Niku udon from Udon Mugizo. And a missed opportunity to commit two fouls on Instagram: I should have pierced the egg yolk and made a Boomerang of the noodles coming out of the bowl. Drat. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Happy New Year, gang. I’m wishing all the best for you this year. I know many of you had a rough 2016, but personally it was one of my best years ever, full of adventure and powerful manifestation and Italy, which always makes it a great year. I’m hoping for more of the same this year: more New York, more adventure, more manifestation, and dear goddess, per favore, more Italy!
I also want more time in nature this year. I spent a large part of the holiday break on a retreat near Ben Lomond (in the Santa Cruz mountains), and it felt so damn rich to be in nature, among the redwoods and walking on trails and seeing the stars and feeling the crisp night air on my cheeks. More, please.
Today’s issue features my annual rant, the bore, about 10 things I don’t want to see in the New Year. Thanks to many of you who were asking me when it was coming out—since I took last week off, here you go. This year I made a tweak to the format and made it about the 10 food images I don’t want to see anymore on Instagram. I hope you dig it, and feel free to let me know any other images you’re sick of seeing!
Thanks to Eater for including my thoughts in their annual end-of-year recap, which included The SF Food World’s Biggest Surprises of 2016, my top complaint about the dining scene, what was my single best meal of 2016, The One Word That Defines SF’s Restaurant Scene in 2016, top restaurant newcomers and standbys, and which neighborhood dominated the food scene. It’s always fun to see everyone’s thoughts on our local culinary fish tank.
I’m looking forward to doing 2017 with you. Let’s rock.
I decided instead of writing my annual “the bore” rant of 10 things I don’t want to see in restaurants in the new year (trust, I was all ready to take down poke and overpriced omakase—you can read all my former the bore posts, all 11 years of them!) to doing something a little different this year.
Since Instagram pretty much determines the popularity of what we’re eating these days, I present the 10 food images I’m sick of seeing on Instagram. I have been guilty of a few of these image fouls myself, but I henceforth promise to do my part to not contribute to the same old Instagram visual lexicon that is beginning to make my brain hurt. Let’s change it up out there, gang! Join me? You too can prevent #genericinstafoodshots.
- Hand holding ice cream cone in front of a wall. Extra deductions: pastel nail polish, brightly colored wall as a backdrop that you walked two blocks to get to, taiyaki (fish-shaped cone) soft serve, ice cream dripping just so on fingers, colored cone, ice cream flavors chosen strictly for their color.
- Drippy egg yolk food porn. Extra deductions: video of yolk being pierced and running all over the plate, Boomerang of bread being dunked.
- Food stacking (especially a stacked sandwich or burger halves). Also applies to bagels, burritos, cookies, doughnuts with fillings. Extra deductions: gooey cheese pull strands, Sushirrito/sushi burrito, oozing egg sandwich, colored bread, hands holding the sandwich and in the shot strictly because of pastel or deathlike nail polish color.
- Hand holding up a burger or ice cream or sandwich or cupcake or whatever the fuck it is you’re eating in the middle of the street. (Did you really take your burger off your plate, tell your friends to hang on, run outside, and wait for traffic to clear so you could go in the middle of a busy city street and snap a picture of your burger? Let’s just pause for a second and take this all in.)
- Overhead table shot with different hands doing things oh so casually, like plucking a dumpling with chopsticks, reaching for a piece of cheese, or picking up a glass of rosé. “Susan, can you move your hand over to the oyster platter and pick the small one up? No, that one. OMGGGGGGG, this shot is so good!” Extra deductions: obviously staged placement of cell phone, sunglasses, book.
- Picture of cocktail/wineglass/glasses cheersing from a rooftop or balcony with the skyline/sunset in the background. Extra deduction: rosé.
- Hand holding glob of noodles with chopsticks above the bowl. Yo, your noodles are getting cold. (Also applies to a forkful of spaghetti.) Extra deduction: Boomerang of noodles going up and down.
- Goddamn feet in the bottom of the image while a hand holds trendy Instagram food item of choice (ice cream, macchiato, boba drink, poke bowl). Extra deduction: it’s a tiled floor that says something, shoes that are a bright color, there is a dog.
- Gloopy sundae or milk shake with melting ice cream and sauces dripping down the sides. Extra deductions: there are doughnuts on the ice cream, candy, sugary cereal, cookies, excessive sprinkles that would chip your veneers. Anything from New York’s Black Tap.
- Eating for the Insta. People, please. Stop ordering food that is only meant to be fetishized for Instagram and then, wait for it…you don’t even eat it? Every time you rip apart a doughnut for a slo-mo video and throw it away after the shot, you should donate to your local food bank as penance.
Opening on Wednesday January 4th in the former La Cucina in Cow Hollow is CONTRADA. The restaurant is from managing partners Dena Grunt and Mick Suverkrubbe, with chef Jason Tuley (TBD, Parlour in Oakland, and most recently at Picco Restaurant and Pizzeria in Larkspur) leading a Tuscan menu with housemade pasta, wood-fired pizza, and other items such as slow-roasted meats. Sample menu dishes include farro-juniper rigatoni with wild boar sugo and aged pecorino; squid ink bucatini with Dungeness crab, chiles, and smoked bread crumbs; local clam pizza with Calabrian chile, wild nettle, cured lemon, and tomato sauce; and wood-oven grilled romanesco with capers, charred lemon, and bottarga. Look for a Cal-Italian wine list from consultant Shawndra McCrorey (previously A16). There is also a back deck that seats 40, with two communal live-edge walnut tables and a wine garden. Open Wed-Mon 5pm-10pm (until 12:30am Fri-Sat). 2136 Union St. at Fillmore, 415-926-8916.
Chef Khai Duong, known for his years at Ana Mandara (which closed in 2012), is back in San Francisco and has opened KHAI in the former Bonjour Patisserie. Scoop reports he’s offering a 10-course tasting menu for $95—sample dishes include coconut crab soup with hand-cut noodles, wild smelt ceviche, and crispy golden quail (the menu is on the site). Wine pairings are from Quinton Jay of Bacchus Wine Shop. Open Tue-Sat: two seatings (6pm and 8:30pm). 655 Townsend St. at 8th St., 415-724-2323.
Last year, I mentioned that Jesse Friedman and Damian Fagan of Almanac Beer Co. were opening a taproom in the former Sous Beurre Kitchen in the Mission, and ALMANAC SAN FRANCISCO TAPROOM is now open. Scoop notes there will be taproom-exclusive offerings, and right now there are 15 beers on tap, with 11 barrel-aged selections, plus a list of vintage beers, along with wine from Paul Einbund (Morris White and Morris Red) and housemade sodas. Growlers will be available soon, but you can get bottled beers to go in the meantime—and I am sorry to hear they have discontinued their canned beers.
The chef is Chad Arnold—who was behind the charcuterie program at Dopo—so expect plenty of salumi and charcuterie (from duck salami to pork rillettes), plus sandwiches (banh mi), a salad, Spam musubi, oysters, a burger, and hop salt fries. Check out the entire menu here. There are 74 seats inside, with a beer garden in the back. Open Tue-Sun 3pm-11pm. 2704 24th. St. at Potrero, 415-932-6531.
It’s the beginning of the year, which always brings a batch of news about unfortunate closures after the holiday parties wrap up. Both BAR TARTINE and RANGE had their last nights on New Year’s Eve, and now word is out that owner Matt Semmelhack and chef-partner Mark Liberman’s AQ will be closing down this month as well (date TBD), after five years in business. Read the revealing Thrillist article, not only for a detailed portrayal of how the restaurant’s numbers fluctuated greatly over that five-year span, but to take a wider look at the financial pressure restaurants are operating under. Scoop followed up with Liberman and reports he will be leaving the Mercer Restaurant Group once the AQ space deal is final to pursue his own project; Fenix remains open. [UPDATE: AQ is now closing on Saturday January 14th.]
A tablehopper reader let me know about another casualty in SoMa: SF old-timer RESTAURANT LULU has posted a closure notice in its window and has served its last wood-fired mussels and pizzas. I remember it being the first place where I had family-style food service outside of Italy, and I drank many a Cosmo at that long bar. Even though it lost its luster in recent years, here’s to 24 years of many fond food memories there. 816 Folsom St. at 4th St.
Another successful restaurant that is closing is BUTTERFLY. Chef-owner Rob Lam is closing the Embarcadero restaurant after dinner service on Saturday January 7th—after 15 YEARS of business in San Francisco (his lease is up). In a note, Lam says: “We bore witness to our beloved city’s growth as one of the finest epicenters of this great American culinary movement. We’ve shared many bowls of garlic noodles and countless shots of Fernet together. So it is with extreme pride that we can say we were a part of this San Francisco dining scene.”
As some of you have noted, we have done a few Vietnamese pop-ups together, which have been partially serving as R and D for his new concept. Lam is currently looking for a space, hopefully in San Francisco, but he hasn’t ruled out Oakland. Stand by for updates, and a big slow clap to Rob for 15 years of feeding so many happy guests (and pouring so much Fernet for them). Pier 33, 415-864-8999.
Foreign Cinema’s John Clark and Gayle Pirie have decided to close SHOW DOGS and the flanking MACHINE COFFEE at Market and Golden Gate after seven years of business at the challenging corner. [Via Hoodline.] That chicken sandwich is going to be missed. 1020 Market St. at Taylor.
Hoodline also reports that Latin American tapas and cocktail bar POQUITO in the Dogpatch is now closed. 2368 3rd St. at 20th St.
William Lue of Oakland’s Grocery Cafe has closed TENDER LOVING FOOD in the Tenderloin. But not all is lost: Hoodline reports he’s going to be opening his new restaurant, LAPHET, serving banquet-style Burmese food and tea pairings in January at 448 Larkin St. (formerly Bento House). 393 Eddy St. at Leavenworth.
Just a short closure: SOUVLA on Hayes Street will temporarily be closed until January 11th for a refresh and will reopen on Thursday January 12th. (Delivery is still available via the Divisadero Street location, and the new Valencia location at 758 Valencia St. is opening January 16th, I’ll post more details on that next week!)
SoMa is going to be the home of a second CONTRABAND COFFEE location next week (the original is on Larkin in Nob Hill). Due to open on Monday January 9th (follow along on Instagram here for updates) is a second outpost for the local microroaster, this one will be in the Mosso residential complex. They source fair-trade, single-origin coffees from independent coffee farms around the world. There will also be teas, pastries, and light, savory fare like empanadas. Hours will be 6:30am-7pm (or possibly 9pm, TBD). 5th and Clementina Streets.
Open today is a new fast-casual breakfast and lunch spot in Uptown Oakland from Ann Thai and Loren Goodwin, THE GASTROPIG. As you may gather from the name, the menu of breakfast sandwiches and more is rather pig-centric, with a trademark sandwich called #Baconslut (an applewood-smoked bacon sandwich with an over-easy egg, cheddar cheese, and Aleppo chile aioli, served on a brioche roll, $9.50). The Gastropig is conveniently two blocks from the 19th Street BART station, so that breakfast sandwich can be yours (plus three others, and avocado toast with cilantro crema) the next time you’re hungover and heading to work.
There are also pastries, grab-and-go deli sandwiches (including the Ode to Genova, $8, a classic Italian deli sandwich that pays homage to Oakland’s Genova Delicatessen), and hot lunchtime options. You can also find a waffle iron hash brown with cheddar and scallions ($4), plus coffee service (including nitro-charged cold brew and Vietnamese iced coffee). There are 49 seats if you want to hang out. Open Mon-Fri 7am-3pm, Sun 9am-2pm. 2123 Franklin St. at 22nd St., Oakland, 510-817-4663.
Now open near Grand Lake in the former Aztecali space is CHICA, a Norcal-Mexican-American restaurant that started as a takeout window in San Francisco. Owner Maria Esquivel serves a menu that includes tacos, soup, Mexi-bowls with rice or salad as a base, Tex-Mex mac and cheese, and more, including espresso service. Eater’s original post mentions there is seating for 25. Open Tue-Sat espresso 7:30am-8pm, with food 11am-8pm; and Sun food and espresso 10am-5pm. 303A Oakland Ave. at Pearl, 510-735-9748.
The high cost of doing business precipitated a change at ALAMAR KITCHEN & BAR in Oakland, with chef-owner Nelson German moving to a quick-service format. You can still enjoy their peel ‘n’ eat shrimp, but you’ll be ordering at the counter now.
Now open in Berkeley is LUCIA’S PIZZERIA in the former Belli Osteria, from Steve Dumain and Alessandro Uccelli, serving Neapolitan-style pizza but with modern toppings from a Stefano Ferrara wood-fired oven (take a look at the extensive menu here). There are also small plates, like charcuterie and calamari fritti, salads, and Italian wines. Open Sun-Thu 5pm-9:15pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-10:30pm. [Via Nosh.] 2016 Shattuck Ave. at University, Berkeley, 510-225-9467.
A sad closure in Berkeley: owner Marsha McBride closed CAFÉ ROUGE after 20 years in business. The butcher shop-restaurant was a seminal business for the butchery community, with numerous people who learned the craft there. Sadly staffing issues precipitated the closure, and executive chef Rick DeBeaord was departing to pursue other projects. [Via Scoop.] 1782 4th St. at Delaware, Berkeley.
Need a drink after that news? Head over to Richmond at the old Kaiser Shipyard and you’ll find EAST BROTHER BEER COMPANY, with a taproom in a 12,000-square foot warehouse from Chris Coomber and Rob Lightner. They serve five classic styles (pale wheat, red lager, Bo pils, red IPA, and oatmeal stout) at a wood 14-seat bar and there are open picnic tables, plus a ping-pong table, corn hole, and a regulation-size bocce court. Food trucks will be on hand during the weekend. Open Wed-Thu 4pm-8pm, Fri 4pm-9pm, Sat 12pm-9pm, and Sun 12pm-8pm. 1001 Canal Blvd. at Wharf, Richmond.