Wow, how was that dose of spring fever? The City has been so stunning, I almost can’t believe the Jekyll and Hyde weather this week—really, atmospheric river? Batten down the hatches!
Exactly one year ago, I sent out my first redesigned newsletter on the new Ghost platform over here! 🚀 That was such a big, life-changing day to relaunch with this new subscription model—I can’t do this without the support of my subscribers.
I was reading this hilarious but total cringe McSweeney’s piece the other night: How to Become a Professional Writer, and this section gave me pause, since it’s what I have been doing for the past 23 years:
“Or you could freelance write. Freelance writing is like that scene from Aladdin where the cave collapses, and Aladdin has to hop from rock to rock as everything around him falls into a pit of lava. Talk about a life full of excitement! Plus, with the right dose of anxiety medication, you’ll barely even notice that the check you’re counting on to make rent still hasn’t come in the mail. That’s called work-benzo balance.”
Ahhhhhhhh! (Although my freelance life is more about a work-weed balance, ha-ha.) Freelance writing can be so utterly exasperating—it’s such a nightmare to try to get paid in time to (barely) cover your bills. This new subscription model helps save me from that hellish way of trying to make a living as a writer covering our local food scene, and keeps this independent publication going. The financial stability provided by a tablehopper subscription will provide more mental health benefits than you may know.
Although the newsletter universe certainly keeps me on my toes, ay yi yi. Changes are coming to Gmail and Yahoo! mail tomorrow (on February 1st), so I really hope my newsletter doesn’t end up in your spam/promotions folder next week! Be sure to check those folders next week if you don’t see it.
If you use Gmail, drag the tablehopper newsletter out of the promotions or spam folder and into your primary inbox to train it. (If you use Apple Mail, you can add tablehopper to your VIP list—exactly where it belongs, LOL—and add tablehopper to your favorites if you use Outlook.) Another fix is to save/add my email marcia@tablehopper to your address book.
There are always headaches. And I’m currently battling an evil migraine that is trying to take hold, so let’s hop to it and get to the news. I was hoping to include a piece with some Valentine’s Day suggestions, but I ran outta gas with this throbbing head. I’ll keep updating my Instagram highlight with some picks!
A16 La Pala Opens This Week in the Ferry Building Marketplace
After running their holiday pop-ups, making to-go sandwiches, and selling retail items from their shop, A16 has renovated their counter space at the Ferry Building Marketplace and are opening A16 La Pala this week (by Saturday February 3rd). The name refers to a pizza peel (“una pala” in Italian) and gives you a big hint about what they’re launching: a pizza al taglio counter, with 8–10 kinds of pan pizza every day, cut into 6-inch ($8) or 9-inch ($11) slices. Daily rotating flavors can include the Escarola: braised escarole, fior di latte, anchovies, crema di cipolla (onion); Funghi: roasted pioppini, hen of the woods, thyme, oregano, and fior di latte; and the Vesuvio with tomato sauce and soppressata. The pizza has been in development for five years (some catering clients have enjoyed it!), and the dough is made with live yeast, yielding a tender crust that is thinner than most focaccia, with a crispy bottom.
The pizza is going to be baked in a new deck oven at A16 Rockridge every morning and brought over, so when it runs out, it’s out. This style of pizza is perfect for a snack or meal, and since it’s held at room temp, it’s pretty ideal for delivery (starting on DoorDash soon) or you can pick up a variety box for parties or the office. In fact, A16 La Pala is going to have party boxes of six six-inch slices available for Super Bowl Sunday.
You can request your slice warmed at the counter, and there will be four tables where you can try to snag a seat (wine and beer will be coming). The quick-service menu includes spinach lasagna (a meaty version with bolognese will also be available soon), orecchiette with rapini and fried Senise pepper, three kinds of salads ($13) that you can add a protein to ($6–$7 for roast chicken, trout, or tuna conserva), and meatballs (which you can easily bring home).
Desserts include A16’s fantastic cannoli, an upside-down citrus polenta cake, and granita (Meyer lemon or espresso). In the mornings, you can enjoy a cornetto alla crema (from baker Giovanni Liguoro at Poesia Cafe) with your espresso. For Valentine’s Day, they’re offering a limited, heart-shaped panettone with chocolate and dried strawberries from Namesday Bakeshop ($27); sales begin February 9th, get one while you can.
The counter features tiles from MMclay, plus murals by Britt, with branding by Kefe (Kelly Tunstall and Ferris Plock). Hours will be daily 9am–7pm.
You should also take note that A16 on Chestnut is turning 20 on February 14th (!!), and chef Yosuke Machida, chef de cuisine Valerio Martorelli, and pastry chef Charlie Guyard will be offering a special four-course menu ($116), highlighting dishes from when A16 first opened to now (including crab salad, and lamb and ricotta crespelle!), available all day for lunch and dinner. There will be platinum-rimmed dishes for the occasion, with silver balloons and emerald votives (owner Shelley Lindgren always goes all out). Reserve here.
You can also come by and walk in without a reservation for the à la carte menu (available in the wine bar, bar, and chef counter); an expanded à la carte menu and a celebratory tasting menu will also be available Thu–Sun (12pm–9:30pm), so friends can come in and raise a glass, all week long. Cin cin! 🥂
(FYI: A16 Rockridge is also hosting a four-course Valentine’s Day menu, take a look and reserve here.)
The Minds Behind ROOH and Pippal Bring Multi-Cultural, Mediterranean-Inspired Fare to the Embarcadero with Alora
by Savannah Leone Bundy
When you first enter the sleek, angular dining room of the Embarcadero’s newest waterfront restaurant, you don’t immediately know what to expect. Alora, the recently opened Mediterranean-meets-coastal Californian concept from restaurant power couple Anu and Vikram Bhambari (of ROOH and Pippal) has a chic yet eclectic vibe, illustrated by both the menu and décor.
The indoor space (which seats 50) features banquette seating that wraps around cozy two- and four-top tables, trimmed with geometric patterns and muted tones that speak to the cityscape out front and the water’s edge out back. There’s also a long, pink marble bar, with modern and padded bar seats. It’s definitely a big, glam upgrade from its former existence as a The Plant Cafe Organic location. The seating on the back patio is quite comfortable (with heat lamps!), and since it’s a little recessed, you’re protected a bit from the elements.
The food and beverage menus—both leather-bound and gold-embossed—boast diverse selections of cuisines, cocktails, and wines, demonstrating the vast influence and cultural inclusivity that seems to be the Bhambaris’ calling card. The inside of the dinner menu’s cover shows a gilded map of the regions and countries represented, spanning not only the Mediterranean Basin, but Northern Africa and parts of the Middle East as well.
Small plate offerings include Syrian muhammara (a spicy walnut and red pepper dip) garnished with feta, pomegranate seeds, molasses, and spiced walnuts ($19), and a delightfully creamy urfa and aleppo-spiced hummus tahini ($15), topped with zingy green zhug, a Yemenite hot sauce—each dish was accompanied by warm and housemade semolina-dusted sourdough pita. The Spanish-inspired buñuelo marries land and sea with an expertly fried salt cod fritter topped with jamón Iberico and a dollop of hackleback caviar (a splurge at $17 each).
Alora just launched on Thursday January 25th, and is open daily Mon–Thu 5pm–9:30pm and Fri–Sun 5pm–10:30pm. (Don’t forget to check the parking meter if you park on the Embarcadero, the hours run late over there!) The Embarcadero, Pier 3, Suite 108.
SF’s Longtime Chile Lindo Has Relocated Across the Street as Chile Lindo Kitchen Culture
I always appreciate hanging out with fellow SF old-timers who have been here for more than 25 years (and self-made entrepreneurial women who run their own show!). I remember seeing Paula Tejeda’s long, curly hair as she’d bounce around Mission bars with her basket of Chilean empanadas in the aughts, AKA The Girl from Empanada (she was born in New York, but also lived in Chile).
In 1995, the budding entrepreneur took over the Chile Lindo Delicatessen & Coffee Shop on 16th Street and Capp in the historic Redstone Building (the business first opened in 1973). Known for her baked beef Chilean empanadas, Tejeda expanded her offering over time with a variety of homestyle empanadas and Chilean pastries for the neighborhood for the past 29 years. As she quipped to me, “It takes 30 years to be an overnight success!”
Tejeda recently reached out to let me know she has moved Chile Lindo across the street (there was an oil spill in the building), opening Chile Lindo Kitchen Culture in what was supposed to be the Tamale Lady’s spot that never opened. Walking inside past the covered windows with metal grates is like stepping into an artist’s living room, with the walls covered in film and music memorabilia, SF Mission memories (including the last box of Lucca Ravioli Co.’s beef ravioli, a paper bag from Ti Couz, and a pastry scraper from Mission Pie—RIP to all those gone-but-never-forgotten businesses!), plus photos of her beloved Chile, paintings, plaques, and plates (there’s even a photo of author Isabel Allende with one of Chile Lindo’s cakes). Everything has a story to tell. She also had a copy of my book on her shelf, awwww!
SF used to be full of personal and artsy-funky places like this, so I’m happy to see our City’s bohemian spirit shine on here. Of course, the pandemic was rough on Tejeda’s business, and as a sole proprietor and one-woman show, she’s the one stuck dealing with a lot of challenges—from city permits to inflation to staffing to neighborhood crime—let alone running business operations without investors, partners, or working capital. But she firmly believes in what she does and how she wants to show up for her community, so she soldiers on. Cheers to that, sister.
There’s a piano up against the wall, and a vintage sound system to play records and tapes (she always has music on). Tejeda is a huge lover of arts and culture, with a background in broadcast television, and she is known for planning Chilean film fests and being part of many film and music events. During the pandemic, her parklet outside the original Chile Lindo hosted live jazz and bands, inspiring spontaneous street parties and gatherings among the many interesting and international people she knows. Her aunt and mother are poets, and her father was a jazz musician (when he arrived in New York in 1959, she says he went straight to Harlem). It’s easy to understand why Tejeda is allllll about Chilean culture, cuisine, and community!
The ovens here are busy baking a range of hand-kneaded empanadas ($8), from the classic pino (certified Angus beef, onions, cumin, paprika, rock salt, pepper, raisins, olive, and a slice of hard-boiled egg) to my personal favorite, the Goooool al Merkén, which Tejeda created to commemorate when Chile was playing in America’s Cup/Copa América in 2016 (they won!). It’s a spiced version of the pino, which highlights merkén, a special chile pepper blend made from ají cacho de cabra. (Ají means chile pepper in Chile, and this particular one gets its name because it’s shaped like a goat horn.)
Tejeda sources her merkén from Isabel Levio Curiqueo, a Mapuche woman who lives on the outskirts of Temuco in southern Chile in an indigenous reservation called Ranquilco (the Mapuches are the indigenous people of southern Chile and Argentina). After drying the peppers in the sun, Curiqueo smokes them over an open fire made with wood from around her land. She then grinds the smoked peppers and mixes them with coriander—from cilantro that she also grows—and salt. She does everything by hand, and doesn’t use smoked paprika, which is what some other folks use and sell as merkén, which is not the real deal. The spice is smoky and earthy and it kinda sneaks up on you. Curiqueo’s merkén is called Kelü Milla, and Tejeda is excited to start selling it at Chile Lindo soon—she always asks friends traveling to Chile to bring back a kilo for her.
Other empanada flavors include empanada de pollo (featuring Mary’s free-range chicken), jamón y queso (ham and cheese), chilanga (mozzarella and cheddar cheese with jalapeño, created in honor of her Mexican staff and the neighborhood), and a vegan pino empanada with plant-based ground beef (and no egg). Tejeda has always cared about sourcing sustainable and local, quality ingredients. Be sure to order a side of the traditional pebre (.50), which is like a cross between salsa and chimichurri, made with onions, tomatoes, cilantro, olive oil, and lemon.
She recently added some traditional dishes to the menu, including the deeeelicious chupe de camarón, a creamy shrimp casserole made with onions, bell peppers, garlic, parsley, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, asiago, heavy cream, milk, cumin, oregano, paprika, black pepper, and white wine. (In Chile, it’s usually made with abalone or crab.) You spritz it with lemon and scoop up a savory bite to enjoy with a slice of Fox & Lion baguette (they’re neighbors!), and hopefully you’re drinking a glass of Chilean wine, too.
Another new dish is the pastel de choclo, a traditional casserole prepared with a pino of ground beef, onions, garlic, bell peppers, raisins, black olives, and slices of hard-boiled egg, plus a piece of roast chicken tucked in there. It’s kind of like a shepherd’s pie, but instead of potatoes, it’s topped with grated corn and fresh basil, plus a sprinkling of sugar that gets baked into a crispy and golden layer. I liked the contrast of the lightly sweet and savory notes, and it warmed up well at home for lunch (I enjoyed it with a side salad).
A classic addition to the menu is a Chilean hot dog (a “completo”) topped with freshly diced tomato, mashed avocado, and mayonnaise ($7.95).
Tejeda offers a variety of traditional Chilean desserts, from crackly Chilean alfajores ($6.75) with edges that are rolled in grated coconut, to principes (alfajores with a lightly crisp meringue crust), to a torta de mil hojas (Chile’s version of a mille-feuille; $8) with layers of puff pastry, manjar (dulce de leche), and ground walnuts from Winters Fruit Tree farm.
The frozen torta de merengue (pictured in the first image of this piece) is like a pavlova, layered with lúcuma ice cream from nearby La Copa Loca (another neighborhood business she likes to support), fresh raspberries, and Chantilly cream. You can order these desserts by the slice or whole to take home—the Chilean community in the Bay Area (and beyond) all come for a fix of Chile Lindo’s hard-to-find and authentic, homestyle treats.
It’s a cozy spot, with red metal café tables, plus a wine bar that’s actually the marble counter that was at Lucca Ravioli Co. (here I am behind it in this SFGATE article from 2007!). Tejeda has Lucca’s oven as well—Michael Feno, Lucca’s former owner, wanted these things to stay in the neighborhood. She knows so many folks, so regulars can swing by and come in for a coffee (or tea) and an empanada and a chat, and now they can enjoy a beer or glass of Chilean wine.
She’s renting the intimate space for private events—it would be fun for a small poetry reading, happy hour, or musical gathering. Chile Lindo also offers catering, and is always looking for businesses that would like to carry their empanadas and creations (Keys in North Beach sells her empanadas!). Swing by and support this small, female-owned business for a taste of true SF culture. Hours are Thu–Sat 10am–6pm. 2935 16th St. at Capp.
Daily Driver Opens Their Cow Hollow Location By Next Weekend
One of my favorite local bagel-makers, Daily Driver, is expanding with a new and third location in Cow Hollow (their main location is in Dogpatch, with a second outpost in the Ferry Building Marketplace). It’ll be great to have their wood-fired bagels and hand-batted organic butter (and house-cured gravlax!) in another part of town that will be easier to access (at least for me!).
The entire Dogpatch menu will be available (including their housemade cream cheese, yogurt, pizza bagels, and hot sandwiches, like the BEC, tuna melt, pastrami, and BLT). Of course, chef-partner Marty Siggins has some new sandwiches to offer, like an egg, cheese, and kimchi bagel sandwich (featuring SF-based Volcano Kimchi), and the egg, cheese, and sausage bagel will feature housemade breakfast sausage patties that use Rossotti Ranch veal and pork.
Also on the menu...
Of course, construction took a bit longer than expected (it was previously Vegan Picnic; Eater first reported on the project back in November), but co-owners Tamara Hicks and David Jablons look forward to parking their 1977 Ford Ranchero in front of the shop for its grand opening this Saturday February 3rd. UPDATE: THE OPENING HAS BEEN DELAYED TO TUE OR WED 2/6 OR 2/7. Not only is the address serendipitously 1977 Union Street, but the theme of this shop will celebrate the cars of the 70s, with a 70’s color palette, a retro scooter from Bella Moto, and photos of 70’s cars on the walls by Christopher Hall, with a painting by Swedish artist Camilla Engström. Hours will be Sat–Sun 8am–3pm, and Mon–Fri 8am–2pm. 1977 Union St. at Buchanan.