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Aug 24, 2020 12 min read

August 25, 2020 - This week's tablehopper: smoked out, smoked in.

August 25, 2020 - This week's tablehopper: smoked out, smoked in.
Table of Contents

This week's tablehopper: smoked out, smoked in.                    

The gorgeous kaisen don from Wako, with Japanese uni and their house-marinated ikura. Sometimes you just gotta treat yourself (order through their website for pickup for the best price). Photo: ©

Hello, friends. You doing okay? I know this is an especially trying time right now for anyone who lives in California with all the devastation from these heartbreaking wildfires. Things have already been so hard, too hard, and now seeing so much loss, let alone all the smoke in the air, it really feels apocalyptic. Sending strength and deep resilience to all.

We have to continue to look out for each other, from supporting fire victims and evacuees and our brave first responders, to the farmworkers who are continuing to work in the smoke (here’s a GoFundMe, the 2020 Wine Country Fire Relief Fund, a continuation of a successful fundraiser in 2017).

This is also really challenging for all our local businesses who have been trying to survive by conducting business outside, from outdoor dining to alfresco haircuts. BIG SIGH. Try to support these businesses in any way—picking up takeout is really helpful since outdoor dining is being impacted, or buy a gift certificate if you can.

I want to do a shout-out to today’s sponsor, Choco, who is hosting a webinar on Monday at 2pm to discuss how restaurants can survive the many challenges of 2020, from wildfires to the pandemic. Click here to register, and I’m really grateful for their support of tablehopper in these tough times. Please spread the word about the webinar—you can read more in today’s sponsor section. Chefs, restaurateurs, GMs, publicists, marketing folks: be sure to tune in!

I’m happy to announce that we’ll have a new On the Fly podcast episode airing this week! You’ll want to listen to this fascinating interview with Jesse Cool, the chef, restaurateur, author, educator, consultant, community activist, and visionary, known for the pioneering organic Flea Street restaurant in Menlo Park, which is turning 40 this Friday! Talk about fortuitous timing for a chat…but the reason we spoke is about her newly launched Heart of House model, creating a more equitable structure and fair pay for her employees by offering an alternative to tipping (an outdated practice that is racist, sexist, and ageist, among other things). As restaurants are looking ahead to changes that need to be made industry-wide, this interview will hopefully inspire and educate. I’m excited for you to hear it.

Did you know it’s Black Restaurant Week in the Bay Area? It’s happening now through August 30th. Take a look at the many restaurants you can visit, and check out some special menus, dishes, and offers. With the hard hits from the pandemic and now wildfires, it’s a crucial time to show your support for Black-owned businesses and the Black Lives Matter movement. You can also follow @blackrestaurantweek for updates.

And one last tip for you, since I know this smoky air is really uncomfortable. As someone who lives in a small studio apartment (and on the top floor, for maximum sun and heat, ugh), I’ve been losing my mind a little (actually, a lot) with my closed windows and blinds to keep the smoke and sun out so I don’t roast up here in my personal Easy Bake Oven. (I know, I am so lucky to even have a place to complain about.) Fortunately, my handy little Levoit air purifier showed up this past weekend, and anyone looking for an affordable ($100) and small (but mighty) and quiet HEPA air purifier, check this thing out! I’m calling it R2D2. It has three speeds, and actually helped keep my place from feeling stuffy last night with its cool output since I had to close my windows again around midnight. I have stopped coughing and my eyes stopped feeling irritated, so it’s a win. (You can compare other models in this article.)

I have also been posting some incredible dishes and drinks on @tablehopper that have been bringing me some happy moments, from Tommy’s famous margaritas to go (!), to a vegetarian wrap from Sumac, to Zero Zero’s stoner garlic bread (weed optional, but highly recommended).

Hang in there. ~Marcia

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)

Now Open: AltoVino Reopens (Under New Ownership), Los Guisados Del Patrón, More


The exterior of AltoVino. Photo courtesy of Sasha Bernstein.


A sampling of tacos from Los Guisados Del Patrón. Instagram photo via @los-guisados-del-patron.

After Claudio Villani sold ALTOVINO on Nob Hill, new owners (and chef) Nick Kelly and his wife and wine director Calli Martinez Kelly just reopened the restaurant. The modern Italian menu will continue to feature seasonal and local ingredients, along with Kelly’s housemade and stuffed pasta dishes, plus some favorites from the previous menu will come over, like the rabbit ragù and bistecca alla fiorentina. They’ll be launching a tasting menu with wine pairings in a couple weeks—the wine list will be primarily Italian, with some boutique California producers.

During the day, they’re operating a retail store out of the space (from 12pm until dinner), featuring Kelly’s freshly made pastas, housemade pantry items, beautiful vegetables, and wine! Outdoor dining includes heat lamps and a charming SF street scene. Follow their Instagram for updates. Open for dinner Wed-Fri 5pm-9pm (shop open at noon), brunch Sat-Sun 11am-2pm, with aperitivo from 2pm-5pm, and dinner 5pm-9pm. Call for reservations: 415-529-2435. 1358 Mason St. at Pacific.

Fans of the tacos from Tacos El Patrón (known for their quesabirria tacos in the Mission) will want to check out their latest spot, LOS GUISADOS DEL PATRÓN, serving a daily changing lineup of guisados (stewed meats and vegetables, from picadillo de res to calabacitas con queso to pollo en salsa roja), available as a taco (featuring housemade corn tortillas), burrito, bowl, or tostada. Owners Alberto Pineda and Mariana Reza want to keep things affordable: tacos are around $3.25 each. Open daily for takeout 8pm-6pm. 601 S. Van Ness Ave. at 17th St.  [Via Chronicle.]

Hoodline shares news of this recent opening: HALAL DASTARKHAN, San Francisco’s first Uzbek restaurant, from first-time restaurateur Ismoil Ochilov. It has opened in the former Yemeni Restaurant, and when you read his story, you’ll want to support this takeout-friendly restaurant, with somsas, soups, kebabs, a popular pilaf dish (look for the sofi osh/plov on the menu), and more. 1098 Sutter St. at Larkin.

Pandemic Pivots: The Presidio Social Club Exchange, and Lily To Go Is Coming Soon


Coconut cream pie from the new Presidio Social Club Exchange. Photo via PCX.


A sneak peek of Lily To Go’s chả cá thăng long bánh mì. Photo: ©


The #1 dac biet noodle bowl from Lily To Go. Photo: ©

Some changes over at PRESIDIO SOCIAL CLUB: after 14 years of business (and countless cocktails and whole pig roasts) in the Presidio, owner Ray Tang has decided to close the restaurant, and has converted it to Presidio Social Club Exchange. Alongside pastry chef Rene Cruz, they are turning the Exchange (or PCX) into a marketplace, based around a carvery, bakery, and to-go bar. It’s like a traditional army PX, but with prepared foods that you want to eat (so, no Shit on a Shingle).

On the menu: dishes like slow-roasted lamb, hot prime rib (Thu-Sat), meatloaf on Tuesdays, roast chicken (available warm or chilled so you can use it in recipes), grill kits, and French dip slider kits. You’ll find family feasts, and a bunch of sides and salads that are designed to serve two. Fresh pasta, pre-made sauces (including prime beef rib sugo), soup (check out the tomato soup and ready-to-cheese toast!), and stocks are also available to have on hand—the kinds of things you’ll be happy to find in your freezer. Basically, they want to make it easy for you to feed your family, friends, or just have a stocked fridge—or great picnic.

The bakery is full of carb-tastic delights, from biscuits to herb focaccia to braided challah on Fridays, and then there’s a coconut cream pie, cookies (baked or pre-made dough), ready-to-bake pie shells, cinnamon rolls, and more. Round out your order with a Bloody Mary kit, batched cocktails, and wine and spirits. Everything is available for preorder, pickup, and delivery. Hours for now are Tue-Sat 4pm-8pm. 563 Ruger St., Presidio.

Back in March, chef Rob Lam was poised to open LILY in the Inner Richmond (on Clement Street, in the former Q) with Lily Lieu and her sister, Lucy, and then we know what happened next: Miss Rona turned everything upside down. While Lily was designed to be an upscale Vietnamese dining experience, Lam has decided to create a casual Vietnamese concept and daytime menu in the meantime, Lily To Go, which will be geared for takeout.

He’s currently fine-tuning his selection of chao (rice porridge) dishes, and if you ever came to our tablehopper Jook Joint pop-up a few years back, then a few of the dishes will seem happily familiar, like duck confit chao; forbidden rice chao topped with rock shrimp, crispy dry shrimp, XO-roasted Dirty Girl tomatoes, and uni butter; and a vegetarian pea leaf and cilantro chao (all subject to change)—and you can get a fried cruller to dip inside your porridge. Additional breakfast/brunch dishes include the ốp la egg plate with lap cheong sausage, housemade pâté, giò (Vietnamese bologna), and baguette.

Lam’s lineup of bánh mì is where his French training will really be apparent, since he’s making all the charcuterie himself, from the tête de cochon to the pâté in the classic Saigon bánh mì. His version of a chả cá thăng long bánh mì will have turmeric beer-battered black cod, with housemade mayo and a flurry of herbs. And anyone who has ever had Lam’s French dip at Butterfly will recognize this bánh mì, with thinly sliced, five-spice roast beef, which you’ll dunk into a fragrant phở au jus. There will also be some garlic noodles, and a classic yet upgraded #1 dac biet noodle bowl with lemongrass chicken, caramel shrimp, fried pork, a duck spring roll, and some incredible orange-yolked eggs.

There will be some unique drinks, like cold peanut milk with a salty duck egg crema, and a dulce de leche iced coffee, plus a coconut and sinh to (pineapple) milkshake, blended with fresh coconut, yogurt, and passion fruit.

I’ll keep you posted on the launch and hours, which is looking like mid- to late September for now. 225 Clement St. at 4th Ave.

Permanent Closures Include Ton Kiang, Farallon, The Riddler, and More, Plus the Temporary Closure of Jersey and Mama Oakland


The exterior of Ton Kiang will be going dark forever at the end of August. Yelp photo by Andrew D.


Farallon dining room.


Maize’wich with catira (chicken, sofrito, cheddar). Photo: ©


There will be all kinds of pop at The Riddler. Photo: Kassie Borreson.

What the heck, the last couple weeks have been rough—we have some pretty big closures happening, and one of the biggest heartbreaks for many is TON KIANG, which is throwing in the towel after more than 40 years of serving so many faithful regulars their dim sum and Hakka-style dishes. I remember being so excited when Joyce Goldstein took me there for my first time, back in 2008 (according to my calendar). I had friends and readers sending me pics of Ton Kiang’s farewell sign, and according to the piece in the Chronicle, owner Richard Wong was thinking about retiring soon, and the pandemic just sped his decision up to close (although in this piece by Eater, he mentions he may want to reopen in a couple years if he gets bored with retirement—you gotta love restaurant folks, they just can’t quit). They have been offering takeout and delivery, and will continue to do so this final week, so it’s your last chance for their salt-baked chicken until they close after service on Sunday August 30th. 5821 Geary Blvd. at 22nd Ave.

Another SF classic that has closed permanently is FARALLON, after 23 years in Union Square. The underwater nautical fantasy was another one of Pat Kuleto’s whimsical, transportive designs, and chef-owner Mark Franz provided an elegant seafood experience for guests that was memorable and celebratory—so many special occasions have been held there! (Although the bar always had a fun scene of regulars, and the Oyster Bar had a great happy hour if you were downtown.) SFGate reported employees received an email about the closure. So many folks have worked at Farallon over the years…and I know a number of people want the jellyfish lights for a memento. Thanks for all the Champagne wishes and caviar dreams over the years! 450 Post St. at Powell.

Just a few days ago, owner Jen Pelka of THE RIDDLER in Hayes Valley announced on Instagram that she has made the hard decision to close her beloved Champagne bar, as well as the West Village location in New York. The current situation is just too tough for the business to survive, it’s truly impossible. While they have already sold through their Champagne inventory, in the fall, they will be auctioning off their tables, gorg vintage Champagne buckets, furniture, art, and lighting. Thank you for the celebratory memories (and Chambong moments!). 528 Laguna St. at Linden.

Some unfortunate closures in the Mission include PICA PICA AREPA KITCHEN, the Venezuelan restaurant on Valencia that has been making gluten-free folks especially happy with their stuffed arepas for the past 10 years. Owner Adriana López Vermut talks to SFGate about how the pandemic and subsequent loss of catering business for tech companies has drastically impacted her business, and she shares how her team helped cook 30,000 meals for the unhoused during shelter in place through money they raised (and were therefore able to retain 17 employees). She also posted a link to a personal note on her website. Best wishes to Adriana and her team, the last day is Sunday August 30th. 401 Valencia St. at 15th St.

And just down the street, THE LITTLE CHIHUAHUA announced they are closing their Valencia Street location after eight years—they just closed this past Sunday August 23rd. Owner Andrew Johnstone mentions in the post the other locations that remain open: “Our OG location on Divisidero in Lower Haight (it turns 13 in October), 24th Street in Noe Valley and Polk Gulch on Polk Street and California. Fear not, you can still get your favorite burritos delivered via our website if you’re jonesin’ in the Mission. You can also order online for pickup at any of our restaurants.” 581 Valencia St. at 17th St.

I was sorry to read this letter from neighborhood market DOUGLAS in Noe Valley that “After extensive negotiations, we’ve been unable to find a sustainable arrangement with our landlord that would allow us to weather current conditions and make investments for the longer term.” Owners Maggie Spicer and Michael Molesky plan to vacate at the end of August, and are looking for a new location nearby. In the meantime, they are expanding their supportive restaurant meal pickup program (BENNE) to Biondivino and 18 Reasons. 1598 Sanchez St. at 29th St.

Many restaurants are choosing to hibernate and try to weather the current horrific conditions, and sadly one of my favorite pizza places, JERSEY, has had to temporarily close. A note on their site says: “Jersey is temporarily closed. Unfortunately, we are unable to continue without the aid of a stimulus bill. We anxiously await a decision from the government, and will re-open as soon as one is passed. We sincerely thank all of you for your support, and hope to be back soon. Until then, take care.” You hear that, federal government? Get your act together! Please tell Congress to pass the Restaurants Act here.

Over in Oakland, owners Stevie Stacionis and Josiah Baldivino of MAMA OAKLAND have come to the same conclusion, ending their #sandwichinplace service this week and are closing up indefinitely in an effort to save resources and keep everyone on their team healthy. It’s a tough post to read. Fortunately, you can still support them at Bay Grape, but man, it just keeps getting worse out there.


the sponsor

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

(Sponsored Webinar): How Restaurants Pivot to Survive Wildfires and COVID-19 on Monday August 31st

Next Monday, August 31st at 2pm, Choco, the leading app for restaurants to order from vendors in San Francisco, will host a roundtable webinar discussion to discuss how restaurants can survive the many challenges of 2020. Among the topics to be discussed: the ongoing wildfire season and its effects on outdoor dining; COVID-19 and employee safety; new marketing/PR tactics to make sure you’re reaching the right customers; and shifting business models in the restaurant industry.

Hear from Oscar Cabezas, executive chef at Telefèric Barcelona, and Joan Simon, restaurant consultant at Full Plate Consulting, who bring a combined 25-plus years of experience in hospitality to the table. Laurie Thomas, executive director of the GGRA, will also be joining.

The Choco app is used by top Bay Area restaurants like China Live, Teleferic Barcelona, One Market, Amber India, and Sorrel to consolidate their vendor orders.

Register for the webinar here.

We hope to see you there!

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