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Jul 27, 2020 10 min read

July 28, 2020 - This week's newsletter: box it up.

July 28, 2020 - This week's newsletter: box it up.
Table of Contents

This week's tablehopper: box it up.                    

A recent Restaurant Nisei bento box—read all about what’s inside it on Instagram! Photo: ©

Hello, friends. Whew, it has been a busy morning checking in on people after that horrible five-alarm fire in SoMa in SF this morning. Thank goodness everyone is safe, but there have definitely been some business losses, ugh. I have an update in the chatterbox below. Here’s hoping we can help these businesses get back on their feet soon.

More on the subject of resilience is the recent On the Fly podcast episode with Fernay McPherson of the beloved Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement (located in the Public Market Emeryville). I hope you can take some time to listen to her compelling story and journey as a Black female food entrepreneur and third-generation Fillmore native. You’ll want to pick up some of her trademark rosemary fried chicken and brown butter cornbread this weekend as soon as you listen in, plan accordingly.

Further inspiration! Don’t miss the recent series Street Food: Latin America on Netflix! I’m enjoying this show immensely—they’re mostly highlighting female chefs—such incredibly badass women who will put some fire in your belly to hustle and survive these arduous times. They will also make you cry—I have cried watching two of four episodes so far. (Good tears.) Such potent storytelling. And one more heartwarming show to watch is Mucho, Mucho Amor about the inimitable Walter Mercado! Pure delight. Besos!

More happiness: the extraordinary washoku bento box from chef David Yoshimura of pop-up Nisei, currently running out of the kitchen at Mister Jiu’s! It’s an incredible treasure box for $38 (available Fri-Sun). Order one for pickup this weekend, and be sure to peruse the takeout menu at Mister Jiu’s as well—you want to come home with the country ham and scallion milk bread with pork floss, trust me. (Their hot and sour soup will also give your body a healing boost.)

Since my last break was too damn short, and this city is too damn gray (kind of like my roots), I’m heading out of town with sis for an extended weekend in Lake Tahoe! I’ll be offline starting Friday, and won’t be writing tablehopper next Tuesday, FYI. I’ll keep posting news and updates on @tablehopper on Instagram and in my Stories…

Since I won’t be around to remind you, please save the date: next Friday August 7th is Dine for Democracy, a national campaign that brings local restaurants and diners together to raise money to ensure safe and fair elections. 100 percent of donations will be divided equally among a cohort of five grassroots voting rights groups, led by youth and communities of color working to get out the vote in battleground states. There are a number of Bay Area restaurants participating—please dine and donate (since we can’t lean on restaurants to make donations right now, we need them to survive!). The next Dine for Democracy events are on the first Friday of each month, now until the election.

This is also the last week to have your contribution matched to CUESA’s Feed Hospitality program by Hangar 1 Vodka! Your tax-deductible donation of $25 directly pays for one weeks’ worth of fresh, healthy produce for a hospitality worker and their family, while supporting local farms. Help us feed the people who feed us. Through Friday July 31st, Hangar 1 Vodka is matching all donations, up to $15,000! Win-win-win!

One last thing, since you won’t be hearing from me here for a couple weeks: two months ago, I was interviewed by Adam Peddicord of Customer Success by Design on how to speak with, build, and sustain your customer community from scratch with authenticity. It was an enjoyable exercise to look at my journey as an entrepreneur and writer, and how I honed my true voice by starting this media brand (14 years ago and counting!). Our interview was scheduled around the initial weeks of the George Floyd protests and I didn’t want to take up any bandwidth during that time, or the past couple months, to be perfectly honest, so I’m just telling you about it now. Thanks to Adam for interviewing me, and be sure to check his site for many other live events coming up.

Stay well, take care, be kind. XO ~Marcia

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)

Coming to the Former Hillside Supper Club in Bernal: Marlena Restaurant


Serena Chow Fisher and David Fisher of Marlena. All photos: Stephane Kiss.


One of the upcoming picnic options from Marlena.


When Marlena opens outdoor seating, expect dishes like this week-aged bluefin tuna with compressed cucumber gazpacho, avocado mousse, smoked soy, extra virgin olive oil.

Great news for neighbors and fans of the former Hillside Supper Club: a couple is going to breathe new life into the space, Serena Chow Fisher and her husband David Fisher, opening MARLENA RESTAURANT. Serena will head pastry and front of house, while David is the chef. His background in New York includes Jean Georges and Kat and Theo, and he met Serena while they were both cooking together at Pearl and Ash. They relocated to the Bay Area about two years ago, and David was the chef de cuisines at at Bird Dog in Palo Alto and Sorrel. Serena worked at many places in New York City, including Eleven Madison Park, and locally was pastry chef and director of culinary projects at Bird Dog, and took over as bakery manager and as a lead of the pastry team of Backhaus in San Mateo, where she is still working.

They know it’s an absolutely insane moment to be opening a restaurant, but they are excited to share their dream and are up for the challenge, innovating creative solutions for these unpredictable times. Since they’re right by Precita Park, they’re going to offer two kinds of picnics: you can swing by for a picnic basket all packed and ready to go, and return it when you’re done—no fuss, no lugging. One will include their housemade charcuterie, including rillettes and pâté with accoutrements, while the other option will be more of a full spread, with roasted chicken sandwiches, new potato salad, wax bean and pattypan salad, and a stone fruit hand pie. They’re hoping to start offering this in mid-August—just in time for our Fogust summer.

The next stage will be offering affordable and easy meal kits, with dishes like smoked lamb ribs, or glazed short-ribs with potato purée, plus some fun holiday meals, like a Labor Day picnic. They also plan to offer some pantry and larder items, like cured bacon. They’ll be making many things in house, from cheeses to butter to salumi.

Right now, they’re making some updates to the 100-year-old building and doing a bit of a face lift, but they really love the space—it has great bones, a perfect location, and they fortunately have a good deal on rent (it ends up an investor bought the building and needed an operator for the space).

They’re applying for a parklet and outdoor seating, and when they can serve outside, we’ll see a three-course, prix-fixe, market-driven menu that highlights local and sustainable ingredients, and old school cooking techniques meets modern day minimalism. They want a place that feels simultaneously comfortable for the neighborhood, but special enough for date night or other occasions. For dessert, Serena will be working on ice creams, and loves sundaes, pavlova, and panna cotta.

I’ll keep you updated on the various stages of their opening, but for now, you can follow along on @marlenarestaurant. 300 Precita Ave. at Folsom.

Quick Reopening Updates: St. Francis Fountain, Trattoria Bruno, Nyum Bai, More


(The photo caption/source for this image was accidentally deleted.)


A selection of pasta dishes from Trattoria Bruno. Instagram photo via @trattoriabrunosf.

First, I just have to share how happy I am to see that ST. FRANCIS FOUNTAIN is back open—it didn’t look good for a minute there…and things are still precarious for ALL restaurants. Please support this treasured SF diner (since 1918—yes, during the last pandemic!) with takeout or enjoy brunch at one of their outdoor tables—or get a strawberry shake to go. Open Mon-Fri 9am-2pm and Sat-Sun 9am-3pm. 2801 24th St. at York.

ALEXANDER’S STEAKHOUSE in SoMa has temporarily flipped to a more-affordable Italian concept: Trattoria Bruno, from chef Eric Upper. Look for handmade and stuffed pasta (like pappardelle with wagyu ragù, housemade cappellacci stuffed with corn and squash purée, spaghetti tossed in Santa Barbara uni cream and topped with fresh uni and bottarga, handmade casoncelli stuffed with roasted wagyu and glazed in a beef-butter sauce, and handmade tagliatelle with wagyu hitachi sausage, sweet Italian pepper, and red wine), with antipasti and boutique Italian wines. There’s also a dinner for two. Available for pickup and delivery daily, 12pm-9pm.

And over in Fruitvale, chef-owner Nite Yun is reopening NYUM BAI today, Tuesday July 28th, after working through some recent discrimination issues involving her employees and workplace culture. Takeout and delivery only (five-mile radius), Tue-Sat 4:30pm-8:30pm. 3340 East 12th St., Oakland.

Since we’re in Oakland, here’s one tidbit to look forward to: the wildly popular S+M Vegan pop-up, known for their shaobing sandwich and other flavor-packed dishes, has signed a lease on a restaurant location! They’re taking over the former Liba falafel and salad bar location (RIP, dear Liba—Gail Lillian closed her restaurant in June after eleven years of so much hard work— this brutal restaurant climate proved to be too much of a loss to try to keep it going). The new project will be called Lion Dance Cafe, and they’ll be serving their vegan Chinese-Singaporean fare, and they’re aiming for September for takeout only. Stand by for their Kickstarter campaign in a couple weeks. 380 17th St. at Franklin, Oakland.

Closures Include Barvale, Izakaya Roku, Osteria Stellina, and Fallout From the SOMA Fire


Barvale’s dining room and a section of the main bar. Photos: David Martinez.


Nasi ulam at the Masak | Masak pop-up at Biondivino. Photo: ©

After two-and-and-half years on the Divisadero Corridor, BARVALE has decided to close, and in a couple weeks, the Back of the House restaurant group will be opening a pop-up location of Beretta. Hoodline has further details: the menu will be pretty much identical to the original on Valencia (antipasti, pizza, pasta), they plan to open the week of August 10th, and will offer takeout and outdoor seating. 661 Divisadero St. at Grove.

There was a devastating five-alarm fire that happened this morning in SoMa, which sadly burned out the commissary kitchen on 14th Street for food businesses like ChiliCali, Masak Masak, FulFilled Foods, and it was the brand-new delivery/takeout home for Eko Kitchen, who lost everything (all inventory, equipment, and special ingredients from Nigeria)—you can read an update with Simi in the Chronicle here. 2020, why so hard? Stand by for ways to help these businesses—I imagine they are going to be looking for a commissary kitchen to work out of soon (I know @fulfilledsf needs a space ASAP to continue a project, please direct message them on Instagram). Eko Kitchen just posted a GoFundMe to help five of the food businesses impacted by the fire. Let’s support these businesses in any way we can, I will post updates on Instagram.

Fortunately, no one was hurt except for one firefighter who sustained a head injury and is going to be okay—there were more than 150 firefighters on the scene. Thank you, SFFD! Pink Onion Pizza was spared by 100 feet, although they may not reopen until tomorrow, and Izakaya Rintaro is okay, but closed for today. Nearby Rainbow Grocery and Public Works are also okay, whew. Best wishes to everyone, so sorry for the loss, especially in these already-brutal times.

Was sorry to read chef Jay Hamada is closing and selling JapaCurry, the first Japanese food truck in the Bay Area, and IZAKAYA ROKU at 1819 Market Street, known for its katsu curry. The last day is July 31st, come by for a last bowl and some deals on sake. [Via SFGate.]

CHA-AM THAI in SoMa—just next to the Yerba Buena Gardens—has permanently closed after 30 years in business. 701 Folsom St. at 3rd St. [Via Hoodline.]

Up the coast in Point Reyes Station, chef-owner Christian Caizzo has decided to close OSTERIA STELLINA, after almost twelve years of business. The restaurant was hyper-local and seasonal, with some amazing pizzas and vegetable dishes, and oysters, of course. It will be missed by many. In a letter he sent, Caizzo says, “Please continue to visit us at Toby’s Coffee Bar, the farmers’ market, and at future projects, yet to come.”

the matchmaker

Classifieds (let's get it on)

(Matchmaker): Restaurant Owners Alert--Qualified Buyer Seeks SF Venue for New Concept

With money in the bank and a team that a landlord will approve of, we are looking to purchase an existing restaurant with 1,700-2,200 square feet (approx.) and seating for 40-50 in the Marina, Cow Hollow, North Beach, Hayes Valley, Fillmore, or Pacific Heights. Large kitchen with good prep area and storage including walk-in, full liquor license preferable (although we can purchase separately), built-in bar optional. With a solid track record, we are looking to build a longterm relationship with a reasonable landlord who understands the realities of today’s new hospitality landscape.

Send details to and include current lease amount, NNN, and length remaining on lease. Happy to sign an NDA.

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