It kind of kills me that I had to miss the preopening party of this new beauty, because all I want is to head over and spend an evening in one of their spiffy chairs, stat. This long-awaited project (oh, SF, why do you make it so hard to open a business?) is such a cool concept: MERCHANT ROOTS is a specialty food store, wine shop, casual eatery, and fine-dining restaurant, all rolled into one. So whether you want to come by for a mortadella sandwich, glass of wine, full dinner (launching in five weeks!), or pick up a bottle to bring home, your bases are covered. It’s all highly curated and crafted, and everything is made in-house, from the housemade pastries to all the items in the larder.
This project is from life and business partners Madison Michael and chef Ryan Shelton (previously Baumé, Palo Alto). They are quite the power duo: she is a certified sommelier and cheesemonger, and he’s a skilled chef with a passion for all things Italian (hey, it’s in his blood!).
During the day, you’ll find salads and sandwiches (which you can also get to go), daily pastas, and more. And not just any sandwiches: there’s smoked carrot with shaved carrot, Point Reyes Toma, and raisin jam on focaccia ($9), and pasta like ricotta cavatelli with wild mushrooms, porcini cream, and sage pesto ($11) (check out the menu here). House-baked cannoli, cookies, and more will be there for you when your sweet tooth strikes. Coconut-lime doughnuts in the morning, that sounds good too.
Launching in five weeks is The Table at Merchant Roots, which will be offered three nights a week, featuring a themed tasting menu that will rotate every four to six weeks. There will be room for just eight guests, who will dine at the live-edge Monkey Pod wood table (by woodworker Ian Avidan of Berkeley-based Z&E Slabs). The Table experience will be $110 per person, with the option to add a wine pairing ($70) or partake by the glass.
It’s a petite 1,000-square-foot space, but they also managed to squeeze in quite the larder, stocked with their housemade food products, like salt blends, seasonal preserves, charcuterie (including salumi and uni pâté!), and five kinds of dried pasta, including kale spaghetti chitarra and gnocchetti sardi. (Impressive! They must have elves. Actually, they don’t—you’ll see chef Ryan and his team making pasta at the counter). They also have Eric Miller (Maker’s Common, Mission Cheese) helping out on the cheese selection and in-house charcuterie program, which will need some time.
And then there’s the wall of wine! Madison has selected more than 80 bottles, highlighting rare finds, natural wines, and lesser-known grapes, both locally and internationally. You can grab a bottle for a party, or come by for some daily selections by the glass. The space is so pretty, you’ll actually want to do both. There are live-edge wood café tables with copper wire chairs, and a showstopping 30-by-5-foot custom-made woven wool fiber art piece by local weaver Meghan Bogden Shimek. Obviously so much thought has gone into this place, can’t wait to check it out and soak in the details. And they have some great neighbors (like State Bird Provisions). That little stretch in the Lower Fillmore now has a lot going on.
Open Tue-Sat 9am-5pm. I’ll keep you posted on the dinner launch. 1365 Fillmore St. at Ellis.
The Table at Merchant Roots. Photo: Kassie Borreson/Fotografie.