Hello, hopper posse! Congrats to all the 2024 Restaurant and Chef James Beard Awards semifinalists who were announced today! Such a great lineup of nods, love to see it. Nominees will be announced on Wednesday April 3rd, and winners will be announced at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Ceremony on Monday June 10th at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
A subscription to tablehopper not only helps continue to support this independent journalist and publication (just look at what’s happening in media right now), but it also helps support our local businesses, because you give me the TIME to write about all the small and independent places. I can’t wait to tell you about the renewal party I’m planning for March (for subscribers only), we’re going to celebrate! 🥂
Are you staying healthy right now? It’s tough out there. Fortunately, I’ve been cold-free for a month (yay!) and am doing my best to keep on boosting my immunity. It’s why I was fired up to work with ongoing partner Feed on the tablehopper Wellness and Immunity Boost Box, which is full of cold-busting items. (We took out a few things since last week’s email, so the price has gone down if you took a peek at it last week.) You can order the products individually (read all about them here) or you can order the whole shebang (or send a box to a sick friend who needs some TLC). Use code tablehopper25 for $25 off! To your health!
I have been posting updates in my @tablehopper Stories about where to get local Dungeness crab dishes, as well as Lunar New Year special treats. I keep adding to my highlights, so check back! Valentine’s Day stories are also being added, and did you see my post about the bar bites menu at the Linden Room? It’s a fabulous experience.
I’m looking forward to checking out the new Alora this weekend, opening this Thursday January 25th on Pier 3 from owners Vikram and Anu Bhambri (Rooh), with chef Ryan McIlwraith behind the Mediterranean menu. Look for a recap in next week’s tablehopper.
And at the end of the month, I can’t believe I’m visiting Jeanne d’Arc, a longstanding kitschy French restaurant (since 1972!) that just reopened in the Cornell Hotel. I’ll be sharing that experience with you as well.
In today’s column, I’m thrilled to share the story of the upcoming Savoie restaurant from husband-and-wife team Mark and Alison Sullivan (and family!), opening in the iconic The Pfeifer House in Tahoe City. Many of you know I have been going to Lake Tahoe every summer of my life, so it’s a pleasure to write about this special and nostalgic project. Thanks to the tablehopper reader who I met on the beach at Sugar Pine Point a few summers ago for tipping me off about it (you know who you are)!
Have a great week, stay toasty and dry. I’ll keep you well-fed.
A New Era Begins for The Pfeifer House Location in Lake Tahoe: Enter Savoie, a Family Project from Chefs-Partners Mark and Alison Sullivan
Anyone who drives into Tahoe City is familiar with The Pfeifer House, the landmark restaurant just across the road from the Truckee River before you get into town. It has an unmistakable alpine chalet style and stone exterior, and is one of the oldest restaurants in the area. It was known for being a German gasthaus time capsule, complete with schnitzel, taxidermy, cuckoo clocks, hand-painted walls, lots of knotty pine, with cozy fireplaces burning in the winter.
The Pfeifer House has a lot of historical significance for Tahoe, and earned quite the fun reputation over the years, from selling booze during Prohibition (shhhh), to its heyday as one of the top places to go in Tahoe during the height of Continental cuisine. So many families have longstanding memories there.
Mark Sullivan (executive chef-partner of Bacchus Management Group) tells me the building was important to his family—the matriarch of the family, Maureen Sullivan, has been going there since the 1950s. In fact, she’s the one who had the original idea for Mark and his wife Alison (also a chef) to take it over and run it as a family restaurant. She ended up buying it in tribute to Mark’s father and their many memories spent there together (sadly, he has passed away); they loved going to The Pfeifer House together. It’s quite the personal legacy project. But before we dive into what’s coming (Savoie), let’s look at the building’s past.
It was built in the 1920s as a private residence, becoming The Lake Inn in 1939, when it was converted into an alpine inn by owners Mr. and Mrs. H.T. Marshall (according to a PDF of the restaurant’s history that the Sullivans shared with me). After changing hands a few times, and closing for a few seasons in the 1950s, Ric and Bernice Giannini bought The Lake Inn, and cousin Lois Pfeifer was hired as manager. Lois went on to purchase the location with her husband, “Hermann the German” Schaeffer in 1954, which is when it became The Pfeifer House.
In 1972, Franz Fassbender bought The Pfeifer House (along with another German, Henry Obermueller)—Franz was a chef in Germany when he was young, and worked at the restaurant with his family until 2012, when he died in a tragic accident. His family continued to run the restaurant with his recipes—his German wife Ute, his son Kirk, and daughter-in-law Angela Fassbender—until it closed in March 2019, just before the pandemic. Maureen Sullivan bought the property in late 2019.
It’s wonderful to know that the longstanding and iconic location is going to continue its history as a family-run business in this next iteration as Savoie, with many members of the Sullivan clan contributing their skills and expertise to the project. Chef Mark Sullivan has been with Bacchus Management Group since 2001, when he opened The Village Pub with Tim Stannard in Woodside, and oversees the cuisine at their many restaurants, including Spruce, Selby’s, The Village Pub, and the recent projects on Mariposa: the stunning La Connessa, Louie’s Original, and Magic Donuts and Coffee. Mark began his career cooking in Southern France, and he’s excited to delve into this special regional style of cooking with Savoie, which will be a project outside of Bacchus (where he remains partner and executive chef).
Co-chef and partner Alison Sullivan was the first pastry chef at The Village Pub, and her career includes working for Laurent Gras at Fifth Floor (what a magical time that was!), Masa’s, Delfina, Boulette’s Larder, and Recchiuti Confections. She has been cooking more savory over the past five years, and was recently at Anthony Strong’s Prairie (before he converted it into a general store during the pandemic). She has been handling the business development for Savoie, while Mark has been overseeing the kitchen design.
The name Savoie pays homage to the historical region of Savoy in the French, Swiss, and Italian Alps. It’s now a department in Southeastern France (along the Italian border), previously part of Rhône-Alpes, and then in 2016 became part of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. The Savoie is as well-known for its ski resorts as its unique style of cooking and culinary specialties, which include tartiflette (a dreamy potato dish with Reblochon cheese, lardons, and onions), fondue savoyarde, cheeses, saucisson, and génépi (the liqueur).
Mark and Alison have taken two research trips to the Savoie, which is also a hip wine area. At the restaurant, they’re going to offer a bar and lounge menu focused on regional fare and a fine-dining menu in the dining room. In the lounge, tartiflette will be offered, with layers of potato, lardons, crème fraîche, and onion, served inside an entire wheel of Reblochon cheese, which will be crisped in the oven, mon dieu.
There will also be fondue service for four or more, which will require advance reservations. Guests will start with a Chartreuse cocktail, and enjoy snacks like thinly sliced saucisson sec with pickled onion and pine-infused beets. There will be waves of dishes you can dunk into the fondue, as well as housemade breads, fruits, and vegetables (like forest mushrooms). Oh yes, and truffles. It will come with a chicory salad in an anchoïade vinaigrette to counterpoint the cheesiness. Sounds like a dream experience to me!
Mark’s charcuterie will figure prominently, and I was thrilled to hear his stellar boudin blanc will be returning, served with a seasonal garnish. There will be handmade pastas—a staple in the Alps—like pansotti, casunziei all’ampezzana (beet-filled pasta with poppyseeds), and canederli (a bread and speck dumpling made with Alpine Fontina). Freshwater fish is another homage to Savoyard cooking (Lake Geneva is nearby), so look for some poached trout with caviar sauce vin blanc, rose potatoes, and young leeks.
For dessert, a proper Mont Blanc with chestnut, Chantilly cream, and vanilla will be offered, and there will be crème caramel infused with fir tips and caramelized honey. The apple tarte fine for two will feature confited and layered apples and puff pastry rolled by hand.
The wine list will include high-altitude wines from the Alpine regions of Europe (think Savoie, Austria, and Alto Adige), as well as Tuscan wines and cult classics. There is a basement subterranean cellar being put in, which will be able to keep the wines at a cool ambient temperature. Of course, mountain spirits and amari will figure prominently at the bar (perfect for après-ski).
When you have two chef-partners working on their dream project, the kitchen design comes first. It’s centered around a custom Molteni range, which took a year just to design. Mark and Alison even went to the Rhône Valley to see it just when it was finished. The 8-foot-by-11-foot range will be a center island in the kitchen, outfitted with sage porcelain, brass detail, and a chromium plancha. Guests will be able to view it through the open kitchen counter.
The overall design style is 21st century European chalet, and while the original space’s vaulted pine ceiling and taxidermy will remain (and the two original fireplaces were thankfully grandfathered in), little else of the interior space will be kept—but the feeling of the original restaurant will continue, just something newer and fresher. They’re working with Brooklyn designers Annie Cobb (Sullivan Matthews Design Firm) and Oliver Cobb (creative director at Imagination, NY) on the interior, who happen to be Mark’s sister and her husband. The dining room will have wood paneling, with rich textiles and felted wool on the walls, and drapes (perfect to keep winter drafts away). There will be herringbone tile stone flooring (like Parisian pavé).
The bar and lounge area includes an island bar made of cast pewter (from the same American producer who has cast the bars for Balthazar and Pastis in New York), as well as handmade tables and chairs. The dining room will now have white tablecloths (instead of the previous pink ones!). They’re designing the dining room to be flexible with an open floor-plan and walls they can open or close to create a larger or smaller space (there’s 7,000 square feet to work with). There will be a private dining room with room for 20, and a chef’s table in the kitchen with room for up to 12. Overall, there will be 125 seats, including the bar and lounge (with 24 seats, but room for 70).
The exterior will mostly remain the same (it’s iconic and they didn’t want to change much), but they’re expanding out back to make room for a big patio and outdoor space. I look forward to summertime on the patio with a cold beer and snacks. It’s on two acres, so there will be more parking as well.
It’s a huge project, and the building needed a lot of work, so it has been taking some time. Add in winter weather and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency regulations that are delaying things for six months (no digging is allowed from October 15th to May 15th). The Sullivans are targeting the end of 2024/beginning of 2025 to open, offering dinner and brunch to start. I’ll keep you posted on developments with this fantastically exciting project later this year! 760 River Rd., Tahoe City.
Recent Openings in Truckee and Tahoe
Since we’re reading about Tahoe right now, and I know a bunch of you like to head up there to ski, here are a couple new spots that have recently opened.
Sam’s East Soft-Opens Just Next Door to Sam’s Burgers—Bring on the Late-Night Falafel Pita and Ribeye Lavash Wraps
Over the weekend, the intrepid Dapper Diner was in North Beach and noticed the new Sam’s East was softly open, a Middle Eastern restaurant opening next door to the iconic Sam’s Burgers. Owner Emad ElShawa (who co-owns the burger shop with his two older brothers in Atlanta—did you know they opened a Sam’s of SF there four years ago?) is opening Sam’s East to honor their much-adored and greatly missed father, Mike, who sadly passed away almost seven years ago, in 2016.
Emad told me while his dad was running Sam’s (which he opened in 1966), he was simultaneously the chef for the famous Keystone Korner jazz club in the neighborhood. His dad, who was Palestinian, used to make falafel wraps there, and there’s even a vintage Keystone menu at Sam’s that lists the falafel. Opening Sam’s East is a full-circle tribute to their father and his roots.
On the menu: falafel, thinly sliced ribeye steak, and chicken shawarma (cooked on the grill), available in a pita, lavash wrap, or in a bowl ($11–$15). The chicken wrap comes with pickled cucumber, garlic, and you can get it as spicy as you want, with the option to have a grilled serrano added (yes!), all wrapped up in lavash, and pressed on the grill (or in a pita, or bowl). The elevated ribeye option comes with pickled cucumber, tahini, grilled onion, and sumac. If you order a bowl, there’s a bed of hummus, with pickled cucumber, cabbage, and Arabic salad, and there’s the option of ordering a bowl with sumac French fries. Sides include hummus, Arabic salad, and a green fattoush salad with cabbage, fried breadcrumbs, and a pomegranate molasses dressing (sounds delicious).
Emad is going to offer a beer list of local IPAs (including Drake’s and Karl the Fog from Calicraft), Golden Gate Cider, and wines from the Middle East, with two from Palestine, and two from Lebanon.
The space—which most recently housed Tacorea—has the same layout as Sam’s Burgers, with a similar diner counter (eight seats), and three tables along the back wall, with room for 20 folks or so. There’s a special mural Emad commissioned: Natalie Gabriel, who is behind the fab Carol Doda mural on Columbus Avenue, created an SF cityscape—with Mike and Anthony Bourdain (who famously loved the burger at Sam’s during a late-night visit for the show “The Layover,” exclaiming “That’s a good burger. Top three in the world!”) floating over the City, awwwww; there’s also a piece by North Beach denizen Jeremy Fish; and there’s some Arabic calligraphy as well.
Hours will eventually be like Sam’s Burgers (1pm–2am), but they’re starting with 2pm–1am for now. The grand opening party is Thursday February 1st at 7pm. [This project was first reported by SF Standard last year.] 620 Broadway at Grant.
The Casual Il Parco Opens in the Presidio, With One of the Best Views to Go With Your Focaccia
Newly open at San Francisco Presidio’s Tunnel Tops is Il Parco, an Italian café from the owners of nearby Colibrí. Open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the morning brings an extensive array of housemade breakfast breads, scones, and muffins, plus breakfast bowls, yogurts, and toasts, with a coffee and juice bar.
Lunch is all about focaccia-style sandwiches and pizza (developed by international pizza consultant Anthony Falco). There’s a spicy meatball hero, with housemade mozzarella and spiked with smoky ’nduja ($15), while the simple but perfect mortadella panino ($13) reminded me of what I’d find in Italy—just a few slices of decadent mortadella, housemade stracciatella, and a swipe of California pistachio pesto on the fluffy, golden, and crackly focaccia. My favorite kind of panino.
The kitchen got busy prepping for their preview party, so I didn’t get to try a proper sampling of the pizza—I need to go back. I did manage to get a slice of the upside cheese slice and the spicy soppressata and honey ($6–$9), which had an incredible honeycomb-like crackly texture on the base. Thick slices of naturally leavened focaccia are topped with a bright tomato sauce (made from Bianco DiNapoli California-grown tomatoes), cheese, and toppings. It’s a bready slice, so don’t expect thin-crust pizza here. The focaccia panini and pizzas will rotate daily. There’s also a breakfast focaccia sandwich (bacon, scrambled egg, cheddar, and Calabrian mayo) and a slice (mozzarella, cheddar, egg, potato, tomatillo salsa, and cilantro).
There are soups and salads—we were impressed with the freshness and tasty dressing on our Tuscan kale salad ($15), with Champagne vinegar, chopped kale, red onion, apple, golden raisins, almonds, and pecorino romano.
There were two kinds of lasagna, including a rich and creamy lasagna di verdure ($16), with roasted eggplant and zucchini, housemade tomato sauce, Parmigiano Reggiano, housemade mozzarella, and basil. The only bummer is it’s served on those metal trays I detest, which make your food cold while you feel like you’re eating in a detention hall. Hot dishes will rotate daily on the menu, FYI.
Desserts include tres leches cake, NY cheesecake, zabaglione trifle, and maritozzi (brioche stuffed with cream and three choices of fillings). Add in some cookies and crumble shortbread and your sweet tooth will be taken care of.
There are six Italian wines by the glass, vermouth, craft cocktails, and picnic-ready canned cocktails (the Negroni Sbagliato was our favorite, the Aperol Spritz wasn’t fizzy), and n/a options. It’ll be a fun spot for aperitivo.
There’s a large display/grab-and-go counter inside where you order food, plus an outdoor bar under a pergola (by Design Opera Architects). Find a table in the glass-enclosed and partially covered patio, where you can enjoy a stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the bay, plus there are picnic tables, perfect on a sunny day. The Presidio Main Parade Lawn is also nearby if you want to have a picnic and watch the dogs run around.
Overall, the project is much more ambitious than your usual park café, which is awesome, but it’s also why I would give them a little time to work through some opening kinks (and according to some posts on Yelp, it sounds like pricing is also in flux and different from what I have listed here from the preview). The new menu with pricing should be live on their site any day now. Open Mon–Thu 7am–7pm, Fri 7am–8pm, Sat 8am–8pm, Sun 8am–7pm. 215 Lincoln Blvd.
Closures Include Woodhouse Fish Co. on Market, Bacco, and Changes at Delirama
After 18 years of slinging happy hour oysters and Dungeness crab dinners, Woodhouse Fish Co. is closing their original Market Street location today (January 23rd). It’s a shame that it’s closing right when local Dungeness crab season finally opened, but their recently renovated location at 1914 Fillmore Street remains open (Eater reports staff will be offered shifts there). In the post, owner Dylan MacNiven states he decided to close based on reasons like new ownership of the building—which was likely going to impact their lease renewal—and it just felt like the right time to wrap things up. 2073 Market St. at 14th St.
After 31 years in Noe Valley, owner Sharri Dominici of Bacco will be closing the restaurant in order to open a new restaurant in mid-March, with a new concept (it won’t be Italian) and business partner. [Via Chronicle] 3913 24th St. at Sanchez.
Over in Berkeley, Cash Caris of Delirama announced on Instagram that he will be closing the business in order to reconcept it. An offshoot of Pyro’s Pastrami, it’s known for its delicious pastrami sandwiches. Delirama will continue to sell pastrami by the pound and fresh rye while he decides on what the new concept will be, so at least you can make your pastrami sandwich at home. Swing by and show some support if you can. Open Fri–Sun 11am–3pm (or until sold out). 1746 Solano Ave., Berkeley.
Enjoy a Special Flash Offer on Tickets to the James Beard Taste America Tasting Event!
Celebrate the vibrant culinary scene of the Bay Area at the James Beard Taste America event coming to the Four Seasons San Francisco on Sunday February 4th! This national dining initiative unites chefs, special guests, and diners to honor local independent restaurants with an evening of exquisite flavors. Indulge in a walk-around tasting featuring renowned chefs like Anya El-Wattar of Birch & Rye, Yuan Tang of Rooster & Owl in D.C., Dominica Rice Cisneros of Bombera, Matt Horn of Horn BBQ, C-Y China and Shane Stanbridge of Lion Dance Cafe, Kristina Liedags Compton of Hilda & Jesse, and more. Each station reflects the chef’s signature style, highlighting their restaurant and community. With beverage stations and activations from national and local sponsors, it’s a night of culinary brilliance.
Thanks to everyone who entered the tablehopper giveaway, the winner has been chosen. As a special offer to tablehopper readers, you can use code 25OFF for $25 off your ticket. (This is a limited offer ending Friday at 3pm PT, or while supplies last, so use it while you can!)
Date: Sunday, February 4th, 2024
Tickets: Premier: $250 (5:30pm entrance); General: $175 (6:30pm entrance)
Venue: Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco, 757 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
The First Lady Got Crabby in SF (in a Good Way)
Well, this is fun: First Lady Jill Biden dined at Popi's Oysterette in the Marina last week during her visit to SF. Chef-owner Melissa Perfit was unaware that the First Lady would be stopping in with her entourage for lunch, but thankfully was able to make room for the large group on the fly. Chef Melissa knew it was going to be someone big when a full squad of security showed up and they started to shut down Chestnut Street.
While dining, Biden enjoyed a crab roll, which is one of Popi’s best sellers. Perfit said, “Jill was very friendly, although it was clear they were there to work. Before she left, she shook my hand, which I took as a huge compliment. The group was respectful of the space and our other diners."