Howdy gang—look who has descended from the mountains! I enjoyed a much-needed getaway in our family cabin in Tahoma, doing lots of swimming, riding my bike, grilling and chilling, watching chipmunk TV (Fortuna’s favorite channel), blue jay TV, and catching a special short film of a mama bear and baby bear playing in our backyard (unbelievable!). The weather was definitely cooler and unpredictable (a rainy Labor Day weekend, what the heck), but it was still beautiful and so restorative to be up at the Lake.
It was tough to leave, but I made sure to get home in time to see Kruder & Dorfmeister play at The Midway this past weekend, what a show. They’ve been an integral part of my life soundtrack for the past 30 years—timeless music, really—so I was feeling all the feels. Now that I think about it, they’re actually my SF soundtrack! This month, I’m celebrating 29 years of living in the City (and in the same studio apartment! Yup, it’s true—and don’t ask what I pay for rent, it’s the secret to bohemian survival here.).
But first, it’s back to the news grind for me, and this week’s chonky catch-up column has a bunch of updates for you. We’re starting things off with an exclusive story I’m so thrilled to share with you (and it’s not just because it’s a project coming to my neighborhood). Get ready for a mind-blowing brunch you’ll want to get out of bed for.
I also want to share my story in the September issue of the Nob Hill Gazette about Schroeder’s—they’re celebrating 130 years this year! And Schroeder’s annual Oktoberfest party is coming up this Friday September 15th.
I’m dedicating this week’s column to Judi Marder, a longtime tablehopper reader who became a friend. Judi sadly and unexpectedly left us a week ago, which is hard to imagine because she was so vivacious and feisty. She volunteered at so many food events, and loved exploring the City’s many eateries (and neighborhoods, parks, and events). She embodied the spirit of a true San Franciscan: curious and community-minded, with lots of personal flair. Her sparkly smile and demeanor (and attire!) will be missed. I’m raising my glass!
Exclusive: Early to Rise, a Longtime (and Much-Adored) Brunch Pop-Up Is Opening Its First Brick-and-Mortar Restaurant in NoPa
Let me tell you, there’s nothing like being super-excited for a long-admired project that finally found its dream brick-and-mortar home in your neighborhood. Anyone who is a true brunch devotee in this town has hopefully experienced the next-level, scratch-made brunch from chef Andrew McCormack at his Early to Rise pop-up, which he has been running since 2016 at a couple locations around town.
Whether you’re a longtime fan or this is all news to you, you’ll be able to experience it at his upcoming restaurant opening in early 2024 in the recently closed Automat space in NoPa (at McAllister and Baker). McCormack was a loyal customer of Automat, and is genuinely sad to see them close, but after looking at something like 40 spaces for his concept over the past year and a half, he’s grateful the hunt is over and he’ll be able to open in such a well-outfitted and light-filled space (with an open kitchen) in such a great neighborhood. He’s a huge fan of the NoPa ’hood, and hangs out in the Divisadero Corridor regularly (he’s an Inner Richmond resident).
I first tried Andrew’s brunch back in February 2017, when my friend Adam Zolot (who was working with Feastly) told me I had to try McCormack’s incredible malt bagels (he was right). I was blown away with the entire family-style brunch pop-up, which included cold-smoked salmon and platters of thick slices of unforgettable house-cured and smoked bacon. At another brunch pop-up, I got to experience McCormack’s truly fantastic eggs Benedict with brown butter hollandaise on housemade English muffins (with house Canadian bacon). Everything he served was made from scratch, from the hand-paddled butter to the hot sauce, and you could see technique and craft across the board, from the supremes of peak-season citrus to learning the buttermilk in the English muffin was a byproduct from the butter-making.
McCormack is from Columbia, South Carolina, and after attending the Culinary Institute of America, he worked at Jean-Georges and Danny Meyer’s The Modern in New York. He moved to San Francisco 13 years ago, with the vision of becoming a fine-dining chef, and started as a line cook at Quince—he was thrilled to see them earn their second Michelin star a couple months after his three-and-a-half years there. He had to step away from the kitchen to recover from a couple serious injuries, so he worked front of house at Spruce, where he really learned the art and intricacies of the service experience from one of the best houses in town.
But he missed making things with his hands, so after healing from back surgery, he started his first bagels and lox pop-up brunch in Dogpatch in 2016. He enjoyed taking the techniques he learned while working at high-end restaurants and scaling them for everyone to enjoy with his family-style brunches (he had the realization that his friends couldn’t really afford to visit the places he worked, and had a change of heart about his plans of becoming a fine-dining chef). He made everything by hand that he could, including the challah for the French toast, and the butter on his grits (ah, there are his southern roots).
As his fan base of regulars grew, he started doing blind tastings with his customers, having them try and rate their favorite of three kinds of bacon (tweaking details like the salt and the smoke), or bagels, or breakfast sausage. It wasn’t about creating new flavors—McCormack was committed to focusing on simple brunch archetypes and diving deep on their essential flavor details and what about their execution makes them great. He loves that his personal cuisine grew out of doing R&D in conjunction with his SF community—many of his recipes also reflect family or customer recipes and tips and techniques.
Back in 2019, he started hosting his (always) sold-out pop-ups out of 1098 Jackson Street in Russian Hill, and then the pandemic provided another challenge to crack—how do you convert family-style brunch to takeout? McCormack started offering “brunch in a bag,” with bagels, smoked salmon, and doughnuts. In 2021, it looked like he was going to move into the Russian Hill location permanently and renovate it into a full-service restaurant, but when he started to figure out how to convert and scale his family-style format to à la carte, it ultimately proved it wasn’t going to be the right spot. And so, the quest for a location began.
Which brings us to the Automat space—their baking operation (proofer, ovens) has him pretty set, he just needs to install a griddle. McCormack has a custom smoker being built, and he’s working with the California Department of Agriculture to be licensed to sell his house-smoked bacon and charcuterie for retail sale (possibly one of the only restaurants in SF to be able to do so). In fact, he’s now a certified meat processing inspector, so official! Look for items like his preserves and more to also be available to take home.
McCormack is a deeply thoughtful, ethical, and detailed person (he graduated with a degree in philosophy before starting his culinary education), and he has a clear vision of the warm and genuinely hospitable experience he wants his guests to enjoy. He’s extremely dedicated and sensitive to offering great value for his customers, which extends beyond his made-from-scratch menu of quality dishes—he wants to make people happy. He knows what he’s up against in this currently challenging business climate, but he’s diligently working hard to make it all work. He cites Anthony Strong’s Pasta Supply Co. as an inspiring example of providing a quality dining (and hospitality) experience that doesn’t break the bank. He wants to Early to Rise to be a true neighborhood restaurant, and guests to feel taken care of and excited to return. He wants to give something back to San Francisco.
The starting menu will feature dishes like his made-to-order doughnuts; a bagel and lox platter; challah French toast (with Calvados apple butter); buttermilk and housemade ricotta pancakes with seasonal fruit; eggs Benedict (plus a vegetarian option); a classic diner egg plate with a housemade English muffin, hash browns, and choice of side; plus a hash and some scrambles. Smokehouse sides include bacon, molasses-cured ham, breakfast sausage, pea green sausage, and Canadian bacon, plus there are market finds (like roasted romesco), and sides like white cheddar grits and hash browns. He’s working on some vegan options, and he also does some special dishes like oeufs en meurette (eggs poached in red wine with sliced tri-tip, grilled country bread, and a stew of red wine, bacon, pearl onions, and roasted mushrooms), plus his popular shrimp and grits, with more to come.
With Alamo Square and the Panhandle so close, McCormack will continue to offer brunch in a bag, with bagels, lox, and accompaniments (perfect for a picnic), as well as breakfast/bagel sandwiches to go, and coffee and espresso drinks. Early to Rise will start with being open five days a week (8am–2pm), eventually moving to six days.
The beverage program will include ETR’s signature low-ABV Italian Greyhound and Bloody Mary (with housemade hot sauce, pickled okra, and the option to add bacon, naturally), which guests have a hard time discerning from full-proof drinks. McCormack is a big fan of sparkling wine, so there will be a sparkling chenin from the Loire, a drier Prosecco, and some grower-producer Champagnes; there will be variety of still wines, beers, and a michelada on the menu.
He has brought on ROY Hospitality (Delfina, Chez Noir, Elda) to redesign the space—it’s early in the design process, but he wants it to feel warm, soft, and welcoming—like his favorite small southern restaurants that he grew up with. There may be counter seating, same goes for outdoor seating—it’s TBD for now. One detail that is confirmed is everything will be served on handmade custom ceramics, from the plates (with ETR’s trademark rooster and a swipe of red, blue, or yellow) to the Waffle House–style mugs and espresso cups, made by his friends Matt Fishman and Katie Gibbs (they’re making 1,000 ceramic pieces for the restaurant!).
As you can tell by the amount of characters I have dedicated to this story, this restaurant will be something special, crafted and conceived by a very talented and dedicated chef and person. Looking forward to keeping you updated on the restaurant’s progress for a targeted early 2024 opening. 1801 McAllister St. at Baker.
Barberio Osteria Opens on Valencia This Friday
Back in May, I broke the news that the AltoVino team was opening the Italian Barberio Osteria in the former Ancora on Valencia, and their opening day has arrived: this Friday the 15th. Chef-owner Nick Kelly, wine director-owner Calli Martinez, and GM-operating owner Saul Magana have freshened up the space (including fixing the A/C, thank goddess), and the menus are live on their site. You can read my original piece for all the details about their backgrounds and vision for Barberio.
The dinner menu (“cena”) includes an equal number of stuzzichini (including their housemade ’nduja), antipasti (packed with local and peak-summer produce), primi (six kinds of housemade pasta), and secondi (the grill will be highlighted with whole fish grilled over oak coals, and the Fiorentina porterhouse steak will be coming over from AltoVino). The bar menu offers some tasty bites, including prosciutto di San Daniele with gnocco fritto, and a couple pasta dishes in case you want to come by for a casual or solo dinner.
A fun detail:
Their hours are also industry-friendly, since they’re open Sun and Mon for dinner. Welcome to the neighborhood. Open Mon and Thu 5:30pm–9:30pm, Fri–Sun for lunch 11:30am–2:30pm, aperitivo 2:30pm–5:30pm, and dinner 5:30pm–10:30pm; closed Tue–Wed. 557 Valencia St. at 17th St.
Quick Opening Notes, from Haraz Coffee to Holbrook House to New Oakland Projects
I’ve been tracking the opening of Haraz Coffee for a few months, and this Yemeni coffee house and company from Dearborn, Michigan, has just opened their first California location (their coffee is grown in the mountainous and high-altitude village of Haraz). I went by this past weekend, and their warm hospitality is deeply touching (I even got to sample their iced Adeni tea). They want to help you navigate the menu if it’s your first time there, and I have a feeling they will remember you if it’s your second visit.
The menu includes individual sizes or you can order a pot of traditional Yemeni spiced coffees or teas to enjoy with friends. The traditional coffee drinks feature cardamom and cream, or coffee and husks with ginger and cinnamon, or ginger and cardamom (there are a couple you can order iced, so good); there are also a few spiced tea options, including one with saffron. If you want a straightforward pour-over, or Turkish coffee, or an espresso, you can find those too, as well as as specialty espresso drinks, such as a pistachio or saffron latte.
There are a couple cases stocked with savory and sweet treats, including...
The place was bopping on a Sunday afternoon, with modern Middle Eastern music and tables full of guests enjoying the afternoon sun beaming into the room. Their hours are impressive: daily 7am–11pm. 1452 Franklin St at Bush.
Giuliana’s Just for You Cafe has opened in the former Just for You space in Dogpatch; the menu of American and Mexican brunch dishes, plus sandwiches, burgers, and salads is posted on the site. Open Wed–Mon 8am–2pm. 732 22nd St. at 3rd St.
Over in Oakland, it’s so exciting that Geoff Davis has opened his first brick-and-mortar restaurant, Burdell, in the former Aunt Mary’s Cafe. Now that I’m back in town, I’m heading over to check it out this weekend—I’ll report back next week on this highly personal and nostalgic soul food restaurant. In the meantime, you can read this SFGate piece on the opening. 4640 Telegraph Ave. at 47th Ave., Oakland.
Opening this Thursday September 14th in the former Hopscotch in Uptown is Good Luck Gato, an “izakaya cantina,” inspired by the eating and drinking cultures of Japan and Mexico. Expect dishes like a hamachi tartare tostada (cucumber, prickly pear sanbaizu, shiso, hazelnut salsa macha), korokke russet potato croquettes (Oaxaca cheese, peppers, onion, tonkatsu sauce, karashi mustard), uni butter elote (with dashi-boiled Brentwood corn, cotija, Tapatío, furikake), and a chiizu-baga slider (3 oz. house-ground chuck, American cheese, caramelized onion, yuzu kosho-poblano relish, chipotle Kewpie mayo, potato bun).
Cocktails will similarly play in both culinary camps, like the Emerald Zone (nori-infused tequila, mezcal, Suze, cucumber juice, yuzu cordial, lime, and sesame oil). You can order a beer-and-a-shot of Japanese beer and a Mexican spirit, or a Mexican lager and Japanese spirit. The project is from Kyle Itani (chef/restaurateur of Itani Ramen, Yonsei Handrolls, Hopscotch Catering), and Low Bar co-owners Daniel Paez and Matthew Meyer. The 45-seat space has a natural, 70s-style palette, with Mexican, Japanese, and kitschy design elements. Open Wed–Sun 5pm–11pm (kitchen until 10pm). 1915 San Pablo Ave. at William, Oakland.
Closures and Project Cancellations
Sunset stalwart Loi’s Vietnamese Restaurant, a longtime favorite for pho in the neighborhood for 35 years, has sadly closed. What a run! I first saw the news on Nextdoor, and a thoughtful post on Facebook from Max Tom—a regular who vowed to eat there every day until it closed when he heard the news, what a diehard!—shared that Mr. and Mrs. Loi are retiring. It sounds like the restaurant was packed with customers saying farewell before they closed, so sweet. Best wishes to the couple. 2228 Irving St. at 23rd Ave.
Was sorry to see the news on Instagram that owner Cathay Bi of Dumpling Club is closing the business on October 8th. She started the dumpling subscription service just before the pandemic, quickly gaining a massive waitlist for her high-quality dumplings and dishes, and opened her shop, kitchen, and event space earlier this year in the Mission. She shares in her post that she’s burned out after working tirelessly on the business, and how difficult it was to make the decision to close. (Ugh, I am sure!) Entrepreneurship and small business in the SF food space is so damn hard. Stand by for final events and frozen dumpling sales that she will announce on their Instagram account. 3233 22nd St. at Bartlett.
It wasn’t very surprising to read in SFGate that the show wouldn’t go on for SHŌ Restaurant, the splashy, over-the-top, NFT-fueled restaurant and club that was supposed to open in Salesforce Park. But, in a quick turn of events, Eater reports chef Shotaro “Sho” Kamio (of Iyasare in Berkeley) has been brought on by the MINA group as consulting chef at Pabu Izakaya.
Two Cafés from Tyler Florence Are Coming to Union Square Plaza
Service Updates, Reopenings, Remodels
Osha Thai Embarcadero has finished their massive redesign, and just launched a new Thai brunch (think Thai tea French toast and lobster yellow sea curry with udon noodles); daily 10am–3pm, and until 4pm on weekends. Lunch, dinner, and happy hour are all available, and the patio was also updated. Here’s to executive chef Lalita Souksamlane, who is celebrating 27 years with Osha Thai. 4 Embarcadero.
Osha Thai Express has returned to One Market Plaza at One Market St., serving an on-the-go lunch Mon–Thu 10:30am–2:30pm.
Here’s another positive thing to see: One Market is now open for lunch, happy hour, and dinner on Mondays. (They will also offer a Rosh Hashanah experience from September 15th–22nd, whether you dine in or do takeout/delivery. You get Mark’s matzo ball soup—it’s my favorite in SF—along with 12-hour smoked brisket with onion jus, and more; $57.84 per person, celebrating the year 5784.) 1 Market St. at Steuart.
Food Events and Music with Dinner
By Savannah Leone Bundy
Some fun upcoming events include...
Bay Area singer/songwriter Tyler Reese is slated to perform at Dirty Habit on Thursday September 21st as part of the sultry Hotel Zelos restaurant’s ‘Vibin’ Live’ music series. Hosted in partnership with the SF LGBT Center's Cultural Department, the monthly programming promotes and supports rising BIPOC artists, showcasing the remarkable talents coming out of the Bay. Reese, described as a “vocal chameleon,” is a genre-bending producer and engineer, with a firm foothold in Next Wave R&B and Neo-Soul, and guests should expect a mellow, sexy vibe from the set. Admission is free with dinner reservations. 12 4th St. at Stevenson.
Whiskies of the World Tour Hits the City
by Savannah Leone Bundy
On Friday September 22nd, premier whisky tour Whiskies of the World® touches down in the City for its SF leg at The Hibernia (1 Jones St.). The one-of-a-kind tasting event boasts over 100 expressions and their makers, ranging from sophisticated single malts to rare and exclusive blends, to humble household favorites, and everything in between.
From 7:45pm–10:30pm, general admission guests ($125) will enjoy world-class whisky selections, gourmet food offerings, live entertainment, and the opportunity to attend master classes led by industry experts ($10 supplement), like Lauren Patz, head distiller at Redwood Empire Whiskey. For VIP ($175) ticket holders, doors open at 7pm, and exclusive pours will be offered throughout the night, in addition to GA benefits. A portion of the ticket proceeds will go to the Whisky Education Foundation. Friday September 22nd. 7pm–10pm. 1 Jones St. at McAllister.
Pop-Ups on the Plaza Kicks Off Fall with Black Makers Market
By Savannah Leone Bundy
On Saturday September 23rd, from 9am–2pm, Foodwise (the wonderful nonprofit responsible for the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, Mission Community Market, Building Equity, and a number of other community-based food programs) will host a Fall Kickoff event celebrating Black Bay Area makers. Over 20 local, Black-owned, food-and-craft businesses will be featured at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and Ferry Terminal Plaza (Embarcadero and Market) during the third installment of Foodwise’s quarterly series, Pop-Ups on the Plaza, for an afternoon of homespun fun and fall festivities.
Entry to the Autumnal Equinox celebration is free and open to the public, and some of the food and goods for sale will include low-sugar jams and jellies from Sam’s Gourmet Jams and That’s My Jam; Jamaican patties, oxtails, jerk wings, and sorrel by Peaches Patties; a taste of New Orleans with shrimp and crawfish étouffée, red beans and rice, and pralines from Lil’ Alijo; handcrafted statement jewelry from CocoaCentric; and more. Guests can also enjoy free cooking demonstrations from Angélica Mena of Sukulenta SF and Pierre Thiam (author of cookbook Simply West African) in the Foodwise Classroom at 10:30am and 12pm, respectively.
The fourth Pop-Up, a Black Holiday Market, will take place on December 9th.