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Jun 12, 2017 17 min read

June 13, 2017 - This week's tablehopper: sawatdee-kaaaaaaaaa!

June 13, 2017 - This week's tablehopper: sawatdee-kaaaaaaaaa!
Table of Contents

This week's tablehopper: sawatdee-kaaaaaaaaa!                    

Megawatt smiles and cuteness during a Pencils for Kids visit to the Praratchadamri Church Project in Chiang Rai. Photo: ©

Hiiiiii! I’m back from the land of smiles, and I really do feel like I have been living in a happy bubble of kindness, grace, and warmth the past three weeks. The Thai people charmed the hell out of me—there’s a lot to be said for pausing with each person you meet, looking at each other for a moment, sharing a “wai” (your hands clasped 🙏🏽 with a slight bow) and a sawatdeekaaaaaaa (for the ladies). It creates an instant connection, and often a shared smile, although maybe theirs was because of my flushed cheeks and sweaty brow (#whiteladyinthetropics).

It was a remarkable trip, from a full-on week eating my way through the sweaty chaos of Bangkok, followed by a week in the villages of Chiang Rai for the ninth Pencils for Kids backpack delivery mission in Thailand (the whole point of my trip!). Each day was incredibly moving—the children at these schools and orphanages melted my heart. So many sweet smiles and happy faces and I loved all the “thank-yous” in English, awwwww! We delivered 900 backpacks stuffed with school supplies and school uniforms to seven locations in three days! An incredible amount of coordinating goes into these missions—just imagine getting uniform measurements for that many children ahead of time.

Kudos to the PFK team on its 10th year and all its supporters and sponsors, including Cathay Pacific, who flies the backpacks to Thailand, Bali, and Myanmar each year (and generously flew yours truly as well). I know many of you saw my pics while I was away—expect to hear more soon, especially about an upcoming PFK fundraiser on November 16th in SF I’m going to be helping with! And wait until you see these pictures. I’m feeling so much gratitude for my education, it really has made all the difference in my life, and it felt so great to help support education for others dealing with challenging life circumstances. I know you’d like to do the same!

I spent my last week in Southern Thailand, island hopping to Koh Samui and then Koh Tao, where I completed my PADI open water dive certification! I had no idea I was going to love scuba diving so much—fish TV is amazing, especially 18 meters (59 feet) underwater! I haven’t had a personal challenge like this for some time, dealing with water fears (especially in some somewhat turbulent conditions on our first day), figuring out the gear, and managing an impatient and misogynistic instructor I called the English bulldog—fortunately there was the babetastic Greek instructor who was assisting to distract me from throttling the bulldog. (Thanks, Goddess!) And now I am starting to plot where I want to dive next!

I have been thinking how Thailand really forces you to do a lot of risk assessment, daily, and as a friend said, is out to hurt you. You have to do things like decide if you really should get on the back of that motorbike taxi without a helmet to zip through the busy streets of Bangkok to get home (no, but yes), how much spicy can you really handle (keep at it), is that street food a good call or no, are you drinking enough water (dear god, the sweat). And then there are all the things that happen on the islands, from all the random cuts and bites to not burning your leg on jenky scooter tail pipes (or crashing, don’t do that) to not getting stung by jellyfish or sea urchins or brushing up against some coral on a night swim (I did that, and ow). And seriously, where are the life jackets on these ferryboats? I just kept saying, “THANKS UNIVERSE!” and would chomp on another Thai green chile. The sun even came out on my last day for the most gorgeous beach day with my friend. I’m home safe, with my mosquito bites finally healing up, the river of sweat has stopped, and am feeling really really lucky, because I definitely pushed my luck in some areas. Per usual.

I want to do some extra big thank-yous to everyone who sent me tips (you rock!), made introductions, took me around, hosted me, joined me, put sunblock on me, and helped make this trip one of my very favorites. I made some incredible connections and am coming home with such a full and happy heart. I also lost two pounds, so there’s that. I will say it’s really hard to be back at my desk after running around every day, I am getting some major cabin fever. But at least there is rosé in my fridge, and bubbles, of course—I missed those! (Next time, I am packing two bottles. Note to self!) And yes, there will definitely be a next time: Thailand, you’re such a special place. I’m so crushing on you. (And your khanom krok.)

And now, it’s time to put down the mango sticky rice and get back to the grind. Today’s issue is a recap of news that has happened the past three weeks, so let’s roll the tape! And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a mountain of email to scale and traverse. And still a little unpacking to do too.

See you on the town! Marcia Gagliardi

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)

Alta Opens at Minnesota Street Project in Dogpatch


Besharam is opening in the Alta space at the Minnesota Street Project. Photo courtesy of Alta.


The interior of Alta at the Minnesota Street Project. Photo courtesy of Alta.

The second location of Daniel Patterson’s ALTA has opened inside the Minnesota Street Project art galleries at 1275 Minnesota Street in Dogpatch. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the menu is designed to be welcoming all day—you can even get coffee and more, to stay or to go. Chef Matt Brimer, most recently at Haven in Oakland, is keeping things market-fresh, but don’t look for a menu that’s a facsimile of the Alta Mid-Market location. Breakfast includes sweet and savory rice porridges, toasts on Della Fattoria bread, and braised pork hash with a fried egg, while lunch has snacks and soup, salads (like smoked trout and endive), sandwiches, and the Alta cheeseburger.

Dinnertime brings table service, and a combination of small and large plates (like grilled levain with a spread of fava beans and fromage blanc, green garlic potato soup, and hand-cut pastas), with soft-serve sundaes for dessert and more. Look for low-ABV cocktails too. There is a no-tipping policy, by the way.

The 45-seat space has a natural, modern style, with a walnut bar and tables, ceramic pendant lights, and an open kitchen. It has a minimalist look but also includes murals by Catherine Wagner. Open daily. Mon-Fri 7am-10pm, Sat-Sun 10am-10pm. 1275 Minnesota St. at 24th St.

And that’s not all: a newsletter from the Daniel Patterson Group mentions there is an Alta coming to the YOTEL in Mid-Market (1095 Market St.).

Birdsong Coming to Former AQ Space This Winter


1085 Mission St. exterior photo via LiveSOMA.

There’s a taker for the AQ space on Mission, and it’s chef-owner Chris Bleidorn, who will be opening BIRDSONG this winter. His experience includes Saison, Atelier Crenn, Benu, and Alinea, and he will be celebrating the Pacific Northwest through a fine dining menu. Think ancient cooking methods (open fire and smoke, dry-aging of meat, and fermentation) and dishes that will highlight cold-water shellfish, wild game (like elk, buffalo, boar), berries, mushrooms, and other seasonal ingredients you’d find in Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and British Columbia.

There will be a 12-course tasting menu, or the option to order à la carte and share large-format dishes with the table, like a whole trout or lamb shoulder. Wine pairings will include European and Pacific Northwest selections, plus plenty of Pacific Northwest craft beers too.

The space is being resdesigned by SAINT, and there will be 10 seats at a chef counter, a main dining room, plus two private dining rooms downstairs. Look for custom ceramic plateware designed by Bleidorn as well—robin’s-egg blue, of course. Dinner will be served Tue-Sat. 1085 Mission St. at 7th St.

Reminder! Duna and RT Rotisserie Are Now Open!


Winner winner chicken dinner. A fine spread at RT Rotisserie. Photo: Kassie Borreson.


Chopped salads at Duna. Photo: Eric Wolfinger.


A look inside the new RT Rotisserie. Photo: Kassie Borreson.

I have been sharing details about these two projects, but since they both officially opened while I was traveling, I wanted to be sure you had them on your radar. First, the latest project from Nick Balla and Cortney Burns, DUNA, is now open in their former MOTZE space. Take a look at the Central European menu here, with a fast-casual format that makes it an easy one to swing by for.  I’m so ready for chopped salads and flatbreads! Liptauer paprika cheese dip is also going to be a friend, I can just tell.

Open Wed-Fri from 5:30pm-9pm and Sat-Sun 5:30pm-10pm. Lunch service will launch later in the summer. Also, check out their Father’s Day menu (scroll down), it looks great. 983 Valencia St. at 21st St., 415-484-1206.

Now open in Hayes Valley is RT ROTISSERIE from Rich Table’s Sarah and Evan Rich. They’re slinging rotisserie chicken, pork, and cauliflower, with a bunch of sides, all sourced with care and featuring their trademark layering of flavors. It’s perfect to dine in (there are 46 seats) or take out (or delivery—nab it on Caviar, and use my code in that link for $20 off!). I ordered a half chicken and their kickass salad for deadline delivery, and it hit the spot.

Check the menu here, and you can catch up on more details here. They are now open for lunch, so you can easily nab a sandwich (on housemade Dutch crunch!) or salad. Open 11am-9pm daily. 101 Oak St. at Franklin, 415-829-7086.

Openings: Sababa Number Two, Tahini, Hook Fish Co., Miller's Rest, Saucy Asian


Sababa’s falafel sandwich will be back! Photo: Cameron Neilson.


The new Hook Fish Co. at Ocean Beach. Photo via Facebook.


Saucy Asian bowl with bulgogi. Instagram photo via @saucy.asian.

There are a bunch of new openings for your consideration, starting with a second location of the completely awesome SABABA, which is softly opening today (Tuesday June 13th). Downtown workers get to enjoy their fresh-baked pita, fresh falafel, chicken shawarma, and one of my faves, their sabik. Enjoy half off the food until the end of the week. Score! There is a larger dining area, and look for a new seasonal salad coming to the menu as well, plus an expanded catering operation. Lunch will be served Mon-Fri 11am-3pm. 554 Commercial St. at Leidesdorff, between Montgomery and Sansome.

Another Med spot to open is TAHINI in the Mission, as noted by Hoodline. I mentioned last year that this spot from first-time owner Monti Majthoub was inspired because he was disappointed with all the mediocre shawarma around town, so he decided to tap into his family roots, which includes a bunch of Jordanian restaurateurs. Perfect. His menu includes some fluffy and fresh pita sandwiches, stuffed with kebabs or kufta or falafel ($8-$11), plus kebab and falafel plates, and kanafeh for dessert. There are some Mission touches to the menu as well, including some aguas frescas. Open 11am-7pm daily. 2859 Mission St. at 25th St., 415-800-8681.

Now open in the former Cajun Pacific out at Ocean Beach is HOOK FISH CO.. Hoodline notes it’s both a restaurant and a sustainable fish market. Owners Beau Caillouette and Christian Morabito have worked hard to eliminate middlemen and try to buy directly from local fishmongers and fishermen, with many transparent notes about the sourcing too. The menu is inspired by SoCal seafood shacks and includes poke, crab cakes, ceviche, fish and chips, and fish tacos and burritos, plus beer and wine.

It has a surfer/coastal vibe, with reclaimed Douglas fir throughout, and many friends and neighbors helped out on the remodel. There’s a kitchen counter and communal table, and sidewalk seating is coming soon. Hours are daily 11:30am-9pm. Looking forward to checking this place out after a summer beach walk! 2542 Irving St. at 47th Ave.

Last year, I mentioned the former Fly Bar was getting new owners and was going to become MILLER’S REST, and Hoodline now has the details on the opening. Mark and Terry Miller have given the space some cabin design touches (it was inspired by Mark Miller’s childhood lake cabin, called Miller’s Rest). The bar menu has five specialty cocktails ($10), and bites include smoked trout brandade, a trio of flatbreads, lake house chili, and fried chicken. There’s also a parlor room you can reserve for private parties. Hours: open daily at 11am onward. 1085 Sutter St. at Larkin, 415-441-4232.

Back in January, I broke the news about SAUCY ASIAN, a fast-casual place in the former H Cafe in the Castro, serving Korean-inspired “super fusion” street food, and it’s now holding its soft opening.

You can check the menu here, which includes burritos, tacos, sandwiches (banh mi, cheesesteaks), bibimbap, and poke bowls. You’ll choose from meats like bulgogi, garlic shrimp, spicy pork, soy-garlic chicken, plus tofu and shiitake mushrooms. And a bunch of sauces, oh you know it. Owner Andrew Shinn has designed it to be takeout-friendly (delivery service to Dolores Park will be coming soon), but there are indoor and outdoor seats as well. Hours are 10:30am-3pm and 5pm-9pm daily, which will expand once things ramp up. Beer and wine are also coming. 3801 17th St. at Sanchez.

Service Updates at The Morris, The Douglas Room, Aster, Plus New Happy Hour at Tawla


Duck soup at The Morris’s new lunch service. Photo courtesy of The Morris.

There are plenty of new service updates for you around town, starting with the debut of lunch service at THE MORRIS in Potrero Flats. Yup, you can get that insane off-menu hamburger, and there’s also a Muscovy duck noodle soup with burnt orange and habanero broth ($16). Lunch is served Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm. And no one will raise an eyebrow if you order the Chartreuse slushy.

More lunch service can be found at THE DOUGLAS ROOM, actually all-day service! It’s a bar with food from Benjamin Cooper’s Mo Hodges and Brian Felley in The Tilden Hotel, remember when I told you about it? Chef Glen Schwartz has put together quite the menu: here’s lunch (I really have to check out that Italian hoagie) and here’s dinner. Open 11am-2am, with food served until 1am. 345 Taylor St. at O’Farrell.

Sadly, ASTER is no longer serving their awesome brunch. Wah. One other tweak: chef Brett Cooper’s dinner menu is now a set four-course menu, with choices for each course, for $75. [Via Scoop.]

There’s a new happy hour at TAWLA called loukmat, which is Arabic for “bites.” Come by daily from 5:30pm-6:30pm and you can enjoy a selection of bites like their fab housemade bread, muhammara, baharat-spiced chicharrones, butter bean salad, meatballs, sujuk, marinated kalamata olives, and candied wild pecans, served on their Turkish coffee trays. It’s $13 per person, and you’ll find some $10 wines too. Snag a seat on their sweet back patio and you’re set.

Tawla            - 206 Valencia St. San Francisco - 415-814-2704

Cawfee Tawk: Ritual's New Castro Location, Blue Bottle Pac Heights, Parker Café


The new Ritual Coffee Castro. Photo via Facebook.

RITUAL COFFEE is taking over the former and tiny Wildcraft Espresso Bar space at Market and Noe in the Castro, just by the vintage streetcar turnaround. It will be Ritual’s sixth café, and co-founder Eileen Hassi Rinaldi is well aware of the density of cafés in the area, but tells Hoodline that Ritual has its own personality. Indeed. (And she lives in the neighborhood, so is excited to be there.) Hours will be 7am-2pm to start, and in order to offer swift morning service, they will only offer batch-brew coffee, not pour-over (for now). Look for pastries, baked goods, and some of their fun coffee drinks (iced horchata latte for the win). 2299 Market St. at Noe.

Over in Pacific Heights, BLUE BOTTLE has opened its latest location in the former Tully’s and Juicy News spaces on Fillmore, previously Shumate’s Pharmacy, and you’ll see the original tiles spelling Shumate. The airy location was designed by Wade Design Architects and Blue Bottle’s Store Design Manager Dana Nishimura Bryan. The space features ’70s modernism design references, with vintage Pioneer speakers, cork wood floors, and a textured onyx stone counter. Open daily 7am-7pm. 2455 Fillmore St. at Jackson.

I have been trying to figure out what was going into a former music studio on Potrero Hill, and Eater reveals it’s PARKER CAFÉ, an all-day café and restaurant from owner Fredic Fuchet (previously at Chez Papa and Papito). You’ll find Sightglass Coffee drinks, and the menu features French-style tartines, hearty salads, and wine and beer. Open Mon-Fri 7:30am-9pm (breakfast is served until 11am), Sat-Sun 8am-9pm. 1399 18th St. at Missouri.

Closures Include Fénix, Jai Yun Moves to Another Location


The welcoming and colorful entrance at Fénix. Photo via Fénix’s website.

And just like that, whoosh, Matt Semmelhack’s last remaining SF restaurant in the Mercer Restaurant Group, FÉNIX, has closed. (AQ and Bon Marché closed previously.) Hard times out there. Enjoy some quality time with your daughter, chef Mark Liberman (and we’ll see where he lands next). 1077 Mission St. at 7th St. [Via Scoop.]

Another closure is the inscrutable JAI YUN, known for chef Chia Ji Nei’s  spendy preorder tasting menu, which has left its Clay Street location; he is reportedly operating out of New Sun Hong Kong. You can still preorder a multicourse meal for $98 or $168 a person—just call the restaurant to make a reservation a few days ahead. New Sun Hong Kong: 606 Broadway at Columbus, 415-981-7438. [Via Hungry Onion and Scoop.]

I’ve heard some buzz about a potential taker for the 680 Clay Street space, stand by for now.

510 Updates: Coffee Manufactory and Belcampo to Jack London, Chef Changes at Chez Panisse, More


Wake up and smell the Coffee Manufactory. Instagram image via @coffeemanufactory.

Some big news coming out of Jack London Square: COFFEE MANUFACTORY (as in Tartine’s coffee roasting arm) will be locating their 5,000-square-foot headquarters there, and in the fall, BELCAMPO MEAT COMPANY will be opening one of their sustainable butcher shops and restaurants there too. Coffee Manufactory will also be opening a pop-up coffee bar, serving coffee and espresso drinks, plus some pastries and baked goods.

And, as mentioned previously in tablehopper, Burmese GROCERY CAFÉ will be opening mid-June in Jack London Square. 63 Jack London Square (Franklin and Embarcadero West), Oakland.

Some big news out of the kitchen at CHEZ PANISSE: chef Cal Peternell is leaving the restaurant on July 5th, after 22 years there. While his next steps are TBD, Scoop reports he has a third cookbook coming out, plus his new Cooking by Ear podcast. He’s also considering starting a cooking school to address the current cook shortage “that could offer scholarships that could help the applicants live in the Bay Area while learning from industry veterans.” Love that kind of thinking.

A couple of closures/moves to report: Uptown’s PICÁN has closed, but it sounds like they are remodeling their current hefty space to be a more manageable size, with plans to reopen in the fall. Or it may move elsewhere, it’s a bit unclear at the moment. The San Francisco Business Times (which I learned via Nosh) reported Picán’s space and the vacant Ozumo are being rejiggered into four smaller spaces, with BROWN SUGAR KITCHEN and Jack London Square’s BOCANOVA moving into two of the spots (Bocanova will be closing in its current space in the transition). 2251 Broadway at 23rd St., Oakland.

Japanese fried chicken fans will want to head over to the former Stag’s Lunchette (now Ironwolff), where they’ll find pop-up ABURA-YA Tue-Sat 5pm-10pm. You can sit down and enjoy fried chicken and seasonal izakaya sides. 362 17th St. at Webster, Oakland.

Fans of herring should know this weekend is maatjesharing (aka New Dutch Herring or New Catch Holland Herring) at SAUL’S RESTAURANT & DELI. You’ll be able to taste buttery maatjes New Holland Herring with onion and pickle, St. George’s gin or vodka straight, or Trumer Pils. Sat-Sun June 17th-18th, 11am-2pm. 1475 Shattuck Ave. at Vine, Berkeley, 510-848-DELI.


the sponsor

This Round Is On Me... (hey, thanks!)

SF Lamb Jam Is Back July 16th! Don't Miss Out!

Don’t miss the opportunity to help crown Pitmaster champions at the 8th annual SF and Seattle Lamb Jams! This year’s BBQ Bash Tour is a chef competition and tasting featuring lamb dishes inspired by regional and global BBQ flavors. Joining the chefs will be local breweries and wineries and between bites and sips attendees can make a lamb swag bag, enjoy live music, a DIY sides station, desserts, and more. This year, one lucky attendee will win a smoker for hosting their own backyard BBQ lamb bash at home!

Come join the fun on Sunday July 16th from 12pm to 3pm at Spark Social SF, 601 Mission Bay Boulevard North at 4th St., in Mission Bay. Get your ticket here.

the lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)

The Snug Is Coming to Pacific Heights, The Beehive Into the Former Range


The future home of The Snug. Photo courtesy of Josh Spiegelman.

Pacific Heights is gaining a new bar and hangout, THE SNUG, opening in the former Mehfil space (but it will always be the Alta Plaza in my heart, RIP). Owners Zack Schwab and Shane Matthews have a strong craft beer background (Mikkeller and Monk’s Kettle), and are partnering with chef Brian Shin (Alinea, Corton, Benu, In Situ) and Jacob Racusin (recently head of the bar program at The Alembic). So basically it’s going to have a rocking beer selection (20 taps), craft cocktails with seasonal and housemade components, and inventive takes on classic bar food. Other highlights: there will be a cask engine serving real ale and a selection of bottled beers focused around sours, stouts, and strong ales. Local ciders and wines will also be available on draft, plus a cellar of rare and vintage bottles.

As for the name, it’s inspired by all the cozy nooks (snugs) in the room, which will have a living room vibe. Britt Hull of Tide Design Co. is behind the interior and graphic design. Hours will be Sun-Thu 4pm-12am and until 2am Fri-Sat. Brunch and outdoor seating are also in the works. Look for an opening this fall. 2301 Fillmore St.

There’s finally an update on what Phil and Cameron West’s plans are for the former Range, which closed last year. They’re going to be opening THE BEEHIVE with  Arnold Eric Wong, Steve Werney, and Carlos Yturria, who are Phil West’s partners in The Treasury downtown. Eater reports it’s going to be a 1960s themed bar, with some ’60s food like fondue. Of course, the cocktails will also have some vintage references. The former dining room is going to be converted into a second lounge and bar. Stand by for an opening in late summer. 842 Valencia St. at 19th St.


the starlet

Star Sightings in Restaurants (no photos please)

Mimi (As in Mariah Carey) Hits Up SF and Napa Valley, Avec Little Dogs


Mimi and owner Peter Fang at Fang Restaurant.

A tablehopper reader tipped me off that Mariah Carey dined at Fang restaurant a couple of weeks ago, and even sent a pic. Star reader! Seems Mariah also hit up Wine Country, with an on-theme purple blouse to go with the wine she seems to be enjoying with her boyfriend. Her dogs, Cha Cha and Jill E Beans, were also on the PJ with them (and that would be private jet, not Perrier-Jouët).


Back at the end of May, the luminous Yara Shahidi, the 18-year-old star of ABC’s Black-ish, was spotted at Gott’s Roadside in San Francisco’s Ferry Building with her mother. And now it’s time for College-ish, because she’s heading to Harvard University!

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