Hayes Valley has a new hangout, LITTLE GEM, which just opened for dinner on December 17th. As we mentioned in our piece earlier this year, the project is from Eric Lilavois (former COO at the Thomas Keller Group), partnering with chef Dave Cruz (formerly chef de cuisine of Ad Hoc) and John DiFazio (CFO).
The place is meant to have a fast-casual ease (you’ll order at the counter and food is brought to you), but the product is definitely elevated. The menu is truly NorCal, featuring “produce that is responsibly grown or raised by local farmers, without harmful chemicals, processing, or modification, and free of gluten, dairy, and refined sugar.” But these aren’t some mountain resort hippies making your meal—expect some really good technique that will make everything taste flavorful and delicious.
Meat, fish, and produce are the anchors of the menu, and you’ll be able to choose what you want. For example, you can opt for the Marin Sun Farms slow-roasted pork shoulder ($12) or go for the pan-seared king salmon ($14), and then choose from vegetables like chickpea lentil stew or quinoa with olives and almonds (vegetables are $5.50, grains $5).
When breakfast is added, you’ll find grain and egg dishes, almond and quinoa flour pancakes, and hearty dishes like the Hayes Braise (Swiss chard, black garlic, poached egg, and almond-bacon crumble, $9.50) and frittata (with Tuscan kale, wild mushrooms, potatoes, and Fresno chiles, $6.50). Check out the menu here.
Lunch (and dinner) include broth-based soups (chicken, vegetable), salads, and wrap-style sandwiches (served until 4pm) filled with vegetables, slow-cooked pork shoulder, or pulled chicken. The wraps (averaging $9) will feature pan-made flatbread, tapioca crepe, or tortillas made from the Ethiopian grain teff. There is also a kids’ menu with a few selections, and desserts too. You can also come by for a smoothie, teas by Song Tea (brewed using Silverton tea dispensers), and espresso and coffee by Counter Culture Coffee.
The 2,000-square-foot space has 78 seats (the furniture is locally made—and all of the wood on the bar, shelves, and ledges is reclaimed American elm from a single tree sourced in Marin), with large windows, plants, and a small patio too. Boor Bridges is behind the natural-modern design, which is in a newly constructed building, so it definitely looks fresh and clean. Initial hours are Tue-Sun 5pm-9pm, with breakfast and lunch coming in January. 400 Grove St. at Gough,
The endive and spinach salad at Little Gem. Photo by Kimberley Hasselbrink, courtesy of Little Gem.