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Mar 28, 2023 14 min read

This week’s tablehopper: artsy (but not fartsy). (free)

This week’s tablehopper: artsy (but not fartsy). (free)
Table of Contents

what’s cookin’

Dr. Wilkinson’s in Calistoga sign mid-century building
It was easy to pretend I was in Palm Springs at Dr. Wilkinson’s in Calistoga. Photo: ©

Well, we’re back in the thick of another stormy day on my deadline—at least the power didn’t go out like last time. (Thanks to my laptop battery and access to an Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspot, I was able to send last week’s column in the middle of that blustery mess.) Adventures in self-publishing!

Fortunately, the weather is looking storm-free this Thursday March 30th, when I will be cohosting “The Way We Were,” a show at Lost Art Salon (245 S. Van Ness Ave. #303; 6pm–8:30pm, free!) that will present classic San Francisco paintings and vintage Bay Area scenes by local historic artist Freeman Sargent (and more), along with a cocktail, bites of focaccia from Liguria Bakery, music, and a brief art history talk at 6:15pm.

As I promised last week, tablehopper supporting subscribers get a fun perk: three readers will be given a $150 gift certificate from Lost Art Salon that can be used toward the purchase of any show piece (or any other piece) that is valued at $400 or more—and [insert Ginsu knives announcer voice] that’s not all! The three winners will also receive an art history coffee table book of California scene painting so they can learn about the genre of Sargent’s work (it includes a bunch of historic SF artists). Thanks to Lost Art Salon for this generous giveaway. Hope to see you there!

I have a few more upcoming events I want to point you to: for my fellow house heads and disco dollies, Danny Krivit (Body & Soul, 718 Sessions) is playing a day party at the Foundry this Saturday April 1st; for my fellow trippers, don’t miss this film about our “psychedelic godparents” Sasha and Ann Shulgin: Better Living Through Chemistry is screening at the Roxie on April 15th; and if you’re looking for a fun getaway for 4/20, Cannescape is hosting an overnight event at Dr. Wilkinson’s in Calistoga. (I was just up there last week, and I almost can’t believe how relaxed I got from soaking in those mineral pools and my mud bath. My state of chill lasted for days.)

Coming up: Passover is being celebrated at Delfina, with their annual menu of Italian-Jewish (cucina ebraica) dishes and their seder plate running April 5th–8th (you can also pick up their deeeeelicious matzoh ball soup April 5th–13th or order it on Locale); One Market is offering Passover lunch and dinner menus from April 5th–13th, with 12-hour smoked brisket with onion jus; I’m happy to see Passover return to Perbacco at a dinner on Friday April 7th (four courses for $70); and Canela is offering their four-course Passover menu for in-person dining and takeout from April 4th–April 15th ($69).

Across the Bay: after a three-year hiatus, Comal will once again celebrate Passover with a multi-course, family-style dinner ($85) in their private dining room, Abajo, on Monday April 10th and Tuesday April 11th (sold out). For those who are unable to purchase tickets to the full dinner, Comal will be serving a “plato fuerte” of beef brisket on their regular menu on both evenings. Pomella in Oakland is hosting a community seder on April 6th, $85 per person (including wine), reserve here (and take a look at the Passover takeout favorites you can order, including a pistachio pavlova kit).

leg of lamb easter spread villon san francisco
Part of the Easter feast at Villon. Photo: Pascal Shirley.

I was hoping to have enough time to do a full writeup of Easter Sunday options (it’s coming up soon, on April 9th!), but when the clock struck 2am last night, I had to call it. Here’s a quick list of places, with menus linked if I could find them (I’ll be sharing updates in my @tablehopper Instagram stories, too). Of course, 54 Mint and A16 will both be offering special Pasqua menus and dishes (bring on the fava beans and lamb); Spruce has put together a very special brunch menu; The Vault Garden (three courses for $59) will offer a pleasant daytime atmosphere; there’s a buffet, live music, and you can’t beat the view from the Top of the Mark at InterContinental Mark Hopkins (perfect if you have family visiting); the chic Villon at the San Francisco Proper hotel is offering a brunch buffet ($125), with a leg of lamb carving station and an omelette station (vegetarian options available; reservations: 10am–4pm on OpenTable); Cassava in North Beach is running an Easter supper (12pm–5pm); and Absinthe is always a perfect setting for brunch.

Keep your eyes on the James Beard Foundation website tomorrow (March 29th), when the 2023 Restaurant and Chef Awards nominees will be announced! The James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Ceremony will be on Monday June 5th, 2023, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Lastly, here’s my latest piece for Nob Hill Gazette on Back to Back, the natural wine, pizza, and hi-fi listening wine bar/restaurant that recently opened in Nob Hill. It’s a good time over there.

Keep cozy, thanks for reading.

the chatterbox

gola restaurant san francisco
The dining room (and bar in the back) at Gola. Photo: ©

Get to Know (and Love) Tunisian Cuisine and Hospitality at the Soon-to-Open Gola on Valencia

Slated to open in mid-April is Gola, a 48-seat Tunisian and Mediterranean restaurant coming to the former The Brew Coop in the Mission from chef-owner Rafik Bouzidi. He previously owned La Marsa restaurant downtown, but had to close due to pandemic-related issues.

This upcoming restaurant is truly a labor of love: Bouzidi designed and has been building out the space by hand for months (along with help from his brother, Samir). He engineered a custom 14-foot table in the center of the space that can seat 10 and be raised to bar height, made all the custom table tops and the bar top (coated with epoxy resins and featuring ripples of Mediterranean blue), created the patterned arch behind the bar, upholstered the banquette seat backs with Tunisian fabric that Samir brought over from home…the list goes on.

Rafik Bouziki
Chef-owner Rafik Bouziki. Photo courtesy of Gola.

Bouzidi has lived in San Francisco since 1999—he studied engineering at City College and was on the path to work in aircraft maintenance, but after 9/11, that future wasn’t looking bright for him, so he discontinued his studies and focused full-time on restaurant work instead (his family is in the restaurant business). He worked front of house in SF restaurants, went to Vegas to work at Carnevino, and then returned to SF to work at EPIC. He was dreaming of opening his own place and showcasing his own take on Tunisian cuisine, and opened La Marsa in 2016.

Like many folks who miss a taste of home, he learned to cook out of necessity after he moved here. Bouzidi laughs and says, “I spent $150 in phone cards calling home to learn how to make couscous.” He adds that working front of house for so many years inspired his presentation and plating style, as he deconstructed and reconstructed classic Tunisian dishes and flavors. Some dishes will come over from La Marsa’s menu (like his trademark Tunisian deviled eggs with shrimp and salata mechouia—“grilled salad" of tomato, onion, garlic, and Anaheim pepper), but there are many new dishes he’s adding.

Tunisian deviled eggs with shrimp
Tunisian deviled eggs. Photo: ©

I was fortunate to experience a preview tasting of Gola, and let me tell you: get excited. The menu will feature coastal seafood dishes of Tunisia, as well as heritage dishes from the desert. Appetizers include halal lamb riblets (braised for 24 hours and then baked, served with bright basil pesto), incredibly tender octopus, and brika, a fried phyllo triangle filled with boiled potatoes, red onion, capers, parsley, tuna, tabel (more on this spice mix below), and a raw egg that cooks while it fries—when you cut it open, there’s a runny yolk inside. (I enjoyed the brika with a side of the intensively and lovingly housemade harissa—it has a sneaky heat, so start low and go slow.)

There will be three shakshukas, and the one I tasted was one of the best I’ve ever had, with bright orange egg yolks and thick slices of housemade merguez nestled in the deeply savory and well-spiced onion, tomato, and garlic base; another will be a shellfish version with shrimp and mussels.

The main event and signature dish is what gives the restaurant its name: the gola. It’s a clay vessel that North African nomads traveling via camel would use to carry water and cook meats in the desert—they’d place the meat inside the gola and cook it for a couple hours over a fire in the sand (the gola dates back to pre-Hannibal times, so we’re talking before 247 BCE). Bouzidi has watched documentaries about this cooking method, and he has brought over 180 golas in three different sizes (a small for one to two guests to share, a medium for three to four, and one for large parties). He seals the gola with a ring of dough when a guest orders one to be fired/warmed up, and then breaks the seal at the table.

There will be a variety of fillings, like chicken with turmeric, preserved lemon, olives, thyme, capers, onion, and garlic; or a seafood version, like octopus with tomato sauce. I tried his halal lamb with tomato sauce, garlic, onion, basil, and tabel, and the deep, rich flavor was extraordinary. The halal lamb has such a pleasant and non-gamey taste, and the few hours slow-cooking in the sealed gola keeps it juicy (he’s going to be adding potato and shallot to this one). You can scoop up the tender meat with housemade flatbread (mlawi) saturated with Tunisian olive oil, or perhaps some kesra (a yeasted bread made in the pan)—the breads will rotate. Sides will include rice, pearled couscous, couscous, and vegetables.

Before service, the golas will slow cook for four–five hours on the bottom deck of the pizza oven that Bouzidi bought expressly for heating them. Since it’s such a time-intensive process, only a limited number of them will be available each evening.

Once things are underway, Bouzidi plans to offer late-night dining, which will bring Tunisian pizza after 10pm. Toppings will include a housemade merguez pizza...

Dessert will include baklava made with almond and hazelnut, and Tunisian crème brûlée with orange blossom water—Bouzidi explained Tunisia is a huge producer of citrus, and when you pick the orange blossoms and distill them, you get to enjoy a beautiful product while controlling the number of oranges on the tree.

restaurant tables tunisian upholstery
Gola’s Tunisian décor. Photo: ©

Dining on Bouzidi’s dishes is an educational experience: you will learn about tabel/tabil (a coriander-heavy spice mix of nine spices, which he says is “maybe the most vital part of Tunisian cuisine’s DNA”), and how UNESCO recently added harissa to its list of intangible cultural heritage, affirming that the national condiment is an integral part of Tunisian culture and identity (there are 530 items on the list). He wants to put Tunisian food on the map (all the amazing flavors here are sure to do that), and he’s trying to get Tunisian wine on the list as well (he hasn’t found any importers). Refreshing cocktails will also be available.

The soft opening is coming in mid-April, and the menu will fully ramp up in early May for the grand opening. I’ll keep you posted on hours and the opening. (He’s hiring right now for front of house if you’re looking!) 819 Valencia St. at 19th St.

At Long Last, Bandit Dogpatch Opens This Wednesday

bandit dogpatch yellow filter
Looking through Bandit Dogpatch's yellow Plexiglass parklet. Photo: ©

Exciting news: after a number of delays (ugh, why must everything be so hard?), Bandit Dogpatch is slated to soft open this Wednesday March 29th in the former Glena’s. Anyone who lives near or orders from Bandit’s TenderNob location (since 2017) knows how satisfying their perfect breakfast sandwiches on brioche (and crispy tater tots) and burgers are, and they’re going to be bringing the hits over from their Geary spot to Dogpatch.

But instead of fried chicken sandwiches at this new location, they’re introducing a grilled chicken sandwich...

You can wake up with a variety of espresso drinks (they’re using Andytown Coffee) and will eventually expand their hours when the time is right. For now, they’re going to be open daily 7am–2pm; evening will come later. (They’re excited to be next to Third Rail bar, kind of like their setup next to Rye.) There’s indoor seating and a yellow glowing parklet, you can’t miss it. 632 20th St. at 3rd St.

An Unfortunate Farewell to Maybeck’s in the Marina

maybeck's bar san francisco marina
The classic interior of Maybeck’s. Photo: Gamma Nine Photography.

Such a bummer to hear of yet another delicious SF restaurant closing after less than a year of service. Last month, it was Ancora in the Mission, and now it’s the newly revamped Maybeck’s in the Marina, which closed March 18th. Chef-owners Aaron Toensing, Jeff Banker, and Lori Baker said in a statement, “Unfortunately, we found keeping Maybeck's open in the current economy was no longer sustainable. We hope to see a new form of the restaurant at some point in the future.” Best wishes to the team—the food and drinks there were so damn delicious. 3213 Scott St. at Lombard.

New Openings, from Thai Charcoal BBQ to Even More Dumplings

thai charcoal bbq beef dinner set san francisco
A look at a dinner set at MuuKaTa6395 Thai Charcoal BBQ. Yelp photo by Thanaporn K.

I wanted to share a quick roundup of some new openings around town in case you feel like exploring:

Whiskey Dinner 2023 #2: Liquid Sunshine!

The Midway Culinary Is Hosting a Four-Course Whiskey Tasting Dinner on April 15th

Whiskey Dinner 2023 #2: Liquid Sunshine! (a tasting experience by Whiskey Edu & The Midway Culinary). Join us once again as we bring you exciting spirits and savory food combinations. Learn about boutique distilleries and quality international brands while noshing on expertly paired tastings from The Midway Culinary team.

Expect a live and interactive show with distillers, unique multi-sensory elements, and mouthwatering flavor interactions.

The four-course menu paired with eight whiskies includes seared scallops and confit artichokes with gremolata, roasted heirloom carrot salad, lamb cassoulet, and goat cheese Basque cake. Read the complete menu and eight whiskies here. Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options available.

Date: Saturday April 15th, 2023
Time: 6:30pm–9:30pm
Indoor event at The Carrousel, 900 Marin St. 21 and up.
Ticket: early bird: $72 via Tixr. 10 percent off with promo code: TABLEHOPPER10

the lush

Tala Wine’s Tala Drzewiecki holding a bottle of red wine
Photo of Tala Wine’s Tala Drzewiecki by James Bueti.

A New Natural Wine Shop and Gathering Space Is Coming to the Excelsior

Due to open in the Excelsior in June is Tala Wine, a wine shop, bar, and café for the neighborhood from Tala Drzewiecki. She has worked in many aspects of the wine world for the past 10 years—from running her own wine club and online shop, to working at Ruby Wine, to working for a wine import company—but her dream was to have her own brick-and-mortar wine shop, and now she found her spot.

The location was once the first branch of the Bank of Italy (in 1907, according to this SF Heritage piece), and the vault is going to be put to good use for wine storage. The look is going to embrace Victorian, Art Deco, and Art Nouveau styles, spanning the first 10 years before and after the building was built. There will be chandeliers and sconces, muted purple walls, period-style marble tables with cast-iron bases, and sofas with curved tops. The “granny-core” style is a tribute to her great aunts and her grandmother (who emigrated from Poland to Queens, and started running an art gallery out of her home). There’s a 16-foot bar, and there will be 30 seats total. There’s also 24 feet of retail display, so you’ll be able to bring home a bottle of the wine you enjoyed a glass of.

Drzewiecki is focused on natural wines, placing farming methods first (organic or beyond) and choosing wines that are made responsibly. She will feature beautifully made, delicious wines from classic producers, so no flawed natty wines here. She is also deeply committed to highlighting affordable wines (like $25–$40 for a bottle), so people can access and enjoy wine more often (which means 95 percent of her list will likely be Old World). She’s starting with 80 selections, and plans to get to 200–250. Plus: beers in a can. Nope, no snobbery here.

Drzewiecki wants to create a welcoming café space for this post-pandemic moment—people are craving community, and she plans for it to become a third place for folks (the mezzanine will be offered as a lounge and work space for wine club members). But you don’t have to drink alcohol to enjoy the space—she wants it to be inclusive. There will be non-alcoholic local beverages (like Juice Shop tonics), as well as French press coffee, and tea service (served at the correct water temperature). Come one, come all.

There’s a kitchen (but no hood), so there will be choose-your-own snack boards (you can select five items, from pickles, olives, cheeses, and meats, to sides like whole beans in vinaigrette), and she’s developing some...

Hours will be Tue–Sat 12pm–9pm, and Fri–Sat until 10pm. The targeted opening is June 1st—I will keep you posted, and you can follow @talawineco. Join her wine club and check out her online shop in the meantime, let’s support this female-owned and self-funded business! 4625 Mission St. at Brazil.

the matchmaker

Incomparable Opportunity for a Café/Wine Bar Entrepreneur in the Heart of the Mendonoma Coast

[Please note there was a coding bug with last week’s link, a functioning link is below.] Located in Point Arena, Mendocino, 215 Main Street is a stunning masonry building that beckons you in with its long wooden bar and brick walls awash in history and light. One of the first buildings rebuilt after the 1927 fire—and recently serving as a café/wine bar that was loved by locals and travelers alike—this standout property is brimming with possibility. The nearby restaurants, brewery, theater, and boutique hotel may be some of the local coastal attractions, but 215 Main is poised to become a treasured destination. For more information, call Andrew (707-882-2434) or click here.

the archivist

The description on the back of the postcard reads: “Tall apartment buildings climb San Francisco’s many hills, affording tenants an unexcelled view of the Bay, Mt. Tamalpais and Marin County.”

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