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Jan 10, 2024 13 min read

This week’s tablehopper: hot, behind! (free)

This week’s tablehopper: hot, behind! (free)
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what’s cookin’

pizza and eggplant Parm at Tommaso's
Tommaso’s has returned from their winter holiday break and is back open tonight—it’s time for pizza and eggplant Parm. Photo: ©

I know a bunch of folks (and restaurants) are getting back to the full-time grind this week (including me), so welcome to your new, badass year. Here’s hoping everyone can manage their email this week, it’s the worst. You know what else is rough? January is a brutal month for restaurants. We really don’t want to see even more iconic places throw in the towel, so if you can, please try to make a concerted effort to go out, maybe hit up your neighborhood spot that hasn’t seen you for a while, or go check out that new tasting menu you’ve been eyeballing—I’ll be posting plenty of inspo on @tablehopper on Instagram in coming days since I have a bunch of latergram posts to share (crappy health and holiday coverage and the gift box took over my life recently).

You’re reading the free version of the tablehopper newsletter, which comes out a day later, with edited content, and less insider intel. (I left a lot in this week, because our local businesses need your support!) Become a subscriber and help this indie publication make it to 18 years in February! (Yup, tablehopper is becoming an adult!)

Thanks to everyone who wrote in their comments about this year’s the bore, my annual list of 10 things I don’t want to see in the new year (since 2007!). Seems like some of you want a #keepgnocchisexy T-shirt, ha-ha!

Mark your calendars: FOG Design+Art Fair is returning to Fort Mason for its tenth year, from Thursday January 18th to Sunday January 21st (with the preview gala on the 17th). This year will feature 45 exhibitions by twentieth-century and contemporary design dealers and leading art galleries, and is always a visual banquet of inspiration. New this year: next door, in Pier 2, will be FOG FOCUS, an invitational designed to showcase art by young and underrepresented artists (the exhibition space is offered at a lower price point to increase accessibility to the fair). There’s also special programming with FOG Talks on topics like collecting design, AI and intellectual property, and more. Single-day tickets are $30 in advance, and $35 after January 17th (plus fees).

It was great to stay home for most of this past week and cook and catch up on work and movies and slay a lot of things on my to-do list! Love a clean slate. This week, I’m back in action and looking forward to hitting the town. Hope to see you out and about!


the chatterbox

The front bar area of The Halfway Club with a jukebox and orange banquette
The front area by the bar of The Halfway Club. Check out that jukebox! Photo: ©

A Sneak Peek of The Halfway Club, a Portal to Your Dad’s Bonus Room in 1978, Opening Wednesday

Back in July, I broke the news about bar industry denizens Ethan Terry and Greg Quinn taking over the former Broken Record space in Crocker-Amazon and opening The Halfway Club, a restaurant and bar that they’ve designed to be the ideal neighborhood joint, with some ’70s–’80s and Midwest influences. (Read my original post for details about the name and more.)

Great news: The Halfway Club is soft-opening this Wednesday January 10th! This past weekend, I attended a friends-and-family lunch so they could run a mock service with an abridged menu, and it was fun to get a sneak peek of the space (which was still in progress—they have a bunch of vintage beer signs to hang up!).

Bloody Mary with a beer back
A fantastic Bloody Mary with a beer back. Photo: ©

The cocktails ring in at a wallet-friendly $13, from an Old Fashioned—like Ol’ Sconnie (made with Argonaut brandy, a cherry-orange cordial, and bitters), Ellie’s Shaggy Dog Shandy (with Highland Park 12 year, pêche de vigne, honey syrup, lemon, dry cider), and a super-delicious Bloody Mary (with a Sudwerk Beer back). There will be a secret menu, and if you want a classic cocktail, they can make you one, no problem, and you’ll find well-chosen wines, beers, and more. I can’t wait to see the vintage glassware and beer goblets come out.

Toasted cheese ravioli with tomato sauce
Toasted cheese ravioli. Photo: ©

Fellow Midwestern pal Larry Piaskowy was originally consulting on the food program, but they all ended up bringing on chef Jason Murphy from True Laurel to really expand the concept and execution. You can snack on potato chips with a fluffy sour cream and chive dip topped with crispy shallots ($9), or crispy potato wedges, beer and cheddar fondue, smoked bacon, and scallion ranch ($14). The menu pays homage to Midwestern faves like toasted cheese ravioli with a bright tomato sauce ($14). There’s a bar-friendly crispy pork loin sandwich ($17) with red eye BBQ sauce and thinly sliced pickles and slaw.

The HWC Burger ($18) is one of those dream situations when everything just melds together: ancho pimento cheese, griddled onions (it reminded me a bit of an Oklahoma-style burger), pickled slaw, and garlic mayo, all nestled into a pillowy potato bun. Also: great fricking fries! And just in case you’re wondering, the HWC Glizzy ($13) is a hot dog, with horseradish remoulade, mustard, house pickles, crushed Old Bay chips, and potato bun.

Dungeness crab salad.
Dungeness crab salad. Photo: ©

Some local California love is in the abundant Dungeness crab salad ($24), with Green Goddess dressing, Little Gems, shaved fennel, and apple, and the winter chicory salad ($12), with radish, Cara Cara orange, dill, pistachio, and citrus vinaigrette. You’ll be able to get half a roasted chicken ($26) with blistered Brussels sprouts, and there’s also charred broccolini ($14) with green garlic Caesar dressing, Meyer lemon, and pecorino.

The back room where they’ll be screening movies on the wall.
The back room where they’ll be screening movies on the wall. Photo: ©

The 70’s-vibed space has punchy orange tufted banquette seating in the front room with round café tables, checkered flooring, and an exposed brick wall, while the back room is more of a green room, with pea soup green banquettes, dark green walls, some larger group tables made with beautiful wood, and lots of plants in vintage coffee tins—it’s also where they’ll be screening films on a wall (the Vertigo mural by Brian Barneclo is a tip-off). There’s a back patio that will get dialed in with even more plants and details soon. Vintage bar signs and the Wurlitzer 3600 Super Star jukebox by the front bar will be fired up.

The Halfway Club will be open Tue–Sun, and they aim to eventually be open nightly, depending upon what the neighborhood wants. Hours to start will be 4pm–midnight (but if the place is rocking on a Wed night, they’ll stay open later), and open until 2am Fri–Sat. The kitchen will always be open until 10pm. Sun hours will be 12pm–9pm; even though they won’t have a brunch menu, you can always put an egg on anything and enjoy the patio. And: it’s an all-ages restaurant. Congrats, guys, on getting it open! 1166 Geneva Ave. at Edinburgh.

The Bar at Osito Opens This Friday in the Former Liliana, Bring on the Fondue

seafood tower at the bar at osito
Seafood tower of tasty power. Photo: Molly DeCoudreaux.

Osito in the Mission is starting the new year with some changes at their neighboring bar: Liliana is now The Bar at Osito, and while the cozy room of salvaged redwood remains the same, the cocktail and food menus have changed. The bar team is going to be focusing on highlighting single-origin spirits and sharing their stories.

The food menu is going to feature housemade charcuterie from Osito’s whole animal program (like pâté, ciccioli, lamb ham), chilled raw seafood and towers (with plenty of oysters, plus crab, mussels, and shrimp), and three kinds of fondue (Swiss, Italian, Texan) served with baby vegetables from the farm at Meadowood, house milk bread croutons, and preserved vegetables. House ferments will feature prominently: oyster service includes Kusshi oysters with fermented mango and chile, Kumamotos with ramp kimchi kosho, and Beausoliels with pink peppercorn-ramp mignonette, while the Gulf shrimp cocktail features house-fermented Early Girl cocktail sauce.

Osito captain and cheesemonger, Wilmer Ruiz, is also going to be offering selections from their expanded cheese program, perfect after your dinner at Osito (there’s also a candy cap affogato). Opening Friday January 12th; reservations are now live on Tock, walk-ins also accepted. Open Tue–Thu 5:30pm–9:30pm, Fri–Sat 5:30pm–10:30pm. 2875 18th St. at Florida.

Tragic Fire Consumes the Historic Boat Shack at Nick’s Cove, While Another Damages the Upcoming Poppy in SF

The boat shack at Nick’s Cove
The boat shack at Nick’s Cove—it will be greatly missed. Photo: ©

It was pretty awful to start the week with images of the historic boat shack at the end of Nick’s Cove’s pier on fire up in Tomales Bay. SFGATE reported the iconic structure caught fire Sunday evening and is completely destroyed, but thankfully, no one was hurt, and the fire didn’t spread down the pier or damage any more structures. It’s such a shame—that much-adored shack was such a unique and cozy spot in the middle of the bay, the home of fun memories for so many folks. The owners said in an Instagram post that they “are committed to finding a way to rebuild.” The restaurant and waterfront cottages remain open, and would assuredly appreciate your presence.

I have been tracking the upcoming opening of the brunch-centric Poppy from Jessica Sullivan and Laurel Robinson, and sadly they just posted about a recent fire at their restaurant construction site in the Mission. It sounds like things remain unclear about the extent of the damage and what this means for their opening date, but I will keep you updated. It’s so sad and deeply frustrating, they were getting close. In the meantime, you can check out their SMBX small business bonds that are still available for investment for the next eight days—their project could definitely use our support right now. 3100 18th St. at Harrison.

Z & Y Peking Duck Now Open in Chinatown

Peking duck service at Z & Y Peking Duck
Peking duck service at Z & Y Peking Duck. Photo courtesy of Z & Y Peking Duck.

Recently opened in Chinatown is Z & Y Peking Duck from chef-owner Lijun Han of Z & Y Restaurant (which is just up and across the street, and in 2021, paid workers $1.6M to settle a lawsuit of alleged wage theft). Chef Han is also the owner of Chili House in the Inner Richmond—which unfortunately suffered a fire in October 2023 and remains temporarily closed—and was popular for its Peking duck service (which offered quite the tableside carving show).

This new project is now open in the previous Z & Y Bistro, a dual-level space that was recently renovated, and will be focused on Peking duck service, in addition to Beijing-inspired dim sum and small plates; additional menu items include Sichuan dishes, Lanzhou noodles, dumplings, green onion pancake, clay pot dishes, princess chicken, and more. There is also a focus on wine at this location.

It’s a multi-day process to make traditional Peking duck. According to the press release: “The careful preparation involves a laborious process that starts with an organic, fresh, high-quality duck that is par-boiled and dried for 24 hours. The duck is brushed with a light layer of honey to ensure the skin is exceptionally crispy, tasty, and slightly sweet before being roasted to perfection in special, single-purpose roasting ovens.”

In honor of the opening, the duck will be available at a special price for a limited time: whole ($69) or half ($40), sliced and served in the authentic style, or with caviar ($158), along with julienned cucumbers and scallions, housemade hoisin sauce, and delicate flour wraps. I was wondering what they’re going to do in light of the recent avian flu outbreak in California (Eater just wrote this piece about how it’s affecting local restaurants and their sourcing), but this SF Standard piece mentions chef Han sources his duck from Long Island, New York.

The contemporary location will be soon be offering two private rooms on the lower level as well. Open Thu–Tue 11:30am–3:30pm and 4:30pm–9:30pm. 606 Jackson St. at Kearny.

More New Openings, from Bento Boxes to Japanese Curry

Saint Frank’s New Café Opens Near the Embarcadero 

A look inside the spacious, natural-chic location of the latest saint frank coffee
A look inside the spacious, natural-chic location. Photo courtesy of Saint Frank Coffee. 

Comebacks and Pop-Ups

Egg custard tart (dan tat) from Golden Gate Bakery
Egg custard tart (dan tat) from Golden Gate Bakery. Photo: ©

Every time I’m in Chinatown, I walk past Golden Gate Bakery to see if there are any signs of life behind their graffitied pieces of plywood and metal gate. I haven’t had one of their dan tat/egg tarts in years, one of the city’s best. Of course, the intrepid was the first to notice they were back open last week and serving egg tarts, a miracle. @pastrywithjenn quickly followed up with tips on how to score the egg tarts while dealing with their wonky hours on the days they’re open (a moving target). It’s always such a goose chase, but if you score the golden egg, it’s so worth it. 1029 Grant Ave. at Jackson.

super-crunchy and craggy La Lulu chick’n sandwich (with bacon and BBQ sauce) from Malibu’s Burgers
The super-crunchy and craggy La Lulu chick’n sandwich (with bacon and BBQ sauce) from Malibu’s Burgers. Photo: ©

Over in Oakland: last year, I was sorry to learn via Eater that Malibu’s Burgers was leaving their location on Piedmont Avenue (they closed just before Christmas), but thanks to The Lumpia Company, Malibu’s is taking over TLC’s old location at 372 24th Street (at Webster) in Oakland. (They’ll be close to Low Bar, the New Parkway, and Drake’s Dealership.) Malibu’s Burgers is reopening this week in their new location, aiming for Thursday January 11th or Friday the 12th, hours will be 12pm–8pm. I checked out this popular vegan burger shop when I was writing up the Oakland Vegan Trail for Visit Oakland, and am happy to see this Black-owned business continue on.

New Lunch Service and Sunday Suppers

outdoor sign for Besharam
This way for a fantastic lunch. Photo: ©

Tasty news: Besharam is introducing lunch service, served Thu–Sat from 11am–2pm. Chef Heena Patel’s vegetarian menu includes dream dishes like a Bombay sandwich (layered vegetables, chutneys, tadka soup); egg uttapum (masala omelette, savory pancake, herb salad); poori tacos (puffed bread, eggplant stew, radish slaw); and there are also non-alcoholic cocktail options (including the Daru: Free Spirits bourbon and Milano, baklava syrup, aquafaba, lemon, Nola bitters). They have made some renovations to the restaurant to expand the interior dining room, while eliminating the atrium tables, so everyone can be seated inside the restaurant. 1275 Minnesota St. at 24th St.

Over in Oakland, Parche not only has new chef, Juan Hormiga—who is originally from Atlanta but attended culinary school and refined his skills at the upscale 80 Sillas in Bogotá—but is also launching weekday lunch service this Wednesday January 10th, from 11am–3pm (Mon–Fri). The new lunch menu includes salmon salpicon with salmon tartar, black pepper aioli, capers, jalapeño-cilantro aioli, crispy plantain rings; Posta Negra sliders with Cartagena-style braised short rib, Mexican Coke, panela, spices, toasted coconut on a gluten-free bun; and a tamal Tolimense, with rice-corn tamal, beef, pork, chicken, boiled egg, and a carrot for good health. 2295 Broadway at 23rd St., Oakland.

Lord Stanley is hosting their Sunday Suppers once again, offering a four-course menu for $75. Choose from two–three options for each course of chef de cuisine Nathan Matkowsky’s Bistro de Luxe–style dishes, with optional supplements, add-ons, and beverage pairings available. Here’s the menu from this past Sunday. 2065 Polk St. at Broadway.

the lush

The Happy Delivery on The Salty Dog menu at Trick Dog.
The Happy Delivery on The Salty Dog menu at Trick Dog. Photo: Nicola Parisi.

Trick Dog Has Gone Full-Bore on Their Latest Concept, Plus New Classes from Camper English

For their 20th menu (since 2013!), Trick Dog bar is not only offering a new lineup of 17 cocktails for a concept called The Salty Dog, but they actually updated the bar’s interior décor as well to create a nautical and tropical immersive experience, along with new uniforms and glassware. Ahoy, matey! Each cocktail is named after a famous pirate ship, and are hand illustrated by Lily Therens on the menu, who worked with tattoo artist Matt Howse (father to bar manager Travis Howse) on the project, along with founder Josh Harris, and GM/beverage director Nick Amano-Dolan. (Proceeds from The Salty Dog menu ($30) benefit The Bon Vivants Scholarship.) You have six months to start working your way through the tropical and Tiki bar–inspired menu and find the (not-so-buried) treasure. 3010 20th St. at Florida.

Lovable and longtime local cocktail nerd Camper English of Alcademics is teaching new classes to wet your whistle this Dry January: there’s a bottled water tasting/education class, and he's also teaching two more of his Ice Bling classes in the Beverage Academy at Bourbon & Branch—learn how to carve ice diamonds, spheres, and bling out your clear cubes!

-Water class: January 18th at Mechanics Institute, 57 Post St. at Market. 
-Ice Bling classes: Jan 10th and 24th at Beverage Academy, 501 Jones St. at O’Farrell. His full class schedule is here

the archivist

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