The amazing Szechuan poached fish (flounder) in flaming chili oil at Chili House. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Hi. Sorry this is a couple days late, but to be honest, someone has been a little distracted lately. I also had to unexpectedly spend my Tuesday at the Fiat dealership waiting for my little brat of a car to get fixed (Fix It Again Tony, it’s the truth). Let’s just say it was not the most conducive environment for writing and editing and making calls with some pretty horrid music blaring in the showroom all day. I’m glad I was able to fix my mood with some quesabeeria—that would be my neologism for the three quesabirria tacos and a couple beers I tucked into at Harmonic Brewing on my way home (by the way, the La Santa Torta truck will be parked there again on Sunday 2pm-7pm).
So, how y’all doing? My gawdess, what crazy times. I know we’re all consuming the news voraciously, watching numerous coronavirus-related event cancellations and postponements flood into our inboxes (my B2B weed event in Palm Springs went up in smoke, and I’m currently saying a sad “arrivederci” to my trip to Italy in May for now—povera Italia, we’re thinking of you!). Off the Grid has canceled their Fort Mason and Lake Merritt gatherings for the next two weeks. I’m sorry to report one of our fab sponsors has decided to cancel their event at the end of the month: the California Artisan Cheese Festival. Thank you to everyone making the hard decisions right now and looking out for our health.
We’re mulling over a million questions, wondering what’s safe (“Should I go to my friend’s house for dinner this Saturday?” “Should I cook tonight, or just order delivery?” “Should I skip going to the movies?” “Do I hug my children?”). (For that last question, to be clear, the answer is “yes.”) We all have our own levels of risk assessment of potential exposure—some of my friends have become complete shut-ins, while I’m still dining out and (mostly) doing the things I normally do, from grabbing an espresso to grocery shopping. Just no parties and clubs for me right now, and I am so sorry about it—I’m thinking of all the promoters and entertainers and venues who are hurting right now, damn. Keep up on the latest recommendations from the SF Department of Health here.
But one thing is becoming absolutely clear: practically every business is being impacted by coronavirus, from your yoga studio to your tech job to your favorite bar, and our beloved restaurants are especially taking a hit right now. (They have already been struggling under so much adversity and a harsh business environment lately.)
All the canceled reservations, office catering gigs, events, and empty seats—it’s dire. I’m seeing restaurant friends report earnings are down 40 percent, 50 percent—some more (ugh), others less. Tacolicious shares their events are 80 percent down, delivery is 35 percent down, with dining room sales dropping. Many are already in a state of survival mode. Fortunately, there’s some help arising: according to the SF Business Times, “San Francisco will defer business taxes and licensing fees and launch a relief fund,” offering $10,000 grants to “up to 100 businesses who can show a loss of revenue due to the virus’ outbreak or compliance with the city’s emergency guidelines.” If you’re a small business, read this article.
My inbox is churning with newsletters from restaurants, bars, cafés, grocery stores, and cannabis dispensaries sharing their cleanliness standards, explaining what their ServSafe certification means, their new and added sanitation practices, their dedication to your health and wellness. I haven’t had someone point an instant-read thermometer at my forehead yet, but I’m ready.
Other changes are happening, like more restaurants offering delivery, and Lord Stanley is now offering take-out (they’re also doing Cassoulet Mondays, jus’ sayin’). Ideale in North Beach is even offering to deliver your order for free if you live within a half-mile of the restaurant. The Plumed Horse in Saratoga has eliminated half of their dining tables to allow for a minimum distance of 6 feet per table (36 tables down to 15) and all interactions with guests will be conducted by staff in gloves. (Most importantly, all sick staff will receive full shift pay—it’s such an important policy to make sure anyone who feels sick can stay home. Kudos to all the service industry businesses who already have this policy, or are adding it right now.)
And then you read someone tested positive for Covid-19 who was an employee of Brex’s South Park Café but didn’t exhibit signs of illness (or prepare food, to be clear); the owners decided to close the café for now, and all employees are being tested. I’m sorry for the infection and the scare; it’s the last thing we want to see happening—to anyone, anywhere—but I’ll just say it’s worth noting that of all the possible restaurants where this could have happened, this it where it went down. Yup, a café owned by a credit card startup (valued at $2.6 billion) in the heart of SF’s original media and tech and now VC neighborhood. And in New York, Danny Meyer shut down his restaurant The Modern for a deep clean after a diner tested positive for Covid-19: the executive director of the Port Authority. Eep. It can happen anywhere.
Which leads me to my next point: the amount of coronavirus-inspired xenophobia and/or racism afflicting our city’s (country’s!) Chinese neighborhoods and restaurants right now is distressing, which is coupled with a precipitous drop in tourism. So many Chinatown restaurants are empty. I’m happy to see local tour company Avital Tours rise to the occasion to provide a three-hour, self-guided, San Francisco Chinatown food tour to highlight Chinese cuisine and culture—take a look.
Yesterday, I changed my lunch meeting destination so we could go eat in a Chinese restaurant instead (Chili House on Clement for the win, forever and ever). It’s important to show up in any way you can. I’ve been thinking about hosting a tablehopper night in Chinatown, and getting a small group together to go dine in a few places, a true tablehopping night. I’m mulling over here. For now, I will stand by for updates from the SFDPH and give it a few weeks, since we really need to hold on any gatherings and events for now.
It’s so hard to determine what is actually safe, and of course we want to diminish our exposure to this virus, and inadvertently spreading it. There are so many unknowns. But I do know we need to keep an eye out for our local businesses and individuals who are suffering extreme and sudden hardships right now. Do you know anyone who works in the service industry? Check in on them. Do what you can do, tip as much as you can, ask your favorite businesses how you can help. Don’t want to go out right now? Here’s my idea: buy a gift card to use later!
Order some take-out. Even the much-maligned delivery—at this point, anything helps. (Here’s my Caviar code for $10 off your first two deliveries; here’s Postmates). If you are all about cooking right now, here’s a discount on grocery delivery from the awesome Good Eggs and Imperfect Foods.
I’m just so grateful I was able to host our raucous and over-the-top preview dinner at Lily for tablehopper’s 14th birthday with Champagne Henriot and Tsar Nicoulai caviar a couple weeks ago before it was recommended that events be postponed. We had such an amazing feast together. Chef Rob Lam absolutely crushed us with delicious, check out some pics here. Tsar Nicoulai Reserve caviar on crispy chicken skin, I’m just sayin’. And the cuvées we tasted? Faboosh. (The Henriot Brut Millésime 2008, so gorgeous.) But guess what? Lily has decided to postpone their March opening since it’s really not an ideal time to open a restaurant right now. I’ll keep you posted.
I was also happy to see so many of you at Oregon Wine Trail last Wednesday, what a quality event! So many discoveries, and they absolutely stuffed us with snacks. You can still show your OWT ticket at Local Kitchen in SoMa for a free glass of Oregon wine with the purchase of any main or pizza for the month of March! Stay healthy with chef Nora’s soto ayam (chicken noodle soup).
I’ve been on a bit of a taco tear (again), check out my Insta for some inspiration on where to go next (unless you feel sick—in that case, please stay the eff home). Stay strong and sanitize on! And listen to nonna. Always.
Best wishes, thinking of all of you. To your health. Marcia Gagliardi
(This post has been updated for clarity.)
Wow, that was fast! Congrats to Reem Assil (Reem’s California) for getting REEM’S MISSION open in the former (and missed) Mission Pie location relatively quickly. Considering how slowly things move in restaurant opening and permit land, it’s downright impressive!
Her new Arab bakery and café will be offering the breakfast and expanded bread/pastry menu she originally envisioned for her business in Fruitvale. She’s also going to serve her popular mana’eesh (oven-baked flatbreads)—which you can add all kinds of toppings to—plus mezze with fresh pita, along with plenty of new items, including ka’ik sandwiches on sesame bread, stuffed with egg salad, the hipster with avocado and house chile spice blend, or La Gringa, with Oaxacan cheese, pickles, and broth. Check the menu here. Save room for her knefah for dessert, and more pastries in the case. Reem’s will eventually offer brunch and dinner service (there’s also beer, wine, and espresso service, plus non-alcoholic refreshments—check the menu).
The space is colorful, with cheerful tiles and punches of turquoise and bright green table stands (with some good-looking Thonet chairs). You can survey the baked goods in the pastry case, order at the counter, and then enjoy your stuffed savory or sweet goodie, cardamom latte, and more at your table, looking out on the busy Mission corner.
For now, they’re doing a soft opening until March 27th on weekdays (Mon-Fri) 9am-2pm. Head on in to check it out! And then get ready for their grand opening party on Friday March 27th (7pm-10pm). Stay tuned for full opening hours soon. And don’t miss Reem on the second season of Ugly Delicious on Netflix! 2901 Mission St. at 25th St.
To recap, it’s from baker Ha Do, known for her stand at the Inner Sunset and San Mateo farmers’ markets. She has many fans of her vanilla cream or seasonal (and organic) fruit jam-filled Berliners, pretzel croissants, and German cakes and tortes. You now have a place to sit down for a slice of cake and Linea Caffe espresso, like black forest cake, bee sting (bienenstich) cake, mousse cakes, and traditional German cheesecake (made with quark). You’ll additionally find almond cookies, fruit pies, and hazelnut twists, plus other new goodies. There will also be a Hahdough window opening in Hayes Valley soon (at the Cakemaker space at 509 Laguna St.), will keep you posted.
Hours to start are Tue-Fri 8am-5pm, Sat 8:30am-5:30pm, and Sun 8:30am-4pm. 1221 Fell St. at Divisadero.
There’s a new taco spot open in the Castro, TACO BOYS, with a variety of tacos, burritos, quesadillas, salads, bowls, nachos, and there’s even a chimichanga on there (dangerous). It’s right by the new Bonita Taqueria y Rotisserie (3600 16th St.), but hopefully the difference in the menus will be enough for them to coexist nicely. The late-night hours are extra-special, I’m going to remember this! Sun-Wed 11am-12am, Thu-Sat 11am-3am. 2312 Market St. at Noe.
There are some restaurant changes and tweaks happening, starting with PRAIRIE in the Mission—chef Anthony Strong is pivoting to highlight even more of a live-fire format on his menu (check it out) and there’s a new dining experience in their new private dining room: The Campfire Room. It’s a nightly (at 7pm) family-style feast of dishes cooked over their charcoal grills, a handmade pasta, and dessert by pastry chef Alison Sullivan, plus guests enjoy a cocktail on arrival. Reserve here. For the first month, use code ALLGRILLEDEVERYTHING for 10 percent off your ticket (starting at $78).
More fire and meat: after suffering a fire on New Year’s Eve, ITTORYU GOZU is due to reopen Thursday April 16th, and they are going live with Tock reservations this Thursday March 12th. The custom-made hearth has been fixed, and chef-owner Marc Zimmerman and co-owner/partner Ben Jorgensen have made some tweaks to the experience: the updated menu will feature more beef than before (layering in a variety of curing, aging, and fermenting techniques), and there will now only be one menu, ranging from $125-$150, and seatings at 5pm and 8:30pm.
Guests can also book a tasting experience in the Whisky Lounge, with their new whisky specialist Adam Riddle (previously Roka Akor), while seated around a custom-designed marble table.
Some new late-night eats for you are happening at HORSEFEATHER on Divisadero. They just launched a new “The Late Late” menu (served nightly from 10pm until 1am), with dishes like deviled ramen eggs, a tuna poke bowl, and fried chicken. You can also get the Burger Bundle ($20), and enjoy the double cheeseburger with a 12 oz. beer. Look for rotating specials from each kitchen staff member (prep cook Alba Martinez is currently offering El Salvadoran pastelitos (similar to empanadas) with potato, chicken, achiote, green beans, homemade rojo salsa, and curtido. 528 Divisadero St. at Hayes.
PRUBECHU in the Mission launched a Second Sundays brunch, 11am-2pm. Tuck into Guamanian dishes like corned beef fried red rice with kimchee and eggs, and coconut milk toast with pistachio butter and agave. The next one should be Sunday April 12th!
And CREATOR, the mechanized burger place, has expanded hours to Mon-Fri 11am-8pm, and is offering a happy hour menu 2pm-8pm (including a burger and beer for $10; add fries for $2). You can check out the full menu of chef collaborative burgers and new snacks here. There’s also a new vegetarian burger, in partnership with Hodo Soy. 680 Folsom St. at 3rd St.
There are some unfortunate closures to announce: BAR AGRICOLE is closing on April 15th, after ten years in their award-winning and beautifully designed SoMa space. What they didn’t mention in their newsletter is they are moving to a “luxury residential complex at 1550 Mission St., in late 2020” (via the Chronicle). More on that soon. They’re planning a big farewell party for April 15th, and since it’s tax day, you may as well drink some brilliant cocktails and kiss it all goodbye.
San Francisco Business Times reports that MARKETBAR at the Ferry Building is closing after 17 years due to their lease ending and an ongoing dispute with their landlord. Their last day is Wednesday April 22nd.
I am sorry to learn that Aaron London has closed his fast-casual spot, AL’S DELI—I thought that Montreal-style, smoked meat salad was pure genius. Eater reports it just never seemed to catch on over its eight months of business, and recent coronavirus-related catering cancellations didn’t help the situation. And so, the curse of the 18th and Guerrero corner continues. 598 Guerrero St. at 18th St.
A tipster alerted Eater that Dennis Leary is closing his bakery and sandwich shop in the FiDi, THE GOLDEN WEST, at the end of the month. (8 Trinity Pl.) But on the bright side (sunny side?): coming soon will be his new, delivery-only project: A HUEVO (LOL), focused on a breakfast egg sandwich, and a steak and egg sandwich for lunch, plus crispy rice and green eggs and ham. Stand by. [Via Chronicle]
A tablehopper Twitter tipster let me know that the Marina location of THE PLANT CAFÉ ORGANIC has closed (here’s a pic on their door); their other locations in the FiDi, Dogpatch, and SFO remain open. 3352 Steiner St. at Chestnut.
Inner Sunset’s SOCIAL KITCHEN & BREWERY brewpub just closed, reportedly due to new lease issues with their landlord. The craft brewery and restaurant will be missed by the neighborhood and beer lovers from all over. 1326 9th Ave. at Irving. [Via Hoodline.]
This one is almost hard to believe: Lower Haight’s MAD DOG IN THE FOG is closing after more than 30 years! It has been an anchor of the Lower Haight for soccer lovers and beer lovers alike, with an international fan club. According to a post on Facebook, owner Cyril Hackett says, “We will return louder and more wicked at a new location. Thank you for your support, it has been our privilege serving you.” Their famed Tuesday and Thursday Quiz Nights with Peter Malone will move to their sister bar, The Kezar Pub (770 Stanyan St.). 530 Haight St. at Fillmore. [Via Hoodline.]
¡Hola, hermosa! Chef Nelson German of alaMar Kitchen & Bar has just opened SOBRE MESA in downtown Oakland, an Afro-Latino cocktail lounge that is a spacious, tropical oasis inspired by the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and other Latin countries. Chef German says he wants guests to feel like they’re on vacation—cue the uptempo Latin music!
There is plenty of room to gather with friends, whether you hang out in the lounge—with room for up to 40 guests, with sofas, cozy nooks, and cocktail tables—or hang out in the full-service dining area, outfitted with cognac-colored banquettes, offering a seasonal tapas menu (tables must be reserved in advance, but 13 bar chairs are available for walk-in guests). Be sure to check out the art wall, which features rotating artwork created by local artists of color available for purchase. In the far back is La Sala (“the living room”), an advance-reservations-only area for a spirits tasting for up to 12 guests, with a personal bartender, a bar cart, and a menu designed around the pre-selected spirit.
German paid a great deal of thought to the food menu, designed to tell a story with the cocktails and spirits. Among the tapas on the opening menu are white cheddar empanadas, stuffed platano maduro, peri peri petite wings, Salt Spring mussel toast, and sancocho stew dumplings ($7-$12).
The bar is focused on small-production spirits with a great backstory, including hand-crafted rum from the Dominican Republic and Träkál, made from indigenous fruits and botanicals of Patagonia. Consultants Susan Eggett (Last Rites) and Alex Maynard (Starline Social Club) worked closely with chef German on the creation of Sobre Mesa’s cocktail menu. Check out the eponymous Sobre Mesa cocktail, featuring a proprietary rum blend crafted in partnership with Mosswood Distillers in Berkeley, and Hotel Creole, featuring Haitian clairin from Saint Benevolence, which donates 100% of the bottle profits to aid charitable work in Haiti. The drink menu will feature cocktails on tap, classic cocktails, and signature punches. Drinks begin at $10.
Open Wed-Sun 4pm-12am, and until 2am Fri-Sat. Happy hour: 4pm-6pm. 1618 Franklin St. at 17th St., Oakland.
And now in the completely tragic news department, Jennifer Colliau has closed her Uptown Oakland bar, HERE’S HOW, just shy of a year in business, and after so much sweat and hard work and every last penny she had to open the place. It ends up a few nightmare NIMBY neighbors in the building where the bar was located (The Marquee Lofts, at 1755 Broadway) spelled the demise of the bar (excuse me, but why do you live in the middle of a nightlife area if you don’t want nightlife?). You can read the Eater piece for the sordid details on what is one big, damn shame. We feel for you, Jennifer. 1780 Telegraph Ave. at 18th St., Oakland.
If you’re going to have a star sighting to lighten up the current mood, it may as well be the fabulous Lady Gaga, who mugged for the camera with chef Dominique Crenn (and gave her a cute smooch) in the kitchen of BAR CRENN over the weekend. Gaga reportedly “enjoyed the caviar service with potato, pearl onion, and beurre blanc. She also ordered the Poisson Cru (a Kampachi crudo with picked vegetables) and the Vol-au-Vent aux Legumes (a puffed pastry filled with vegetables and celeriac puree).” [Via SFGate.]