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Mar 22, 2021 16 min read

March 23, 2021 - This week's tablehopper: spring things.

March 23, 2021 - This week's tablehopper: spring things.
Table of Contents

This week's tablehopper: spring things.                    

Yup, another pic of Fortuna. Ha-ha! But seriously, nothing was as cute as Miss Von Chonk giving me a look to hurry up and finish this column so we can get back to mouse fishing. Photo: ©

Hello, friends. I hope you have been hanging in there after a really rough week of news—the horrific violence has really been a lot to process. Sending love and solidarity and continued support to our beloved AAPI community. I will continue to post resources, fundraisers, and organizations to support on my social media accounts with ways to help and show up—feel free to tag me on anything that could use some boost. Please look out for each other and take good care.

Spring is here, and San Francisco has moved into the orange tier this Wednesday March 24th. Starting at 8am tomorrow, SF will allow indoor dining to resume at 50 percent capacity (not to exceed 200), and tables will be limited to six guests (from three households max). Also: bars, breweries, wineries, and distilleries that don’t serve food can open for outdoor, seated table service. This post from the GGRA has additional guidelines; stand by for more from the City. We keep getting closer to me not needing to play I Miss My Bar.

Since the SkyStar Wheel is back in action in Golden Gate Park, I wanted to point you to this piece I wrote: Seven Neighborhood Spots Where You Can Grab a Tasty Bite Nearby. Whether you’re picking up a sandwich before your ride, or a glass of wine and a bite with your date after, I have some ideas for you.

Some bright news: the ad hoc Save The Cliff House Collection team managed to raise enough money to save a number of historic Cliff House pieces and memorabilia from being bought by private collectors at an auction a couple weeks ago, so the public can enjoy them in the future! Huzzah! Read more in this KQED piece.

A big “merci!” to the previous issue’s sponsor, Smiirl, who gave away three of their clever social media Counters to SF businesses. They want to celebrate the reopening of our favorite food businesses in the Bay Area by offering tablehopper followers a nice coupon code: use code TABLEHOPPER at to get 20 percent off your own Counter!

This week’s sponsor is something you can eat and share! Check out the Family Meal giveaway from Cassava, designed for you to invite a couple friends to enjoy a three-course meal with you, in person or virtually, with pairings! Tag your friends to enter to win the feast!

I also want to do a mention of the most charming, heartfelt film I just watched last week: The Truffle Hunters. Take a trip to the forests of Piemonte, where you will meet the most eccentric characters, and witness their unique relationships with their beloved hunting dogs. The cinematography and original music are so beautiful, and there are a number of things to meditate on while watching: man’s relationship to nature, greed, aging, and the magic of dogs and animal companions. It’s a wonderful escape into a rarely seen world. It opens March 26th at Embarcadero Center Cinema in San Francisco and AMC Saratoga 14.

So you know that canna-culinary TV show I went to the desert to go work on for a week as a cannabis consultant? Well, the cat is outta the bag: the show is Chopped 420, debuting on Discovery Plus on 4/20! And there’s some Bay Area talent appearing on the show! Can’t wait to watch it. Maybe you’ll see me with my clipboard, LOL.

Can you believe it’s already the end of March? I’m starting to post some Passover and Easter options on my Instagram Highlights in case you’re looking for matzo and colomba di Pasqua and other holiday treats.

Hop hop. Marcia Gagliardi

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)

Openings Include Californios, Ernest in the Mission, Red Window, Hoi An on Polk


Chef-owner Val M. Cantu in the open kitchen (and dining counter) at Californios on 22nd Street. Photo: Jim Sullivan.


A selection of dishes at the newly opened Ernest. Photo via Facebook.


A look at the upstairs dining room at Ernest. Photo via Ernest’s Facebook page.


Red Window’s Manzana verde 50/50. Instagram photo via @redwindowsf.


Outdoor seating at the new Hoi An on Polk Street. Photo: Hoi An.

Here’s a super-quiet hot tip for you: chef-owner Val Cantu has softly opened reservations in April for the new SoMa location of his Michelin-starred restaurant, CALIFORNIOS. They are just serving on the former Bar Agricole’s heated and updated outdoor patio for now, but it’s still a white tablecloth experience, with a two-hour tasting menu ($223) and wine pairings from Charlotte Randolph (and candlelight). I will be running a full feature in the next tablehopper about this latest iteration of Val’s menu and concept and more, but wanted to give you a heads up about reservations now so you can snag them! Open Tue-Sat 5pm-9pm. 355 11th St. at Harrison.

Congrats to chef-owner Brandon Rice of ERNEST, who has been running his new restaurant concept as a pop-up during the pandemic, and has now opened his first brick-and-mortar restaurant in the former Coffee Bar space in the Mission.

He was previously chef de cuisine of Rich Table, and his market-driven menu continues with a freestyle global style, reflecting his love of Asian ingredients and his Southern upbringing, including beef tartare with sushi rice, ikura, and toasted nori; lo mein sea urchin “carbonara” with Olivier’s bacon; and BBQ short rib, salt and pepper onion rings, and serranos. There are also a couple large-format dishes to share, like Liberty Farms duck with ginger-scallion sauce and confit salad. Save a little room for the Basque cheesecake, he’s the one who really started the trend locally. The entire menu looks so appetizing, and there are cocktails to enjoy as well.

Limited indoor seating is available in the two-level space (by architect Charles Hemminger), plus outdoor seating on the sidewalk and patio; takeout has been suspended for now. Open for dinner Wed-Sun. 1890 Bryant St. at Mariposa.

Back in December, I wrote about RED WINDOW, the modern Spanish aperitivo/tapas spot opening in North Beach in the former Caffe Delucchi. It’s from Adam Rosenblum (Causwells) and Elmer Mejicanos (Tony’s, Capo’s), and opening this Friday March 26th! 500 Columbus Ave. at Stockton.

Newly open on Polk Street is HOI AN, a new Vietnamese restaurant from the family behind the former Green Papaya at the Fifth and Mission Garage, which closed after 10 years of business last year (perhaps you read the infuriating story about how the landlord, the City (!), expected owner Thai Van to start paying rent in July, when the majority of his business was contingent upon convention-goers at nearby (and extremely closed) Moscone Center. [head shaking]

At least there is a silver lining to all this: the family has opened this new location in the former Ella’s American Kitchen/Rangoon Ruby Burmese Cuisine on Polk in Nob Hill—it has a spacious and updated interior, with lots of rustic wood, contemporary chairs, and a bar where you can dine solo (take a peek at all the pics on their site). The menu includes pho and bun bo Hue to warm you up, with a variety of entrées, ranging from lemongrass beef (or chicken) to yellow curry to caramelized clay pot fish (they also offer vegetarian and vegan versions of some of their dishes). Hoi An (which is named after a city on Vietnam’s central coast) just opened for outdoor dining, limited indoor seating, and takeout. Open Mon-Thu 11am-8pm and Fri-Sun 11am-9pm. 1608 Polk St. at Sacramento.

Coming Soon: The Tailor's Son on Fillmore, Luna on Valencia


The classic Elite Cafe sign. Photo: Molly DeCoudreaux Photography (via Facebook).


Luna Park on Valencia. Yelp photo by Andrew K.

Due to open at the end of March is THE TAILOR’S SON, the latest restaurant from Adriano Paganini’s Back of the House restaurant group, which is opening in the former Elite Cafe. Hoodline mentions Paganini (the son of a tailor) will be paying a salute to his Lombardian roots with risotto on the menu, along with antipasti, housemade pasta, and fish dishes that will have lighter presentations, overseen by A Mano chef Freedom Rains. There will also be Italian cocktails, wine, and beer. There have been some big interior changes, including the removal of the original booths, and a skylight has been revealed; look for a Shared Space to be coming soon out front. The Chronicle mentions it’s opening Wednesday March 31st. Hours will be Sun and Tue-Thu 5pm-10pm and Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm. 2049 Fillmore St. at California.

The former and long-vacant Luna Park space on Valenica is becoming LUNA AMERICAN BRASSIE (the name is a nod to its history) from partners of Wayfare Tavern (including Tony Marcell). The menu will continue with some comfort classics (burgers, mac and cheese) but the Mission Local piece also mentions “buttermilk-fried burrata and a forest mushroom bolognese with pappardelle pasta.” Look for a June opening. 694 Valencia St. at 18th St.

First Taste of Matt Horn's New Burger Pop-Up: Matty's Old-Fashioned


The new Matty’s Old-Fashioned burger from Matt Horn of Horn Barbecue. Photo: ©


Bring on the caramelized onions. Photo: ©

Chef-owner Matt Horn of Horn Barbecue can’t stop, won’t stop. Just this past Saturday, he held his first pop-up for MATTY’S OLD-FASHIONED, his new burger concept that is percolating—no news on the when and where just yet (although this SFGATE piece mentions Fresno is a possible location). It will be a pop-up at Horn Barbecue for now, selling limited tickets in advance on Tock (this last Saturday released 100 spots). Be sure to follow @mattyburgers for updates on the next date.

I have been mad craving a burger for a couple weeks, and this one definitely hit the spot. It was a double, with two rich, textured, savory patties (there’s brisket in the proprietary blend of dry-aged beef from Cream Co. Meats, of course) that are cooked through, topped with a hefty pile of deeply caramelized onions, cheese (there were a couple variations, they’re still fiddling with it), and a tangy secret sauce that has some smoked honey and roasted garlic in it, with a little pickle relish in the mix. It’s all nestled in a griddled potato bun that holds up well—it’s a saucy, drippy, cheesy burger, so you’ll need a handful of napkins at the ready. It’s the kind of burger you need to eat immediately because of the way everything melds together—you want to eat it while it’s all juicy-melty. Fortunately, the back patio is right there waiting for you.

I asked Matt if this was a spin on an Oklahoma burger, known for its onions, but he said it was inspired by the burger his Dad would make for him when he was a kid. It was fun to see everyone hanging out on the back patio at the picnic tables, with the music going, and the beer flowing (they just got their beer and wine license)—it’s always a friends-and-family affair at Horn. 2534 Mandela Parkway at 26th St., Oakland.

Expansions: The Bird Hayes Valley, Red Bay Coffee to Ferry Building


The Bird is now open in Hayes Valley. Photo courtesy of Back of the House.

There’s a second location of THE BIRD now open in Hayes Valley (in the former Dobbs Ferry space), its second SF location. On the menu: their free-range, fried chicken sandwiches, biscuits, and wings, along with salads, curly fries, and apple fritters. You can also drink canned beer, cider, seltzer, and wine, along with a list of highball cocktails and draft beer, both new additions specific to this location. There are a few outdoor tables and indoor seats; a larger outdoor Shared Space is coming soon. Also in the works: a sports bar and lounge coming to the other connected side of the space. Open daily 10:30am-8:30pm. 406 Hayes St. at Gough.

Bay Area coffee roaster, RED BAY COFFEE, is opening a flagship café in the Ferry Building Marketplace this April, just next to Book Passage. “Founded in 2014 by artist and food entrepreneur, Keba Konte, Red Bay Coffee is at the forefront of the ‘fourth wave’ of coffee, with a commitment to ensuring production is not only high quality and sustainable, but a vehicle for diversity, inclusion, social and economic restoration, entrepreneurship, and environmental sustainability.” Beautiful coffee to the people! They’ll offer fresh-roasted coffee beans, specialty drinks (like a Vietnamese Cold Brew), and fresh pastries.

Updates: Causwells Has Cocktails, TASTE 2021 from Root Division, Dandelion Chocolate, Laptop Robberies


The Brown Derby, on the new cocktail list at Causwells. Photo: Causwells.


Just so you know, CAUSWELLS in the Marina now has a full liquor license, and lead bartender Ronnie Lopez—along with friend and consultant Elmer Mejicanos—created a new cocktail menu with nine cocktails, offering a little something for everyone, priced $11-$13. 2346 Chestnut St. at Scott.

This year, Root Division’s spring fundraising event, TASTE 2021: SIP+SENSE will be on Thursday April 22nd! This year, it will be a hybrid virtual event, with virtual studio visits, a menu of interactive activities and performances, a sensory experience of food and drink, a silent auction full of art, products, and gift certificates from over 80 local artists and businesses, and more! All proceeds benefit local artists, free art classes for Bay Area youth, and the continued success of Root Division’s unique model for keeping artists working in the heart of San Francisco. Tickets are available at many different levels.

Mission Local has an update that Dandelion Chocolate’s employees are trying to unionize in response to working conditions, wage issues, and more.

Just to give you a heads up, there are reports of laptop robberies happening along Polk Street in Russian Hill. According to posts on Nextdoor, laptops have reportedly been snatched recently from folks sitting outside Split, Saint Frank Coffee, and Nook, in broad daylight. Stay vigilant, folks, and keep the laptop at home.

Some Takeout Tips and Treasures for You


Nasi campur Bali from Kirimachi’s new Warung Indo menu. Photo: ©


Try the gudeg from Kirimachi and you’ll get a variety of savory stewed dishes over rice. Photo: ©


The obe ata dindin (fried pepper Yoruba stew) with grilled chicken and rice from Eko Kitchen. Photo: ©

Are you in a takeout rut? Time for you to expand your repertoire with some takeout from a couple chefs who are cooking flavors and dishes from home. Those of you who follow me on Instagram have probably seen my pics of the ramen kits from KIRIMACHI over the past year. It ends up chef-owner Leo Gondoputro, who is from Jakarta, has been adding some Indonesian dishes to his menu every week (scroll down until you see Warung Indo)—you need to place your order by Thursday (6:30pm) and then you can pick it up or have it delivered starting Friday afternoon (3pm).

Leo makes a flavor-packed, complex, and spicy beef rendang, a slow-cooked beef stew served with rice, which will warm you right up. You can try gudeg, which comes with a variety of homey, stewy dishes from Yogyakarta that you eat over rice: jackfruit and egg in coconut cream; beef, tofu, and nuts in chile sauce (sambal goreng); and chicken in creamy coconut sauce. So satisfying—love the richness of the coconut! His oxtail soup (sop buntut) is also rustic and comforting, with quality oxtail that he sources and gently falls off the bone, tender pieces of carrot and potato in broth, all so good with a spoonful of rice and fried shallots.

And then there’s the nasi campur Bali, my favorite of the bunch, featuring little pieces of pork belly cooked in Balinese seasoning, with egg balado (a boiled egg) in chile sauce, lawar vegetables (including green beans and sprouts), a couple small pieces of Indo fried chicken, sambal matah (an incredible shallot and chile accompaniment), and chile sauce, with chicharrones on top! It’s quite the savory and textured spread. Most of these dishes are just enough for two people, or great for dinner and then lunch the next day—they’re hearty portions. Everything mentioned here was $18 (except the oxtail soup is $25). Spend $50 or more and delivery is free to SF, SSF, and Daly City. 3 Embarcadero Center (at Clay and Davis Streets).

One of the best deals in town can be found at EKO KITCHEN, the Nigerian pop-up from Simileoluwa Adebajo, whose commercial kitchen space was destroyed in a fire last year, and she has been popping up on Sundays at Merkado in SoMa. She just expanded her service to Fri-Sun 4pm-8pm, and you can do takeout or delivery; preorders are recommended. Don’t miss the obe ata dindin (fried pepper Yoruba stew), so delicious with juicy grilled chicken (you can choose your protein). It’s a huge portion (chef Simi says, “I want it to be like your grandma stuffed you!”) for $10 with rice; I totally had another serving for lunch the next day. The spicy, rich sauce is so deep and complex, and I learned the Cameroon smoked black pepper is what gives it its special bass note (the peppers and onions are also roasted for three-four hours).

Her jollof rice and peppered chicken is another popular dish. For the advanced class, try her grandma’s asun ($20): smoked goat meat in another deeeeeply flavorful sauce with red pepper and onion (so good with the plantains and sweet potatoes). The skin and bones could be a bit, er, challenging if you’re a little squeamish, but the rich flavors were a win for this goat-lover. (Live in LA? Eko Kitchen is going to be launching a monthly pop-up offering takeout and delivery in early April!) 130 Townsend St. at 2nd St.

Closures Include Cowgirl Creamery at the Ferry Building Marketplace, Cosecha in Old Oakland


The Ferry Building. Photo courtesy of Ferry Building Marketplace.

THE COWGIRL CREAMERY CHEESE SHOP and SIDEKICK CAFE, one of the original tenants in the Ferry Building Marketplace, has announced it’s closing: Sidekick will close on March 27th, and the cheese shop on April 10th. Unfortunately, the pandemic obviously created a sharp decline in foot traffic, and forced them to make the difficult decision to close. You can still pick up their cheeses at Epicurean Trader in the Marketplace, and many cheese retailers around the city. Cowgirl Creamery’s Point Reyes Station location remains open.

Over in Old Oakland, chef-owner Dominica Rice-Cisneros is closing COSECHA CAFE after 10 years of serving her incredible dishes at Swan’s Market. Nosh reports her lease was ending, and with the greatly diminished foot traffic, it’s best for her to close and focus on her upcoming project in the Dimond, Bombera, which will open its garden patio by April 27th at 3455 Champion St. (Thank goodness, because I can’t imagine not having her pozole anymore!). Cosecha will be open this week Thu-Sat for a final farewell/hasta luego (there will be duck carnitas!). 907 Washington St. at 9th St., Oakland.


the lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)

Meet Buddy Bar & Cafe, Taking Over the Former Californios on 22nd St.


Meet your Buddy team: Claire Sprouse, Nicolas Torres, Alvaro Rojas, and Nora Furst. Photo: Equal Parts Media.

A while back, I heard some local bar talent was potentially taking over the original Californios location on 22nd Street in the Mission (which has reopened in the former Bar Agricole in SoMa), and now it’s time to release some exciting details about the upcoming BUDDY BAR & CAFE. The partners are Nora Furst (Uma Casa, West Beverage Consulting), Nicolas Torres (True Laurel), Alvaro Rojas (Elda), and Claire Sprouse (Hunky Dory). How’s that for a dream team of talent?

They’re doing some light remodeling of the space, but it was pretty fabulous already (I was always ready to just move in). As the team wrote in an email to me: “Buddy aims to be a cosmopolitan destination, while also being a casual, neighborhood haunt. A perfect place for that quiet morning coffee, a late lunch, or lively happy hour with friends, and especially a delicious dinner or nitecap. Most importantly, Buddy is a community hub—a ‘third place’ where our guests can interact, unwind, and find inspiration.”

The team is very focused on fostering a familiar and friendly vibe, creating a comfortable environment highlighting their special mix of polished and inviting service, charming design, unique cuisine, and a dynamic beverage program at accessible prices. There will be a lot of details and fuss behind the scenes—but the guest experience will be about ease and lack of pretension. I will keep you posted as this develops, but for now, you can follow them at @buddythebar for updates. 3115 22nd St. at Capp.

the sugar mama

Giveaways (get some)

(Sponsored Giveaway): Enter to Win Two Family Meals + Pairings by Cassava: Feast With Your Friends!


Enter to win two Family Meals by Cassava, a three-course feast ready to reheat at home for you and your friends. Since each Family Meal serves two, you can set up a Zoom with two friends or family you miss dining with and enjoy a virtual dinner together! And each Family Meal comes with a wine-and-sake pairing in this giveaway!

Cassava is a neighborhood restaurant in Outer Richmond, beloved since 2012 for its seasonally driven, modern California cooking. During the COVID shutdown, Cassava came up with an innovative way to offer this three-course experience they’ve served throughout the years to be enjoyed safely and comfortably at home (for pickup or delivery). The menu changes each week, with dishes like Rancho Llano Seco porchetta, duck leg confit, and slow-braised lamb cheeks, all for $60 for two (the wine-and-sake pairing for two is $55).

To enter to win two Family Meals with pairings, visit this post on Instagram.

One lucky (and hopefully hungry!) winner will be randomly chosen on Tuesday March 30th, 2021, at 10am PT. Good luck!

NOTE: to redeem the offer, the winner will coordinate with Cassava to arrange the pickup date (the offer is not available for delivery). Since this is a set-menu experience, the menu is not suitable for guests with no-dairy, vegetarian, or vegan dietary preferences and restrictions. If the allergy is not life-threatening, the restaurant can accommodate gluten-free and nut-free versions of the feast. The menu rotates weekly and you are able to learn the menu about a week in advance. This offer cannot be redeemed for cash, or for other items, or used with another promotional offer or gift certificate. Total value: $230.

the starlet

Star Sightings in Restaurants (no photos please)

Right Hook on Some Surf and Turf

Would you look at that? Indoor dining returns and we get a starlet sighting. UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov dined at JOHN’S GRILL a week ago during a visit to San Francisco. He dined on prawn dijonnaise and clam chowder.

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