There are a bunch of new openings, starting with some groovy Korean in the former Gussie’s in the Fillmore at FILLMORE SOCIAL CLUB. The menu is a bit fusion-y: you can tuck into kimchi jun pancake, some KFC (Korean fried chicken) served two ways, tako (octopus) wasabi, ssam (marinated rib eye wrapped in lettuce and pickled radish), stir-fried yaki udon, and shakshuka baby back ribs (I said it was fusion-y!). You can take a peek at the menu on Yelp. The wine, beer, sake, and cocktail picks are a cut above. The space was tricked out with a custom mural from artists Kelly Tunstall and Ferris Plock (KeFe). It looks fun. Open nightly 5pm-10pm. 1521 Eddy St. at Fillmore, 415-829-3750.
Fans of Turkish food and housemade pita will want to give a gander to THE SINI, a fast-casual place (with some style) that opened recently in the Financial District in the former Darn Good Food. They are making their own pita (perfect for their doner sandwiches), creamy hummus, and serving salads and rice plates (like kofta/meatballs, or chicken or brisket doner or eggplant), featuring free-range chicken and grass-fed beef; here’s a post of their menu (which seems like a Turkish version and cross between a Souvla and Sababa). And…there’s baklava! (The name is in reference to the round metal tray you dine from—with a variety of dishes in front of you—in Turkey.) Open Mon-Fri 11am-9pm. 322 Kearny St. at Pine, 415-658-7170.
Want a change of scene? The new MERSEA has opened on Treasure Island, a casual spot from Parke Ulrich, the executive chef of Waterbar and EPIC Steak, and MeeSun Boice. It has some pretty fab views, lots of indoor and outdoor seating, and is constructed from 13 recycled shipping containers! Plus there’s a bocce court and putting green. They are also partnering with the Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative and member organizations (Toolworks and Bakeworks) “that provide career opportunities and job training for low-income and formerly homeless individuals.” (Yes!)
On the menu: a diverse selection of dishes, from a pork roll and egg sandwich with kimchi, aioli, and arugula to chicken shio ramen, plus more traditional picks like clam chowder and a double-stacked wagyu cheeseburger. Look for sustainable ingredients, quality sourcing, and an array of dishes for everyone—plus wine and beer. Open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (Mon-Fri 7am-9pm and Sat-Sun 9am-9pm). 699 Avenue of the Palms, Treasure Island.
Udon fanatics (and fans of the similarly named Marukame in Honolulu) have already been lining up for soft-opening days of MARUGAME UDON at Stonestown Galleria, officially grand opening on Thursday January 18th. Marugame is a huge chain, with 990 stores, including 786 in Japan and 204 across 12 countries—this is the first in Northern California, and the only other mainland location is in LA. The restaurant is like an upscale cafeteria: you grab a tray and tell the friendly staff what you’d like to order (there are about 10 kinds of udon). Your bowl is made to order, with fresh Sanuki udon noodles constantly being made from a special machine and boiled right in front of you. Your udon is served in a ceramic bowl, which elevates the experience a bit. The housemade broth (kake dashi) is made in small batches from fish stock, plus kelp and soy sauce.
You also have the option to add tempura selections on the side, from shrimp to asparagus to fish cake, plus onigiri, inari, and drinks. After you pay, there is quite the condiment station, including tempura bits you can spoon on, scallion, ginger, and shichimi. The price is right, from $4.50 for regular udon to $9.50 for a large bowl of their most expensive udon, the Nikutama udon, with shaved sweet beef and an egg. There’s also spicy chicken, curry, egg drop chicken, and more, plus the option to order some cold.
The space is cleanly designed and comfortable, with lots of blonde wood and inspiration from traditional Japanese design, plus pendant lights and stone walls. There are 100 seats total (68 inside, 32 on the outside patio). Expect some long lines—the hype is real. Open daily 11am-11pm (last call at 10pm). 3251 20th Ave. at Winston,
Opening this Thursday January 19th is a second location of VIVE LA TARTE, the fantastic bakery in SoMa that not enough people ever seem to know about. But the new location in the Ferry Building Marketplace (in the former Dandelion Chocolate space, next to Fort Point Beer Company) is about to change couple Arnaud Goethals and Julie Vandermeersch’s visibility. The menu will include their seasonal fruit-stuffed croissants, smashed avocado toast (on their bread), and salad bowls, with their new mash-up: a croissant shell stuffed with savory fillings and eaten like a taco. I am obsessed with their cheesecake and breakfast pizza; let’s see if those items eventually make it over too. Open daily 7am-7pm.
Want more dessert? I sure do. Now open in Cow Hollow is GIO GELATI, serving authentic Italian gelato in a variety of flavors, many of them seasonal (with fruits and vegetables—expect some savory flavors too!). There’s even a nondairy version, and they offer gluten-free cones from Italy, so everyone wins! The team is Patrizia Pasqualetti (her family has been in the gelato business for more than 40 years), Nicola Trois, Guido Mastropaolo, and Nicole Moserle. You’ll also be able to enjoy pastries, cornetti, espresso, and cakes. Open daily 8am-10pm. 1998 Union St. at Buchanan.
There’s a new Northern Indian spot that has opened on Mission Street, LOTUS SF, serving “”clean, green Indian cuisine.” Hoodline reports the owner (Surinder Sroa) is also behind Lotus Cuisine of India in San Rafael, featuring organic ingredients, free-range poultry, wild seafood, and fresh spices that are flown in. Expect familiar dishes (curries, tandoori specialties, biryani, naan) but you can reportedly ask for dishes you don’t see on the menu as well. Open Tue-Sun 10:30am-2:30pm for lunch and 5pm-10pm for dinner. 2434 Mission St. at 20th St., 415-872-9130.
Also in the Mission is a new recreational cooking school, THE CIVIC KITCHEN, from couple Jen Nurse (you may have taken classes from her previously at Tante Marie and 18 Reasons) and Chris Bonomo (co-founder of The Japanese Pantry). The space is quite handsome and will offer hands-on classes for home cooks—from stocks to advanced skills like laminating dough—and events featuring writers, farmers, and more (it has a beer-and-wine license and is also available for pop-ups and private events for up to 65 guests). Classes will range from $25 to $145 (take 15 percent off classes booked now through March 31st with the code TCK15PRGO). 2961 Mission St. at 25th St.
Kimchi Jun (kimchi pancake with bonito flakes) at Fillmore Social Club. Instagram photo via @fillmoresocialclub.