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Dec 6, 2021 16 min read

December 7, 2021 - This week's tablehopper: holiday spirits.

December  7, 2021 - This week's tablehopper: holiday spirits.
Table of Contents

This week's tablehopper: holiday spirits.                    

One of my favorite combinations I have put together from the Hanukkah platter from Poppy Bagels (some of the very best bagels in the Bay Area): smoked wild salmon roe, scallion cream cheese, dill, and chives on a poppyseed bagel. Photo: ©

Good evening, hopper readers! (It’s dark at 4:45pm, so “evening” is kind of an expansive concept right now—come on, solstice!) This was supposed to be a shorter column this week, so I thought. Wrong! This thing exploded on me (like my inbox, oh my goddess, please stop) with so much news, from all kinds of new openings—so many new projects!—what’s coming soon, and some service updates, too. I have chosen to not write about the viral Hilda and Jesse brouhaha that has taken over every single media outlet I can think of. It’s a nuanced story, and the piece I would want to write would entail interviews and conversations I simply don’t have bandwidth for at this very moment—I was up writing until 1:30am last night as it is.

For now, I know a bunch of us have the holidays on our minds. Last week was full of latkes and brisket and bagels, and this week feels like getting holiday cheer with friends and seeing all the lights around town. Oh yeah, and Dungeness CRAB is thankfully arriving from up north. Huzzah! (I’m feeling my transformation into Champers the elf strongly now.)

I’ve been updating my Instagram Highlights with holiday treats and events and festive places to go, where to get crab, and I’m just starting to post New Year’s Eve experiences as well. Check ‘em out for ideas!

The major thing that has totally taken over my life is putting together this year’s hopper holiday gift bag! Thanks to all of you who wrote back and expressed interest in getting one this year, which was enough encouragement for me to take this on again. I’m thrilled to announce there are currently 13 local restaurants and food businesses involved (the lineup of items is sooooooo goooood). Just you wait!

I’m so grateful to be working with Merkado in SoMa as the bag assembly and pick-up location! Gracias, Merkado! They’re going to be offering some holiday meal and cocktail kits you can pre-order and bring home with you as well.

I will be sending an email with the bag details and order link within the next couple days—I just need to finalize some back-end details before we hit go on this thing. tablehopper subscribers get first crack! Pickup and delivery will be available December 21st-23rd. Thanks to all of you for your continued support (and thanks from all the makers involved as well)! If anyone is available to volunteer for bag assembly or delivery, even a couple hours, I would so appreciate it! Champers needs some elves!

Take a look at last year’s holiday gift bag, which is also a great way to remind you of treats you should go get, like holiday marzipan treats from Schubert’s Bakery and ma’amoul cookies from Reem’s California!

Have a pleasant evening, I’ll be back in your inboxes soon enough. XO ~Champers

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)

Sorella Opens in the Former 1760, Serving Cicchetti, Pasta, Cocktails, and More


The newly expanded bar area at Sorella, with a standing rail and partition dividing the bar from the dining room. Photo: Hardy Wilson.


The dry-aged beef timballo. Photo: Hardy Wilson.

After hitting a pandemic-related snag (they’re behind every corner, I swear), SORELLA is finally opening tomorrow, Wednesday December 8th. I broke the news about this new project from the Acquerello team last month, but here are a few updates, including links to the dinner menu (dishes include warm Parmesan budino, striped bass with Manila clams in fennel and potato broth, all kinds of housemade pastas, comforting dishes like pumpkin minestrone, and a show-stopping, dry-aged beef timballo AKA fancy lasagna with tomato, dry-aged beef, Comté), cicchetti at the bar (Kusshi oysters with sea bean mignonette, zucchini fritti, potato-leek focaccia, sausage-stuffed and fried Calabrese chicken wing), and Italian-inspired cocktails. The wine list is also fabulous (certo), with a focus on Piemontese and Toscana wines.

Sorella chef de cuisine Denise St. Onge (Greens, Atelier Crenn, Prospect, SPQR) leads the kitchen team, working closely with Acquerello Group culinary director/Acquerello chef de cuisine Seth Turiansky (who happens to be her husband), and managing partners Suzette Gresham (Acquerello executive chef/owner) and Giancarlo Paterlini (Acquerello founder/owner), plus general manager Sean Talley (The Cavalier).

Tava Lloyd of Portland-based Harbour Creative is behind Sorella’s update—the 50-seat dining room and 30-seat bar area now have a curved, handmade cane-and-maple partition crafted by artisan woodcraftsman Jessi Davis, and there’s also a standing rail and amber-tinted glass. Loving the sassy new neon sign. Open Wed-Sun 5:30pm-9:30pm. 1760 Polk St. at Washington.

The Madrigal, Hi Neighbor's First Cocktail Bar, Now Open


The dining room has a dramatic, sweeping style. Photo: ©


Make sure the Cold Snaps in on your holiday spirits list. Photo: ©


Don’t miss the trumpet mushroom and squash skewers, really. Photo: ©

Last week, I attended a friends-and-family test dinner of the newly opened THE MADRIGAL from Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group (Trestle, MAMA, The Vault Garden, The Vault Steakhouse). The former Corridor has been transformed into a stylish-yet-comfortable cocktail bar and restaurant, with a curving banquette in the dramatic and high-ceilinged dining area, a spacious bar with an eye-catching arched and illuminated back bar, plus an upstairs mezzanine that will be great for private gatherings or dining room overflow. Designer Carly Rose of Rose Design added a number of visual extras (terrazzo floors, blinged-out wallpaper in the restrooms) and textures, from velvets to soft walnut.

The Madrigal is just across Van Ness from the Symphony and Opera, and the Jazz Center and Orpheum are very close-by, setting itself up as a great spot for a cocktail and a bite before or after a performance. The menu and vibe is more of a modern cocktail bar than a traditional restaurant format, with sharable dishes from Hi Neighbor director of culinary development Joe Humphrey that are designed to accompany cocktails, whether you’re coming in for a dinner date or drinks with friends. Tables can be reserved, while bar seats will remain open seating.

Some highlights on the menu included the spicy grass-fed beef tartare ($18) with smoked oyster cream and Nashville hot fried oysters (so good), and succulent, charred quail tikka masala ($24) with steamed basmati rice, which would be great to share. Salads are just better with duck skin cracklings, especially candied yam and satsuma ones ($12). There’s a Liberty duck smash burger ($15) with Fontina cheese, crispy duck confit, and black truffle mayo, and the unexpected sleeper hit was the trumpet mushroom and squash skewers ($23) with green harissa, the most pillowy warm flatbread, and Mt. Tam fondue (uh huh).

There are 16 well-crafted cocktails ($14-$16) from Mike McCardle on the engagingly designed menu, including my new favorite spin on a Negroni Sbagliato, The Bowie (Cynar, Aperol, cava, sea salt). Get into some holiday spirits with Fancy Pajamas (bourbon, Nonino, spiced quince, black tea, lemon) and the awesome Cold Snaps (vodka, Mr. Black espresso, vanilla, chocolate whip, almond dust)—it’s perfect to have before seeing a show so you stay awake. Many feature nice details and touches—have fun working your way through the menu! The wine list by Lucas Bierbower includes a page of by-the-glass selections (mostly Old World, with a couple California picks) that are all priced at $14 per glass, plus four local beers on draft. Open Tue-Sun 3pm-close (kitchen is open 4pm-9pm, with a limited late-night menu from 9pm-11pm). 100 Van Ness at Fell.

New Openings Include Automat, Camino Alto, Sushi Aoba, La Snackería de la Mission, Ula, Sato Omakase, Soupchu


A selection for breads at the new Automat. Photo: ©


The stylish and uplifting design of Automat’s dining room. Photo: ©


Interior of the newly opened Camino Alto. Yelp photo by Audrey W.


The former Farallon’s dining room.


The entrance to Sushi Aoba in the former Kiss Seafood. Photo via Instagram @sushiaoba.


A mangonada from La Snackería de la Mission. Photo courtesy of Snackería.


Yogurt soup from Soupchu. Photo courtesy of Soupchu.

After trying to do a quiet soft-opening run for the Western Addition/Nopa neighborhood last week (ha-ha, good luck, not in this town), AUTOMAT abruptly closed since the demand exceeded what they were planning on about five times over. SF, you cleaned the shelves! After taking a quick breather, they are opening for daytime service for reals and dinner starting this Wednesday December 8th.

Partner Matthew Kirk is formerly of Lazy Bear (and working with David Barzelay on this project), so expect some soigné touches on things like the California hot fried chicken sandwich I ordered for takeout on day two: it had a seaweed aioli and the flavors of the coleslaw with pumpkin seeds was a cut above, plus it was on a housemade milk bun ($15).

Breakfast and daytime items range from two next-level breakfast sandwiches ($9-13) and inventive pastries (maple-y candy cap custard toas, $7), plus a veggie dip sandwich ($14). All the breads are made in-house, and you’ll be able to take home a loaf of honey-tahini-whole wheat sourdough, Baker St. sourdough, garlicky pretzel focaccia, and more ($10-14). There’s also coffee, tea, or me (kidding), and wine. Dinner service has a casual prix-fixe with sides they automatically include (we’ll see how that goes in our control freak town) and à la carte options as well, plus a big and little kids menu (cute—maybe the crispy beef tacos are a remembrance of the former Green Chile Kitchen?). Menus for everything here.

Love the airy feel and cheery design, with punchy colors and materials (terrazzo counters!) and textures, and a mural by Madeleine Tonzi. You can tell a lot of thought and good taste went into all the design touches, even the water glasses look cool. (You can see more pics in my Instagram post.) Open Tue-Sun 8am-3:30pm and 5pm-10pm; takeout window only from 3:30pm-5pm. Closed Mondays this December. 1801 McAllister St. at Baker.

Chef Matt Russell of Scopo Divino tipped me off to the recent opening of CAMINO ALTO in the former Pane e Vino in Cow Hollow. The chef-owner is Jason Copeland, who has put together a seasonally driven and edited menu that includes homey, NorCal-style dishes like local halibut with cannellini beans and braised escarole; wood-oven Japanese sweet potato with California romanesco; Klingeman Farms pork shoulder with Larry’s beans, Josh’s tortillas, and avocado salsa; and a half pastured chicken with morita salsa, celery root, market greens, and Josh’s tortillas again (these dark masa tortillas accompany a number of dishes). Brunch includes blueberry masa waffles and fresh-squeezed OJ. The wine list focuses on natural wines, with a couple skin-contact selections from Austria. The dining room has a clean, minimalist look. Open for breakfast Thu-Mon 9am-2:30pm and dinner 5pm-10pm. 1715 Union St. at Gough.

Here’s an incredible comeback story: the former owner of Takara, 91-year-old Lena Turner, just opened SUSHI AOBA in the previous location of Kiss Seafood, which closed during the pandemic. It doesn’t stop there: the sushi chef is Sachio Kojima, the OG chef from Kabuto A&S on Geary, who left for Shasta and later returned to SF to work at Hecho in 2012. Read about their $165 omakase offering and take a peek at the menu and more in this uplifting KQED piece. Open Tue-Sat 5pm-9pm. Call 415-517-1339 for reservations. 1700 Laguna St. at Sutter.

The former Farallon in Union Square is now ULA MEDITERRANEAN DINING & COCKTAILS from owner Krishan Miglani (Zingari). If you were sad you didn’t get to say goodbye to Kuleto’s underwater fantasy restaurant, well, the décor is still pretty much intact. The chef is also no stranger to Farallon: Ryan Simas, who has created a Gems of the Sea menu with seafood like oysters, ceviche, and calamari, plus Maine lobster, Louisiana prawns, and Alaskan salmon, and some Mediterranean dishes. The restaurant is open nightly 4pm-10:30pm, with the bar open until midnight, and a new weekend brunch 10am-2:30pm. There’s also live piano music in the evenings. 450 Post St. at Powell.

Our prince of Papalote and sultan of salsa, Victor Escobedo, decided he just wasn’t busy enough and has opened a new Latinix snack spot called LA SNACKERÍA DE LA MISSION in the Mission (thanks to a tablehopper reader for the tip-off). Escobedo saw a space on 24th Street was available, and says, “I didn’t want to see a Starbucks there to further dilute the Latino presence in the Mission District, especially the very heart of the Mission District, so I decided to open a concept that would feature the foods that my Latino friends and family like to prepare and share with their friends. I want to preserve and share my culture through drinks and tasty treats!” Here for it!

The soft opening is currently underway, with items like mangonada (a sweet and spicy type of mango smoothie), ceviche, aguachile, esquite, aguas frescas, and gelato and sorbetto by Fiorello’s Artisan Gelato, including a flavor he created as a tribute to Frida Kahlo. They’re finalizing some items on the menu (including tortas and salads) and hope to open fully in a couple of weeks. For now, you can swing by 11am-7pm, although they close at 6pm on the weekend. 3325 24th St. at Osage (near Mission).

Now open in Polk Gulch is SATO OMAKASE, the latest restaurant in the Mins Group trio of projects on Polk and Post. The 10-seat bar seats diners for an omakase menu of top-notch seafood—they’re keeping it at $135 for now to offer a more-affordable omakase experience (but still high-quality) since the local economy hasn’t quite bounced back. (I’d prefer we have more places keep it around that price anyway.) There’s also a new somm from The French Laundry and Quince, Richard Yeager, so perhaps you’ll want to consider the $65 pairing as well. Open Tue-Sat, with seatings at 5:30pm and 8pm. 1113 Polk St. at Post. [Via Eater]

Turkish chef Hazet of Sumac Istanbul Street Food is behind SOUPCHU, a new Russian Hill concept dedicated to soups (and toasts), made from scratch and designed for takeout and delivery. It’s the perfect time for chicken couscous soup, green lentil soup, and collard soup, plus stews, salads, and toasts. Check out the menu here—it operates out of Sumac’s location. Open Mon-Fri 11am-9pm. 1096 Union St. at Leavenworth.

Key Klub, a New Wine Bar and Restaurant from the Bodega Team, Soft Opens


Detail shot behind the bar near the taps. Photo courtesy of Key Klub.


One of the Klipsch La Scala speakers. Photo courtesy of Key Klub.

The folks behind the six-year-old Bodega in North Beach are soft-opening KEY KLUB in Lower Nob Hill’s former Hopwater Distribution this week, starting Friday December 10th. Bodega partners Lalo Luevano and Paria Sedigh are known for their natty wines and neighborhood-friendly focus, and have brought on Cellarmaker’s Sean Halpin to spearhead the beer program and some operations. Key Klub will primarily be focused on natural wines, with some hard-to-find selections joining the list, but they’re excited to have some fresh, unique, and local beers on draft as well (but they won’t have as many taps running as Hopwater used to, focusing more on freshness instead of quantity).

Like Bodega, there will be some of their quality charcuterie and cheese offerings and tasty small plates, but they’re also going to be expanding the kitchen offering here, serving more-substantial dishes like a flat-iron steak au poivre with frites. During the pandemic, they did a bunch of pop-up takeout dishes at Bodega, and will be putting some of them into play here. More shareable and family-style dishes will be coming in the new year with the grand opening—they’re just warming up the engine this month since it’s a funky time to open a new business.

The original Key Klub dates back to the 1950s (it closed in 1987), with a vintage neon blade sign out front. Crossroads of the world! The team has replaced the sign’s surrounding bulbs, but don’t plan on restoring the neon part, although they did create a Key Klub neon sigh for inside. You’ll see a bunch of the original brick, and they kept the copper top bar. You’ll also see some rabbit art, paying homage to Harvey the Herder, an extraordinary rabbit that used to be a regular at the Key Klub, profiled in Life magazine in 1954. You can’t make this shit up.

They really invested in the sound, and installed a couple Klipsch La Scala speakers, the kind you’d find in a hi-fi bar—the sound is reportedly incredible. With the expansive space, there will be more room here for people to hang out and have dates and find a more-intimate vibe, or have friends swing by and join their table. The owners didn’t want to completely overhaul the space, however, and opted to just add some modern finishes because their lease is a limited run: the building is going to be majorly overhauled in about four years or so, adding new residential units above (there will still be a retail/restaurant space on the ground floor). But they’re excited to be part of this unique neighborhood pocket of businesses, and have been looking to expand for a while. The grand opening will be in January, come by for the soft opening for now. Hours are Tue-Sat 4pm-11pm. 850 Bush St. at Taylor.

Quick Coming Soon Report: Yes Pudding, Hotline, Soon Soon


Chocolate-gingersnap pudding from Yes Pudding. Instagram photo via @yespudding.

Here’s a quickfire round of some coming soon projects. I was thrilled to see the news on Instagram that YES PUDDING is opening a spot in the Ferry Building Marketplace—bring on the savory and sweet custard puddings! Congrats to owner Quanisha Johnson on this great news; the grand opening is Friday December 17th, get your ticket (and special deals) to support the opening.

Congrats to the QUEENS superette team (Clara Lee and Eddo Kim) on their upcoming Korean-Chinese restaurant called HOTLINE, targeting an opening in February in the Outer Sunset. 3560 Taraval St. at 46th Ave.

The Mister Jiu’s team is opening SOON AND SOON SOUVENIR SHOP on December 18th, selling souvenirs, coffee, and snacks from Melissa Chou/Grand Opening on Saturdays. 731 Grant Ave. at Sacramento.

Updates at Delfina, Prubechu, Ritual Coffee, Flour & Branch


The dining counter at Delfina. Photo: Eric Wolfinger.

Over on the ‘gram, DELFINA announced they have closed their parklet for the winter and are looking at reopening it in March. In the meantime, they’e embarking on a major remodel, working with architect Sarah Fucinaro and Roy Design to combine Delfina and Pizzeria Delfina into one space. When it’s finished, it will be Delfina with pizza…and cocktails! I remember speaking with Craig Stoll about these changes at an event that past spring, and am happy to see them pushing forward with this idea. Considering the restaurant is 23, the timing if great for a refresh before her 25th birthday. In the meantime, the kitchen will remain open for takeout and delivery, serving their pizzeria menu, plus a few Delfina favorites.

Just a few blocks away, PRUBECHU has announced they’ve opened their indoor space as a drink and snack bar, serving snacks inspired by what they grew up on from mom-and-pop stores in Guam. Come on by for a glass of natural wine, or the new Temescal Beer pastry stout inspired by their coconut candy ice cream (it’s on tap!). This will be the first time they have opened their indoor space since they took the location over two years ago. Cheers to making it this far in a goddamn pandemic, team!

Over on Valencia, I was happy to read the news that owner Eileen Rinaldi of RITUAL COFFEE ROASTERS is working on converting the company into an employee-owned business, with any employee who has worked for Ritual for a year or more owning a share. Her goal is to have things in place by the end of 2022. [via Mission Local]

In the previous tablehopper column, I broke the news that FLOUR & BRANCH was opening their first brick-and-mortar bakery in SoMa, and after some issues with their oven, they have opened. Release the cookies and kouign-amann! Hours are Mon-Fri 8am-6pm and Sat 10am-6pm, with hours extending later as they ramp up. 493 3rd St. at Bryant.


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