This week's tablehopper: WTF SF.
An array of exquisite oysters at California Fish Market Restaurant, my first oysters in almost four months. Heaven! Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Howdy, gang. I hope you’re staying healthy and keeping your spirits up. I’ll be honest, at this very moment, I’m pretty damn sad. I just finished writing about the closure of Indian Paradox for today’s newsletter, and this all really breaks me up inside. It’s hard to process so many difficult stories of businesses closing, dreams ending, restaurant families struggling, and workers getting sick. My heart goes out to you all.
And then we have today’s discouraging news: “The rates of new COVID-19 diagnoses in San Francisco are currently more than three times above where public health officials would like them to be, according to Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax. Hospitalizations have seen a 25% increase over the past week.” Due to our inability to flatten the curve (come ON, SF, I know we can do better), Mayor London Breed announced today that indoor dining is indefinitely on hold (it was originally and almost unbelievably scheduled for July 13th), and the same goes for bars offering outdoor service (I have a hard time with this one: I wish we could let bars serve outside and give them a shot at survival; but it’s true, people aren’t as careful when they’re drinking. Maybe there needs to be a two- or three-drink maximum. Anyway.). Outdoor dining can continue (for now).
In order to help protect workers and our fellow citizens, please remember you must wear a mask upon arrival at any establishment until you are seated, and to wear your mask whenever anyone approaches your table (server, runner, busser), and if you’re getting up from your table to do anything, like use the restroom, order food, and when you’re leaving. Basically, leave that mask on unless you need to take a bite or sip. Discussing the menu with your date? Leave it on. Telling your friend a hilarious story? Yup, leave it on. Is your server approaching your table with your drinks? Pull that mask up.
Wearing your mask says you care, and acknowledge the absolute privilege it is to sit outside at a restaurant while people risk their lives to make and serve you food and cocktails that you didn’t have to prepare at home. If you can’t honor any of this, or the whole thing seems like too much of a hassle, then stick with takeout or delivery. And no unmasked mingling or gathering while waiting to pick up your food (or get a table)—keep at least six feet away from others. The longer this whole thing painfully drags on, or gets worse, the more we all continue to lose. Enough with the maskholes and people who aren’t respecting space and safety. [me making various emphatic and vulgar Italian hand gestures]
Fortunately, I have a couple friends who have been hermiting at home like me and are committed mask-wearers if they venture outside, so they make excellent alfresco dining partners. Last week, I was invited to check out the new and spacious outdoor dining area and regional Southern/summer BBQ menu at Causwells (don’t miss their dream spare ribs), and on Friday, I visited a brand-new spot in North Beach so I could report on it for you today: California Fish Market Restaurant (details below).
If you want ideas on where to go for outdoor dining, and you play by the rules, be sure to check my @tablehopper Instagram Highlights: Alfresco SF.
And if you’re looking for a new takeout option, check out the Bayview Bistro Food Box, which directly supports Black- and Bayview-owned businesses. Deadline to order is Wednesday at 3pm for pick-up on Friday. This week’s menu just made my stomach grumble—scalloped potatoes! There’s an omnivore or plant-forward box, serving either two or four. They could use some more sales this week!
If you’re looking to get away from the city and all this urban stress and you aren’t on unemployment like 153,000 San Franciscans are, a friend of a friend is selling a 42-acre ranch in Anderson Valley, Mendocino, with extensive space for vineyards and a 2,500-sq.-foot main house, plus a guest house, stables, and lots of potable water. They just reduced the price to $795,000 from $1.15M—hit reply/email me if you’d like to see the full brochure and I can make an intro. Don’t forget to invite me over, okay? There’s a hot tub.
I want to give a big thanks to the Taste newsletter for including the latest episode of the On the Fly podcast with Jay Foster, and we’re going to have another episode posting this week with the one-and-only Sarah Kirnon (Miss Ollie’s)—you won’t want to miss it, so please subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts (they’re all listed here).
You should also take a look at these two articles that highlight the racial discrimination, disrespect, and many challenges BIPOC folks experience working in the wine world and as sommeliers. Definitely read this very personal piece from Miguel de Leon (“It’s Time to Decolonize Wine”) in Punch, and the other piece, (“Black Wine Professionals Demand to Be Seen”), is from The New York Times.
Okay, to end thing on a sweet note: next Tuesday July 14th, I’m moderating an online panel with GIO Gelati at 3pm (for just 30 minutes—it’s short!). We’ll talk about gelato, and will share some news with you—plus all attendees will receive a nice treat at the end. Register for the Zoom here, it’s free. Would be great to “see” you.
Ciao, tutti. Marcia Gagliardi
Gossip & News (the word on the street)
Former Pasta Pop-Up in North Beach Now California Fish Market Restaurant
Restaurateur Francesco Covucci (Il Casaro, Barbara) and his business partner Peter Fazio have decided to transform their two-year-old Pasta Pop-Up location in North Beach into a San Francisco seafood restaurant and retail market: CALIFORNIA FISH MARKET RESTAURANT. It’s exactly the kind of quality and fairly priced SF seafood experience any visitor to North Beach would be thrilled to discover (it’s more elusive than it should be in this town), and one that locals will have plenty to return for, whether they’re coming by for squid ink spaghetti with squid, clams, and cherry tomatoes (fortunately, this dish is a holdover from the Pasta Pop-Up menu) or buying some freshly caught halibut to bring home for dinner.
I went on Friday night for their soft-opening, and the location is in the middle of the lively street party that Green Street has transformed into. It is a SCENE, complete with low-riders and even the fire truck ringing its bell hello as it drove by Gino & Carlo’s. There are shielded tables under a canopy in front of the restaurant (there are heat lamps!), and they’ve also taken over a parking space in front with fake grass and socially distant tables that are partially shielded under Lettieri & Co. pop-up tents (which I have been happy to see all over North Beach—way to support your restaurant accounts!).
Covucci was inspired to help our local fishermen by offering a seafood-heavy menu and market since the demand from restaurants is way down and suppliers are hurting. The menu offers a combination of classic SF seafood preparations, some Italian dishes (there are nine pasta options), and a few Italian-American items to keep those out-of-towners happy (fettuccine Alfredo, I’m looking at you).
You can start with some quality oysters (my first oysters in almost four months, it was a moment). There are choice Miyagi, Shigoku, Kusshi, and Kumamoto oysters, shucked beautifully, and the crudo Calabrese comes with an option of halibut, scallops, salmon, or a combo for $27 (similar to the off-the-menu Sicilian sashimi plate at Swan Oyster Depot).
Some other SF classic starters include crab, prawn, or Spanish octopus cocktail; salads like bay shrimp or crab Louie; and there’s also some fantastic and deftly prepared grilled calamari ($11), with the option of grilled prawns, or spicy baby Spanish octopus stew, or sautéed mussels and clams, or fried Monterey squid, prawns, and zucchini. I like how simply prepared the dishes are, allowing the freshness of the seafood to shine (in true Italian style), and the menu is pretty extensive.
It will be hard to resist the sexy whistle (oh yoooohooooo) from the lobster ravioli in a tomato, cream, and brandy sauce ($21.95), and the rigatoni with octopus, ‘nduja, and tomato sauce ($21.95) let me pretend I was in a seaside town in Calabria for a hot second. I’ll be back for the linguine alle vongole (always a fave) and bucatini with bottarga (both $21.50).
Main courses include local salmon, halibut, a mixed grilled selection, and our SF trademark: cioppino ($39)—it’s a hearty portion you’ll want to share, a tomato broth topped with mussels, clams, scallops, calamari, shrimp, rock fish, and crab (perfect for our foggy summer weather). It’s tough to get all the seafood timed right, but everything was tender and just right. There are also a couple sandwiches ($14-$16): spicy octopus or fried fish (cod) on ciabatta, along with beer-battered fish and chips ($19), if you’re looking for a casual lunch.
The wine list has plenty of seafood-friendly Italian whites and six sparkling choices (of course, I’m happy with that), Italian reds, and some low-ABV Italian cocktails, including a spritz and Negroni Sbagliato, or a Michelada to go with your oysters.
The retail part is just ramping up: you can get oysters by the dozen, king salmon, Dungeness crab meat, whole rock fish, white shrimp, scallops, and more. Fresh pasta is coming soon.
Seafood is such a special treat, especially when you’re in North Beach at a restaurant that cares about quality and sustainability, and it’s one of those things many people prefer someone else prepare for them. Well, here’s your new spot. Open Tue-Sun 5pm-10pm. 550 Green St. at Stockton, 415-757-0918.
Closures (Some Temporary) and Changes Around Town
I really hate to start reporting on permanent closures, but it’s happening, and will continue to do so in these brutal times. In case you missed the news elsewhere, our dear NOPALITO has decided to close their Sunset location on Ninth Street since catering business has dried up, and that was a big part of the location’s output. They’re moving their kitchen to the 18 Reasons space in the Mission to keep up the production of their take-home kits and to be ready when catering starts to return. Within a month, they will be offering carnitas tacos and more for takeout (how handy, they’re just by Dolores Park) through the Bi-Rite Creamery soft-serve ice cream window. You can read more in this Hoodline piece. Fortunately, the original Broderick Street location remains open for takeout and delivery.
Dominique Crenn has decided to temporarily close PETIT CRENN in Hayes Valley until 2021. In an Instagram post, she announced, “In the meantime, we are thrilled to be partnered with @rethinkfood.nyc and utilizing this kitchen to help feed the hungry. Stay tuned for popup announcements and invitations to come out and support.” I’m curious to see what other local kitchens convert to this model…
I checked in with Kavitha Raghavan of INDIAN PARADOX, the Indian street food wine bar on Divisadero, and sadly she does not see a path to reopening with such a tiny space, so she has made the hard decision to close the business. It makes me so sad to see the special place she worked so hard to create, her dream, have to close. Kavitha (and chef Maribel Palomo!), thank you so much for all the heartfelt meals and wine discoveries for the past four-plus years, and offering our city a cozy little place that felt so personal. I loved sitting at your bar, and was so in love with the recent update from Lorena Zertuche…all that color. You will be missed! (And your eggs akuri, and bhel puri, and chile cheese toast.) Gah, this is making me cry. With love and thanks! Thank you for following your heart and dream! You created a unique experience that only you could do. 258 Divisadero St. at Haight.
Over in the Tenderloin, Juanita More let me know about a couple closures in her neighborhood: TOWN CUTLER has reportedly closed their location at 1005 Bush St. (More did a collaborative Pride 2020 knife set with them, pink handles and all), but you can still visit their Reno store or work with them via the mail. More news: neighborhood stalwart THEM KY—known for its affordable and authentic homestyle Vietnamese dishes, along with some Chinese dishes and combo plates—has closed after 27 years. I hope they can enjoy their retirement, that is quite a run. 717 Ellis St. at Larkin.
A change-up is coming to EKO KITCHEN in August: owner Simileoluwa Adebajo is going to be leaving her first brick-and-mortar location in SoMa and moving to a new location in the Mission in August, and only offering delivery, online ordering, and pick-up. (Be sure to order from her in the meantime.) San Francisco’s only Nigerian restaurant will be at 160 14th St. at S. Van Ness.
I was so sorry to see OLD JERUSALEM suffered a fire just before the Fourth of July, and illegal fireworks are the potential culprit. And this, after they just recently moved locations, ugh. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but they’ve posted a GoFundMe to help support their employees as they will be closed for several months to repair the roof and water damage. 2966 Mission St. at 26th St.
Across the Bay, Nosh has the story behind the closure of the Indigenous CAFE OHLONE due to the closure of Berkeley’s 46-year-old University Press Books (the restaurant hosted its special gatherings on the back patio). They’re going to be looking for another location, and hope to launch a takeout box in the fall.