing the ~GUEST CHEF~ thing March 20th-April 1st, with five to six contemporary Peruvian numbers like Dungeness crab with pisco and aji amarillo-infused crème fraîche, or seared duck breast over rice and Peruvian beans with carob syrup. More info. 5337 College Ave. at Manila, Oakland.

At ~ATELIER CRENN~, join the dialogue between chef Dominique Crenn and Miles Watson of Pure Berlin (Berlin) on Wednesday March 28th and Thursday March 29th. 11 courses, 5 from each chef, ending with a collaborative course. Seating starts at 6pm. $300 including wine pairings, $200 without. Reservations online.

~WOODWARD’S GARDEN~ presents Come to Dinner & Come to Your Senses, a dinner all about scents. Chef Dana Tommasino and author Alyssa Harad will create “scent courses” inspired by five California perfumers. Thursday March 29th, 6pm, $65.

the starlet

Star Sightings in Restaurants (no photos please)
Mar 6, 2012

Ewan McGregor and a Grilled Cheese Sandwich, Both Hot

A tablehopper reader let me know ~Ewan McGregor~ was spotted having a grilled cheese sandwich from Cowgirl Creamery’s Sidekick at the Ferry Building (he had the Cabot Toasties), and then he went over to Blue Bottle.

This tweet from Blue Bottle also mentions he was at SFMOMA “enjoying an Americano on the rooftop.” Someone likes his coffee. He was in town discussing his new film, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, on KQED’s Forum with Michael Krasny.

Will Ferrell Zips in to Zero Zero

Just moments ago, ~Will Ferrell~ came in to Zero Zero for lunch. He must have been in a hurry because his assistant made the reservation, picked out all the food in advance, and had the kitchen fire it when they were about five minutes away (I need to start doing this, kidding). They ordered a couple margherita pizzas, the pulled pork sandwich, cavatelli, and a couple artichoke salads as well.

Mark Zuckerberg: Fan of Soft Serve

A couple readers wrote in to tell me they spotted ~Mark Zuckerberg~ in the soft-serve line at Bi-Rite Creamery over the weekend. One spotter says, “He was chatting with a neighbor and had to introduce himself: ‘I’m Mark, by the way.’” Indeed.

Another reader writes: “I saw Mark Zuckerberg stocking up on snacks at Bi-Rite on Sunday and then later saw him enjoying said snacks in Dolores Park!” I wholeheartedly co-sign that plan of park attack.

Uptown Almanac (via Grub Street) mentions he came in to The Royal Cuckoo on Friday night.

John Waters Avec Gents Dine at Marlowe

I heard he of the pencil-thin mustache, ~John Waters~, was spotted at Marlowe last Thursday evening dining with two other gentleman (one of which was artist Brett Reichman).

Sporty Sighting

A tablehopper reader writes in to say, “Last Sunday (2/26) I sat next to ~Takeo Spikes~ (NFL linebacker for the Chargers and former SF 49er) at Mamacita.”

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