This week's tablehopper: soul-searching.
Don’t miss listening to chef and entrepreneur Jay Foster in this week’s On the Fly podcast. Photo: Shea Evans.
Hello, everyone. I’m back in your inbox with some quick updates and something important, too. The past three weeks, I hit pause on recording the On the Fly by tablehopper podcast to honor and show respect to the Black Lives Matter movement, to pay close attention to and listen and learn from the many Black voices rising up. One of our city’s longtime culinary figureheads reached out to connect, and I’m grateful to present this week’s episode with Jay Foster, a well-known San Francisco chef and restaurateur who has been feeding us with heart and intention in his authentically cool and soulful establishments for the past 18 years. From his early days at Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack and Blue Jay Cafe, to 13 years running the beloved and greatly missed Farmerbrown, Jay has been a champion for the diverse and vibrant San Francisco we are, or should I say were once known for being.
Jay has fought hard for the disappearing Black San Francisco, and now he’s part of its list of casualties: he’s one of our few Black chefs, and with the closure of Farmerbrown and his most-recent project in the Fillmore last fall, Isla Vida, we’ve lost one of our city’s few Black restaurateurs. Jay has been trying to take a break from the grind of disadvantaged ownership and work for others for a change, utilizing his years of experience and knowledge and well-honed skills. In a city where upper-level restaurant managers and executives are a valuable asset, in our interview, you’ll hear his discouraging experience that further revealed a racist system designed to undervalue him.
What is a San Francisco without Black executives, and Black-owned restaurants, and diverse places for the community to gather? What happens when our keepers of the flame, of our city’s African American heritage and traditions and cuisine and vibrant history, are continually being blown out? As you listen to this interview with Jay Foster, you’ll hear his firsthand account of what happens when we don’t do enough to elevate instead of erase BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) culture and presence.
I reference a couple articles in the episode, and wanted to make it easy for you to find them: Bloomberg’s recent piece, “Black Business Owners’ Ranks Collapse by 41% in U.S. Lockdowns”, and Jay’s piece for Bon Appétit last year: “Running Restaurants in San Francisco Made Me Rethink Everything I Thought I Knew About Success.”
Thank you for listening, sharing, and amplifying this episode and his story in any way you can—it’s important for people to listen to Jay’s story, be moved by it, and feel impelled to be part of the necessary changes and movement happening. Special thanks to producer Lola Yen for all her continued help, and Kenya Lewis for always looking out.
This weekend is the 50th anniversary of the very first Pride march, and while there will be some online performances and presentations in honor of the Pride 50 celebration, as well as the Trans March and Dyke March, there are also some live and in-person protests and marches to honor Pride’s history as a riot, and to fight for an inclusive future with equal rights for all. Check @protestsbayarea on Instagram for announcements around the Bay—there are two protests I know of in SF on Pride Sunday: there’s the People’s March & Rally-Unite to Fight! from Juanita MORE! and Alex U. Inn, and Pride Is a Riot at Dolores Park. Both are in solidarity with BIPOC trans and queer communities, family, friends, lovers, allies, pioneers, elders, and neighbors. Wear your mask, maintain distance, get loud. There is also a Marsha P. Johnson Solidarity Rally on Sunday, organized by Black trans folks to celebrate the unveiling of the transgender history mural.
Come Monday, I know many of you will be ready for a drink (and a haircut, and a pedicure)—Mayor London Breed announced that SF bars are allowed to offer outdoor drinking starting Monday June 29th. Nope, they don’t have to serve food to be open. Woohoo! Just like restaurants, bars can apply for outdoor seating through the Shared Spaces program to take over some parking spaces and available sidewalk space. Of course, there are additional hoops to jump through with the ABC, and this timing came up quickly, so expect a gradual rollout of our new outdoor drinking life. Of course, I will continue to keep you posted in my @tablehopper Instagram Stories. We’ll have to see where things land for indoor dining (original target is July 13th) and August for indoor bars (without food).
Oakland has joined the alfresco party with their new outdoor dining, and they’re also offering a Flex Streets Initiative to use sidewalks, parking spaces, and more.
One last thing: can you please sign this petition to tell Congress to pass the Restaurants Act of 2020, which would establish the $120B Restaurant Revitalization Fund? It will provide crucial funding to help get restaurants the support they need to reopen and survive.
Thank you, everyone. Happy Pride! Marcia Gagliardi
Gossip & News (the word on the street)
Updates on Restaurant Closures, Moves, What's Coming Soon, and Changes
Wanted to share a variety of updates with you. First, after almost 10 years in Bernal/La Lengua, our dear ICHI SUSHI is not coming back from the citywide coronavirus-shutdown, which started in March. I spoke with the much-adored owners and chef Tim and Erin Archuleta, and sadly they have made the decision to sell since they just don’t see a path to reopening soon (as many regulars know, Tim had a health scare a few years ago, and won’t be able to have close contact with the public as long as this virus is in our midst). They’re already missing everyone, and will be greatly missed—ICHI was like a sushi clubhouse, with so many dedicated fans and friends, and a wonderful team. They have seen so many proposals, reunions, parties, and breakups. I’m raising a shot of Underberg (with Girl Talk blasting).
They’re hoping to find someone to pass the torch too—it’s a funky and unique space, and is perfect for the right taker (the neighborhood location is fantastic, and they have a nice landlord, too). Whether it’s someone who wants to continue the sushi lineage, or do meal kits, or open a deli, there are options. Thanks for all the memories, wonderful meals, hospitality, big laughs, and fantastic sushi, damn! Best wishes, to your health, kanpai! 3369 Mission St. at Godeus.
I was also sorry to read that after 21 years in the Mission, one of our city’s few German restaurants, WALZWERK, has closed (via Eater). Owner Christiane Schmidt posted a farewell note on their website. And so, we say goodbye to another eclectic and quirky SF spot that was affordable and lively and delicious—it will be missed. 381 South Van Ness Ave. at 15th St.
And now for some positive news: there will be a new restaurant opening in the former La Briciola in SoMa at the end of July called ROMA’S, from first-time restaurant owner Matt Leum (you may have read the Hoodline article about it). For those of you who know your Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence well, the restaurant is in fact named in honor of Sister Roma, a very good friend of Matt’s—they met 34 years ago at The Stud. He also remembers when the location used to be Ruby’s Pizzeria, a popular late-night spot after hitting the bars, so he’s excited to be taking over the location.
What’s wild is he closed escrow on March 27th, just two weeks after the stay at home order, so it’s quite an adventure to be opening a new restaurant during this time and at diminished capacity (no thanks to Miss Rona), but he’s optimistic: “I’m not bringing the mentality about the way it used to be—it’s all new to me, it’s my new reality!” He has been working with consultants, and has been busy updating, renovating, and rearranging the 49-seat restaurant—he plans to offer around 28-32 seats max to start, with flexible tables and seating, which includes spaced seats at the bar. He’s also applying for outdoor seating.
Matt is interviewing chef candidates right now, and plans on offering farm-to-table Italian, starting with lunch service with panini, salads, and box lunches that are easy to bring to work; dinner service will come later. He wants to create an inclusive space, where everyone is welcome (look for the rainbow flag), and will be highlighting local art on the walls. This is a passion project—he loves people and Italian cuisine and looks forward to welcoming everyone to Roma’s soon. In the meantime, he’s selling some gift cards to help get them over the initial financial hump since he wasn’t eligible for PPP or SBA loans. I’ll keep you posted on the opening. 489 3rd St. at Bryant.
Mission residents will be pleased to hear Christian Ciscle is moving his SF CHICKENBOX from inside Trademark in SoMa to the Mission. He’s moving into the draft and bottle shop, The Brew Coop (the name is fitting), and is going to open on July 1st, just in time for the Fourth of July. You’ll be able to enjoy some of the best fried chicken in the city, which includes his chicken boxes, a fried chicken sandwich, and don’t forget those mochi muffins. Their last day on Folsom Street is this Saturday June 26th. 819 Valencia St. at 19th St.
Over in North Beach, Tony Gemignani’s CAPO’S has changed its focus from Chicago deep dish and cracker-thin pizza to now include trendy Detroit square-style pizza, which he was originally serving at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. Detroit pizzas are cooked in 10” x 14” Detroit steel pans and come topped with Wisconsin brick mozzarella cheese, white cheddar, tomato sauce, and garlic butter, with toasted corners, and finished with pecorino, oregano, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil. His longtime teammate and fellow World Pizza Champion, chef Laura Meyer, is leading the Capo’s update, adding new pizzas, more small plates, pasta, and local beers. Outdoor dining is available Sun, Wed-Thu 4:30pm-9:30pm and Fri-Sat 4:30pm-10pm. 641 Vallejo St. at Stockton.