I hope you’re enjoying the moments of sun today. On Sunday evening, I was in North Beach to see and shoot the newly updated Park Tavern (more on this below!), and the timing proved to be so fortuitous, because as I was driving to my next stop in Jackson Square, I was able to enjoy the most gorgeous view of the The Bay Lights an hour before they were shut off (here’s hoping they return soon, here’s the fundraiser). (I snapped my pic through a gate at Montgomery and Green.) I love how this city never ceases to take my breath away, 28 years after moving here.
Thanks to all of you for the feedback about Friday’s piece (Five Places to Eat at Now) from the new The Hopper Notebook monthly feature. Moving forward, that feature will be for subscribers only. I have had requests for those kinds of listicles in the past (“Hey, Marcia, what are your favorite sushi places?”) but those pieces take TIME to write, and this new subscription model enables me to be able to do it, so thanks for supporting my work!
I know some of you missed the super-special introductory subscription offer, but here’s a last-minute, flash sale price: get an annual subscription for $119 ($30 off the regular price)! This offer is available through March 8th, ending at midnight.
And if you’re unable to afford a subscription, don’t forget I just launched a subsidized subscription application! I’m especially keen on being able to offer this to my fellow freelance writers, creatives, culture creators, and restaurant industry folks, or longtime readers on a fixed income. This first application window will close on Friday March 17th. Future application periods are TBD and contingent upon additional Patron/Super Patron subscriptions. (Thank you!)
Big thanks to Steph Chan for having me as a guest on her Created Here podcast! It was wonderful to be able to talk about all the changes happening over here with tablehopper, to reflect upon 17 years of being an independent publisher, to talk about my process, perspective, and more! I am still a bit croaky from my cold in the interview, blergh, but I’m very grateful for the opportunity to chat about this exciting moment in time for me. You can listen to other episodes with local chefs and folks behind our beloved food businesses, and she’s open to food people who want to be on the podcast to reach out.
This evening (March 7th) is My Taco, My Choice!, a Bay Area chef taco competition in support of women’s reproductive rights at Merkado in SoMa! You coming? Guests will enjoy one taco from each chef and a Margarita (alcoholic or n/a), $45 in advance via Eventbrite; $50 at the door. I will be there as a judge, so I hope to see you there! (I will also be selling some tablehopper t-shirts, in case you have always wanted to get one!) You can read the lineup of chefs competing in Broke-Ass Stuart. Doors open at 5pm for cocktail hour, the event runs 6pm–8:30pm. It will be held in the indoor plaza and outdoor patio area at Merkado. 130 Townsend St. at 2nd St.
Tomorrow, March 8th, is International Women’s Day. I look forward to being at A16’s annual Festa della Donna celebration of wine, women, food, and friendship. (You can also attend Besharam’s Bollywood evening, read more in last week’s column here.)
Speaking of women and Italian food, you should plan on catching Katie Parla during her book tour’s stop in SF March 14th–15th. She’ll be telling stories from her latest book, Food of the Italian Islands, at a dinner at Che Fico, over coffee at Libreria Pino, and for a live Salt + Spine podcast at Omnivore Books (read details about her U.S. tour here).
Okay, gang, I need to get ready for tonight’s event. Hope to see you!
Exclusive: First Look at Park Tavern’s Glam New Style, Meet the New Chef, and More
Back in December, I mentioned Park Tavern was getting close to reopening after a massive renovation, redesign, a new kitchen install, and a swath of structural updates (from the plumbing to electrical to the roofing) to take the restaurant into the next 10 years. It has been a long and arduous job, complete with supply chain issues and endless delays, but if the final inspections and test dinners go as planned this month, we’re looking at a reopening in late March.
Owner Anna Weinberg gave me an exclusive preview tour, and she has done a smashing job with the redesign. The former rustic farmhouse-chic design—complete with penny tile, exposed beams, a wagon wheel chandelier, subway tile, and taxidermy—has all been swapped out for a much sexier look. There’s a stunning black marble floor throughout the bar and dining room (it looks like liquid when the lights are dimmed), with dark jewel tones of eggplant on the arches between the bar/lounge and dining room, and hunter green banquettes that are almost a dreamy jade in the main dining room. The black ceiling helps to obscure the soundproofing tiles throughout the restaurant (we love those).
The communal bar counter in the bar area is gone, now filled in with French café tables for two down the middle, flanked by low-slung, tufted booths with sleek gold and brown leather lounge chairs that make you feel like you should be drinking some whiskey. The long bar will have a raw bar situated where you first come in, and the back bar is a glossy black, outfitted with a gorgeous vintage cabinet and decorative elements recovered from the basement at Tosca, with amber Tiffany-esque lamps glowing above the bar. It has an eclectic, 70’s louche vibe, which will be very atmospheric in the evening, and there’s now space for 35, so it has room to host a fun scene.
The main dining room is centered around a gleaming circular chandelier with sparkling beveled glass and brass, with banquette seating flanking the perimeter, which will make seating very flexible for all sizes of groups. The back of the restaurant is anchored by the new kitchen, featuring a marble backsplash, and it’s partially enclosed by glass panels (which are actually shower doors—when Weinberg was given a crazy-expensive estimate for the dividers, she got very crafty in her sourcing).
Artwork and photography throughout the space will include some special images of Cecilia Chiang with Alice Waters (it ends up Cecilia teased Weinberg about a photo of Washington Square Bar and Grill’s Ed Moose that was previously behind the bar, so now she gets her place in the restaurant), Herb Caen, and other SF icons, plus an an Ashley Longshore piece of Nancy Pelosi, just you wait.
The front café area now has lively patterned marble floors with white square scales with edges of gold (another clever material repurposing from Weinberg), and antique tables and bistro chairs. The room feels much sunnier and lighter, and the view of the park can’t be beat. It has a less-formal feeling and would be lovely for lunch. The café will also be easier to close off with curtains for private events, and can open up onto the patio as well.
The upstairs private dining room is looking extra-glam, with the gold de Gournay hand-painted wallpaper panels now framed in high-gloss black paint—the room positively glows with the Regency light fixtures. I’m already plotting a Champagne dinner up there.
New executive chef Marco Cerruti was most recently at The Ellwood in Santa Barbara, and has worked at Beast + Bounty in Sacramento, Saison here in SF, The Charter Oak, and he has cooked extensively in Italy (including Buca di Sant’Antonio in Lucca) and Denmark (Noma’s 108, Relae, and Beast); he was raised in Sacramento, but his parents led food and wine tours in Tuscany, so he was exposed to Italian cuisine and culture early in his life.
The menu will be staying classic American, a style established by partner Jenn Puccio who set up Park Tavern for success (she is currently not an active partner, and is busy running Marlowe and Cavalier). Some classics like the PT fries and deviled eggs will return, alongside new raw bar selections like oysters on the half shell, shrimp cocktail, and a plateau de mer, and there’s a hamachi crudo as well.
A peek at an initial menu includes appetizers like chicken liver mousse with apricot mostarda, tenderloin steak tartare, and three salads (Caesar, winter citrus, and Little Gems with Green Goddess). The menu is designed to share, so guests can order mains like roasted chicken or grilled local sturgeon, with sides for the table, like buttery mashed potatoes and haricot verts. But if you want to have the bone-in pork chop all to yourself, you can do that, too. Of course, there will be bar classics like a cheeseburger and steak frites on offer, too.
Park Tavern would have turned ten in 2021, so when it reopens, it has some celebrations to make up for. Weinberg is looking forward to hosting eager returning guests as they make new memories in the gorgeous new space. 1652 Stockton St. at Filbert.
Openings Include Dragon Horse in SoMa, New Mexican Spots (Xica and Cenote)
The former Izakaya Hon in SoMa has transformed into Dragon Horse, a different concept that has brought on Derrick Li of Blind Pig to rock the cocktail list (Blind Pig is the speakeasy lounge he opened in Chinatown on the second floor of the Cathay House on California Street in September 2022)—he has also worked at Cold Drinks at China Live. This new iteration is offering late-night sushi and izakaya dishes with 13 craft cocktails inspired by Japanese culture. The menu includes fried bites, a variety of skewers (from beef tongue to bacon and asparagus), as well as nigiri, sashimi, and maki, and some tori paitan ramen. Check out Li’s list of cocktails ($16), which include creative concoctions like the Heaven and Earth (Hirsch bourbon, Campari-infused Key lime leaves, spiced pear, dry sherry, Japanese curry). There’s also a private room if you have a group. Launching this Wednesday! Open Wed–Mon 5pm–1am. 917 Folsom St. at 5th St.
Back in September, I wrote about Xica coming to Levi’s Plaza, an offshoot from chef-owner Maria Elena Esquivel’s original Chica in Oakland, known for her homestyle cooking (her chilaquiles and pozole are delicious). A follow-up piece in the Chronicle mentions the menu will include tacos, quesadillas, and her “Mexi-bowls” for lunch, and the full bar will feature spirits from female-owned mezcal and tequila brands, and female winemakers. She has opened in the former and spacious Il Fornaio, with 5,000 square feet and room for 130 seats (there’s an 85-seat dining room, outdoor plaza, bar area, and private dining room). Breakfast and lunch to start, with dinner and more coming soon. Open Mon–Fri 10am–2:30pm. 1265 Battery St., Suite 100, at Greenwich.
Sadly, Shalimar on Polk Has Closed
This one broke my heart a bit: after being open on Polk Street since 2000, Shalimar has closed their Nob Hill location at 1409 Polk Street. I called the original Jones Street location, and they said the closure was due to elevated rent and lease issues. Such a bummer (especially to make it through the pandemic, but still having to close). At least 532 Jones Street keeps on chugging—that location opened in December 1994, and it was such a scene in the ‘90s (I remember how long it would take to get a table, the place was packed!). Thanks to Adam S. for the tip. It’s time for some goat Karahi.
the sugar mama
Eat. Drink. Repeat. Enter to Win TWO Gift Certificates for Oakland Restaurant Week (March 16th-26th, 2023)! 🎉
Oakland Restaurant Week invites you to “Feast Your Way Through the East Bay” with menus and special offers from 125+ participating restaurants during #ORW23, March 16th–26th!
From local gems and food trucks, to Michelin-starred restaurants and newly opened eateries, #ORW23 brings 10 days of lunch and dinner specials, and infinite possibilities of deliciousness. Featured restaurants include: Bardo Lounge & Supper Club, Calavera Mexican Kitchen & Bar, Horn Barbecue, Occitania, Odin Mezcalería, Saucy Oakland, Vegan Mob, Wahpepah's Kitchen, and more!
Taste the creative food scene of unexpected pairings and international flavors that only Oakland can do. Make reservations at OaklandRestaurantWeek.org.
Enter to win TWO gift certificates to these participating restaurants: $150 for dinner or brunch at Shakewell on Lake Merritt AND $100 to the new Colombian Parche!
To enter to win, all you need to do is visit this @tablehopper post on Instagram! Good luck!
One lucky winner will be announced on Saturday March 11th (at 10am PT), so don’t delay! Prize to be fulfilled by Visit Oakland.
I am loving the new level of city exploration my recently expanded focus for tablehopper is granting me. By revisiting and writing up old favorites and neighborhood classics (instead of just keeping up with what’s new), I’m having a completely different relationship with the city right now.
New Frontiers in Meat & Dairy: Improving our Food System With Innovative Biotech—A Virtual Panel
Join a compelling virtual panel discussion, The Future of Food, this Friday March 10th at 9am PST. Learn about three visionary Bay Area startups who are producing exciting and delicious alternatives to conventional meat and dairy products using pioneering technologies in fermentation and cultivation. With missions to be kinder to animals, mindful of the planet, and human health, featured companies include The Better Meat Co., Perfect Day, and UPSIDE Foods. Presented by the San Francisco chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier. Speakers include:
- Nicki Briggs, Vice President of Corporate Communications at Perfect Day
- Joanna Bromley, Co-founder and EVP of Finance at The Better Meat Co.
- Amy Chen, Chief Executive Officer at UPSIDE Foods
- Kara Nielsen, food trendologist, Moderator
$25, register here. Zoom link will be sent with confirmation.
Senator Bernie Sanders had dinner this past weekend at Donato Enoteca in Redwood City. He ordered the pork chop and reportedly loved it, as well as the ravioli Bergamaschi “scarpinocć” and the agnolotti del plin. Chef-owner Donato Scotti was very pleased when Sanders came up and complimented him on the food, service, and the restaurant as a whole. (Awww, Bernie looks really happy.)