May 12, 2015

May 12, 2015

Belga’s dining room. Photo by Aubrie Pick.


The bar. Photo by Aubrie Pick, courtesy Belga.


Mussels and beer. Photo by Aubrie Pick, courtesy Belga.


Beverages. Photo by Aubrie Pick, courtesy Belga.

Open tonight (May 12th) is ~BELGA~, the Cow Hollow Belgian-inspired brasserie from restaurateur Adriano Paganini (Lolinda, Beretta, Starbelly, Delarosa, Super Duper Burgers, Uno Dos Tacos). The space was previously Cafe des Amis, and while its gorgeous bone structure remains, the space got refreshed with the purpose of making it feel more casual and lively.

But first, let’s go over the new (and lengthy) Belgian brasserie-inspired menu. You’ll find some classic Belgian dishes, with French and German influences, and of course a California sensibility (chef Freedom Rains’s background includes Flour + Water, Boulevard, RN74, and Incanto). Dishes include oysters, snacks, housemade charcuterie (like liverwurst and country pâté), and starters like a salade Lyonnaise (instead of lardons, Rains is using ham hock) and genever-cured arctic char with fennel, radish, crème fraîche, and seeded levain. You’ll also find three variations of mussels (naturally), prepared with Allagash White; take a look at the dry-roasted style for something different.

There’s a wood-fired grill, which will be firing up housemade sausages, like currywurst, boudin blanc, and boudin noir. There are also a few steaks (the 7-oz. bar steak is a play on au poivre) and a grilled pork chop too. Some classics include a carbonnade (a Flemish beer stew, which Rains is making with boneless short rib and braising with bacon lardons and an abbey dark ale) and roasted half-chicken with preserved lemon, young artichoke, and dandelion. The side dishes are also really appealing—but check your cholesterol before taking on the endive and ham gratin. Rains did a lot of research on dishes (shout-out to Omnivore Books) and is excited about bringing some classics back, with his own updates. Most of the dishes are designed to be easy to share.

Since it’s a brasserie, beer is a big part of the menu. Not only is there an extensive (and nicely organized) list, but many dishes are made with beer and meant to be enjoyed with beer. There are 10 taps and 50 bottles available, with both Belgian beers and many Belgian-style craft beers made in the U.S., and ciders too. Look for some reserve bottles to be poured.

There’s a full bar; look for a particular focus on genever and gin, brandies from France, and even some beer-based cocktails by Nora Furst. The bar will have a craft focus—even the tonic is made in-house. There is also a list of four Kopstoot pairings (which means “head butt,” and is a beer and a shot). The wine list features lighter-bodied varieties from France, Germany, and the United States, and a large selection of sparkling (led by bar manager Ryan Murphy, a certified cicerone, previously at Pi Bar, Abbot’s Cellar and Monk’s Kettle, and the Boxing Room).

As for the design (by Hannah Collins of Hannah Collins Designs), you’ll notice the dining room feels a bit airier (they lowered some of the seat dividers), and the side of the room facing Buchanan Street has more light. (The kitchen was also opened up a little, to bring some of the noises of the kitchen into the room.)

The bar has a different look, with blue terra-cotta tiles behind the bottles and green penny tiles by the raw bar and coffee station. The bar stools were custom designed, with riveting around the soft gray leather (meanwhile, the leather banquettes in the dining room are a punchy cherry red). Local artist Melissa Wagner created some custom collage artwork to add some playfulness. The outdoor seating will continue to be popular as ever, and the private dining room also remains.

The restaurant will be open for dinner Sun-Thu 5pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm, with lunch and brunch coming soon. The bar is open nightly 5pm-12am. Reservations available. 2000 Union St. at Buchanan, 415-872-7350.


Telmo Faria at the Ferry Plaza with a taco. Photo from Facebook.


Donnie Masterson. Photo courtesy Tacolicious.

There are some changes to report from the ~TACOLICIOUS~ crew: after working with the team as executive chef/operations since 2009 (just one month after founder Joe Hargrave started the Tacolicious stand at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market), chef Telmo Faria is going to be diminishing his role with the company so he can start to focus more on launching his Portuguese project (he was born in the Azores, and this is a project he has been thinking about and planning for a long time).

You may have noticed the pop-up Faria has been hosting at Merigan Sub Shop, Uma Casa. His event on May 24th is sold out, but he’ll be hosting more on June 7th and 21st. We’ll keep you posted in the coming months as his concept takes shape. And to be clear, Faria will still be involved with Tacolicious and appearing at special events, but is working in a different capacity now.

A lot has happened for Tacolicious since those market days: there are now four locations, plus a line of Williams-Sonoma products and a cookbook. And now there is going to be a new project in San Miguel de Allende opening in late 2015 called the Tacolicious Taco Lab. Hargrave and Sara Deseran are going to partner with chef Donnie Masterson, who worked with Hargrave for four years when they were at Rose Pistola, LuLu, Zibibbo, and Azie. Masterson, who is half Mexican, lives in San Miguel and has a restaurant there called The Restaurant and his own farm. His extensive culinary background includes working for chef David Bouley and Patrick Clark, as well as the executive chef for Joachim Splichal’s Patina Group. He will now also be the executive chef of the Taco Lab and will function as the company’s overall culinary consultant.

Hargrave and Masterson plan to “tinker with new dishes” at the lab every quarter, and then have Masterson come up to SF to integrate the dishes at the Tacolicious locations. (Tacolicious team members will also have the opportunity to travel to San Miguel de Allende to work.) At the moment, they’re working on a new ceviche program, plus gorditas and panuchos.

If you happen to be in San Miguel de Allende for the Sabores San Miguel food festival in June (which is largely put on by Masterson), you’ll see Hargrave and Deseran there, along with Neal Fraser (Redbird and Vibiana, both in LA), and Carlo Mirarchi (Roberta’s, NYC) and about 15,000 attendees.


Elan and Brett Emerson when they were first opening Contigo. Photo via Facebook.


Contigo’s famed sardine and avocado toast. Photo: ©

Just in case you’re driving by ~CONTIGO~ and notice a “for sale” sign and have a moment of panic, don’t freak out just yet. I spoke with partner Brett Emerson, who confirmed the building is in fact for sale (he and his wife Elan live upstairs). The restaurant is not closing—the Emersons will just have a new landlord once the building sells.

Earlier this year, it was revealed in Edible Monterey Bay that the Emersons were planning to open a second tapas and Catalan-influenced restaurant in Santa Cruz, in the former home of Benten Japanese Restaurant (just across from Verve Coffee Roasters) at 1541 Pacific.

Here’s an update on the project: it will be called ~BARCELONETA~, an homage to the seaside beach in Barcelona where locals go for paella and hanging out. Brett says they will continue to serve their seasonally influenced tapas at this new location and will be adding paella, served daily (at Contigo, it’s only served on Tuesdays). They want the vibe to be fun and approachable—and to help in that feeling, they’ll have a full bar as well. Lunch and dinner will be served daily.

Barceloneta is currently in the design phase, and they hope to open at the end of 2015 or early 2016. In order to free up some resources for the project (they’re doing a significant upgrade to the Santa Cruz space), they decided to sell their SF building. The couple will be spending time in both SF and Santa Cruz, and have promoted their sous chef and a manager to take more of the reins of the SF location during the transition. As for the listing, it goes live tomorrow if you want to be a future Noe Valley landlord.


A teriyaki plate from Glaze. Yelp photo by Sam F.

The San Francisco location of ~THE BARREL ROOM~ has taken over the former Georges space in the Financial District, which we reported in February. The full-service restaurant is now open, and soon there will be lots of expanded offerings, including a wine bar and tasting room, a retail shop, and a subterranean speakeasy-style full bar. The wine bar and retail shop will be opening in June.

The concept is an ambitious one: every three months, the restaurant menu, bar menu, and wine list will change completely. Each new menu will draw inspiration from a wine region of the world, including places like Germany, France, Austria, and Italy. The opening focus is on Latin America, with dishes like fish tacos with jicama and pineapple salsa, and rib eye with bone marrow-ancho chile salsa. As for the wine list, there are more than 200 bottle selections and more than 50 options available by the glass. Educational and regional flights will be offered, as well. Restaurant hours are lunch Mon-Fri 11am-2:30pm, dinner Mon-Sat 5pm-10:30pm. 415 Sansome St. at Commercial, 415-956-6900.

As Eater initially reported last month, Beverly Hills candy store ~SUGARFINA~ has opened a location in downtown San Francisco. The new shop, which is sort of a high-end candy salon for sweet-toothed adults, carries unusual and unique candies in appealing, design-forward packaging. They’ve got a line of boozy candy, too, including Champagne gummy bears, absinthe chocolates, and maple bourbon caramels. It’s all rather perfect for gift giving, and they even have sassy cards available too. Hours are Sun-Thu 10am-9pm, Fri-Sat 10am-10pm. There is a second location coming to Cow Hollow on May 15th, as well. 271 Sutter St. at Grant, 855-784-2734.

The former All Star Donuts space on Chestnut Street, which closed in September 2014, is becoming the second San Francisco location of ~GLAZE TERIYAKI~. The new teriyaki outpost is opening on Wednesday May 13th, hours are daily 11am-10pm. And yes, the brilliant All Star sign remains. 2095 Chestnut St. at Steiner, 415-590-3193.


The interior of Cafe Gibraltar. Photo from Facebook.

In November 2013, we were very excited to report that New York chef and author Suvir Saran planned to open a Mid-Market restaurant in the NEMA building. However, the project, which was called American Masala, has hit a wall, and Saran has decided not to move forward. Scoop reports that continuing delays and complications are the culprit. This is disappointing, to be sure, but Saran apparently is still hoping to open a restaurant elsewhere in San Francisco.

Beloved Peninsula restaurant ~CAFE GIBRALTAR~ has closed, according to Scoop. The restaurant, which made its home in Montara and then later El Granada, opened 17 years ago. The owners, Jose Luis Ugalde and Liam Durkee, say they want to spend more time with their family and take some well-deserved time off. They also report that the owners of Clay Oven Indian restaurants will be taking over the space. 425 Ave. Alhambra at Palma, Half Moon Bay.


The amazing côte de bœuf bone-in rib eye (and sides) at 398 Brasserie. Photo: ©

There are a few changes to Union Square’s ~398 RESTAURANT AND BAR~, starting with the fact it’s now ~398 BRASSERIE~, a name that definitely fits chef Sam Fechheimer’s style better. 398 is now offering breakfast (7am-11am) and lunch (11am-4pm) Mon-Fri, plus weekend brunch (7am-4pm), while next door, Klyde is now Klyde Wine Bar, opening at 4pm (you can order some dinner and dessert items). I enjoyed my dinner at 398, so I look forward to checking out the lunch service, which would be perfect for a downtown meeting. And don’t forget, Klyde has happy hour daily 4pm-7pm, with $5 glasses of wines. And then there’s the fabulous cocktails and oysters at Benjamin Cooper upstairs… 398 Geary St. at Mason, 415-654-5061. (Klyde Wine Bar is at 386 Geary St.)


The interior of Artís Coffee. Yelp photo by Alex L.

~ARTÍS COFFEE~ has opened in Hayes Valley, Hoodline reports. The new coffee shop, which we mentioned in October, already has a location in Berkeley and offers more than just a spot to get a cup. They roast all their own beans on-site and have an extensive retail operation that includes roasting beans by the pound to your specifications and preferences. You can select from a variety of beans (at least four different ones that will change seasonally), and then they put them in the roaster while you wait. There is also espresso, pour-over coffee, and pastries. 537 Octavia St. at Ivy, 415-655-3576.

Here’s a new spot for coffee meetings and laptop afternoons: ~FORA THINK SPACE~, now open on Broadway. They are offering coffee and espresso from Roast Co., as well as pastries, sandwiches, salads, and a space for meetings and events. They even offer a conference room with AV services for rent. Initial Yelp reviews report good cold-brew coffee, lots of power outlets, and friendly service. 150 Broadway St. at Front, 415-685-4754.


Housemade pasta at Flour + Water. Photo from Facebook.


The Deli Board cheesesteak. Photo by Rena B. Meyer.

From now until Sunday May 17th, ~FLOUR + WATER~ is celebrating six years in business with a special six-course pasta menu every evening. For $70, you’ll get to try six of chef Thomas McNaughton’s favorite pastas from the restaurant. Wine pairings are also available for an additional $50, and reservations can be made by calling the restaurant.

Any Philly transplants missing a good steak should know that Adam Mesnick is hosting a pop-up cheesesteak night at his ~DELI BOARD~. Not only can you get a rib-eye cheesesteak with white American cheese, cherry peppers, and his hous Board sauce on Amoroso rolls flown in from Philly ($11), but there are also stuffed Board egg rolls (filled with things like pepperoni, house marinara, and a cheese blend; an artichoke-spinach dip; and then there’s the cheeseburger version, whoa), plus Rocky Jr. buffalo wings (eight wings for $10). It’s also BYOB. 7pm-10pm. Upcoming dates are all on Thursdays: May 14th, May 21st, and May 28th. 1058 Folsom St. at Russ, 415-552-SOUP (7687).


Kids exploring in the kitchen at Bay Leaf cooking camp. Photo courtesy Bay Leaf.

~BAY LEAF KITCHEN~, a wonderful program that teaches kids how to cook, has two upcoming fundraisers that will make it easy for you to support their cooking camps and other great programming. The first is an aperitivo hour on Tuesday May 19th from 5pm to 8pm. Dario Barbone (Baia Pasta) will be preparing a variety of aperitivo-appropriate bites, including charcuterie, frittata, and tartines, along with pouring Almanac beer and Parducci wines. The party is happening at Feastly headquarters in the Mission, and tickets are $24 per person.

Then, on Monday May 25th, there will be a special donation day at ~4505 BURGERS & BBQ~. Five percent of all the restaurant’s proceeds that day will go directly to help support Bay Leaf and its scholarship programs. 705 Divisadero St. at Grove, 415-231-6993.


The bar at Mad Oak, before opening. Photo courtesy Mad Oak.


The patio, which is in progress. Photo courtesy Mad Oak.


Huevos con chorizo from Casa Latina. Yelp photo by Manny H.

Last summer, East Bay Express mentioned that Old Major’s was coming to the former Oasis in downtown Oakland. Some things have changed since then and now, so here’s an update on ~MAD OAK BAR & YARD~ (the project’s new name), opening to the public on Saturday May 16th. The partners behind the new space are brothers Daniel and Benjamin Cukierman, who were formerly behind Shattuck Down Low and also own Room 389.

While the Oasis space was formerly known for plenty of late-night boogie sessions, this new incarnation is definitely a bar, with some food on offer as well. The space is a hefty one, including a bar in the main room, a 2,000-square-foot outdoor patio with picnic tables, and a 2,000-square-foot roof deck upstairs—perfect for your next party. (They completely gutted the space and even added a new structure—you can check out some pics of the demo and construction by Black Creek Builders here.) You’ll see plenty of reclaimed wood, natural light, and some dartboards too.

There will be 40 beers on tap, from local selections and West Coast picks to Belgians, plus a full bar (stocked with fresh ingredients). The plan is to have different food businesses in the kitchen every six months. The first is Javi’s Cooking, serving Argentine food, like empanadas, plus a limited menu of sandwiches and some other bites. There will also be food trucks on the patio. Come check out your new summer hangout. Hours will be Mon-Fri 3pm-2am and Sat-Sun 12pm-2am. 135 12th St. at Madison, Oakland.

~CASA LATINA~ in Berkeley is now offering breakfast all day, in addition to their pastries and savory items. Chowhounds caught the news and report “excellent” chilaquiles and a potato and egg empanada. The space underwent a remodel last year, too, so there’s even more room. 1805 San Pablo Ave. at Delaware, 510-558-7177.

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