table of contents   This week's tablehopper: noodling around.

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 10, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Yo! I am finally back from NYC. I know some of you were wondering if I was ever going to return—I was having such a blast I ended up extending my trip three more days. I have finally caught up on some sleep and am currently eating brown rice and salads for the next week, and drinking water, water, and more water (well, except at the Bar Drake party this week and, oh yeah, there’s the St. George Spirits Open House this Saturday, and, oh, never mind).

I can’t wait to write up my tablehopper jetsetter New York recap for you next week. That city rocks so hard, what a thrilling adventure it was each day, meeting fan-freaking-tastic people, becoming smitten with the rich age and character of so many buildings and streets and places, hopping into heaps of new restaurants and subterranean cocktail bars and markets, experiencing the thrill of being a little lost each day, not knowing exactly where the hell I was or going, walking, walking, walking… the Richard Serra exhibit was so massive and major, and I could have spent days daydreaming on a sunny patch of grass in Central Park. People were friendly, fun, sassy, stylish, and smart. I am quite grateful for it all.

It’s almost ridiculous that am I leaving next Monday for a biz trip to Chicago, and then spending five days in New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail. My month should be sponsored by Excedrin, I swear. Wish me luck.

Lock and load!

~Marcia (rhymes with Garcia) subscribe

the chatterbox
JULY 10, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Brenda Buenviaje, who some of you might know from Café Claude and DeLessio, will be opening her own place on lower Polk called ~BRENDA’S~. She took over and is currently renovating the former Sun’s Cafe space, and hopes to open by the beginning or middle of August. Buenviaje was born and raised in New Orleans, and will be offering breakfast and lunch that celebrates the food she loves so much. Expect some beignets with a twist, like a variation with Granny Smith apples and ginger cinnamon butter, or a savory version with crawfish, andouille, and coarse mustard cream. She also mentioned omelets with shrimp, goat cheese, and sauce picante, and the classic dish of grillades and grits. Buenviaje is also developing a lighter version of a Sloppy Joe, a Sloppy Josephine, made with turkey and a bit spicier than the usual version, plus a vegan variation too. The petite 30-seat space will have hardwood floors, antique ceiling fans, walls the color of real butter, and some artistic touches from a potter pal in New Orleans. Buenviaje will be serving a custom blended coffee (just regular, decaf, or au lait) that comes from Argentina—it was blended for the popular eatery she consults for in Denver, Snooze. She plans to have Brenda’s open Mon–Fri, and eventually adding Saturday once the neighborhood is hooked. 632 Polk St. at Eddy.

After hitting a bunch of Spanish joints in New York, my appetite got seriously whetted for the sure-to-be-swell eats at ~LAÏOLA~. But alas, they have hit an unexpected zoning snag, so the opening date is anyone’s guess at the moment. They are all set to go and open their doors—I’ll keep you posted on the official opening date once they have it in their sights. 2031 Chestnut St. at Fillmore, 415-346-5641.

So after three years of business, the plant-covered ~ACOUSTIC CAFÉ~ on the corner of Octavia and Page is being sold. According to the owner, there is room for a secondary offer if someone wants to move quickly. Will keep you posted on what will eventually move in. 201 Octavia St. between Lily and Page, 415-861-4599.

Speaking of new owners, ~PASHA RESTAURANT~ on Broadway has new ones. After 21 years of service, owner Jelal Takesh decided to retire and travel to New Zealand. The new owners, Zouhair Senhaji, and his wife, Jennifer Senhaji, were friends of the owner and decided to take it over. Zouhair’s brother, Hicham, is the new chef, who is altering the menu to reflect a Moroccan approach with a California twist. Presentations are being updated, with a focus on offering quality food at a good value. The restaurant got some cosmetic upgrades, and there is a new bar and seating area—you can now just come in for drinks and bar bites. They are still finalizing the entertainment line-up, but expect live music and belly dancing Thu–Sun. 1516 Broadway at Polk, 415-885-4477.

Almost kitty corner to Pasha, a new wine bar will be opening, aptly called ~THE WINE BAR~. The project is from Gerry McNerney, an abstract artist who is designing and building out the space himself. It was formerly Café Aroma, and he is transforming the space into one with a lot of character, a look he is describing as Wild West-meets-MOMA, with a casual tavern/saloon vibe. There will be chocolate brown walls, brushed aluminum and nickel accents, high ceilings, and a solid oak bar that will all equate to a simple but cool look. There will be a limited menu of wine-friendly eats on offer, like cheese, meat, and bread plates, and the wine list is currently in development. He is hoping to open in early August, and plans to greet people with some good art, music, atmosphere, and a killer bar staff. The Wine Bar will be open from 11am–2am nightly. 2032 Polk St. between Broadway and Pacific.

Two of the city’s favorite chefs, ~LORETTA KELLER~ (COCO5OO) and ~CHARLES PHAN~ (Slanted Door/Out the Door), are partnering in a full-service restaurant and café at the new Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. Both chefs are known for their emphasis on local, sustainable, and organic ingredients, and their menus will help communicate the connection between food and culture in this unique setting that will operate as an extension of the museum. The currently unnamed restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner, and the café will offer healthy, kid-friendly, and multicultural food. Olle Lundberg of Lundberg Design (he did the Slanted Door space at the Ferry Building) and Cathy Simon of SMWM are collaborating on design. The project is slated to open a year from now, in October 2008.

I wanted to point you fellow boozehounds to my pal Camper English’s new website, ~ALCADEMICS~. Yup, it’s time to go to booze school. He’s a talented local spirits writer who really knows his sh*t, and he posts all kinds of fun discoveries in his blog, so add that puppy to your RSS feed. He will also be writing a piece for the wino soon, so keep your eyes peeled. Camper and I are both going to NOLA for Tales of the Cocktail, so between the two of us we just might be able to remember the trip.

Speaking of booze, the chic ~FARINA~ in the Mission finally has its liquor license. A couple more new details: outdoor seating should be available in a week or two (just in time for summery Mission days), and they will be offering restaurant guests complimentary valet parking on Friday and Saturday evenings until they get their own valet parking permit (which means anyone coming into the Mission will be able to park their cars with Farina valets, not just restaurant guests). Hopefully things will simmer down soon in the neighborhood relations department—there has been quite a saga on Yelp related to parking, outdoor seating, upset neighbors, and some other growing pains. 3562 18th St. at Dearborn, 415-565-0360.

The second location of ~MALACCA~, just next to the Café on Market Street, has closed.

More Castro news—it ends up ~PHILZ~ will still have a location in the neighborhood. They are moving into the café space that closed several months ago in the Sit and Spin, just a short jaunt away from the original Philz Castro location. The café will be opening this week, serving Philz trademark by-the-cup coffees and some pastries too. It will be open daily from 6am–7pm. 4023 18th St. between Noe and Hartford.

If you didn’t manage to get your tookus to the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market on Saturday, you can at least feast on some treats that ~JACK FALSTAFF’S~ executive chef Jonnatan Leiva found at the market with Farmers’ Market Finds Saturdays. Every Saturday after Leiva visits the market, he will select the day’s freshest finds and serve a taste for $5 along with $3 wine pairings—it could be anything seasonal, like fresh figs with cheese. And starting Saturday, July 21, Jack Falstaff will begin a weekly four-course Farmers’ Market Finds prix-fixe menu served family-style every Saturday evening. The menu is $55 per person with optional wine pairings for just an additional $20. 598 Second St. at Brannan, 415-836-9239.

While I was in New York I spotted the location of the new Pinkberry on Spring Street, but to be honest, I kept walking since I had a gelato from Il Laboratorio del Gelato on my mind. For those craving a taste of the natural yogurt craze sweeping L.A. like UGG boots did, you can check out ~YOGURT BAR~ at Union, which just opened in the Marina last week. You can get either plain or green tea low-fat frozen yogurt with a variety of toppings, like fresh fruit and dry toppings. Open Sun–Thu 11am–10pm and 11am–11pm Fri–Sat, closed on Mondays. 2760 Octavia St. at Union, 415-441-2585.

And now for something completely different: ~THE DITTYBOPS~, a musical duo, are embarking on a tour of America on July 28 in Los Angeles, and the purpose of their tour is to promote locally produced and organic food. Along the way, they will play about 20 shows in traditional venues. They will try to set up a farmer’s market in the lobby of each venue (or parking lot), and will be carrying an Earth box in the van and growing food in the van with a grow light. One of these will be auctioned off each night from the stage, with the proceeds going to Growing Connection. During the day they will be setting up appearances and shows on local farms and farmers markets, as well as high schools and colleges, as benefits for local farm organizations. They will also have a daily podcast and blog that will include video and audio interviews with farmers, chefs, and fans. Along the way they will be shooting a pilot of a television show hosted by the Dittybops during which they will be traveling the country bringing farmers and chefs together to share stories and cook local food. You can check out their site for all their set locations, but locally they will be in Concord August 2, Santa Cruz August 3, Berkeley on August 4, and Mill Valley August 5, touring the U.S. until September 8. A for effort.

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the regular


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


Mon 4:30 pm–2am
Tue–Fri 11:30am–2am
Sat–Sun 12pm–2am

Ramen $9 avg.

JULY 10, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Right about now there is going to be a sushi chef mad at me for writing this place up because it’s one of his favorite little secret spots. (I guess I won’t be able to order omakase from him anymore.) But I consider it my tablehoppin’ duty to share my discoveries, and I had no idea I was going to run into him the last time I was there, so here we go. (I can hear him sharpening his santoku.)

Tucked away off Union Square, on one of the grungier streets in the area, is ~KATANA-YA~, a literal hole in the wall serving one of the city’s finer late-night treats: ramen. San Francisco is severely lacking in the ramen department, and to have a tasty and cheap ramen joint that is actually open until 2am is downright special. Not unicorn special, or Jerry’s Kids special, but special nonetheless.

Now that Cantina has opened up the street, I know I can depend on Katana-ya, just a short stumble away, to help correct the evils of partaking in Cantina’s pitchers. The menu has dishes on it like some sushi classics and gyoza and donburi, but all I can really vouch for is the ramen. Oh wait, I have had the gyoza, but that was only to stave off the hunger until the ramen arrived—even in my tipsy haze the dumplings were nothing spectacular.

The main things your booze-addled mind will need to choose (come on now, focus!) is whether to order the broth rich (i.e. extra porky and salty) or light (if I understood our waitress correctly, the light is chicken-based), with a shoyu (soy), shio (salt), or miso base, and whether you want ramen or udon. I say go for the whole hog, literally, and do the rich shoyu broth with ramen, and get the chashu (pork) ($9). You could also opt to get your noodles topped with kimchee, spicy negi onion, chicken karaage, or spicy tofu (also good, and rates high on the flave-o-meter).

What comes out is a ridiculously piping hot bowl of broth, with thin slices of flavorful pork (or whatever topping you chose), some green onion, a few slips of seaweed and bamboo shoots, and glistening globules of fat on top that makes it look like the Exxon Valdez got to your soup. The broth magically gets better with each bite—almost like a good red wine after it has been decanted The noodles are bouncy, springy, the right amount of chewy, that is, until they sit for too long in your bowl, so start slurping as soon as you can stand the heat.

The saltiness of the rich broth might be too much for some, so if you are really sensitive to salt, I’d choose otherwise. Let’s just say when you’re done with your bowl (if you can even finish it, I couldn’t) you basically feel like you somehow slurped an entire ham in a liquid form. I am talking INTENSE THIRST. Parched. Which after a night of drinking might add insult to injury, so be sure to order some beer with your noodles, heh.

But just the same, this bowl of rich, salty, porky heaven totally rocks. On a cold SF night, it could be nirvana. Downtown workers are grateful for this place on hangover days, I am quite sure. If you are super-starving, you can go for a donburi and ramen combo, but I have not idea how someone could eat both—it sounds seriously daunting.

To reiterate, this joint is hella small, so if you show up with a gang of five, you’re definitely going to have a wait; tables of two are much more nimble. And even though the restaurant says it’s open until 2am, your order has to be in by 1:15am, so don’t come racing over after last call because it will be too late, my friend. The service doesn’t leave much to comment nicely on, in fact, it can border on quite abysmal, but maybe it’s better in the day when they aren’t dealing with a full house of tipsy clientele.

The ambiance is, uh, challenged? The music is eclectic (in a good way), there are random owls sprinkled throughout, and one night the bathroom looked like someone from high school decided to come by and TP it—it was insane. Not really sure what was going on there. The pendant lamp hanging over our table had such serious wattage I felt like my friends were about to play good cop/bad cop with me. Which is what sushi chef pal might do with me the next time he spots me there, because I know we’ll both be back for some ramen when he’s done with work, and I’m done drinking for the night.

the lush


Bar Drake
Lobby of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel
450 Powell St.
Cross: Post St.
San Francisco, CA

415-392-7755 x226

Sun–Thu 11am–12am
Fri–Sat 11am–1am

JULY 10, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO ~BAR DRAKE~ is a new glam lobby bar opening July 12 in the historic Sir Francis Drake Hotel—it will have a 1920s vibe and classic cocktail list crafted by fab mixologist Jacques Bezuidenhout. Jacques’s drinks menu will include some updates on classics like the Sazerac (j’adore) and the Manhattan (I love you too), plus some signatures like the Bar Drake Manhattan with Woodford Reserve Bourbon, port, Angostura bitters, and maple syrup, and the Tommy Gun, made with Tullamore Dew Irish Whisky, Grand Marnier, and shaken with apricot jam, lemon juice, and fresh ginger. There will also be some bar bites available, like goat cheese and chive profiteroles, and salumi and fennel pickles.

The 36-seat lobby (designed by The Puccini Group) will have swank new furniture upholstered in brown velvet, embossed brown leather, and gold and brown checks, plus a new carpet and chandeliers with red crystals and lampshades. The bar top is made of a single slab of solid walnut, and an antique-mirrored back bar laden with scotches and American whiskies will command attention (and elicit desire, I am sure).

There are also some rumors of a secret room, which was built between floors and accessible by only one locked elevator—one can only imagine what went on in there since the hotel was built in 1928, during the height of Prohibition. Boozing, perhaps?
the socialite


Bastille Day
Sat., July 14, 2007

Grand Cafe 
501 Geary St.
Cross: Taylor St.
San Francisco, CA

Café Claude
7 Claude Lane
Cross: Bush St.
San Francisco, CA 94108

Cote Sud
4238 18th St.
Cross: Collingwood St.
San Francisco, CA

Rue Saint Jacques
1098 Jackson St.
Cross: Taylor St.
San Francisco, CA

JULY 10, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Sacrebleu! ~BASTILLE DAY~ is Saturday, and while Belden Lane is always such a scene, there are a variety of Frenchie outposts around town that will be celebrating in a culinary fashion.

~GRAND CAFÉ~ will be hosting quite the celebration, with a four-course prixe-fixe menu for $45, exclusive of tax and tip ($85 with wine pairings). The menu includes Alsatian flatbread with caramelized onion and goat cheese, pike quenelles in a lobster and mushroom broth, duck “coq au vin,” and trio of warm chocolate cakes, gâteau opera, and white and dark chocolate mille-feuille. Guests arriving from 5:30pm–7pm will be greeted by an exuberant Marie Antoinette offering complimentary cake and bubbly, while throughout the evening an accordion player will roam the ballroom. Dinner will be served from 5:30pm–11pm. Vive la France!

~CAFÉ CLAUDE~ is offering a $50 menu, with seatings at 5:30pm, 7:30pm, and 9:30pm, with live music from the Jinx Jones Trio 8pm–midnight. You can check out the menu here (link is a PDF). Fantastique!

~RUE ST. JACQUES~ is offering a $25 prix-fixe menu, with your choice of soupe du jour ou salade maison, steak frite ou poisson du jour, and crème brûlée ou mousse au chocolat. C’est bon!

~COTE SUD~ in the Castro is offering a four-course menu for $40, which includes quite the array of choices—check out the menu on their website here. Bon appetit!


Maverick Winemaker Dinner
Tue., July 17, 2007

3316 17th St.
Cross: Mission St.
San Francisco, CA


(multiple seatings)

$68 per person, plus tax and gratuity

JULY 10, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO ~MAVERICK~ is hosting their sixth winemaker dinner, hosting Anderson Valley's Eric Sterling of Esterlina Vineyards. Executive chef Scott Youklis has designed a delish four-course dinner to pair with the wines—you can check it out on the website here. That night they will be pouring the 2005 Russian River Chardonnay, 2004 Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 2002 Cole Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, and Ruby Zinfandel Port (non-vintage).

More on Esterlina from the press release: “Esterlina Vineyards is a Sterling family operated California boutique winery located near the Mendocino coast, nestled in the highlands above Philo. They produce a variety of exceptional fine wines in limited quantities from grapes grown primarily in the family's own vineyards including their own Cole Ranch Vineyard.

Esterlina wines are handcrafted—there is no assembly line manufacturing case after case. The Sterling family grows the grapes, makes the wine, and bottles each varietal they offer. While numerous vintners and brand wines offer similar varietals, few wineries make their wines the way they do: bottle by bottle.” 

the starlet

JULY 10, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO The city was crawling with folks from the All-Star Game. Last night there was a big party at Roe—Barry Bonds was there, plus Derek Jeter, Gary Payton, Rev. Jessie Jackson, Mark Sweeney, and Alex Rodriguez.

Alyssa Milano had drinks at Umami on Saturday night.

Jake Gyllenhaal was spotted having dinner at Delfina on Sunday, June 24—word is he is interested in how to help get Manka’s Inverness Lodge rebuilt—you might remember he was staying there with sis Maggie the night it tragically burned back in December. A fab tablehopper reader tipped me off to an In Touch Weekly article that mentioned Jake was in town to chat with Alice Waters at Chez Panisse on June 25 about Manka’s as well. Hey, whatever it takes to have that boy in town more, the better.