Island-hopping in Croatia and caftans go hand-in-hand. Photo: Thao Tran.
Hello, friends! I’m back from three glorious weeks in Croatia and a month away from writing the newsletter. Ahhhhhh. It was deeply restorative to step away from the grind and my overflowing inboxes and DMs and the always bullshit foggy/windy SF July and have such a stunning change of scene. Croatia is incredibly gorgeous—I swam (and floated) in the Adriatic almost every single day of my trip; enjoyed exploring a new culture, language, and cuisine, plus new-to-me wine varieties; dug deep into lots of history; made new friends; walked many back streets and beach trails; took time out for sunsets; and had a blast island-hopping for a week on a glamorous gulet for my friend Matt’s 50th birthday (big wow). It all feels like such a dream. I was posting tons of photos on Instagram and Facebook, so whether you’re planning a trip to Croatia or could use some armchair travel, take a look.
Tremendous thanks to all of you who supported my garage sales before I left—you helped make this trip happen and totally rock. Croatia was delightfully affordable compared to SF—hell, most places are—so I was able to really enjoy some special meals, excursions, and experiences. $6 for a glass of locally made brut nature sparkling wine? You’re speaking my language, Croatia.
A bunch of you have been personally asking me about Croatia: what it was like traveling there, is it safe, where to go, and where I stayed. I’m currently writing up a piece about my trip for my next newsletter, stand by.
But the truly exciting way to learn about my trip is going to be in my upcoming lifestyle show, Caftaniamo! (Yes, it’s a verb!) I’m launching a monthly online show, covering what’s rocking my world, from new restaurants to can’t-miss dishes and drinks, travel stories, my favorite cannabis products, parties, and creative people. The first episode will be all about Croatia, and folks who purchase the all-access pass will get exclusive perks and insider info. I can’t wait to tell you more—stand by for an update with details about the launch VERY soon. You can also start following @caftaniamo on Instagram for updates.
While this was a trip of a lifetime, especially after the past sixteen months we’ve had, it wasn’t all cerulean water and azure skies. Traveling during a pandemic had its own challenges and emotions and concerns, and finding out my parents contracted Covid via a breakthrough infection while I was 7,000 miles away was definitely a low point. Thank goddess, they’re doing well and on the mend, but it was shocking (they’re vaccinated). I go into it more in this recent post on Instagram/FB—I hope you have a chance to read it because it’s a cautionary tale about how vulnerable we still are, even if we’re vaccinated. Be careful, sweeties.
It has been downright depressing to return home and see a local spike of Covid cases, hear of numerous breakthrough infections, and watch restaurants and bars temporarily closing due to infections and exposure scares—what a tough and scary time to be working in the industry (again). Even with some restaurants and bars requiring proof of vaccination for indoor service, vaccinated folks are still at risk of getting sick from this highly infectious Delta variant. With this all hitting way too close to home for me, I am currently not dining or drinking inside restaurants and bars. The freedom was so fun while it lasted. But until numbers go down, I won’t be promoting events on tablehopper since I don’t feel very safe doing any of it myself. Sending well wishes to all.
Instead, I’ve been catching up on QT with Fortuna and all the shows I didn’t have time to watch before I left town: Hacks (I binged that way too fast), Mare of Easttown (OMG Kate Winslet, what a helluva actress), and The White Lotus (talk about a pressure cooker). I’m starting Veneno this week, but would love to hear of any of your faves since it looks like I’m going to be spending my evenings at home for a bit.
But here’s one party where I hope you’ll join me, and you don’t even have to show your vaccination card! It’s the Bay Area News Party Facebook Group! tablehopper is joining other independent publications (like Broke-Ass Stuart, 48 Hills, and Funcheap SF) to make sure you stay connected to real, independent local news, events, and more.
Yes, Facebook is evil (for many reasons), and their algorithm hides most of tablehopper’s posts and stories unless I pay them, but it’s still where people get a lot of their news and updates. With this group, you can more easily see what’s happening and read stories from small, hyperlocal, diverse publications with great content. Check it out here. You’ll need to be signed into your Facebook account, and ask to join. (It’s a private group so we can weed out the trolls.) We’ll approve your request, and you can see what it’s like. We’re growing every day and appreciate your support. Join the partay!
I know everything feels majorly sucky right now, but try to enjoy the sun this week, it always helps. Get outside for a walk. I wish you could come over and pet Fortuna, the snuggle monster always wants more! I’m currently leash/harness-training her, so I have a lot of entertainment at the moment.
Real talk: check in with friends and family (or a professional) if you’re having a hard time (or know someone who is struggling)—we’re in another challenging and extremely disheartening moment. So many unknowns and worries and questions and fears. Things are not “fine.” But we’ll get through it if we look out for each other. Sending big hugs and love.
Missed you! ~Marcia
Quick heads up that RESTAURANT NISEI is planning to open in their brand-new Russian Hill location (previously La Folie) on August 18th, and they have released reservations to try their 12-course tasting menu ($157) that explores Japanese, homestyle, washoku cuisine with California seasonality and ingredients. Stand by for more details in my next newsletter, but if you ever went to chef David Yoshimura’s Oji pop-up, you’ll be excited to book a meal. Vaccinated guests only. Open Wed-Sun 5pm-9pm. 2316 Polk St. at Green.
According to a tweet from supervisor Matt Haney, the historic CATHAY HOUSE in Chinatown is now softly open from owners Jaynry Mak and Eric Chung, who opened DIM SUM CORNER on the ground floor back in 2019. Cathay House is reportedly starting with dim sum service—since Dim Sum Corner uses recipes developed by Koi Palace, and some of the items, like the dumplings, are actually supplied by Koi Palace’s commercial kitchen, it makes me wonder if it will be the same story for Cathay House (one can only hope!). I reached out for more info and will update you when I hear back. Haney mentions, “It’ll be a daytime and nighttime food venue, banquet hall and bar.” I look forward to seeing the vintage round bar and lounge back in action. 718 California St. at Grant.
Just a few days ago, I visited Tony Gemignani’s Toscano Brothers Bakery (and Dago Bagel) in North Beach to check out his latest addition to the lineup: ANTONIO’S ITALIAN PASTRIES. He’s collaborating with the talented pastry chef Lisa Lu, who has been a regular in the neighborhood for years, and is head pastry chef. She brings her extensive pedigree (Boulevard, Michael Mina, Jardinière, and Quince) and well-honed skills, adding a number of fun and delicious Italian-inspired treats to the bakery case.
You can’t miss the Italian rainbow cookie (get more than one, trust me), with fragrant almond cake, raspberry jam, and chocolate, and there’s also a spumoni shortbread cookie, with vanilla and little panes of Italian candied cherry and pistachio. They have two versions of sfogliatella: with an apricot-lemon-mascarpone filling (using old-school squeeze-pit Blenheims) and nocciolata (an organic cocoa and hazelnut spread). While I will continue to pine for the lightly orange-scented and ricotta-filled sfogliatella from my favorite pasticceria in Rende (Calabria), these were tasty, with a great textural contrast between the filling and layers of pastry.
There are filled-to-order cannoli (dipped in pistachio, chocolate chip, or rainbow sprinkles)—be sure to eat them soon after ordering them—and you’ll find a lovely seasonal tart with perfect vanilla custard and fresh fruit. Don’t skip Tony’s favorite, the budino: butterscotch and toffee pudding with Johnnie Walker Red Scotch, with flaky chocolate crunch, olive oil ganache, and topped with Chantilly cream, a really special treat full of layers of flavor for just $6. Open Thu-Sun 8am-3pm. 728 Vallejo St. at Stockton.
There’s a new coffee pop-up in the La Cocina Municipal Marketplace called FLUID COOPERATIVE CAFE, from a trio of trans founders: Shannon Amitin, JoJo Ty, and Santana Tapia. They’re serving coffee from queer-owned roasters, plus some speciality drinks, along with pastry pairings from La Cocina entrepreneurs. (This project makes me so happy to be a San Franciscan.) Be sure to read this in-depth piece from Peter-Astrid Kane on SFGATE about this trailblazing project. Can’t wait to swing by for a cuppa. Open Mon-Fri 8am-2:30pm (enter through the 332 Golden Gate Ave. door).
After a pandemic season of changes, from running their takeout window to collaborative meals like Lord Jiu’s, LORD STANLEY’s husband-and-wife owners and chefs Rupert and Carrie Blease are transforming the restaurant into Turntable at Lord Stanley this fall. They are going to host world-renowned and up-and-coming chefs to collaborate, try out new concepts, or simply cook for a new audience—chefs can be in residence for up to two months at a time, and the Bleases will take them to local farmers’ markets and provide housing. They’re partnering with Michael Goldman, founder of TasteMakers, known for facilitating culinary collaborations and events, including Chefs Club in New York, Aspen, and Taipei.
First up, starting September 7th is Narda Lepes of Narda Comedor, an Argentinian chef, entrepreneur, media personality, food activist, and author who was named “Latin America’s Best Female Chef” by the World’s 50 Best list in 2020. Lepes is bringing with her three other outstanding female Argentinian chefs who will each spend about a month showcasing their menus in the Turntable space between September and the end of November, including Micaela Najmanovich, owner of restaurant Anafe, and chef Mercedes “Mecha” Solís of Café San Juan. Saturday, September 4th will be the final service of Lord Stanley as it has existed for the last six years. Cheers to this new chapter and thanks to the Bleases.
Chef Michael Mina is closing his namesake restaurant and this September is launching ESTIATORIO ORNOS A MICHAEL MINA RESTAURANT in its place, a Greek, seafood-centric restaurant with Las Vegas chefs Girair “Jerry” Goumroian (Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare, Restaurant Guy Savoy and RM Seafood) and Nikolaos Georgousis (Estiatorio Milos). Mina already opened Estiatorio Ornos in Miami in 2020, and the “fish sommelier” role is coming over to this location as well. The transformation of 252 California will feel like a return to the space’s AQUA days, with a vibrant bar, coastal aesthetic, and Grecian color palette.
The shareable, seafood-centric menu will include dishes like Mediterranean sea bass ceviche with lemon citronette; ouzo prawns in a spicy tomato sauce with dill and feta; and an array of fish on the cart, from sea bream to wild branzino. There will also be roasted lemon chicken with Cretan potatoes, grilled Colorado lamb chops with oregano vinaigrette, and a “spread cart” showcasing dips such as tzatziki, melitzanosalata (roasted eggplant), and tirokafteri (whipped feta). The cocktail menu and wine list will also reflect the new direction. 252 California St. at Battery (just four blocks away from Kokkari).
Over in the Tenderloin, Fritz Quattlebaum has relaunched the BLACK CAT jazz club and restaurant, with a new team, menu, beverage program, and artist programming, now featuring multi-week residencies (the current lineup features jazz trumpeters Theo Croker, Maurice “Mobetta” Brown, and Keyon Harrold). I have always had a blast visiting the club, and am happy to see it return.
You can look at chef Yainiel Negrón’s menu here (previously at Commonwealth and the Proper Hotel), and sommelier/AGM Eric Forbes (previously Foreign Cinema) has assembled quite the grower-producer and vintage Champagne list. Craft cocktails are from Jason Moser (Villon and the Proper Hotel, Forgery, and Ne Timeas Restaurant Group), clocking in at $18 each, so don’t forget your plastic. There’s also the upstairs dining room and bar, featuring nightly DJs spinning vinyl. Proof of vaccination required for entry.
Back in June, I mentioned LINDEN & LAGUNA was taking over the former The Riddler, and it’s now softly open. Owner Chris Nickolopoulos (of Maritime Wine Trading Collective, a boutique wine import, production, and distribution company based in San Francisco) has updated the space which feels a bit more masculine, but is still cozy and neighborhood-y. There are tables inside and out front.
The wine list features independent, family-produced wines, with a few well-known local beers on draught. He tapped Pesha Perlsweig to consult on the extensive menu, which includes seasonal, Californian, and Mediterranean dishes, like sherried wild mushroom and fresh mozzarella flatbread with lemon-thyme oil; brandade gratinée toast with arugula and pickled shallot salad; Marin Miyagi oysters with mignonette; chicken, kale, and white bean soup with lemon and yogurt; and lamb chop lollipops with thyme-garlic sauce. You can check out the menu and wine list online. Hours are Wed-Thu 4pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 4pm-12am, Sun 12pm-7pm. 528 Laguna St. at Linden.
Before leaving town, I noticed this thoughtful post from co-owner Angel Davis of Fig & Thistle Market in the Castro, announcing its transformation to MILLAY, which will be less of a bottle shop, and more of “a wine and sake focused bar, you will still be able to buy bottles to go online or in person if you need to, but our focus will be experience within the space.” Read the post for more, it’s a beautiful homage to business partner Nguey Lay’s family legacy in the space (the famed M&L Market). Fig & Thistle in Hayes Valley remains as is (except with killer pizza now). Open Mon and Wed-Thu 4pm-9pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm, Sun 2pm-8pm. 691 14th St. at Market.
Updates: Hayes Street Grill Returns, Town Hall Relaunches Lunch and Brunch, Full Liquor Coming to Uma Casa, Happy Hour at Causwells
I was happy to receive the email about Patricia Unterman’s HAYES STREET GRILL’s reopening, serving lunch Friday 11:30am-2:30pm and dinner 5pm-9pm, an all-day menu Sat 11:30am-5pm and then dinner until 9pm, and Sun 12pm-6pm—they’re also opening for performance nights on Thursdays, so check their website for updates. Their entire staff is vaccinated and anyone who dines indoors is requested to be fully vaccinated—otherwise, there are sidewalk tables placed along the warm, south-facing front of the building. Also nice: Hayes Street from Franklin to Laguna is closed to traffic on Friday nights and all day Saturday and Sunday through August. 320 Hayes St. at Franklin.
Great news: TOWN HALL is back with their awesome lunch (including their famous fried chicken in a sandwich) and weekend brunch service (hello, eggs Benedict with their buttermilk biscuits and fab Bloody Mary). They plan to expand the menu and hours as things ramp up. For now, lunch is Thu-Fri 11:30am-2pm, brunch Sat-Sun 11am-3pm, and dinner service continues Tue-Sat 5pm-9pm.
Exciting news at UMA CASA: chef-owner Telmo Faria tells me they’re getting their liquor license, and his wife Jessi Graham will be launching a Portuguese-centric cocktail program in a couple weeks (she was bar lead/manager at Pearl 6101 for two years). More on this soon!
We could all use some happy, and CAUSWELLS in the Marina just launched a happy hour Tue-Fri 4pm-6pm and Sat-Sun 3pm-5pm (weekend happy hour rocks). The menu includes their Americana burger sliders ($4.50 each), classic deviled eggs ($2.50 each), and more, with $6 glasses and $24 bottles of red, white, and rosé offerings, as well as $4 canned beers, and specialty cocktails ($9), including strawberry slushies, house Margaritas, and seasonal spritzes.
A quick follow-up from my previous post about things happening in the Namu Restaurant Group. I wasn’t given clearance to write about it before I left, but the brothers converted the former Namu Stonepot on Divisadero into a stealth Sunset Squares pizza shop, offering both their square and round pizzas by the slice or pie (they kept the signage generic, so let’s just say if you know, you know). Last night, my deadline dinner was a slice of their new clam chowder square, and their spicy pepperoni round (the crust had great texture and heft and flavor). Let’s just say I am extremely stoked to have a quality slice in the neighborhood.
Sadly, things didn’t work out for their original NAMU GAJI concept and space on Dolores Park—in a recent IG post, they announced their closure, and that they are focusing on Sunset Squares Pizza Beer Hall in SoMa (which is where some Namu Stonepot dishes live on). You can read more about the pandemic-related landlord difficulties in this Eater piece.
Hoodline announced that HOT JOHNNIE’S is now open in the former Nizario’s Pizza in the Castro (and an adjoining space), slinging house-smoked pastrami sandwiches (for $20 a pop—at that price, I’d love to at least see on the menu where chef-owner Jonathan Young is sourcing the beef; but then again, the vegan “Unreal” Ruben is $18, soooo…it’s just SF), plus a pastrami fried chicken sandwich, pastrami nachos, tacos, and other dishes on the menu. Beer and wine are coming. There’s also a surprisingly spacious patio in the back. Open Sun, Tue-Wed 11:30am-5pm and Thu-Sat 11:30am-9pm. 4077 18th St. at Castro.
The former Tyger’s Café has reopened as GLEN PARK CAFÉ from owners Damon Victorson and his wife, Ellie—Damon’s mother owns the building, and it ends up “Mario, who cooked at Tyger’s for years, remains in the kitchen, but the menu is new.” Read more in the Glen Park Association post. Open Wed-Sun 8am-2:30pm. 2798 Diamond St. at Chenery.
Congrats to SWEET GLORY, a dessert pop-up that recently opened their brick-and-mortar location in the Tenderloin. I have been eyeballing their roll cakes, crepe cakes, and cream puffs for too long. Open Mon-Fri 9am-6pm and Sat-Sun 9:30am-6pm. 721 Larkin St. at Ellis.
The former Mo’z (previously The Corner Store) across from Target on Geary is now THE HOUSE OF HUMMUS, featuring six kinds of hummus, wraps, Mediterranean tacos, and platters; (menu here). 5 Masonic Ave. at Geary.
Another Mediterranean spot is THE BITE in SoMa, a vegan-friendly spot offering salads, rice bowls, hummus, and wraps, and serving late. Open Mon-Tue 11am-10pm, Wed-Sat 11am-2am, Sun 11am-9pm. 996 Mission St. at 6th St.
The former Samovar locations in Yerba Buena and the Mission are now JOYRIDE PIZZA, serving six kinds of Detroit-style pizza for dine-in, parklet or patio dining, pickup, and delivery. Yerba Buena Gardens: 730 Howard St., open 12pm-8pm; 411 Valencia St., 12pm-9pm (hours may vary).
The former Portal’s Tavern in West Portal has been transformed into THE SHERWOOD, sloughing off its dive bar patina and now restored to highlight its 1939 bone structure, the oldest bar space in the West Portal area. The owners (Foli Media) utilized local craftspeople for every aspect of the buildout, from the custom walnut cabinetry to the built-in leather booth seating, and managed to prevail after numerous pandemic-related setbacks. There’s also a grand crystal chandelier, whimsical art, and a cozy fireside lounge (the historic fireplace is the bar’s centerpiece). The color palette of deep greens and dusty blues are evocative of Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest (there’s also the nearby Sherwood Forest neighborhood, SF’s smallest), while the antimicrobial copper bar tops, hand sanitizing stations, distanced seating, and a large parklet reflect our current pandemic reality.
Bar manager Jeff Hanford (most recently at Urban Putt for five years) has assembled a seasonal craft cocktail list with fun twists on some classics, like a sherry Negroni, and the Bee’s Hips features chamomile flower-and-rosehip-infused vodka. You’ll also find local beers, wines by the glass or bottle, and zero-proof options. To show support to local restaurants heavily affected by the pandemic, The Sherwood will be rotating select food menus from neighboring restaurants. Open Mon-Wed 5pm-12am, Thu-Fri 5pm-1am, Sat 12pm-1am, and Sun 12pm-12am. 179 W. Portal Ave. at Vicente.
The REDWOOD ROOM reopened at The Clift Royal Sonesta, with a revitalized look (new Art Deco-inspired furniture, flooring, lighting, and wall art). Fun tidbit: the original Gustav Klimt paintings (reproductions created by students of Klimt, under his direction) were uncovered onsite during the hotel renovations and have been painstakingly restored and re-hung. There’s a new menu from chef Daniel Corey (formerly of LUCE at the InterContinental), featuring oysters, warm orange pull-apart buns with honey butter made with honey from The Clift’s own rooftop beehives, and waygu beef “double double” sliders with white cheddar and onion jam on a brioche bun, along with new cocktails, too. Open Thu-Sat 6pm-12am. (There’s also the new Fredericks, serving breakfast and lunch seven days a week.) 495 Geary at Taylor.
In Hayes Valley, Adriano Paganini’s Back of the House has opened AFTERWORK BAR in the former Dobb’s Ferry, a casual, neighborhood bar. It’s connected to The Bird (at 406 Hayes Street), so you can enjoy wings, along with Super Duper burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, and sides with your cocktail. The weekday happy hour from 4pm-6pm features $1 wings and $20 pitchers of beer. Triva night is Wed 6pm-7pm. Open Wed-Thu and Sun 4pm-11pm, Fri-Sat 4pm-12am. 409 Gough St. at Hayes.
SFGATE covers the opening of the new TRADE ROUTES bar in the former Cabin in Polk Gulch from first-time bar owners Chen-Chen Huo and Jay Ryoo. They brought on bar manager Ilya Romanov (Niku, The Dorian) to consult on their menu, featuring international flavors and ingredients, like “the bar’s version of a tequila Negroni, which is infused with pandan leaves, pineapple-infused Campari and a splash of coconut water.” Happy hour is all day on Thursday. Open Wed-Thu 5pm-12am, Fri-Sat 4pm-2am, Sun 4pm-10pm. 1750 Polk St. at Washington.