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Mar 6, 2024 17 min read

This week’s tablehopper: everybody. (free)

This week’s tablehopper: everybody. (free)
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what’s cookin’

Madonna blowing up Chase Center (and our brains) during “Ray of Light” at her Celebration tour show.
Madonna blowing up Chase Center (and our brains) during “Ray of Light” at her Celebration tour show. Photo: ©

Whoosh! Last week was SOMETHING! If you follow @tablehopper on social media, then you know I had my mind absolutely blown seeing Madonna perform on Wednesday at the Chase Center for her Celebration tour. It took me days to come down from that high—my posse had incredible and unbelievable floor seats, it was surreal and unreal to be so close to her. I haven’t been that starstruck in a long time, since seeing Liz Taylor walking by me in a card store in Westwood in the early ’90s (on my birthday!), to be exact.

And here’s the thing: damn, she looked fantastic! She is such a force—she almost died six months ago, and here she is at 65, rocking the stage singing, dancing, gyrating, vamping, playing guitar, high-kicking, telling wacky stories, and flying around the room in a catsuit in a rainbow box. Truly an ICON. I feel fortunate that I have been able to grow up with Madonna doing her thang for all these years—she has been a fiery force of liberation and sexual expression and female power, as well as an (always) ahead-of-the-curve art director, stylist, and visionary arbiter of taste and fashion, working with the best in the biz. She has given us a seat at a visual banquet for decades. And now, she’s showing us how to kick ass at 65. I am here for all of it!

The show was so rich in references and storytelling and images and lewks from forty years of her WERQ, and her homage to all the beautiful souls we lost to AIDS while singing “Live to Tell” was one of the most beautiful and moving in memoriams I have ever seen. The show was an absolutely glorious, diverse, uplifting queer celebration, and I wish I could post my video of all the topless dancers for “Hung Up” (my favorite) without Meta taking it down, because let’s just say it was something you don’t get to see on stage every day. Madge, you still bring the heat!

She has been a loud advocate and proud ally and warrior queen for the queer community from day one, and this show was the lift we all needed in these heartbreaking, uncertain, and hateful times. I’m so grateful for this shared experience with my dear sister and friends who came with me—it was so much more than just a concert, it was a deep reflection and remembrance and true celebration. Thank you, legend!

The show was the perfect kickoff to Women’s History Month, and this Friday March 8th is International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. I have a few celebratory events listed in today’s column, and will be sharing more in my stories on Instagram.

This past Saturday was the Villa Albertine Night of Ideas at the SF Public Library, and I wish we could have had another hour to keep listening to my dream team panel Choppin’ It Up: Black Food in the Bay, with Bryant Terry, 4 Color Books; Fernay McPherson, Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement; and Dontaye Ball, Gumbo Social. It was great to see some familiar faces in the crowd, thanks for coming.

On Monday, I left my desk (a rare happening) to speak on a panel (SF as Food Capital: How Food Culture will Revitalize San Francisco) at the FAACTS (Food and Agriculture Action Coalition Toward Sovereignty) Food Action Summit at the Southeast Community Center in Bayview. I was grateful to be included in the program, and wish I could have stayed for the entire summit, there were so many SF change makers in the house. Even so, I lost about four hours of writing time over here, so today’s column was a crunch.

I’m also super-bizzzeeeee planning the upcoming tablehopper renewal event on Sunday April 14th (4pm–7pm), A Bohemian Sunday at the Savoy-Tivoli—I’m just making sure you have it saved on your calendar! Details and tickets are coming soon!

Tickets to the tablehopper event will be available to supporting subscribers first. You’re reading the free version of tablehopper, with less content, access, and tips. (Plus, it goes out a day later!) Subscribe and live your best SF life!

Raising my glass 🥂 to all you badass women out there!

the chatterbox

The raw bar at the new La Playa Seafood Bar Restaurant. Photo: ©
The raw bar at the new La Playa Seafood Bar Restaurant. Photo: ©

A New Seafood Restaurant Opens in the Mission from a Hog Island Oyster Co. Alum

On Friday evening, I stopped by for dinner at the new La Playa Seafood Bar Restaurant in the Mission with a friend who lives in the neighborhood and told me their happy hour was a delicious deal. The restaurant just soft-opened two weeks ago, and is a family-run business from Abel Padilla, who started as a line cook at Hog Island Oyster Co. at the Ferry Building Marketplace 18 years ago, and kept working his way to executive chef, a position he held “for a long time, I can’t even remember!” He’s now running his own restaurant with his wife and two brothers, Julio and Mauricio, with additional family members helping out as well. Padilla was raised in the Mission, and says it was the “opportunity of a lifetime” when a friend offered the space to him (it used to be Barrel Proof, Specchio, and Buffalo Club/Cease & Desist over the years). 

Happy hour oysters and an $8 glass of Gloria Ferrer brut. Photo: ©
Happy hour oysters and an $8 glass of Gloria Ferrer brut. Photo: ©

As you can tell by the name, the restaurant is seafood-focused, and you’ll see a raw bar when you first walk in, offering a rotating selection of oysters, from Kusshis to Beau Soleils (6 for $21, 12 for $41). There are a couple salads (like burrata and beets: golden beets, blood orange, kumquat, and citrus vinaigrette; $18) and small plates, including scallop crudo ($22) with avocado and aji amarillo sauce. 

Mains include clams steamer ($24), an abundant bowl with Manila clams, chorizo, and onions with a white wine sauce, and seafood stew (cioppino style) for $32, with shrimp, calamari, fish, mussels, and tomato broth.

Roasted local Dungeness crab. Photo: ©
Roasted local Dungeness crab. Photo: ©

We came in to share a special of whole and local Dungeness crab with chile-garlic butter ($28 half, $54 whole) that was roasted to perfection—so juicy and a delectable mess to eat. The seafood tower ($60 or $110) comes with a roasted crab (half or whole), oysters, shrimp, and mussels.

Other specials include dayboat scallops served with pink banana squash purée with red frill mustard and black radish, or ling cod with celery root purée with three oyster mushrooms and balsamic reduction, both $28.

There’s also a “turf” component to the menu, with rib-eye steak ($70), a 12 oz. grass-fed angus steak from Oak Ridge, served with broccolini and marbled potatoes. The showstopper for your table would be La Playa parrillada ($90), a wood platter loaded with hanger steak, short ribs, chorizo, shrimp, fried yucca, and oyster mushrooms (perfect for a party of four). I was also looking at the oyster and bone marrow dish ($32), roasted with chimichurri sauce, and served with Acme toast.

The happy hour menu (during the week 5pm–7pm, and 3pm–6pm on the weekend) has some great specials: for just $5...

Subscribers get the details on the awesome happy hour specials. Trust me, you want to know!
Citrus and passion fruit custard for dessert. Photo: ©
Citrus and passion fruit custard for dessert. Photo: ©

Dessert was a delightful passionfruit, orange, and tangerine custard served in a scooped-out orange rind as a bowl, a peak-season treat. (Padilla spotted passion fruit at the market and was inspired.) He is a big fan of shopping at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market, where he has developed long-standing relationships with the farmers, and it’s important to him to “know what I’m cooking, and who grew it.”

The main dining room and back bar. Photo: ©
The main dining room and back bar. Photo: ©

The space has a contemporary seafood shack style, with pale blue walls and wood trim, and modern mid-century—inspired dining chairs at wood tables flickering with candlelight. There’s also an upstairs level that will be available for private parties.

The bar in the back of the dining room. Photo: ©
The bar in the back of the dining room. Photo: ©

They’re still working out the hours and menu, but swing by for happy hour and share a crab with a friend, and don’t miss dessert! Open Tue-Fri 4pm–9pm, Sat–Sun 3pm–9pm (subject to change). 2331 Mission St. at 19th St.

Coming Soon: Bar Jabroni from Palm City Wines, Boichik Bagels Expands to SF, Dumpling Story Valencia

The exterior of the upcoming Bar Jabroni is still papered up. Photo: Erica Gagliardi.
The exterior of the upcoming Bar Jabroni is still papered up. Photo: Erica Gagliardi.

The beer and wine license has hit the wires for the next Palm City Wines project coming to the Lower Haight (in the former Axum Cafe) that I have been writing about, which reveals it’s going to be called Bar Jabroni. As I previously mentioned, chef Sean Thomas (previously Buddy) is consulting on the menu for owners Dennis Cantwell and Monica Wong. They haven’t replied to my queries lately, but I’m hearing it’s close. 698 Haight St. at Pierce.

Back in early February, a tablehopper reader let me know that Emily Winston of Berkeley-based Boichik Bagels was opening three locations in SF (her first), including a location in Laurel Heights. Winston wasn’t ready to share details when I reached out, but yesterday she announced the addresses of the three locations coming after giving the SF Business Times the story: 3665 Sacramento Street in Presidio Heights (previously Saint Frank Coffee, just next door to Sociale; targeting the end of March for the opening), 22 Battery Street at Market (two doors down from a Philz), and Lower Pacific Heights at 1946 Fillmore Street at Pine—the last two should be opening in May or June. 

I’ve been tracking what and when owner Jimmy Shen of the wildly popular Dumpling Home in Hayes Valley was going to open in the former Luna space, and Mission Local reports his second location of Dumpling Story (the first is on Fillmore) is opening in March. Bring on the XLB and SJB. 694 Valencia St. at 18th St.

Hey, Gluten-Free Folks: Mochiko Mochi Pizza Opening in SF

Spicy pork mochi pizza. Instagram photo via @mochikomochipizza.
Spicy pork mochi pizza. Instagram photo via @mochikomochipizza.

After opening Mochiko Mochi Pizza—the world’s first mochi pizza shop—in Burlingame and Palo Alto last year, the team behind Sushirrito is bringing it to SF, opening at the downtown Sushirrito this Friday March 8th (they’ll be giving away free slices of mochi pizza from 4pm–6pm that day). 

Founders Peter Yen and chef Ty Mahler created a first-of-its-kind and gluten-free mochi pizza crust, a proprietary blend of rice flours that results in a pizza crust that is a crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Asian-inspired pizza flavors include chicken curry (fried chicken karaage, mozzarella, corn, jalapeño, Japanese curry, fresh cilantro); spicy pork (spicy minced pork, mozzarella, spinach, sansho pepper cream sauce); and the new soy-braised beef (mozzarella cheese, corn, roasted garlic kimchi sauce, cilantro). Open daily 11am–8pm. 226 Kearny St. at Sutter.

A Temporary Closure (Cafe Jacqueline) and Permanent Ones (Catch, Lee’s Deli)

The lobster soufflé at Cafe Jacqueline. Photo: ©
The lobster soufflé at Cafe Jacqueline. Photo: ©

Last week, a friend told me the irreplaceable and inimitable Jacqueline Margulis of Cafe Jacqueline in North Beach suffered a fall on a rainy day. Noooooooo! She broke her arm, but won’t need surgery—the Chronicle reports she will need four–six weeks to heal up before she can return to whisking and running the ovens at our city’s beloved soufflé palace. It makes me want to enclose her in bubble wrap. 1454 Grant Ave. at Union.

Wow, it’s the end of an era: Hoodline reports that after 22 years in the Castro, Catch is closing on March 9th. Owner Sanjay Gujral is ready to retire, and sadly wasn’t able to sell the restaurant. The building has important history: “The building was the original home of the NAMES Project, commonly referred to as the AIDS Memorial Quilt. In May 2004, the building was officially designated San Francisco Landmark 241.” Hoodline shares more history that I didn’t know: “The building was also briefly home to San Francisco Supervisor and LGBTQ rights activist Harvey Milk’s camera shop Castro Camera from 1978-79 after it was forced to move from its space at 575 Castro St by a rent increase.” Here’s hoping the next tenant is a good shepherd of the building’s significant queer history. 2362 Market St. at Castro.

I felt a pang of sadness hearing about the closure of the final two locations of Lee’s Deli in the City, which started over forty years ago (in 1983)—at one point, there were 12 locations in SF. When I was working downtown in advertising in the ’90s, a coworker told me about the magical tuna fish and egg salad split you could request, or black olive and egg salad. Brilliant! Those wildly affordable sandwiches at the Kearny Street location (the original) sustained me while I spent what little money I had going out dancing all the time—thanks, Lee’s!

Owner/co-founder Lee Quan shared with the San Francisco Business Times about how hard it has been to only see post-pandemic demand Tuesday to Thursday (with many downtown workers staying home Monday and Friday), and the minimum wage increase also made business tough. He poignantly noted: “It's not just a business that gets destroyed, but a legacy for my family. It was intended for my son and daughter.” Ugh. Sorry to see this iconic SF business close up shop.

Margaret Gradé of Manka’s Inverness Lodge Has Tragically Passed Away

Cypress tree tunnel, Point Reyes, 2019. Photo by @smokehidesfire via @mankaslodge.
Cypress tree tunnel, Point Reyes, 2019. Photo by @smokehidesfire via @mankaslodge.

A friend sent me this heartbreakingly beautiful post in honor of Margaret Gradé, an owner of the storied Manka’s Inverness Lodge (and The Olema), who has sadly passed away. Gradé was injured in a horrible car accident on January 11th, which she miraculously survived, but it sounds like there were complications that arose after the accident, and she remained in the ICU. Her sister created a GoFundMe fundraiser to help support the care of Margaret’s two children (15-year-old twins) and to get Margaret a new car, but she never returned home. Gradé passed on February 28th.

Her heartfelt hospitality and the poetic experience at Manka’s (with former partner and husband Daniel DeLong) were legendary, I’m sorry I never got to experience it (I was holding out for some lover to take me there). You should read this amazing profile by Kim Severson back in 2002. When the property suffered a horrifying fire in 2006, I figured that was that. The lodge was in danger of not being restored, but then Ken Fulk and his team took over the property as co-owner—Gradé was in “a management and co-ownership position”—and according to the website, it looks like the 21-room property is due to reopen this year as Manka’s.

I can only imagine how much her family and community must be reeling. I reached out to the Manka’s/Ken Fulk Inc. team, and Ken is currently out of the country, but shared this statement: “The unexpected passing of Margaret Gradé is a tremendous loss for all who knew her and for anyone who witnessed the magic she created in West Marin. Her singular vision for Manka’s and her poetic hospitality will not be forgotten.” 🕊️

Besharam to Host Women’s Month and James Beard Foundation Festivities

At Besharam, they really know how to do a family-style spread! Photo: Alicia Fischer.
At Besharam, they really know how to do a family-style spread! Photo: Alicia Fischer.

by Savannah Leone Bundy

Chef Heena Patel has big things poppin’ for the month of March. The award-winning La Cocina alum and founder of Besharam is hosting two events showcasing her culinary prowess and the heartfelt journey that’s brought her here. 

On Wednesday March 13th, Besharam is throwing an International Women’s Month celebration and dinner that honors the traditions of the women of Gujarat (her home state on the western coast of India), and more specifically, her own mother who, “not only nourished [her] body, but also gave [her] so many vivid food memories that shaped the very essence of who [she is] today.” Patel describes the experience as “My Story on a Plate” and plans a family-style (and vegetarian!) tasting featuring gota (fenugreek fritters with pepper murabaa), naaan vada (spiced potato cutlet, garlic chutney, ghee), chevdo (flattened rice, chana dal, red endive, ginger cilantro pesto), khichdi (basmati rice, green legumes, green beans, Indian eggplant), lasaniya gobi (cauliflower, manchurian sauce), and shiro (semolina halwa, honey malai ice cream). “Each dish,” says Patel, “was crafted with reverence, honoring the flavors and traditions that have guided me on my current path.” The dining experience is $99/person, with optional wine pairings from co-owner Paresh Patel. Reservations can be made here.

On Tuesday March 26th, Besharam will be home to the second-ever, San Francisco-based James Beard Foundation Greens Dinner, a night for food enthusiasts under 40. The seated dinner, which follows a reception with passed bites, will be another multi-course, family-style meal offering a vibrant menu of vegetarian dishes like kanji wada (tapioca fritters), dhokla (fermented savory lentil cake), parathas (hand-rolled and folded layered bread), malai koftas (paneer croquettes), and ringan no oro (smoked charred eggplant). Tickets are $100 and available for purchase here

When you subscribe to tablehopper, you help this woman-owned small business support my fellow women in business. Your subscription will be paid forward, in many ways.

The Return of A16’s Annual Festa della Donna Celebration

Last year’s Festa della Donna: A16 owner Shelley Lindgren with this year’s guest chef, Viola Buitoni. Photo: ©
Last year’s Festa della Donna: A16 owner Shelley Lindgren with this year’s guest chef, Viola Buitoni. Photo: ©

Break out the bouquets of mimosa flowers and yellow ribbons: A16 is hosting their 19th annual Festa della Donna this Friday March 8th, on International Women’s Day. It always feels like a party full of the most fantastic folks in SF’s culinary and wine worlds, with tables of women getting together to celebrate, and special guests highlighted in the evening’s programming. 

This year, Viola Buitoni is a guest chef, with a curated menu of dishes from recipes in her fabulous Italy by Ingredient: Artisanal Foods, Modern Recipes cookbook (Books Inc. will be selling it at the restaurant, get your signed copy!). 

- Sablè di parmigiano al pimentón e mandarino (tangerine and smoked paprika parmigiano biscuits)
- Bastoncini di pesce per intenditori (gourmand salt cod fish sticks)
- Trofie con ricotta e bottarga di muggine al profumo d’arancio (trofie with orange-scented ricotta and mullet bottarga)
- Paccheri con ragù di calamari, pomodorini del Piennolo, e pistacchi (paccheri with calamari, Piennolo tomatoes, and pistachios)
- Spalla d’agnello alle olive verdi (lamb shoulder with green olives)
- Budino di riso con ciliegie e amaretti

There will also be the main A16 menu, and cortadora Jen Herman (the only registered female Cortadera Profesionale de Jamón in the U.S.) will be slicing a jamón Ibérico ($16; or with marinated carciofi, smoked burrata, $34). Products made by women that will be featured on the menu include Penny Royal cheeses and the Ramini pizza (Ramini stracciatella, fava, pesto).

Generations of female winemakers from Bortolomiol Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG will be represented, and two female winemakers will be visiting from Etna (Mariarita Grasso of Azienda Agricola Filippo Grasso, and Alice Bonaccorsi of Azienda Agricola Alice Bonaccorsi, and her daughter, Sofia). Martha Stoumen will also be joining the celebratory lineup (her husband Jonathan worked at A16!), as well as Lindgren’s own Tansy Wines (with Kitty Oestlien), plus Samantha Sheehan (Mommenpop aperitivi).

It looks like there are still a few early outdoor seats and some reservations on the later side. You can always just come by, get a glass of wine, hang out in the parklet or at the ever-lively wine bar, and hope to snag a spot at the chef counter. 

Grazie, Shelley, for all the ways you elevate women in the food and wine world.

A New Kind of Lunch Box

The new Bian Dang Lunch Box at China Live. Photo courtesy of China Live.
The new Bian Dang Lunch Box at China Live. Photo courtesy of China Live.

I’m always happy to hear of lunch service returning to SF restaurants, and the latest is China Live, which will be open for lunch starting at 12pm Mon–Fri with a new menu (click “lunch” here). One item is the affordable “Bian Dang Lunch Box” for $22, which includes a main plate served with five side items: Dongbei vegetarian long pot sticker, crushed cucumber skins, Sichuan blistered green beans, jasmine rice, and a decadent mandarin-chocolate brownie. Pair it with a glass of the house sauvignon blanc or merlot for $10 and you have yourself a nice lunch deal. Additional lunch dishes include spring Peking duck salad ($20), kung pao chicken ($25), their awesome Yangzhou fried rice ($14), and sheng jian bao “SJB” dumplings ($19).

the sponsor

Oakland Restaurant Week is March 14th–24th, 2024

Oakland Restaurant Week Returns March 14th–24th, 2024! Enter to Win a Night Out on The Town!

Eat. Drink. Stay. Repeat. From neighborhood gems to MICHELIN-rated restaurants, explore The Town’s global culinary offerings during the 10 days of Oakland Restaurant Week 2024, from March 14th–24th. Participating restaurants have created special lunch and dinner menus to showcase the best of Oakland’s food scene. 

The community and fabric of Oakland are made up of culturally distinct neighborhoods, inspiring an incredibly creative food scene of unexpected pairings and fusion-style flavors. Favorite foodie hot spots include Jack London Square and Temescal to Uptown and Fruitvale, to name a few. Plan a visit March 14th–24th, make a reservation, and taste what makes Oakland so delicious! 

Enter to win a gift certificate to one of these participating restaurants so you can check out their ORW special menus: a $150 gift certificate at ACRE Kitchen & Bar, and another winner will get $100 to Bardo Lounge & Supper Club.

To enter to win, all you need to do is visit this @tablehopper post on Instagram

Two lucky winners will be announced on Monday March 11th (at 11am PT), so don’t delay. Prizes to be fulfilled by Visit Oakland.

the lush

Bar Agricole’s Mission Street location is permanently closed. Instagram photo via @baragricole.
Bar Agricole’s Mission Street location has permanently closed. Instagram photo via @baragricole.

Bar Agricole Has Closed Their Mission Street Location, a New Space on Valencia Is Next

Last December, a tablehopper tipster let me know it looked like Bar Agricole in SoMa was closing—they were selling off bottles, glassware, and equipment, and I noticed there weren’t any reservations available after the Christmas holiday. I reached out to owner Thad Vogler, who let me know they were taking a long break and possibly had a new location they were hopefully moving to on Valencia Street. He explained the space on Mission Street (which Bar Agricole relocated to a few blocks away from the original and opened in August 2022) was “just too big and too much of a restaurant for us”—he said the team really wants to just be a bar with good snacks.

It ends up the new Valencia Street lease is signed (a little birdie tells me it’s the former Lucca Ravioli location at 1100 Valencia), and Vogler should have an update on the concept soon (no word if Bar Agricole will continue or not). As for 1540 Mission Street, Bar Agricole will not be reopening there, and another operator is taking over the lease. I will share updates as I have them.

This Month in the Haight: Celebrating Women in Natural Wine

winefare women in natural wine march 16-17

by Savannah Leone Bundy

As Women’s History Month celebrations get underway, The Vinguard (the social justice organization striving to empower women in the natural wine movement) is holding their sixth annual WINeFare. The two-day tasting event will take place over the weekend of March 16th and 17th at the Haight Street Art Center, and showcase 75 women-run wineries and importers from California, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, France, Italy, Mexico, and Spain. Click here to see the incredible lineup! 

In addition to the tasting, WINeFare 2024 will include forums on vineyard workers’ rights and regenerative viticulture, and a winemaker dinner at The Ruby (open to the public for the first time!) on the 16th, catered by Reem’s and Souley Vegan. There is also a silent auction underway, from now until Sunday March 17th.

People of all genders are welcome to attend either or both days—tickets are $50 for one day and $90 for both (discounts are offered to food and beverage industry workers, essential workers, seniors, educators, and students), available here. Saturday March 16th and Sunday March 17th. 1pm–5pm. 215 Haight St. at Laguna.

the archivist

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