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Sep 30, 2020 7 min read

This week's tablehopper: maxed out.

This week's tablehopper: maxed out.
The new deluxe chirashi from Kuma on Polk; only 20 are available each night! But good news: they’re now open nightly. Photo: ©
Table of Contents

Hello, friends. Let’s all take a big inhale together (although I hope your windows are closed with today’s unhealthy AQI). And exhalllllle. How about one more deep breath. Maybe another. Okay. Drop and roll those shoulders. Unclench that jaw. Massage that jawline, along with your temples and neck for a moment. Whewwwww. There is so much happening that is so utterly awful and depressing and traumatizing, all at once. The terrifying fires (and seeing our friends and family and colleagues and workers fleeing and evacuating again and again, and suffering terrible losses, from Meadowood to wineries to family homes, to the very worst of all, a rising death toll—our hearts are heavy). A million people dead from Covid-19 worldwide. The shocking and tragic death of chef Todd Shoberg (Molina) on Monday (there’s a fundraiser for his family, what a heartbreak). Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Breonna Taylor. Tuesday night’s revulsive debate. The election in five weeks. It’s really, truly too much. Just keep coming back to your breath, to the love in your heart, to what you’re grateful for. Take your time if you can, take it hour by hour, day by day.

It’s why I clocked out on Monday and went to the beach—I needed to clear my head, be in nature, enjoy the sun on my body instead of roasting in my apartment, and step away from the doom-scrolling and sadness. (Which is why you’re receiving the newsletter a couple days late.) If you can give yourself some time to be in nature (once the air improves), maybe go for a hike or just drive to a pretty place, do it. Self-care is in the ocean breeze.

Can you believe it’s the first day of October? I know, what?! I just want to do my part and check in and make sure you have registered to vote, yes? (You have until October 19th.) Are you sure? All registered voters will be sent a vote-by-mail ballot for the November 3rd General Election. Registered voters do not have to apply for a vote-by-mail ballot for this election. But all California voters should check the address where they are registered—check your voter status here. Read more about voting in California in this New York Times piece.

Another thing about voting, although this one is fun: I’m thrilled to have 48 Hills promoting the Bay Guardian Best of the Bay awards in today’s newsletter! Help support our local businesses, bands, people, services, and publications! Pretend you’re writing a love letter to all the people and places you love in SF with your vote. (Shameless plug: I’d be so grateful for your nomination for tablehopper for best local website! Thank you kindly.) Vote now—you have until October 10th!

Annnnnd another thing: did you fill out the Census? Please do it now, it has such a big impact on how things are determined for our community, from programs to systems to services to volunteers.

I’d like to give a special shout-out to one of my favorite angels during this pandemic: Joanna Karlinsky, who continues to feed the unhoused in SF (we featured her on the On the Fly podcast). Check out this segment about her on KRON, and you can continue to donate to her fundraiser here. Thank you.

Just in case you don’t subscribe to On the Fly by tablehopper on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts, I wanted to be sure you caught the latest episode with Reem Assil of Reem’s California! We talk about what it’s like to launch a restaurant in the first month of a pandemic, to the many adjustments they’ve had to make along the way, to her current exploration of how to build a worker-owned model. You’ll also hear about her incredible pastries, meal kits, and more. Listen in, and thanks for sharing!

Yesterday was a big day for the San Francisco restaurant industry: it was the first day to allow indoor dining (at 25 percent capacity—technically, it could be at 50 percent, but our city is thankfully being relatively cautious with this first step). Guests are required to wear their masks at all times unless they are actively eating or drinking (talking doesn’t count—pull it back up), and whenever someone approaches your table, or when you get up. Restaurants are required to follow the initial guidelines from the Department of Health, and guests (both indoor and outdoor) should expect to answer a few screening questions before being seated about your possible Covid exposure and contact tracing (it helps if you take part—especially in this early stage of things), and you will be informed about a time limit at your table (max two hours).

Honestly, I have complicated feelings about indoor dining. My primary concern is about protecting the health of our restaurant and bar workers, and keeping them safe. It’s very clear how much I love and support restaurants, and miss them terribly, and want to see them survive this current nightmare, but I worry about guest behavior, and how it can adversely impact the people serving us, making our food, and hosting us. Considering the raucous group of about 100 partiers I saw on Ocean Beach on Sunday evening, dancing and drinking and with barely anyone wearing masks—I hate to think of where they’re eating indoors next. I have a lot of trust in (most) restaurateurs to take all the necessary precautions, but it’s the mixed bag of clientele I’m more concerned about.

On Instagram, I’m seeing restaurants announcing they’re open for indoor dining (like Boulevard, Montesacro, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, and John’s Grill), with many talking about their upgraded HVAC systems, open windows, spaced tables, and cleanliness protocols. Some restaurants were never able to open outdoor seating, so this is their first opportunity to serve guests in person (like Kokkari, which is opening October 3rd).

There are people happy to be returning to and dining in their beloved restaurants—I’m hearing of reservations filling up already. Others, like me, are more than content to stick with takeout or outdoor dining for now, especially with this gorgeous weather (as long as the air quality is okay, tables are well-spaced or there are dividers, and customers are respecting the rules and what it means to share space in the time of Covid). And then there’s takeout, when I can enjoy a feast at home or with a friend on my porch, and not have to think about much besides how good the food is. Everyone has their own perceptions and boundaries and thresholds of where they feel comfortable or nervous on the risk spectrum. A friend said it’s like gender: we all have our own expression of it. You do you, and I’m gonna do me. It’s also about respecting others and supporting their safety.

Until we see how this first stage goes, I will not be mentioning restaurants that are open for indoor dining in @tablehopper Highlights—I’m just sticking with outdoor dining and takeout updates for now (pssst, Town Hall has reopened with an awesome outdoor plaza and brunch, and Nari is due to open outdoor seating this Thu or Fri, air quality pending). Basically, I don’t want to encourage anyone to do anything I personally am not comfortable doing yet. Maybe everything will be fine. I hope so. There are just too many things we don’t know right now.

Please be careful, respectful, and diligently wear that mask of yours, no matter how annoying or hot or cumbersome it is. Think of others. We don’t want this big step forward that our city is taking to be a setback. It’s entirely up to us.

Another thing I’ve been watching: the delivery commission fee cap (currently 15 percent). Mayor London Breed has just extended the cap timeline until 50 percent of indoor dining returns (we’re currently at 25 percent). (I’m sure GrubHub has already crafted or sent their commission fee raise emails.) There is also legislation to set a permanent cap in the works—an initial hearing with the public safety services committee is October 8th.

Since we’re talking delivery, I want to thank all of you who entered the Club Feast sponsored giveaway a couple weeks ago! The winner has been chosen, but now it’s your turn to be a winner. Club Feast has kindly offered tablehopper readers $10 off your first order (code: tablehopper10). You can pre-order a dim sum lunch from City View, or a kimchi burrito from HRD Coffee Shop, falafel sandwiches from Sunrise Deli, and many, many more, for just $6.95-$8.95 per meal and no delivery fee—please note the service fee (15 percent) and tax (8.5 percent) are not included in the price. But it’s still crazy-affordable, and some of the meals are really abundant! You’ll find breakfast burritos, banh mi, wonton soup, bento boxes, tikka masala, even ten-inch pizzas! They keep adding restaurant partners daily. Big thanks to Feast for their sponsorship during these financially unstable times—I appreciate it, and look forward to using their service more. Check it out!

Since I don’t have a paying sponsor this week, if you’re able to throw anything in the tip jar, it would help cover some of my monthly operational costs. (Let alone the days I spent writing this beast of a column, ay yi yi, I’ve been up past 2am the last two nights—so please excuse any typos, I’m whupped.) Even “buying me a coffee” with a few bucks helps, truly. I know times are really tight, so maybe you can share the tablehopper newsletter with friends instead? Post about my podcast? Everything and anything is appreciated. Thanks, y’all.

Hang in there. Sending best wishes. Keep your head and spirits up. Find and create and share moments of joy and kindness. XO ~Marcia

The new deluxe chirashi from Kuma on Polk; only 20 are available each night! But good news: they’re now open nightly. Photo: © tablehopper Newsletter from Thursday, Oct  1 2020

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