table of contents   This week's tablehopper: stars and stripes and drinks and bites.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
the regular
it's about time we met
the lush
put it on my tab
the socialite
the starlet
no photos please


JULY 4, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO You didn't think I was going to skip out on you now, did you? I should hope most of you are eating burgers and deviled eggs (or smart dogs and veggie burgers) on a picnic blanket or around a grill somewhere outside of the 415. I'm heading to the 650 myself—I am so done with eleven years of colored fog each Fourth of July. And it's not like many places are even open for dinner, so enjoy the day off. I sure am.

Happy holiday,

the chatterbox

JULY 4, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Folks are fired up that ~ROOSEVELT'S TAMALE PARLOR~ has finally reopened (as of Saturday, June 24) after a massive remodel. Investors Isaac Mejia and Ray Klein (Don Pico's, Tartine Bakery, Pizzaiolo, Rib Shack, Café Cacao) partnered up again to save this San Francisco icon. One of the oldest tamale parlors in California (since 1919) and the oldest in San Francisco, Mejia just couldn't bear for San Francisco to lose something so precious. They have lovingly insured the original old wainscoting was restored, plus adding some touches like installing 80-year-old alabaster lamps (the drop ceiling is all gone), and a flesh pink and brick checked quarry tile floor. To do honor to this heartfelt renovation, they have brought in Karen Taylor of Primavera, who does the spectacular Slow Food-style tamales at the Ferry Building Marketplace Farmer's Market, and you've probably seen them at Whole Foods. (She also does killer tortillas and fish tacos at the FB, but we're talking about the tamales.) She's a close friend of Diana Kennedy, the authority on Mexican cooking (well, yes, besides Mister Bayless)—Kennedy might even come up from Mexico and teach some cooking classes at Roosevelt's. We shall see. For now, head on over to Roosevelt's and check it out—I plan on doing the same. Closed Mondays. 2817 24th St., at Bryant St., 415-824-2600.

Thanks to an avid tablehopper reader (thanks CS!), I got a tip-off about ~AVENUE G~, a new resto that just opened on Saturday, July 1, on Clement St. in the former Pho Tu Do space. The G stands for Grant, the chef/owner who has worked at Chaya, Betelnut, and The Brazen Head/Liverpool Lil's. An SF native, he was especially excited about this project because it was a chance to return to his hometown neighborhood, and fulfill the project with the help of his talented friends. After three months of construction, he's opened a linear space that seats 54 (for now), with bamboo floors, a palette of urban industrial colors, like graphite and sand, Asian-style mahogany chairs, and an open kitchen in the back. The menu is an international globetrotter, focused on what he is calling "San Francisco cuisine." Expect dishes like foie gras, a killer feijoada, rib eye steak, sashimi, Dungeness crab potpie, white truffle French fries… yes, it's a grand tour. His recipes are authentic (he even sought moms around the city for recipes), and are served in good, hearty portions. Apps run $9-14, and mains $17-26. He's using local/sustainable/organic ingredients when possible, and is even offering an omakase/chef's choice menu ($55/five courses, plus $20 for wine pairing). Speaking of vino, Brandon Clements (the bar manager of MECCA, and he worked with Grant at Betelnut) has put together an international list that's as eclectic as the menu, plus a focus on sake, and some soju cocktails and beer too. Dinner will be served nightly, 5pm-midnight, and even later on Fri-Sat. Sounds like there will now be some good late-night eats on the "Clement Corridor." 1000 Clement Street at 11th Ave., 415-221-7111.

It ends up that Brandon Clements (from MECCA and doing front of house at Avenue G) will also be opening a place of his own (with one of the owners of Zebulon) called ~MERCURY~. It will be moving in to the divey Luau Bar & Grill on Lombard, and after a renovation, by September will hopefully be serving cocktails with some Asian flair and infusions, and Asian small plates (courtesy of chef Dominic Ainza of Betelnut). He promised me more news and details about the space once the paperwork gets finalized and construction is underway—for now, we sit tight. 1434 Lombard St. at Van Ness Ave.

The Greek restaurant, Yianni's, (in Noe Valley) will transform into ~PESCHERIA~ this fall. The project was formerly known as Joey & Eddy's Seafood, but after a trip up and down the coasts of Italy, and many many fish markets and stands later, Joseph Manzare (Globe, Zuppa, Tres Agaves) was inspired to rename it. The chef will be Robert Leva, who is a protégé of the tres-talented Richard Reddington, cooking under him while at Redd, Auberge, and Jardinière. Manzare and Leva are heading to Italy in a couple weeks to check out some fishing towns on the coast and get inspiration for the menu. The menu will include some seafood pastas, and the mesquite wood grill will surely yield some winning dishes. The restaurant will feature a raw bar, with oysters and possibly some crudos, served on a marble bar top with the raw bar sunken in. The staff working the bar will wear old-fashioned white fishmonger coats (cool!). Additionally, Pescheria will have a full bar. The space itself will have a Italian seaside feeling that's clean and slick, with white subway tile. There's room for about four four-tops out front under the awning, around 30 seats inside plus room for eight at the bar, and here's the best part: the patio. The landscape architect is currently transforming it into a hip and cool space (including crafting a trellis made of bound sticks)—it should have room for about 20 diners. Looks like Pescheria will hopefully be opening in time for Indian summer (August 31), so we'll have a chance to enjoy the outdoor seating and some fresh fish on a balmy night. 1708 Church St., at 29th St.

~AQUA~ is currently closed for a kitchen renovation until July 12. I also heard some rumblings of some serious staff turnover the past couple weeks, so we'll see how things shake out after the 12th (I didn't get a call back). And with C&L closed and on the move, sounds like there are some big changes in the works with the Aqua Development Group. I'll keep ya posted.

Speaking of zee French, prix-fixe standby ~LE CHARM~ in SoMa just finished a makeover courtesy of designer Michael Brennan (Cortez, Boca, Tartare). Expect a more intimate vibe, with cinnamon walls, suspended globe lighting, and a large custom copper chandelier, plus some sage curtains. In honor of the new look, some new dishes have also made their way onto the á la carte menu (not like I'll give up the chicken liver salad, however).

fresh meat

Levende Lounge

Levende Lounge
1710 Mission St.
Cross: Duboce St.
San Francisco, CA 94103


Apps $6-$12
Small plates $11-$19
Desserts $7

Tue-Sat 6pm-11pm
Sun 11am-4pm
Bar: Tue-Sat 5pm-2am

JULY 4, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Is it a lounge? Or is it a restaurant? Most places would suffer from an identity crisis on par with Nicole Richie trying to balance the two concepts (it's hard enough to even do one thing well) but ~LEVENDE LOUNGE~ manages to pull off the combo. It's one of those places I could consider hitting if it was midweek and some of my peeps were visiting from L.A. and I wanted somewhere upbeat but chill enough to hang out, throw back some dranks, and graze through the menu without having to think about things too much or totally ouch the wallet. It would be on-point for a birthday (although I seem to recall something tricky if you have ten or more people), a coworker dinner, or ladies night.

Executive chef Jamie Lauren departed in January of 2006 (she's now busy working on getting Prana ready to launch), and Arren Caccamo took her place, who hails from Oola, Baraka, and Chez Papa. He's shifted and tweaked the menu to make it his own, which is an eclectic international small plates menu that's built for sharing. Unless you're a vegetarian, which means you would be mostly relegated to one salad (the other two contain anchovy or chorizo), a couple sides, or the cheese fondue. (See, I look out for you non-carnivores!)

My dining partner and I found the pan-roasted scallop cakes ($11) too gluey and heavily breaded, but the rosy blood orange and fennel beurre blanc the cakes were resting on was delish. The bluenose bass ceviche ($14) wins for the most creative and kooky presentation I've seen in some time: the bowl of ceviche rests on the table with smoke pouring and swirling out like a mysterious volcano or exotic tiki drink (it has dry ice underneath). Just call it the voodoo doctor. Actually, I'd say it was more of a veggie salad than a ceviche (or a voodoo doctor)—it was rather laden with yellow tomatoes and bell pepper instead of fish, but at least it had a nice kick.

Now, I was a little wary of the famous lamb burgers ($12) that have been on the menu since day one. I remembered my last tour with them, because those delicious little buggers tragically stayed with me all night. Later that evening at a bar, I was afraid to open my mouth after a swig of my usual Jack and Coke in case I'd emit the most petite of burps and essentially unload the equivalent of lambie aromatic napalm on anyone within a 20-foot radius. Not so hot to dine on before a big night out, especially if you want to make some new friends, let alone keep the ones you have. On a date? Forget it—he's gonna be making out with the bartender or the chick at the end of the bar before the night is up—and you're going home with an empty tin of Altoids. (Or maybe a weird Mentos character.) The very charming server assured me the burp-factor had been addressed in the recipe (glad I wasn't the only one), and I gotta say, the lamb burgers and I were cool. They played nice, all night. So order them. Great flavor like I remember, totally juicy, and they're partnered with onion chutney, cumin yogurt, and house-made pickled cukes. You get three, so count your blessings.

Caccamo was previously at Oola, so you know he knows his ribs. Levende's baby-back ribs ($14) are straight up wicked. They're the kind that really bring out the animal in you. Rawr. (Maybe the voodoo doctor has something to do with this?) The ribs come with a candied mandarin, OJ, sesame seed, and ginger sticky glaze (if my notes serve me correctly). But I'm not gonna divulge why these ribs are so ridiculously mouth melting and addictive. Okay, actually, I will—you should know. First, they're braised for almost three hours, and then they're lightly floured and then fried. I KNOW. As the swoosh sez, just do it. They're worth the extra hour on the Stairmaster. The ribs come under a thicket of enoki mushrooms and daikon sprouts (with some edamame sprinkled on the plate) if you want some greenery to somewhat counteract the meat-fest. Your table will cast the thicket aside and attack the ribs like hyenas on a fallen wildebeest, I swear.

I found the grilled ono skewers ($18) a little dry and spendy to boot—they came with a zippy ratatouille that had some ginger going on instead of rosemary, and… actually, truth be told, there were just too many flavors on the plate—I didn't know where to sign on. Ultimately I said oh no on the ono. I also wasn't ready to go to bed with the side of grilled asparagus ($7), which is the third time I have seen asparagus with blue cheese and balsamic in recent months. I dunno, but that combo really doesn't rock me. (Is it just me? It's entirely possible.) The asparagus, however, were perfectly cooked—just the right amount of snap. They would be beautiful with just the balsamic, really. No need to gild the lily.

Bargain (and angioplasty) seekers, take note: the side of mac and cheese ($7) is a downright huge and bubbling mass of smoked gouda, jack, and cheddar cheese, with a sage béchamel. Oh, and applewood smoked bacon. It's merciless in its riches. Slide on in.

As if that cheese (and bacon) finale wasn't enough, let's waddle over to dessert, shall we? There are five other selections available, but the only one you really need to know about is the chilled peanut butter mousse ($7), served in a martini glass, layered with crumbled Oreo cookie. It's fluffy, it's light, it's freaking scrumptious. An adult Reese's, without the waxy chocolate. I would totally dump a martini out of my glass to make room for this dessert. (No, actually I would just down the martini very very quickly—sorry, lost myself for a second there.)

Like I said, I would happily dine at Levende midweek—it has a nice downtempo vibe overall, but come Friday, say 10pm, the hormone bomb goes off and wham, you suddenly have a scene of hets paying up the $10-$15 cover and swarming the place for some house beats and horny fraternizing. Saturday too. (Actually, they have some good acts that spin on Thursday nights as well.) Don't get me wrong, I love me some house (like Victor Duplaix coming up on the 15th) but the weekend scene is just not my personal velocity.

The space is industrial meets West Elm: sleek, spacious, loungey and inoffensive, with vaulted ceilings, exposed beams, and easy communal seating, plus cool art and dim sexy lighting at the tables. The space has one of the most ingenious features I've ever encountered: when it's time to pull a Clark Kent and transform from restaurant into lounge, the wood tables are actually adjustable, so they are lowered to a more appropriate cocktailing height. Muy clever. The servers are all quite nice, and they do a good job managing the small plates format, which is always a little extra work.

The cocktails are inventive and nicely crafted, and the wine list has some interesting selections thanks to Nicole Burke (the consulting somm who did a bang-up job on the list at (415) Asian Restaurant & Lounge). Speaking of wine, in honor of Levende's second anniversary, they are offering 50% off all their wines on Tuesday nights. That 2004 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir just went from $60 to $30, cheers.



430 Mason St.
Cross: Geary St.
San Francisco, CA 94102


APRIL 11, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Psssst. Opening this August in a former speakeasy will be ~SLIDE~. During the Prohibition era, the space (in a basement under Ruby Skye, formerly the Cable Car Theater) was called Dan's Cafe: you would push a secret wall and then scoot down a slide to land into the basement for some bootleg booze and gambling. Is that the coolest or what? So flash forward to August: once you pass through the restored copper door entrance, you will have the option of riding a copper-plated slide down into a plush speakeasy/retro-inspired lounge. There will be a large lit marble bar, and a DJ playing out of a gutted baby grand piano. The spacious room will feature 12 booths, plus touches of baby blue and brown and copper and mahogany. The space is being designed by Pamela Pennington Studios and Terra Nova Industries, who built Ruby Skye, Farallon, and Boulevard. The venture is from George Karpaty, the President of Inner Circle Entertainment (the folks behind Ruby Skye).

Slide will be open after-hours, serving special juice cocktails after 2am, instead of the usual water and Red Bull. They will also have a VIP concierge to handle special requests (like picking up a Double Whopper with cheese from Burger King at 3am?).


86 2nd St.
Cross: Mission St.
San Francisco, CA 94105

APRIL 11, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO A pal told me about ~DADA~, a new gallery/bar/lounge that opened up on Second Street a little over a week ago. I can't seem to track down a number for them, so my info is a little thin at the moment. However, I was informed they have a full bar and a happy hour that runs from 4pm-8pm, which should suit anyone working late in the SoMa area just fine.

the socialite

photo by Daniel Combs

Globe Sunday Farm Dinner
Sundays (until 10pm)

290 Pacific Ave
Cross: Battery St.
San Francisco, CA 94111



JULY 4, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO I had a nice chat with Jason Tallent at ~GLOBE~, who gave me more details about his weekly Sunday Farm Dinner—for a miniscule $29, each Sunday you can come in for a four-course meal crafted spontaneously from his organic finds at the market that weekend. He has a great rapport with a number of farmers who supply him with quality product, and cut him a deal or stoke him with some freebies so he can keep the special menu price so low. Regulars have been coming to Globe for this "on the fly" dinner for the past couple years, which has slowly evolved over time. Tallent has a limited supply of ingredients, and it's a popular dinner, so unlike your usual Globe dining time, don't saunter in too late—by 11pm or so and it's off the menu.

the socialite

MAY 30, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO George Lucas was dining in Myth about a week ago.

Susan Powter seems to be all over the 18th Street "Gourmet Ghetto" lately. I just hope they don't stop the insanity over there.