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Mar 14, 2016 18 min read

March 15, 2016 - This week's tablehopper: tap tap tap.

March 15, 2016 - This week's tablehopper: tap tap tap.
Table of Contents

This week's tablehopper: tap tap tap.                    

Rooftop party pastels (with Armand de Brignac Champagne). Photo: ©

Hiiiiiii! Looks like those of you in SF were going to wash away this last weekend! Whoa. It would have been perfect weather for me to be home and work on this Louis Vuitton 2017 San Francisco guidebook that has me rather busy these days—I was pretty much holed up for three days straight this weekend (6,200 words will do that to a person). One chapter down, two to go. As I told a friend, big deadlines are like a guilty conscience—always on your mind. I certainly know what will be on my mind the next six weeks.

I did have fun taking a dinner break on Friday and going to the absolutely insane Village Voice Choice Eats event. Wow, that’s how you do a tasting event—the range of cuisines (and beverages!) was mind-boggling. Take a peek at my Instagram feed for some highlights. I especially can’t wait to go check out the tacos at The Black Ant, based on the smoked mussel taco they served at the event, que bueño.

On Saturday night, my other dinner break away from my desk was at Babbo, my first time. Three words: lamb testa ravioli.

Hey, so remember when I said last week I was going to come home for a couple of weeks next month? Well, the primary reason is to host this amazing Vietnamese feast with chef Rob Lam and the wines of Vinho Verde!

The menu is downright spectacular, and knowing how good chef Rob’s Vietnamese home cooking is, well, let me just say you’re in for a treat. Also a treat: the charming Eugenio Jardim will be our sommelier and educator for the night, teaching us a bunch about the wines of Vinho Verde (and of course saying everything with a perfect Portuguese accent). Get your tickets ASAP, because at this price, it’s going to sell out quickly. Also: I can’t wait to see you.

Oh, and you can enter to win a pair of tickets to the event, thanks to Vinho Verde!

I wanted to do a big shout-out to all the final nominees for all award categories for the James Beard Foundation Awards! Some very exciting SF presence in there, and now that I am familiarizing myself with New York, I got excited for some folks here too. The James Beard Foundation Book, Broadcast & Journalism Awards will be in New York on Tuesday April 26th, and the James Beard Awards Gala will take place in Chicago on Monday May 2nd, for all the Restaurant, Chef, and Restaurant Design categories, and more. (A very special congrats and best of luck wishes to Liholiho Yacht Club, up for Best New Restaurant, yessss.)

Okay, back to my other deadline. Have a good week, and hope to see you in April! Marcia Gagliardi

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)

Join tablehopper for a Vietnamese Feast with the Wines of Vinho Verde


Banh Tom Co Ngu: sweet potato, rock shrimp and salt cod tempura/fritter; photo courtesy of Rob Lam.


Bun rieu (from a previous dinner); photo courtesy of Rob Lam.


Chef Rob Lam of Butterfly. Photo courtesy of Butterfly.


The beautiful vineyards of Vinho Verde. Photo courtesy of Vinho Verde.



I am so thrilled to be hosting this upcoming event, one that has me flying from New York back to SF! On Friday April 15th, this will be the first in a series of three events I am hosting that will feature Asian chefs cooking their favorite dishes and authentic home cooking, paired with the versatile Portuguese wines of Vinho Verde. And since we’re partnering with Feastly, we’re going to be dining in a cool and unique location in the Mission too!

Our first event, a Vietnamese feast is with chef Rob Lam of Butterfly, who is also a dear friend and one of my very favorite people to dine out with (his palate is amazing). I have been lucky to enjoy some of his home cooking and dishes you won’t find on the menu at Butterfly, so now it’s your chance to try his seriously delicious Vietnamese cuisine.

Rob was born in Vietnam, and when his family moved to Southern California after the fall of Saigon, his mother opened a restaurant called Vien Dong, just outside of Los Angeles, so restaurants are in his blood. And since Rob cares deeply about using quality ingredients, expect some soigné touches, like king crab and pork belly in your banh xeo crêpe (!).

We also have a very special guest this evening: sommelier and wine educator Eugenio Jardim, winner of Sunset Magazine’s 2010 Sommelier of the Year Award! Eugenio is known for his warm and charming ways (and fabulous Brazilian accent) and deep knowledge of wine, especially Portuguese wine. He’ll be teaching us all about the wines of Vinho Verde throughout the evening.

Vinho Verde wines are like no other in the world. Located in the northwestern part of Portugal, the lush green landscape lends itself to the production of young, refreshing wines that are extremely versatile partners for all kinds of food, which is why we wanted to show you how well they will pair with a multitude of Vietnamese dishes. Best known for white wines, Vinho Verde also produces reds, rosés, and sparklers—all of which offer one of the best wine values on the market. Get ready to discover something new!

The event will begin at 6:30pm for passed appetizers (like oc rieu/periwinkle shots with nuoc cham foam and Vietnamese cilantro) and two wines from Vinho Verde (Quinta da Raza and Casa de Vilacetinho). You can view the entire menu and pairings here.

The sit-down dinner begins around 7:15pm, and I hope you arrived hungry, because it’s going to be a feast (take a look at the menu here). There will be three courses of authentic and flavorful dishes—including the famed Cha Ca Thang Long (turmeric grilled catfish with rice noodles and herb salad) and Bun Bo Hue (spicy lemongrass oxtail stew, Hodo Soy soft tofu, and micro shiso)—with some served family style. With each course, you’ll get to enjoy two wines from Vinho Verde; there will also be a dessert course (no pairings, but you should have had more than enough by then!). We’re planning to wrap up around 9:30pm, but you can expect to linger a bit longer.

Tickets are available on Feastly for just $70, all-inclusive. Yes, this is a steal, so don’t delay on getting your seat! (And first-time Feastly diners, you can use my code for $10 off!) I can’t wait to see you, especially around a table covered with delicious food prepared by one of my favorite chefs! See you!

               Friday Apr 15, 2016 6:30pm–9:30pm (ish) $70, all-inclusive more info

First Look at WesBurger n' More, Opening in the Mission This Month


A look at the retro styling and cheerful counter at WesBurger n’ More. Photo: Wes Rowe Photography.


Looking into the dining room. Photo: Wes Rowe Photography.


The Hot Wes. Photo: Wes Rowe Photography.


A look inside the fried chicken burrito. Photo: Wes Rowe Photography.


Here’s what goes into the fried chicken burrito. Photo: Wes Rowe Photography.


The portobello Reuben. Photo: Wes Rowe Photography.


“Shrimp and grits.” Photo: Wes Rowe Photography.

Wes Rowe has made quite a name for himself in the local burger world over the past couple of years, drawing a line of fans every Wednesday for his weekly WesBurger pop-up at Mojo Bicycle Café. Rowe—a native of Austin, Texas—has a bit of a drawl, and his all-brisket burger patties cooked in a cast-iron skillet have an American accent as well, whether it’s the Hot Wes, his trademark burger (and hopper favorite), with onion rings, pickled jalapeños, and queso, or his Okie burger, cooked over onions and served with mustard, pickles and American cheese.

Back in October, we mentioned Rowe was partnering up with Chris Hastings of the Lookout in the Castro (Rowe consulted on the menu for the Lookout), and they were opening a brick and mortar, WESBURGER N’ MORE, in the Mission. Well pardner, things are on track to open at the end of March, and it’s time to give you a first look at some things.

The former Palacio Latino space has been transformed into what feels like a retro burger place, complete with a cheerful yellow and white awning above the counter that reminds me of some of my favorite LA coffee shops. There are 49 seats, with a counter for solo diners on soda fountain-style swivel stools, plus booths and a communal table. The Deco wood paneling/wainscoting was restored and polished up, and designer David Marks of David Marks Design also put in ’60s-era globe pendant lights, a midcentury checker pattern over the skylights, classic molded chairs in a punchy poppy, and you’ll even see a neon sign from the closed Joe’s Cable Car affixed to a rock wall. There will also be a neon sign installed outside the restaurant.

Rowe fixed and installed an old jukebox (a Rowe, so it seems kind of fated) and had Dick Vivian of Rooky Ricardo’s Record Store in the Lower Haight stock it with soul, ’60s tunes, R&B, and more. Rowe is planning to make it a pay-to-play situation and wants to donate the funds to a music program at a children’s school—he’s currently looking into options. Sweet.

Now, let’s talk about Rowe is planning to stuff us with. We already mentioned a couple of favorite burgers he’ll be serving (the Hot Wes and the Okie), plus his All-American, and he’ll be rotating a special burger each week too.

Rowe is also known for his fried chicken (did you ever try his Nashville chicken at his Uncle Brother’s Chicken pop-up?), and will be serving it as a bucket, plate, or sandwich. But then here’s where things take a left at Albuquerque, because he’s also going to be offering a fried chicken burrito. Yup, this bad boy is going to include his Southern-style fried chicken, with smoky pinto beans, street corn salad, avocado, crema, salsa, and jack cheese.

Another special dish he has developed is shrimp and grits, and thanks to an idea from Almanac’s Jesse Friedman, the grits are wrapped around a whole shrimp and fried. Rowe take Anson Mills grits and cooks them in a shrimp and corn stock and adds andouille sausage and sharp cheddar. He then makes balls of grits around a whole shrimp and deep-fries it. Dude. The shrimp and grits balls are served with remoulade and topped with Cajun spice and freshly grated horseradish. (Whether you call them Jesse’s balls or not is up to you.)

Vegetarians, you also have a pretty killer option with the portobello “pastrami” Reuben: Rowe  brines the portobello in pastrami spices and then puts in the smoker. The sandwich comes with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing and is served on Panorama marbled rye.

And fans of Rowe’s tots, don’t fret—they’ll be on the menu just like they were at the pop-up: plain, with queso, or deluxe with some meaty topping. I also hear milk shakes and punch are coming too. (And you see that Lone Star beer sign on the wall? Yup.) Speaking of the pop-up, Rowe is sad to announce this Wednesday March 16th will be the last WesBurger Wednesday at Mojo. Fortunately we’ll only have to wait a couple weeks until the shop opens.

Dinner will be served to start (nightly 5pm-10:30pm), and lunch will start a couple of weeks later or so, with late-night hours after that. We’ll keep you posted on the actual opening date. 2240 Mission St. at 18th St.

Update on Kim Alter's Nightbird, with Farnoush Deylamian Now on Board


Photo from the Nightbird preview dinner with EatWith. Photo by Liz Subauste (@sobremesasf).

UPDATE: Farnoush Deylamian is no longer involved with the project.

Things are getting closer for Kim Alter’s upcoming Hayes Valley restaurant, NIGHTBIRD, opening in the former Stelline and Las Estrellas. To recap, this is her first solo project (and not part of the Daniel Patterson Group, which she has been a part of for many years, including Plum and Haven). The restaurant is going to have 38 seats and a tasting menu format, plus an adjoining and extremely petite bar, the Linden Room.

The menu will run 5 strong courses, about 10 in all when you count the amuses, bread, and takeaway treat. Alter is thinking the menu will come in around $125, tax and tip included (she feels very strongly about trying to help make the tip-inclusive model work, which will also be the case at the bar). The tasting menu will not be a tedious four-hour experience, though—look for some unique and fun elements.

The menu will change often, starting with every other week, and then expect changes to ramp up to every other day. This is what happens when you go to farmer’s markets daily—a lot of inspiration. The experience will be a bit reminiscent of Septime and Restaurant Le Chateaubriand in Paris—high quality and serious execution (Alter has 20 years of technique we’re talking about) but still casual and fun. For those who previously had Alter’s food at Plum, while she likes having the best local products, there are global influences in her dishes for sure. She is currently meeting with pastry chefs as well and is excited to have one for the first time—she’s been covering desserts on her own all these years.

Another exciting part of the project, and one that hasn’t been announced yet, is who will be managing the Linden Room: the dynamic Farnoush Deylamian. For those who loved her balanced and exciting cocktails when she was at Aziza (she was there for 15-plus years), she will be continuing her style of culinary-driven craft cocktails, with a seasonal approach. Right now, they are stocking up on spirits from the best distilleries (many of them local) and working on housemade jams, peppers, drams, and tonics (their only limitation is storage, not imagination). The menu will have some classics and new concoctions, about 10 in all.

The Linden Room will have a style that feels very Art Deco-meets-New York hotel in the ’30s, with lots of woodwork, etched glass, a carpeted floor, and a muralist will be painting clouds on the ceiling. The barware and glassware will also be vintage—the ladies have found some incredible pieces, like little owl glasses (hello, Nightbird). There are only seven seats at the bar, which will only add to the charm. Guests will enter off Linden Street. Deylamian will also be overseeing the wine list, which will be tightly edited. Pairings will also include sake, beer, and more—it’s about what will go well with the flow of the food.

As for the dining room, there will be wood floors and plaster walls with a hand-touched effect, with an overall organic style and feel. The building is almost 100 years old, and since it has been deemed historic, they didn’t (and couldn’t) make a lot of big structural changes. The tables and chairs are being custom made; additional touches will include flowers, photographs on the walls, and Alter is talking to local ceramists (like Mary Mar Keenan and Melissa Rice) about plates and special custom pieces—she wants it to feel eclectic and not just one style. There will be a window into the kitchen, but the glass will be frosted so it’s not too distracting. By the same token, the dining room windows facing the busy street will have lace panel curtains covering the lower half of the windows.

So the big question of course is…when? Alter is eyeballing spring for the opening, maybe May. Looking forward to hearing the night bird sing. 330 Gough St. at Hayes.

New Brunch Patrol with Locanda (!), Tacolicious, Mina Test Kitchen, and More


Eggs in purgatory at Locanda. Photo courtesy of Locanda.


Chilaquiles at Tacolicious. Photo courtesy of Tacolicious.

Brunch options continue to abound, starting with this exciting piece of news: LOCANDA is officially opening for weekend brunch, and their first day will be Easter Sunday (March 27th). (However, if you want to swing by for a trial run, the soft opening is this weekend, March 19th-20th.) Some dishes include Delta asparagus and poached egg, eggs in purgatory, eggs Benedict “carbonara” (ay yi yi), cornmeal “corzetti” pancakes, and some unexpected dishes like an L.E.S. bagel plate, Eli’s latke-style hash browns, house-cured hickory-pepper bacon, and for those of you looking for the Italian answer to menudo, trippa alla romana. They’ll also have some excellent and fun cocktails. Brunch will be served 11:30am-2pm every Saturday and Sunday. Reservations are accepted, but there’s plenty of room for walk-ins too.

Just down the street, there’s a new TACOLICIOUS brunch, starting with the Lone Star taco, made with scrambled eggs, bacon, potato, roasted poblano, and salsa macha (an oil-based salsa with fried chiles and garlic), all wrapped up in a La Palma flour tortilla. You’ll also find huevos divorciados (refritos, Telmo’s orange sauce, salsa verde, cotija cheese)—either of these dishes are just $9.95. Chilaquiles made with La Palma tortilla chips, chile de arbol and tomato salsa, Oaxaca cheese, avocado, radish, and two eggs are $10.95. And you know there are some great daytime boozing options, like their Bloody Maria. Available starting at 11:30am Sat-Sun at all locations.

The MINA TEST KITCHEN in Cow Hollow scored a liquor license, so they are fired up to launch Sunday brunch, starting Sunday March 27th for Easter. Diane’s Bloody Mary Brunch, named in honor of Michael Mina’s wife and her famous Bloody Mary Bar (featuring hand-milled heirloom garden tomatoes blended with a light dashi broth, then infused with herbaceous lovage), will be available with a variety of other brunch classic cocktails, paired with chef Adam Sobel’s brunch menu.

Options include bagel breakfast sandwiches (like the Sobel Bros. pastrami, fried egg, hash brown, on an onion bagel), strawberry challah French toast, jelly doughnuts, local asparagus scramble with black truffle Camembert and polenta croutons, and the “MTK” double cheeseburger with caramelized onions, pickle, and mustard-griddled bun. Brunch will run Sun 10:30am-3pm, and Saturdays are in the future. Reservations and walk-ins accepted. 2120 Greenwich St. at Fillmore, 415-310-8371.

Folks near the waterfront can check out the new weekend brunch at the spacious CAPUTO from executive chef and partner Sam Ramadan and chef de cuisine Carrie Anne Lopez. Menu items include Farmers Pizza with melted leeks, potato, pancetta, burrata, and an organic egg; a breakfast sandwich with scrambled eggs, basil pesto, and honey-glazed thick-cut pancetta on a ciabata roll; sausage hash with housemade marinara, Yukon potatoes, fior di latte, Calabrian chile, and sunny-side up eggs; and Meyer lemon ricotta pancakes. They have a full bar too. Sat-Sun 10am-2:30pm. 100 Brannan St. at the Embarcadero, 415-543-9720.

Tidbits: Cannabis Edibles at Harvest, Pak Nam Thai, Paprikas, and Closures


The open floor plan and display shelves at Harvest. Photo courtesy of Harvest.


Kao klook ka-pi at the new Pak Nam Thai. Yelp photo by Natnicha L.


The iconic Lafayette Coffee Shop sign. Yelp photo by Mr. Bolo B.

Here’s a roundup of new places opening around the city, with a few closures and changes too. First up, for those of you with a medical cannabis card and a penchant for buying edibles, you will want to check out HARVEST in the Inner Richmond. The space looks like a hip grocery store—no bulletproof glass barriers here. The site says they are “California’s only private, members-only cannabis lounge,” and Eater reports they are carrying edibles like “brown butter sage marshmallows, sriracha potato chips, granola, and strawberry wedding cake soda.” Check out some of their sweets here. Open daily 11am-9pm. 4811 Geary Blvd. at 12th Ave., 415-702-6767.

Here’s another new Thai place I’m excited to visit when I return home next: now open in the Tenderloin is PAK NAM THAI. The location is the former Pagolac (you’ll be missed!)—you’ll recognize the little built-in niches in the walls. The chef is reportedly from Southern Thailand, offering some lesser-known dishes, and Yelpers are reporting the dishes run HOT. You can take a peek on their menu here. Hours are daily 11am-4pm and 5pm-11pm. 655 Larkin St. at Ellis, 415-872-9398.

FiDi fans of the former Evergreen Garden will be pleased to know PAPARIKAS has opened in its place, a casual and Pan-Asian place specializing in choose-your-own noodle and rice plates, plus some appetizers and salads that should be good for the lunch crowd (menu here). Yelpers report the coconut chicken and noodles is especially good. Open Mon-Fri 11am-4:30pm. 645 Clay St. at Montgomery, 415-398-2338

Over in the Outer Sunset, the former Sea Biscuit Cafe has transformed into YONKERS CAFE, under new ownership. The menu offers breakfast sandwiches and plenty of deli sandwiches for lunch, plus pour-over coffee, and a wine bar in the evening. Unfortunately the phone number wouldn’t connect, so that’s all I’ve got! Open daily 7am-8pm. 3815 Noriega St. at 45th Ave., 415-564-5000.

Coming soon to the Twitter building is a kiosk from the East Bay’s DOUGHNUT DOLLY. Owner Hannah Hoffman makes some seriously wonderful filled doughnuts, and Eater reports she will also offer some savory versions, plus coffee and sandwiches to go. Expect an opening around the end of May.

Fans of SWEET WOODRUFF in Lower Nob Hill should know owners Teague Moriarty and Matt McNamara are closing the café on Thursday March 31st, in advance of their lease running out this year. (Via Scoop). 798 Sutter St. at Jones, 415-292-9090.

Was sorry to read that old-school Tenderloin diner, LAFAYETTE COFFEE SHOP (a rare bird these days) was forced to close due to a landlord not renewing the owners’ lease. Owners Stanley and Stefanie Yang are trying to find another location to reopen the affordable and friendly shop and want to maintain a vintage look too. (The trademark neon sign has to stay with the building. But of course the landlord won’t let them take the red booths and is reportedly trashing them. Really?! ) Via Hoodline. 250 Hyde St. at Eddy.

And the Mission location of THE AMERICAN GRILLED CHEESE KITCHEN is closing at the end of April. It sounds like owners Heidi Gibson and Nate Pollak were made an offer they couldn’t refuse (the other two locations will remain open). Hoodline reports the new owners will be opening (yet another) omakase/Edomae-style sushi restaurant—one of them is Masaki Sasaki, who you will recall was last at Maruya in the Mission (the other partner listed is Kuniki Hayashi).

The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen            - One South Park, San Francisco - 415-243-0107

the lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)

The Hideaway at Leo's Opens, and There's a Lot to Cheers at This Cocktail Class


Courtesy of @leosoysterbar on Instagram.


A few bits of booze news for you. First up, LEO’S OYSTER BAR in the FiDi has opened The Hideaway, a cocktail bar you’ll find when you walk through the back corridor behind the oyster bar. There are brass pendant lights, metallic leather banquettes, terra-cotta tiled floors, a cane and mahogany bar, and more of that fab tropical wallpaper Ken Fulk is using for the space. There are a few cocktails you can only get in the Hideaway, including a rotating Champagne cocktail, and there are a few large-format cocktails you can order for your group as well. You can order bites and more too. It opens Mon-Sat at 5:30pm. 568 Sacramento St. at Sansome, 415-872-9982.

Local barman and scribe Duggan McDonnell will be teaching a class based on his recent book, Drinking the Devil’s Acre: A Love Letter from San Francisco and Her Cocktails, at Cavallo Point Cooking School in Sausalito on Thursday April 7th. McDonnell will share insights, ever-engaging stories, and of course some cocktails from his book, while the Cavallo Point kitchen prepares a dinner menu inspired by the selected cocktails. The event runs 6pm-9pm, $125 per person (includes drinks, signed book, class, and dinner). 601 Murray Circle, Sausalito.

the sugar mama

Giveaways (get some)

(Sponsored): Enter to Win a Pair of Tickets to the tablehopper Vietnamese Feast with Vinho Verde


Enter to win two tickets here!


Coming up on Friday April 15th is the first in a series of Asian “soul food” dinners tablehopper is hosting in concert with Vinho Verde wines, and you can enter to win a pair of tickets!

The first dinner is with chef Rob Lam (Butterfly), who will be cooking a veritable feast of authentic Vietnamese dishes, made with a soigné touch and quality ingredients. The dinner will have a number of Vinho Verde wines paired throughout the meal. Sommelier and Portuguese wine expert Eugenio Jardim will be at the event to educate guests about the wines and region. The event will be hosted in the Mission.

Vinho Verde wines are like no other in the world. Located in the northwestern part of Portugal, the lush green landscape lends itself to the production of young, refreshing wines which are extremely versatile partners for all kinds of food, which is why we wanted to show you how well they will pair with a multitude of Vietnamese dishes. Best known for white wines, Vinho Verde also produces reds, rosés, and sparklers—all of which offer one of the best wine values on the market. Get ready to discover something new!

One lucky tablehopper reader will win a pair of tickets to the dinner (retail value $140). Click here to learn how to enter, and good luck! The deadline to enter is Tuesday March 22nd at 11:59pm.

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