November 8, 2016

November 8, 2016

The eye-catching custom chandelier suspended over the stairwell to the downstairs. All photos: ©


The beautiful upstairs bar.


The Saratoga original blade sign.


The Cubano frank.


The chic downstairs bar.


The vintage art installation by Lost Art Salon in the downstairs dining room.


Fried apple hand pies with cream cheese frosting.

Opening on Thursday November 10th is the latest beauty in the Bacchus Management Group portfolio, ~THE SARATOGA~, which is unexpectedly nestled on the corner of Larkin and Post—yup, right there in the TenderNob, with Mr. Holmes Bakehouse just up the street and Jane on Larkin down the street.

When you see the space, you’ll see why principal Tim Stannard couldn’t resist the building, which was built soon after the 1906 earthquake—it dates back to 1907 (when it was the Elk Hotel) and then rebranded one year later as The Saratoga. Stannard says they discovered the spacious basement and were inspired to make it into a two-level supper club and bar.

They took care to highlight the Carnegie steel throughout the space, and there’s even an imprint on one of the support columns that says “Folsom Street Ironworks 189?” (they can’t make out the last digit). They also kept the original blade sign outside, of course, outfitting it with some new neon.

It’s rather stunning. As you approach the building, you’ll see the tremendous wall of backlit booze shimmering dramatically, along with a custom tiered chandelier designed by Stephen Brady and Magnus Schevene, who did a lot of the metalwork, including the bar shelves and details.

Upstairs is more of a dark yet warm industrial bistro vibe, with room for 64. Tables circle the stairwell that leads to the 23-seat downstairs—a more formal dining room with white tablecloths and a beautiful bar of Carrara marble and a tufted base. There’s also a small lounge area tucked near the stairs. The lighting is very sexy and flattering, and this swank downstairs bar is where you’ll want to start your next hot date, mark my words. Stannard was inspired by a favorite bar in Paris, and the grey mohair walls adorned with vintage art, selected by Lost Art Salon, add to a timeless, salon-style vibe.

The menu by chef Mark Sullivan and chef de cuisine Jason Wittek is a playful take on New American cuisine, but of course using the best ingredients, with produce from BMG’s SMIP Ranch. There are bites good for upstairs or downstairs, like seven-spice chicken sliders with ‘Bama white sauce and dill pickles, or ‘Toga tots with Fiscalini cheddar, chorizo, and scallion. Of course there’s a burger (with Taleggio cheese and slaw on an onion bun) and a fun Cubano frank, which is a deep-fried dog topped with slow-roasted pork, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard, and mojo relish on a Mayfield Bakery roll (yeah, it’s pretty amazing).

Vegetable dishes include a warm Chantenay carrot salad with avocado, toasted seeds, and vadouvan, or a bagna cauda-poached tomato, with grilled levain, garlic cream, and basil. The berbere-spiced chicken paillard is accompanied with labneh, while a classic Flannery dry-aged New York steak will come in Cognac-peppercorn sauce.

Desserts are full American nostalgia, from their version of a Ho Ho to Cracker Jacks to fried apple hand pies. Pricing couldn’t be confirmed at press time—you’ll need to check the site for the menu in a couple of days.

Barman Brandon Clements, who has been with Bacchus since he started as an hourly bartender at Spruce in 2007, is now a partner in this venture, and he has created quite the extraordinary list. He said he has been “hoarding” the past 1 1/2 years and has sourced some vintage and extremely rare spirits, more than 800 bottles in all and focusing on Chartreuse—he even has a Chartreuse from the 1920s on the list. (His goal is to be the number one Chartreuse bar in the country.) Other vintage herbal spirits are also highlighted, including Benedictine (from the 1940s and onward), Fernet (1950s-1970s), and there are other Pimm’s to try—he found #2, #3, #5, and #6. Vintage bourbons, rums, and more will be added too.

Obviously these come at a premium, so those who are just seeking a well-made cocktail will be happy to find an extensive and fairly priced list ($12-$14). The bar team is starting the first week with highballs and some shaken and stirred numbers, and the following week will ramp up with Chartreuse cocktails from all over, including some New York bar recipes.

And if you’re with a group, there are some stunning large-format vessels with enough to serve six people—Clements will be using old “Cocktail Bill” Boothby punch recipes (he found some that date back to when The Saratoga opened). Expect a fantastic wine list from BMG wine and spirits director Andrew Green.

Hours are Mon-Thu 5pm-11pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-1am. 1008 Larkin St. at Post, 415-932-6464.


The soaking room at Onsen, with the cold plunge shower to the left. Photo: Raquel Venancio Photography.


The dining area and tearoom in the front. Photo: Grace Sager.


Rice porridge with miso kimchi and pickled quail egg. Photo: ©


Halibut sashimi with cucumbers and preserved sweet pepper dashi with shiso. Photo: ©


Beets and avocado with fermented tea and shallots. Photo: ©

Opening this Friday November 11th is a very special project, ~ONSEN~, a combination bathhouse and restaurant in the Tenderloin. Owners and husband and wife Sunny Simmons and Caroline Smith took over a former auto shop and transformed it into quite the peaceful destination. Meet your new oasis. It has a Japanese and highly handcrafted aesthetic, with many artistic touches: Sunny is a carpenter/craft builder and Caroline is an artist and acupuncturist. I loved all the personal and crafty touches, and it’s quite apparent how much work and thought went into the space.

The 3,200-square-foot location opens in the restaurant area, which has 20 seats, a beautiful wood bar area, exposed brick, and tables made from old chalkboards. Chef George Meza—previously Oro, Ame, and Urchin Bistrot—will initially be offering dinner service, and his menu has a NorCal seasonal sensibility with Japanese influences and many housemade touches.

I recommend showing up before your bath for a small bite, such as rice porridge with miso kimchi hiding in the bottom of the bowl and a bright pink pickled quail egg ($7), or something light, like daily sashimi with cucumbers and preserved sweet pepper dashi with shiso. Enjoy your bath or treatment, get dressed, and then come back into the restaurant for some skewers off the binchotan grill, like charred artichoke hearts, miso, and seaweed ($7) or the tender braised kakuni lamb ($8) with mustard sauce, which will pair well with the housemade pickle plate ($6).

Additional plates include maitake dumplings soup ($12), with cabbage, bonito, and dill, or warm udon noodles ($12), Brussels sprouts, and egg yolk with trout roe and furikake, both perfect for a cool SF night. The food is as beautiful as it is flavorful—it really adds a unique element to the entire experience. The menu is easy to share, or you can come by for a solo meal—you don’t have to come to the bath, you can just come by for dinner. There are also some creative low-ABV drinks, local and imported sake, and beers. And tea, of course.

As for the rest of the space, there are six rooms where you can schedule healing treatments, from massage to acupuncture to reiki, and the highlight is the eight-person hot soaking pool under a skylight in the former mechanic’s pit (bring your friends!) surrounded by plants and a fun soundtrack in the background. Plus, there’s a redwood dry sauna (wait until you see the embedded Himalayan salt), groovy tiled steam room, and steampunky cold plunge shower.

Something that really struck me during my visit is how well Sunny and Caroline have gotten to know their neighbors. They really care; they aren’t just some callous gentrifiers opening a posh spa in the TL. Quite the opposite. In fact, they will be closed on Tuesdays so they can offer community services, including free acupuncture for veterans and sliding-scale services for neighbors who can’t afford alternative health treatments. They really want people who work in the area, like bartenders, to be able to come in and take care of themselves. This couple really walks the walk, and it’s a pleasure to witness.

Another cool thing: Onsen is going to be open until 1am on Saturdays, woot. Check the site for details on the different days for soaking. Open Wed-Mon 10am-10pm and until 1am on Sat. Dinner (to start) begins service at 5pm, and lunch will launch later. 466 Eddy St. at Hyde, 415-780-4987.


The iconic Roosevelt Tamale Parlor sign; Yelp photo by Marina N.


The cozy room (and Barry’s Caesar salad!) at The Roosevelt Sip N Eat. Photo courtesy of The Roosevelt Sip N Eat.


Short rib ragù with pappardelle and pecorino. Photo courtesy of The Roosevelt.

It’s funny how things work out sometimes. After making the hard decision to close The Roosevelt Tamale Parlor last December, owners Barry Moore and Aaron Presbrey thought they had a buyer lined up for the restaurant. Well, the deal fell through, and after trying and failing to find other buyers, they decided to reopen the restaurant and do the concept that resonated the most for them. Meet ~THE ROOSEVELT SIP N EAT~.

The gents want diners to feel like a guest in their home, a warm place that is casual. It’s like when your friend who really knows how to cook has you over, with really enjoyable wines and beers on the table. The tight bistro-style menu is going to be seasonal, simple, accessible, and refined casual—their motto is “Always thoughtful, never fussy.” Presbrey is going to be moving to back of house and acting as Moore’s sous chef, baking desserts, and managing the beer and wine list.

It’s also going to be affordable—you’ll be fed well, whether it’s the roasted Mary’s half chicken ($19) or Duroc pork shoulder ($17) with beet salad, beet greens, pork crackling, and tarragon oil. Barry’s famed Caesar salad will be on the menu ($12), and his love of green chile will be showing up in a curry ($15), with roasted root vegetables and basmati rice. I have a feeling I’ll be coming in for the short rib ragù ($17) with pappardelle and pecorino soon. All entrées will be $20 and under and will change with the seasons. They will be sourcing sustainable ingredients and look forward to having their own Oakland farm plot where they’ll be growing vegetables and more.

The wine list is going to have some great pricing, and they want to offer some lesser-known alternatives to the usual suspects. So instead of having a zinfandel, what about a nice tempranillo instead? Tweaks like that…and wines ranging from $8 to $12 by the glass.

The 32-seat space already had cute décor from the last go-round, but they are updating the interior again and will be adding some artwork this week. While they were sorry they couldn’t find someone to carry on the tamale parlor legacy, they still wanted to honor the place’s beloved history by keeping part of the name. They are excited to be there and serve people once again.

There will be a second round of test dinners this weekend (Thu-Sat)—please note it will probably be cash only this weekend until their POS system is up and running. They will officially be open next week, on Tuesday November 15th. Hours will be Tue-Sat 5:30pm-10pm, or maybe even until 10:30pm if that’s what the neighborhood needs. No reservations (unless it’s for a large party). 2817 24th St. at York, 415-824-2600.


Smørrebrød from Kantine at the Saturday CUESA Farmers Market. Photo via CUESA.


Doughnut Dolly’s kiosk in the Twitter building/The Market. Photo via Facebook.

Your mornings just got naughty: Oakland-based ~DOUGHNUT DOLLY~ is now open in The Market. Owner Hannah Hoffman is serving her filled-to-order naughty cream- and jam-filled doughnuts, with cherry jam, plus bourbon cream and dark chocolate. There will also be coffee from Algorithm Coffee Co. at the kiosk. Open daily 7am-4pm. 1355 Market St. at 10th St.

Nearby, another location of Pascal Rigo’s ~LA BOULANGERIE DE SAN FRANCISCO~ has (re)opened in the former La Boulange location in the Financial District. Eater reports the addition of a trio of chicken confit dishes to the menu. Open daily 7am-6pm. 222 Sutter St. at Kearny.

Over in the Outer Richmond, the former Americana Grill is now ~EAT AMERICANA~, and former Rickybobby chef James Moisey is in the kitchen. Owner Tony Lai renovated the space and menu (it’s all about American comfort food and all-day breakfast now) and added outdoor seating. Open Wed-Mon 10am-3pm and 5pm-10pm. [Via Hoodline.] 3532 Balboa St. at 36th Ave., 415-387-2893.

There’s a new lineup of pop-up vendors that will be at the CUESA Saturday market at the ~FERRY BUILDING~ for the winter. There’s Kantine by Nichole Accettola, serving Scandinavian open-style sandwiches (smørrebrød) with a focus on whole, local ingredients; Volcano Kimchi from Aruna Lee, who plans to offer several varieties of kimchi as well as kimchi juice shots and kimchi fruitcake; Crumble & Whisk (baker Charles Farriér) makes creative handmade cheesecakes in flavors like harvest pumpkin spice, apple spice, and pecan crumble; Rasoi from La Cocina grad Heena Patel serves Western Indian dishes honoring Gujarati traditions and using local ingredients, like egg uttapam with avocado and pav bhaji; and Salt Pt. Meat Share offers handmade sausages and charcuterie sourced from pasture-raised animals from local ranches (Giovanni Betteo is a former 4505 Meats butcher and started Salt Pt. last year).


Sugarlump interior; Yelp photo by fat c.

Some closures to report around town, starting with ~SUGARLUMP~ on 24th Street, which was a favorite café of many local laptop workers. It has gone through some ownership changes, and the latest ABC license transfer lists Alimento LLC as the newest owner, but after a call to Alimento in North Beach, they said they were not expanding. We’ll have to see what’s next for the space. 2862 24th St. at Florida.

A reader let me know another Mission café has closed: ~RODGER’S COFFEE & TEA~. 3520 20th St. at Mission, 415-829-3405.

One of my favorite signs to shake my head over will no longer be flying on Franklin: ~KAKA UDON~ has closed. I know, their many delivery customers who loved their freshly made udon are saying, “Oh, crap.” 1535 Franklin St. at Pine, 415-577-2380.

And over in Glen Park, a tipster let me know ~OSHA THAI~ is closed and papered over with a new sign: ~ONE WAAN THAI~. 2922 Diamond St. at Bosworth, 415-586-6742.