table of contents   This week's tablehopper: time for lunch.
the chatterbox
the word on the street
the regular
it's about time we met
fresh meat
new restaurant reviews
the socialite
the starlet
no photos please


MAY 30, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO All righty then! My cheeks are as pink (on my face, you naughty thing) as an Italian rosato right now: the tablehopper was honored to be included in this month's "Best of SF" issue of 7x7 Magazine. MEOW. Thanks 7x7!

So I have to say there was one mighty-fab pizza I forgot in my little list o' favorite pizza joints in my review of Nicky's last week. It took a dear reader to remind me how wonderful Little Star Pizza is. Der. I didn't know I'd ever like deep-dish pizza until I had a slice of theirs. Wait, make that two slices. Never mind how many slices. Anyway, big fan of the Little Star here.

So in lieu of writing up one or two longer reviews this week, I decided to write up a few lunches I've recently had around town. J'adore lunch. Oh, and clear your calendar on June 12, because you have three great events to choose from. Check them out in the socialite.

Party on,

the chatterbox

MAY 30, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Big news: just when you thought Blue Plate and Emmy's Spaghetti Shack had cornered the market on SF-funky/eclectic restaurants in the Outer Mission, the executive chef of Emmy's Spaghetti Shack for the past five years, Sarah Kirnon, will be taking part in a new restaurant called ~THE FRONT PORCH~. Her partners in the venture are Josie White, a waitress and manager of Emmy's, and the ever-amicable Kevin Cline from Bix, who started tending the bar and made his way up to GM during his five years there. For the record, everyone at Emmy's is being really supportive, treating the Front Porch like a "sister shack." Emmy's is considering promoting their current sous chef to take over for Kirnon, and it's also being discussed to have Kirnon continue consulting on the menu.

The Front Porch space is the former home of Dominic's Club, which prior to that was known as The Venetian, a hotspot in the '50s for high rollers (29th Street used to have a light rail station, and was a really vibrant area). The space dates back to 1933, and is being renovated to have a homey and New Orleans-inspired feeling, while still preserving some of its Brat Park-clubbiness. The owners envision making this a fun, hip, and affordable destination where people can come together, catch up, and can actually afford to make it their weekly hangout spot. There will be booths along the wall, an imprinted tin ceiling, antiques and retro touches, pictures and mirrors, tables that feature vintage tabletops that have been re-set on new bases, a mahogany bar, an open kitchen, and about that front porch: the front will offer outdoor dining and will double as a waiting area, or just a spot where you can kick it. It's meant to have a beer garden-feeling (albeit a small one—there's room for about 15 people), with plants plus four or five rocking chairs. The interior will seat 55-60, with room for 8-10 at the bar. They're starting with beer and wine, and are hoping to secure a liquor license. (Fingers crossed.)

Okay, so the vittles! It's going to be based on the British concept of a "gastropub," a restaurant style that has been traveling its way west and making some appearances on the New York dining landscape. A gastropub is a classic pub venue with a distinct neighborhood vibe, and known for serving better-than-usual pub fare. Kirnon, who is from Barbados, will be preparing a menu of simple fare and comfort food, but with some heavy Caribbean influence, and a world-class chef's touch and execution. The ingredient-driven menu will feature organic meats and veggies, with dishes like tuna tartare paired with green plantains, duck breast with a spicy papaya sauce, house-cured salmon and salt cod fritters with tarragon crème fraîche, grilled items like a pork chop with a caraway coleslaw, and they plan on serving the best fried chicken in town, using a recipe from Kirnon's grandma. The food will be incredibly affordable, with most entrées running from $9-$15, and nothing over $20. Even cuter—some of the food will come in the old-school little plastic baskets. Cline is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, and is keen to bring back the $6 delicious glass of wine. You'll be able to start making it "your joint" come July. Dinner will be served nightly, and the hours will be Mon-Thu 5:30pm-10:30pm, and until 1:30am Fri-Sat. There will also be a lunch/brunch on Saturday (12pm-11:30pm) and Sunday (12pm-9pm). 65A 29th St., at Mission and San Jose, (eventually).

The long-vacant corner on Duboce and Sanchez will soon have a neighborhood café from the owner of the Dolores Park Café, Rachel Herbert. The space was formerly Cooper's Gourmet, a wine and cheese place, and by late June-early July will be transformed into ~DUBOCE PARK CAFÉ~. It will follow the very successful format of Dolores Park Café, serving coffee, smoothies, sandwiches, salads, and soup. There will be the same focus on organic ingredients, including Niman Ranch beef and ham, and there will also be beer and wine offered. There will be outdoor seating, and a large window was added so patrons can look out onto the park from the L-shaped bar inside. The interior will look slightly more modern than Dolores Park Café, utilizing lighter wood, with greens and oranges on the walls. Herbert stressed she is striving for the café to be a community space, a true café where the neighborhood can come together, hang out, and enjoy a fresh meal. Duboce Park Café will be open daily for breakfast, lunch, and a light dinner, from 8:30am-8pm.

Those who live and work near the SOMA roundabout will be happy to know a spiffy patisserie will be opening in August called ~PATISSERIE PHILIPPE~. The location will be in the new Roche Bobois building, across from the SEGA building. After four years with Pascal Rigo's Bay Bread, you can bet Philippe Delarue knows his pastry. The space will feature an Art Deco look, with light pink and silver figuring prominently, plus vintage cake stands, and chandeliers that were sourced in France. There will be two large mahogany cases, each with a marble top—one for making sandwiches, like panini and baguette sandwiches, and the other for the pastry. There will also be salads and it wouldn't be truly French unless there was some pâté (which there will be). It will have ten tables inside—outdoor seating is TBD. The patisserie will be open from 7am-6pm, closed on Sundays. 655 Townsend at 8th St.

The Portland-based ~MOONSTRUCK CHOCOLATE COMPANY~ will be opening up in the Marina in the old Mrs. Field's space this September. Moonstruck is known for its hand-crafted artisan chocolates and award-winning truffles. The café will also serve chocolate-based desserts and beverages with chocolate in them, like their Chocolate Chai drink. 2109 Chestnut St.

Sadly, I saw on Chowhound that Berkeley's ~BENDEAN~ has closed as of this past weekend. The owner, Lance Dean Velasquez, reportedly wanted to spend more time with his son (Ben) and less at the restaurant. He was formerly the chef at NeO (remember that joint?) and JohnFrank (later Home) on Market Street here in the 415. I wish him luck… people will miss his cooking, and especially that wicked early dinner deal he offered for $13.50!

fresh meat

Nicky's Pizzeria Rustica image

2500 Washington St.
Cross: Fillmore St.
San Francisco, CA 94115


Lunch Tue-Fri 11:30am-3pm
Brunch Sat-Sun 10am-3pm
Dinner Tue-Sun 5:30pm-10pm

Benedicts $9-$12
Croque $9
Omelette $8
Salads $10-$14.50

MAY 30, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO It's one of those perfect sunny days in SF, and you feel like you have a cocaine bag's chance of survival in a tranny bar in finding a table to sit outside in the sun somewhere. This is not by any means a sure thing, but for some reason the two times I thought of ~CHOUQUET'S~ on upper Fillmore for brunch or lunch on a sunny day, I've found a table. Good enough odds for me. Now I might be totally screwing that up. Oh well.

Why all the seating? Could be due to the fact that the tables are downright diminutive, so they can pack more people out there. The tiny tables are also really close, so you'll get to know your neighbors quite well—not a good place for serious conversation with your lunch partner about who you think gave you herpes. (That conversation shouldn't happen in public, period.) This corner gets some serious sun in the afternoon, it's lovely. Even if you don't score an outside table, the inside has large enough windows that open, and it's a sleek little modernista space in wood and orange. But the whole point is to sit outside, right?

Their brunch menu used to be a little funky and non-brunchy (five salads, a steak dish, plus a quiche, a croque monsieur, and an omelette that gets really freaking expensive if you want more in it besides eggs), but now they've added some egg benny dishes too. (In the beginning they were probably like, "So, zee menu. Hmmmmm. Vat is theeeis brunch américaine? Zey should just have un salade. Cochons!")

Since I'm such an egg-hound, I just ask them to madame my monsieur and throw an egg on top. They cooked it perfectly. My croque was cheesy, bready, eggy, and hammy, just as it should be. Forget an American in Paris—I was an American with an egg. And with a nice mixed greens salad on the side to boot. Pal had the quiche Lorraine ($8), which seemed to suit her fine. Fresh squeezed OJ ($4.50) is also a nice touch. Yeah, the prices can be a touch Pac Heightsy, but hey, they gotta pay that rent.

Le Colonial image

Phoenix Bar & Irish Gathering House
811 Valencia St.
Cross: 19th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110


Mon-Fri 11am-2am
Sat-Sun 10am-2am

Sandwiches $7-$12

MAY 30, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Some people swear by the brunches at the ~PHOENIX BAR & IRISH GATHERING HOUSE~, or come here to watch whatever game is on (eek, well, in my book, sorry) over some pints with the boys. Reportedly, their shepherd's pie is delish, and breakfast brings boxty and a traditional Irish breakfast. But I am not writing about any of these occasions.

What I'm here to cover is the total pile of juicy corned beef love that showed up in between two grilled slices of rye bread one day when I was in the Mission, and totally freaking hangry (that's hungry and angry combined, an irresistible term I learned from a funny stranger at a taco truck one day). I was in dire need of some serious food and drank, and I'll be damned, that sandwich and a pint totally nailed it.

Juicy corned beef is just the best. The fabulous sandwich flavor spectrum (patent pending) was further enhanced with some cheddar cheese, kicky mustard, and some snappy pickle slices. It was a monster of a sandwich, but you know I finished it.

You also have the option of getting the evil potato skins they offer, instead of fries. I say get the tato skins. Clever use of the skins, I might add. Smart kitchen. An ice-cold pint of Bass, and I was totally set. My pal had the burger, and some other beer from the long line of taps running the length of the bar—I don't remember what kind, I was way too into my sandwich. Rolling Stones were played, and some other good classic rock. The lights were dim, especially at the back tables, which would be great if you're nursing a hangover.

And like a true pub, the place doesn't close all day, so they are seriously there to take care of you, whatever your damage (Heather), at whatever time. Pleasant servers. I also loved the fact that after our waitress took our order, she brought over a basket of homemade soda bread. Rock! So while I was pondering the ETA of my pastrami, my beer and soda bread combo were already making me more happy than hangry. I am healed!

the socialite

Chez Maman

Chez Maman
2223 Union St.
Cross: Fillmore St.
San Francisco, CA 94123


Open daily 11:30am-11pm
Brunch Sat-Sun 10:30am-4pm

Panini $9-$10
Burgers $9
Crepes $8.50-$9.50
Dessert crepes $6.50-$7

MAY 30, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO This is the third location of the ~CHEZ MAMAN~ empire, and they found a très charmant spot to set it up in: the old Night Monkey space on Union. It's a little off the beaten path of the main drag of Union, so if you need a location for a slightly incognito lunch with your lover (i.e. not your S.O.), you could probably get away with it here. (You heartbreaker.) Remember, we're getting Frenchy here. Get your Belle de Jour sunglasses on.

Out front there are a few tables with classic bistro chairs for those who like to dine al fresco, and there's a patio in the back which I hope they'll be getting set up for outdoor seating before the summer is up. There's also a little private room/nook in the back of the restaurant with a table that could seat 8-10 folks or so—ideal spot for an intimate birthday dinner gathering. I wouldn't want to be in it during the day, however—it's vampire dark back there.

Met a pal here for lunch, and while the quesadilla section is a little disconcerting to see fraternizing on the menu amidst the crepes and mussels marinière and Niçoise salad, it's their beloved burger ($9) that pulled me in. The French can really do good things to a burger, it's true. The roll is the softest thing—it's like it's part brioche, part bun. Squish squish. Delightfully fresh. Some might complain the burger was too small for the bun, but the patty size was just right in my book. It was wicked juicy, with a nice herby taste, and cooked a just-right medium rare. Why do they rock their burgers so hard? They just do. A touch too much Roquefort cheese (Did I say that? Too much cheese?) but otherwise a winning burger for sure. You can even get an egg on your burger if you so wish. (I'm not the only one out there, thank God.) Also comes with caramelized onions on the side, and aioli too, thankyouverymuch. You can choose a side salad, or killer frites with a dusting of herbs. You're already in on the burger, so go the whole hog and get the frites for crying out loud.

Pal had a chicken/pistou/tomato/roasted pepper panino ($9), which is grilled and served in a cute heart shape. Awwww. Tomato was mealy (it was out of season, duh), but we'll forgive them. Remember that heart.

While the space doesn't have the cute cramped little counter vibe of the original on 18th Street, it does have pleasing apricot walls with that classic imprinted wainscoting whose exact name escapes me right now (anyone?), ladies lunching at copper-topped tables, men having mid-day red wine sessions at the small counter (with hooks underneath, always a thoughtful detail), some electronica on the sound system, and some bona fide French waiters who will either charm you, annoy you, or ignore you—perhaps all three.

Dessert, if you're up for a piggy lunch, should be the Nutella and banana crepe ($7). There's also the option of a crepe Suzette ($6.50), or of course crème brûlée, chocolate mousse, and other Frenchy standards. It's how to say oink in French.

the socialite

Incanto logo

Mattanza Dinner

1550 Church St.
Cross: Duncan St.


June 12

$65 per person
excluding beverages, tax, and service

MAY 30, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Check out this unusual dinner from the fabulous folks at ~INCANTO~, their third Sicilian Mattanza dinner: On Monday, June 12, Incanto will host a very special evening, exploring and celebrating the centuries-old Mattanza, a ritualistic communal hunt for tuna off of the west coast of Sicily.

With the steady decline in the worldwide blue fin tuna population, the tradition itself has nearly passed. We honor it each year with this special dinner exploring the culinary, cultural, and historic aspects of the tradition.

More information about the dinner, including a preliminary menu can be viewed here.

Ferry Building
Photo courtesy of Ferry Building Marketplace

Commonwealth Club Panel

The Ferry Building Marketplace
2nd floor
Port Commission Hearing Room

Monday June 12

5:30pm check-in/wine and cheese reception
6pm-7:15pm program
7:30pm-8pm book signing

$12 for members
$18 for non-members
information and tickets

MAY 30, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Another option on June 12 is this ~COMMONWEALTH CLUB PANEL DISCUSSION~ about organic food standards:

"While more and more people visit farmer's markets across the country and grocery stores increase shelf space devoted to organics, many consumers remain unaware of the controversy simmering behind the scenes. This evening's discussion will take a bold look at organic standards past, present and future and discuss the impact large mainstream food companies have as they increasingly get involved in growing and selling organic food. Will the booming growth propel the change in agriculture that organic proponents have long sought? How are the hard won standards and the ideals behind the organic food movement maintaining their integrity in the face of this growth?"

SAM FROMARTZ, Author, Organic, INC.: Natural Foods and How They Grew
DIANE GOODMAN, Organic Industry Consultant
HELGE HELLBERG, Executive Director, Marin Organic

PEGGY MIARS, Executive Director, California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF)

The Taste of Western Australia

The Taste of Western Australia

World Trade Club
1 Ferry Plaza
(behind the Ferry Building)
San Francisco

June 12

Tasting 6pm-8pm

$30 per person (includes parking)
Purchase tickets here

MAY 30, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Okay, winos. Time to check out some wines of Western Australia at the first ~TASTE OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA~ in North America. Wineries from Margaret River, Pemberton, Perth Hills, and Blackwood Valley will be organized by their appellation to illustrate the breadth and variety of the Western part of the country. More than 30 wineries from Western Australia will be pouring over 150 premium wines. Winemakers will be on hand to discuss their latest releases. Top wineries include Vasse Felix, Cullen, Devil’s Lair and Leeuwin Estate.

the socialite

MAY 30, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO So I heard that Busta Rhymes was kickin' it at Cortez while staying at the Hotel Adagio. Word is they tend to be a good hip-hop hotel. Now you know.

Tommy Lasorda ate at the Fior d'Italia on Saturday night. Supposedly he digs their pasta all'amatriciana and their minestrone.

This cracked me up: Deniece Williams ("Let's Hear It For The Boy"/Footloose soundtrack fame) was seen at Teatro ZinZanni sporting a purple feather boa, and looking fab. Work. Reportedly she was very quiet at first, but after couple of martinis she became very chatty. Martinis tend to do that.

And one of the coolest chicks ever, Deborah Harry, was seen at the Clift Hotel this week. I know, it's not like she was at Asia de Cuba, but I had to put it in, restaurant or not!