The Chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)
October 5, 2021
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The newly updated Boulevard is open and ready to wow you. Photo: Eric Wolfinger.

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You’ll find riffs on Boulevardiers on Greg Lindgren’s new cocktail menu. Photo: Eric Wolfinger.

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Broiled steaks and red wine (and cocktails and tableside Caesar salad) await at The Vault Steakhouse. Photo: Hardy Wilson.

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An array of Mexican and Spanish dishes at the new Copas in the Castro. Photo via Instagram by Liz Barclay.

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Sean Thomas is the chef at the upcoming Buddy bar and café. Photo: Milo Salehi.

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The back area of The Grotto’s dining room (with an incredible view). Photo courtesy of Lisa Robins.

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Trestle in North Beach. Photo courtesy of Trestle.

Some quick updates I wanted to get on your radar, starting with congrats to the ~BOULEVARD~ team on their big refresh and reopening! After holding it down for 28 years (since 1993!) as our quintessential SF restaurant, it was time for an update to the interior and menu. Chef (and mentor to many) Nancy Oakes and executive chef Dana Younkin are known for celebrating the bounty of seasonal California ingredients, many sourced from just across the street at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. The new menu format offers a set menu at three ($89) and four ($115) courses that can be enjoyed in the dining room (or anywhere else in the restaurant). There is also an à la carte menu offered at the bar, or in the new expanded lounge next to the bar.

Some dishes on the opening fall menu include Japanese cherry salmon tartare with lime aioli, jalapeño, and trout caviar, served on a rustic housemade malted rye and flaxseed crisp; abalone with kelp noodles; rich king crab tagliatelle with chanterelle butter; and, of course, the Berkshire pork and Wolfe Ranch quail (served with wild sage and persimmons) remain on the menu.

Each dish also has a carefully selected and perfect pairing of wines offered by the glass. Meanwhile, over at the bar, Greg Lindgren has created a new cocktail menu, complete with a section featuring riffs on Boulevardiers, how perfect.

The Art Nouveau-inspired space got a big update from the Ken Fulk team, with vibrant upholstery, murals, a new blue onyx bar, a new lounge next to the bar (perfect for swinging by), and a dramatic peacock to greet you (taxidermied, not alive, ha). The fabulous wine vault and private dining room have also been reimagined. Some of Boulevard’s classic Kuleto design elements remain, like the hand-blown glass lighting, mosaics, and vintage iron work, and their great views of the Bay. Yup, it sounds like it’s a great time to book a reservation.

it looks like it’s the return of the steakhouse to our dining world (did it ever leave?), starting with the reopening of Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group’s The Vault in the Financial District as ~THE VAULT STEAKHOUSE~. The new executive chef is Ryan Cerizo, offering some decadent and playful touches to the modern steakhouse menu (with a raw bar), plus a new cocktail list from Nicky Beyries (previously Foreign Cinema), and wine program from Lucas Bierbower. The semi-circular leather booths and private dining room (with room for 25) will be popular as downtown starts to awaken from its long slumber. (I have tried to track down previous chef Robin Song about his whereabouts, but haven’t heard back.) Open Tue-Thu 5pm-9pm and Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm. 555 California St. at Kearny.

More steakhousin’: Tyler Florence has opened a new steakhouse in Chase Center’s Thrive City, complete with indoor and outdoor seating, tableside service, dry-aged steaks cooked under a broiler (old-school style), a dessert cart, and a swank design from Ken Fulk, complete with enormous leather booths. You can read more about ~MILLER & LUX~ here. Open Mon-Sat 5pm-11pm, Sun 5pm-10pm. 700 Terry A Francois Blvd.

Over in the Castro, ~COPAS~ has opened in the former 2223 Market space from Jessica Kapoor of Saison Hospitality Group. But before you start wondering if you’ll need to sell some crypto to dine there, it’s actually a casual spot, serving “seasonal California ingredients paired with flavors that celebrate the history of Mexican and Spanish culture” from chef Julio Aguilera—breakfast, lunch (soon), and dinner are all part of the plan, plus coffee service and cocktails.

Breakfast includes avocado toast and a runny egg sandwich, while dinner has plenty of bar bites (Cheesy pillows! Broccoli Caesar!) and five mains, like arroz con pollo and a grilled halibut skewer with mojo verde, two kinds of beans, and escarole. The cocktail list offers plenty of intrigue (most drinks are $13), and the Angler and Saison wine teams have helped dial in the wine list (most by-the-glass picks are $13-$16). Everything is priced pretty well for a quality neighborhood place. Breakfast Wed-Sun 8am-12pm, dinner Wed, Thu, Sun 5pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm. 2223 Market St. at Sanchez. [Via Eater]

A wonderful update over at the upcoming ~BUDDY~ bar and café opening in the former Californios space in the Mission: the team has hired Sean Thomas (formerly of Blue Plate, Rubicon, wd-50 in New York) to be the chef. Woohoo. (We’re all so lucky to have this talented chef back in a kitchen where we can see him regularly.) They’re looking at mid- to late-October for the opening, and will be launching a Kickstarter soon to get through the final push, so keep your eyes peeled for some sure-to-be-great perks! 3115 22nd St. at S. Van Ness.

Ahoy! ~THE GROTTO~ in Fisherman’s Wharf has reopened, after being closed for the entirety of the pandemic. Happy to see this old-timer (since 1935!) come back after their big, recent refresh. 2847 Taylor St. at The Embarcadero.

Another reopening: ~TRESTLE~ is back with their amazing prix-fixe deal ($39 for three courses, although who can pass on the $12 pasta supplement?), with a new head chef Danielle LeFevre, as well as brand-new HVAC and well-spaced tables. New hours are Wed-Mon 5pm-9pm. 531 Jackson St. at Columbus.

This news rolled in right at my deadline, but ~LUCE~ at InterContinental SF Hotel is reopening with new executive chef Rogelio Garcia (The Commissary, Spruce, Angèle in Napa) on Friday October 8th. Garcia is launching a chef’s tasting menu, with eight courses highlighting his many purveyor relationships ($145, vegetarian available upon request), and there’s a four-course menu for $95. 888 Howard St. at 5th St.

One space that isn’t coming back just yet is the café and dining room at ~CHEZ PANISSE~. In an email from the restaurant, they explained they hope to reopen shortly after the New Year, and will continue with take-out food and their Sunday market until the end of the year. “The reason can be distilled to COVID, the surge of the Delta variant, and their many implications: health and safety of staff, worries about unvaccinated family members, unpredictable school closures and required quarantines as they relate to staffing, restrictive and constantly changing safety protocols, the financial challenges of reduced capacity, the expense of unexpectedly being forced to close, etc. Chez Panisse is housed in an old craftsman bungalow with low ceilings and a few small windows. We have installed a new air ventilation system for the back of the café, but in many areas of the restaurant, our options are quite limited.” Read more from them here—I appreciate seeing such a thoughtful post about these complicated decisions every restaurant is struggling with.

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Smoky deviled eggs at Family Name (inside City Beer Store). Photo courtesy of Family Name.

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The bar (and snack counter) at The Korner Store. Yelp photo via Nguyen T..

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You’ll find bubble waffles and more at Eggcellent Waffles. Instagram photo via @eggcellent_waffles.

Some new openings around town include ~FAMILY NAME~, which just opened inside City Beer Store in SoMa. It’s a California bistro with Asian ingredients and touches, serving bites and dinner inside or on the patio (it’s separate from the City Beer Store menu). Dishes include smoky deviled eggs with chives and pickled mustard seeds; kampachi crudo with Galia melon, smoked tomatillo, chile oil, and arare (Japanese rice crackers); PEI mussels and Lao sausage; garlic noodles with hand-cut fettuccine, garlic oyster sauce, pecorino cream, and sesame; and steak frites with hanger steak and chile-miso butter. You’ll have plenty of wines and beers to choose from to pair with your meal. Open Tue-Sat 5pm-10pm. Reservations available. 1148 Mission St. at 7th St.

There’s a new business now open inside the former Mission Cheese location on Valencia. ~THE KORNER STORE~ is a fun, family-run business, with Korean drinking food, soju cocktails, affordable wine (available by the glass, carafe, or bottle), beer, non-alcoholic drinks, and a convenience store-style selection of snacks and beverages (perfect to take to Dolores Park). They also have their own house kimchi and banchan for sale.

The abridged menu includes boneless fried chicken, fried pork belly, wasabi octopus, vegetable dumplings, tteok bokki (spicy stir-fried rice cakes), and two kinds of fries. With the outdoor seating, bar, and easy order-at-the-counter vibe, it’s going to be a fun spot to swing by with a friend for dranks and drunkie munchies. Open Tue-Wed 4pm-9pm, Thu-Fri 4pm-10pm, Sat 12pm-10pm, and Sun 12pm-9pm. 736 Valencia St. at 18th St.

There’s a new business in the former Blowfish Sushi location on Mission (home of the impostor Blowfish Sushi/Wagyumafia back in April). I tried to figure out who the owners are, but don’t see an active ABC license for the location. The person who answered the phone said they’re new owners—but where’s their license? (They’re serving sake, beer, and soju cocktails.) Thanks to my friends at Strike Kerr & Johns for double-checking that there doesn’t seem to be an active or a pending license there—Blowfish’s lapsed in January 2021, and they haven’t transferred it to a new party, nor are there any pending license applications associated with that address. (I reached out to former owner Jason Teplitsky of Blowfish to see if he had heard anything about the latest tenant, but I didn’t hear back.)

This latest incarnation is ~CHOME~, with an izakaya-style menu that has a huge variety of eclectic dishes, including a big list of robatayaki options grilled over binchotan, plus ramen, sushi, and a number of big ticket/expensive dishes like Hudson Valley foie gras, A5 wagyu, and lobster tails, which makes me wonder if it’s still the Wagyumafia imposters. (Their DoorDash listing is 2193 Sushi, and Live Shanghai Bistro on Grubhub, which doesn’t appear to be live.) I asked about the chef, but it sounds like they’re still trying out their kitchen team and concept. Something smells fishy. Open daily 5pm-12am. 2193 Mission St. at 18th St.

There’s a creative new waffle shop in Lower Nob Hill called ~EGGCELLENT WAFFLES~, serving a variety of sweet and savory waffle combinations (including a Hong Kong waffle with pork floss and condensed milk) and choose-your-own waffle “sandwiches” (with your choice of waffle base, like Montreal steak or red pepper, and fillings like avocado and turkey), plus bubble waffles (with your choice of base, topping, and syrup), make-your-own smoothies, and coffee drinks. Check out the menu here. Soft open for now Tue-Fri 8am-5pm, Sat-Sun 9am-6pm. 891 Bush St. at Taylor.

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The brand-new window of La Lucha Coffee Bar. Instagram photo via @laluchacoffee.

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A DIY smoked salmon bagel (on a housemade bagel!) with scallion schmear at one of Early to Rise’s pop-up brunches. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Moving into the former Douglas market in Noe Valley is ~LA LUCHA COFFEE BAR~, a second location of the daytime café that runs out of Thee Parkside in Potrero Hill. Owner Malia Spanyol is excited to be opening in Noe Valley, the neighborhood she used to live in when she first moved to San Francisco 30 years ago (she lives nearby in the Mission now). It’s very important to her to be part of the local community, which means she’s going to have treats for all the neighborhood dogs, too.

The coffee bar is about three weeks out, and the pandemic has posed many challenges in getting it open, including supply chain snags with furniture, glassware, refrigeration equipment, floor epoxy, and legs for the bar. (I can’t even imagine all the headaches.) There is a Shared Space outside, plus well-spaced seating inside. The bright blue exterior has been catching numerous tipsters’ eyes (thanks for your emails, all!).

Once it opens, La Lucha will be serving espresso drinks (they use Sightglass Coffee), plus a horchata latte and housemade chai. Pastries from local bakers are being finalized right now. Initial hours will be 7:30am to 3pm/4pm or so. 1598 Sanchez St. at 29th St.

Moving into the former Little Gem in Hayes Valley will be another location of Russian Hill’s ~ELEPHANT SUSHI~. Read more in this piece from SFGate. 400 Grove St. at Gough.

Great news for chef Andrew McCormack of popular weekend brunch pop-up ~EARLY TO RISE~: he’s transitioning to become a full-service restaurant, with a full staff and service expanded to Wed-Sun 8am-2pm! You’ll be able to enjoy dishes from his early family-style pop-up days, like apple butter French toast and his superlative eggs Benedict (with his house Canadian bacon), plus his house bacon. Of course, his housemade bagels and English muffins and smoked salmon will all be available, and take-out will continue as an option (his “brunch in a bag” is how he has survived through the pandemic). He’s working with a design firm on the space and plans, stand by for launch updates. 1098 Jackson St. at Taylor.

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Part of 2020’s delicious and oh-so-seasonal Sunday Supper Feast! Photo courtesy of CUESA.

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Whatcha doing on Sunday October 17th? The best answer would be opening the dine-in box for CUESA’s Sunday Supper: A Farm to Home Feast and tuning in to their live virtual gala (7pm-8pm)! This annual event is crucial to help CUESA keep their education and food access programs thriving, providing vital lifelines between farms and families in this time of great need, and ensuring a sustainable and equitable food future for generations to come. This event also supports our beloved restaurant community—a portion of your ticket price will underwrite food and labor costs for each participating restaurant.

You’ll enjoy a lavish four-course dinner from the city’s top chefs (including Val M. Cantu, Californios; Kim Alter, Nightbird; Antelmo Faria, Uma Casa; and more), paired with specially selected wines and hand-crafted cocktails—it’s beautifully packaged for pickup or home delivery. Host a gathering with friends (or virtually)—invite some pals to order a feast and join you!

Liam Mayclem will be hosting the virtual gala (which you can access for free with your RSVP)—special guest speakers include Bryant Terry (author of Afro-Vegan, Vegetable Kingdom, and the forthcoming Black Food), Shakirah Simley (Executive Director, Booker T. Washington Community Center), and more. You’ll also visit beloved family farms, go behind the scenes with chefs, and there’s an online auction, with one-of-a-kind packages, such as exquisite private dinners with acclaimed chefs, farm getaways, and exclusive food experiences.

CUESA’s Sunday Supper: A Farm to Home Feast
Sunday October 17, 2021, 7pm-8pm
Feast for One: $250 ($175 tax deductible)

From Friday October 15th to Sunday October 24th is GGRA’s Eat Drink SF and SF Restaurant Week, two great events that are happening concurrently to support the local restaurant community. There will be indoor and outdoor events, prix-fixe menus, chef collaborations, cocktail events, and ticketed experiences, all in adherence with current SF Department of Public Health guidelines. Dining events are listed here (there are some fun collaborations!), and you can [take a look and see which restaurants are offering prix-fixe lunch (two-plus courses for $10, $15, $25) and dinner (three-plus courses for $25, $40, $60). Have fun out there!

Coming up on Friday October 22nd, is a book launch event with Litquake at The Museum of the African Diaspora in SF to celebrate Bryant Terry’s groundbreaking new cookbook, Black Food: Stories, Art and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora. Terry is MoAD’s chef-in-residence, and will be hosting a conversation and book signing from 7pm-9pm.

Black Food is published by Terry’s Penguin Random House/Ten Speed Press-backed imprint 4 Color Books. Writer and organizer Shakirah Simley will facilitate a conversation between Terry, the book’s art director George McCalman, and the imprint’s creative director Amanda Yee, about the process of making Black Food, as well as 4 Color’s plans to disrupt the publishing industry. Special invited guests who contributed art to Black Food include Demetri Broxton, Emory Douglas, Keba Konte, and David Schmitz.

Books will be available for purchase and signing. Tickets: $10 general admission ($50 with book); $5 for MoAD members ($45 with book). Museum of the African Diaspora, 685 Mission St. at 3rd St.

September 21, 2021
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Agnolotti dal plin from the upcoming Penny Roma. Photo courtesy of the Flour + Water Hospitality Group.

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About that Special Gin & Tonic Service at La Bande… Photo: Alina Tyulyu.

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The beautiful green tones of La Bande. Photo: The Ingalls.

The former Ne Timeas Restaurant Group is now the Flour+Water Hospitality Group, and their first project is the transformation of the former and upscale Central Kitchen into ~PENNY ROMA~. This will be a more-affordable and Italian concept from chefs Thomas McNaughton and Ryan Pollnow, with crudos, classic pasta dishes (like cacio e pepe and tagliatelle alla bolognese) priced at $22 and under, rustic secondi (bistecca alla fiorentina and roast chicken), and contorni that showcase vegetables from local farm partners. Check out the menu here. They plan to open in October, and will be open daily 5:30pm-10pm. 3000 20th St. at Florida.

More changes: the Flour+Water Pasta Shop will launch a casual enoteca menu in the evening, so folks can swing by for a glass of wine and bites on the shared patio. (Sandwiches, salads, and more will continue throughout the day at the shop.)

The other change is ~FLOUR+WATER~ is temporarily closing for a renovation after service on October 2nd, with plans to reopen in the winter. Stand by for the announcement of their design partner.

The chic, Kelly Wearstler-designed ~LA BANDE~ café on the ground floor of the San Francisco Proper is being relaunched as a Cal-Med apéritif and tapas bar, with a European-feeling outdoor patio where you can enjoy your Barcelona-vibey bites and beverages. Chef Jason Fox (Villon) has crafted a menu built for grazing, with warm and cold tapas, Galician conservas (including razor clams and tuna belly confit) served with housemade grilled bread, charcuterie (bring on the pata negra), cheeses, and a few courses off the plancha, like halibut cheeks and housemade Merguez sausage.

BVHospitality has assembled the list of craft apéritif cocktails (including a Special Gin & Tonic Service), and a vermouth program, plus notable Old World wines, Madeira from D’Oliveira dating back to the 1930s, and European draft beers. There’s also a retail section if you want to stock your pantry. Opening Friday September 24th. Hours: Tue-Sat 4:30pm-9:30pm. 1100 Market St. at McAllister.

I’m happy to see a stretch of California Street in the Financial District coming back to life, with the opening of Michael Mina’s ~ESTIATORIO ORNOS~ on September 22nd, and now Umberto Gibin and Staffan Terje’s ~BARBACCO~ is back. The updated menu has some new Spanish-inspired dishes (it’s the year of conservas!), but it still remains primarily Italian. Weekday lunch and dinner are available inside or in their outdoor Shared Space. Cin cin!

The newish ~LITTLE RED WINDOW~ in North Beach from chef Adam Rosenblum will now offer his delicious, smash-style burgers he’s known for at Causwells, plus fries, of course, and some salads, too. Managing partner Elmer Mejicano has added some inventive low-AVB spritz cocktails for their “spritz garden”—everything will be available for outdoor dining, takeaway, and delivery Wed-Sun 11am-9pm (until 11pm Fri-Sat), starting Wednesday September 22nd. Enjoy a 50 percent discount for all Little Red Window food purchased during the first week of the debut! 1500 Stockton St., next door to Red Window (at 500 Columbus Ave.).

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Class is in session at The Cheese School of San Francisco! Photo courtesy of The Cheese School of San Francisco.

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The upstairs classroom at The Cheese School of San Francisco, complete with great views. Photo: Terese Sy.

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A private fondue lunch at The Cheese School. Photo courtesy of The Cheese School of San Francisco.

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Wood-fired sesame bagels from Daily Driver. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Some new things are happening over at ~THE CHEESE SCHOOL OF SAN FRANCISCO~ in Ghirardelli Square, starting with a change in management. Founder Kiri Fisher was in the process of selling the much-adored business just prior to the pandemic, and when the sale fell through, she was at a loss as to what to do with the business. (I remember going to classes at the tiny Cheese School back in 2006, and then their Mission location at the original Saison/now Stable Cafe, before it moved into the current and spacious Ghirardelli Square location in 2018.)

Enter Jeanine Egan, a Cheese School employee and friend of Fisher who wanted to save the business. Working closely with Fisher, she has taken over managing day-to-day operations and is in the process of acquiring it fully. There have obviously been some huge adjustments due to the pandemic, like launching virtual classes all around the U.S., Canada, and even Europe (thanks to so many corporate groups who have their teams working remotely), which are still going strong.

There have been some disappointing setbacks as well: they were sadly one of the businesses that was granted money by the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, but then funding was rescinded when discrimination lawsuits were filed against the SBA for prioritizing women/veteran/POC-owned businesses. (Ugh, every time I hear this story, I get furious.) You can easily show your support for all our beloved restaurants here.

But Egan and her team press on. The school is relaunching in-person classes in October (the first class already sold out!), and more offerings will be added slowly but surely as they get off the ground once again.

The school has had a light redesign and the retail cheese counter was downsized to be able expand the space to offer more customized, cheese-centered events and experiences. It’s a fabulous location for small and large groups, with two levels, a patio overlooking the fountain and stunning views of the Bay. (They also offer catering, gift baskets, and their popular monthly Cheese Club.)

You can now come by for a cheese-focused wine bar experience Thursday-Sunday afternoons and evenings, with seating inside and on the patio. The sophisticated cheese selection and excellent pairings make it an elevated experience that even discerning locals will want to show up for.

And now there’s an exciting addition to the offerings: the Daily Driver team—who have been close friends with Egan and The Cheese School—is an official collaborative partner, bringing their wood-fired bagels, Tomales Farmstead Creamery cheeses, and top-notch butter over to Ghirardelli Square. Daily Driver’s original Dogpatch location can be a schlep for folks on this side of town, so now there’s easy access to Daily Driver’s fabulous bagels and more every Thursday-Sunday, 9am-2pm.

Come by for bagel sandwiches, coffee, and grab-and-go bags of bagels, cream cheese, and don’t miss their butter (from new head cheesemaker Rachel Kleine). They have also added a reverse grilled cheese sandwich to the opening menu, featuring a grilled inside-out bagel with Point Reyes Gouda, which will only be available at The Cheese School location. Egan and Daily Driver look forward to continuing to collaborate on exclusive farm tours, classes, and more.

One more fun thing to note: come by for Fleet Week—there’s a ticketed public party on Sunday October 10th, with a front-row view to the air show, complete with abundant cheese boards and wines. 900 North Point St. at Larkin, Ghirardelli Square.

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The exterior of the new Village Rotisserie in Noe Valley. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The new Equator Coffees Round House Café. Photo: courtesy Equator Coffees.

On Sunday evening, I was visiting a friend in Noe Valley and swung by the newly opened ~VILLAGE ROTISSERIE~ for a quick peek. This rotisserie chicken shop from an Aussie brother-and-sister duo is sure to be a takeout hit in the neighborhood, offering rotisserie chicken with your choice of sauces (peri-peri, Greek lemon-mayo, garlic, and chipotle mayo), plus fried chicken, pulled rotisserie chicken rolls (three kinds, like a green tahini roll with spinach and chile), bowls, fries, and all kinds of side dishes, like duck fat potatoes, carrots with caraway seeds, and roasted cauliflower with Kalamata olives. There are also a variety of salads, like green beans with potatoes and avocado dressing. If you remember the former Le Zinc space, there’s a nice patio in the back, where you can enjoy a glass of wine with your chook. Open daily 11am-9pm. 4063 24th St. at Castro.

I’ve been watching this place take shape in the Mission, and it just opened in the former burnt-out Maverick space: ~BRAZILIAN RESTAURANT BREWING~. The menu has a variety of Brazilian bites (like croquettes and coxinhas), salads (like the classic heart of palm), and true to Brazilian cuisine, it has a meat-heavy menu (with espetinhos/kabobs), plus a few seafood dishes, including moqueca. Also: there are lunch specials. The beer list actually features domestic beers, so don’t expect some Brahma. There’s both indoor and outdoor seating in a Shared Space (with a mural of Rio de Janeiro on it). Open Mon-Thu 11am-9:30pm and Fri-Sun 12pm-10:30pm. 3316 17th St. at Mission.

The next time you’re on a trail near the Golden Gate Bridge (or taking some visitors there), you can enjoy a coffee or espresso from Equator Coffees at the historic Round House Cafe. Enjoy an (almost) 360-degree view at this Art Deco site, not too far from their Fort Mason café. It makes me happy to know our visitors are getting some excellent coffee from a quality, female-owned roaster with sustainable values and socially responsible practices. There will be breakfast and lunch sandwiches (including a grilled cheese with Cowgirl Creamery cheeses), soup, salads, and all kinds of seasonal drinks, including the Fogsicle (Earl Grey tea, housemade vanilla and whipped cream, sparkling water, blood orange garnish). Hot tip: you can take $5 off your first visit when you order through the Equator Coffees app in the Apple Store/Google Play.

 Open daily 8:30am-4pm.

Honestly, some of these pasta combinations confound me (no shiitakes inside ravioli!) but FYI, a new pasta shop opened on Divisadero called ~PASTA BROTHERS~, offering many types of fresh pasta (from pappardelle to ravioli), plus sauces, pizza, and ready-made dishes like eggplant Parmigiana and lasagna. There’s also a small market, with some cheeses, condiments, and pantry items. Open Mon-Fri 11am-7pm. 1734 Divisadero St. at Bush.

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A trio of red tacos (quesabirria) from the La Santa Torta truck. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Crystal Wahpepah of Wahpepah’s Kitchen (flanked by Franco Esqueda and Aliza Gallo) is opening in the former’s Reem’s Oakland. Instagram photo by @wahpepahskitchen.

Big congrats to the ~LA SANTA TORTA~ taco truck team (cofounders Leo Oblea and Victor Guzman) on getting their first brick-and-mortar location (softly) open in the former Old Kan Beer & Co. taproom in West Oakland. The La Santa Torta trucks often pull up at breweries around the Bay, so this arrangement fits their usual M.O. The team is as known for their Jalisco-style quesabirria tacos as their charitable ways, from feeding vulnerable people impacted by the pandemic to fires, so their dedicated fans like to turn up and out for them.

There is both indoor and outdoor seating on a spacious patio (don’t forget to show your vax card), and since they have more room to cook, there are some new dishes, like whole shrimp aguachile, birria chilaquiles (OMG yes), and they’re even going to be making some birria gorditas and sopes (Guzman laughs over how much pushback he’s getting from the “hardcore Mexican ladies” that you don’t put birria in gorditas and sopes, even though he says it’s so delicious). As we get closer to the holidays, get excited for the return of their birria tamales, made by his Mom!

During this soft-opening period, they’re open on the weekends (Sat-Sun 12pm-7pm or maybe even until 8pm) and are looking at opening on Monday evenings for viewing the game over some tacos, stand by. Old Kan will be reopening their taproom in October, so you’ll be able to enjoy some of Adam Lamoreaux’s beers (with co-owner James Syhabout) with your birria. In coming weeks, the La Santa Torta team is busy staffing up, training, and getting ramped up for their grand opening on November 1st for Día de los Muertos.

Follow their Instagram (@lasantatorta) for updates as they get up to speed, as well as for their ongoing truck locations. Hours: Sat-Sun 12pm-7pm-ish (for now). 95 Linden St. at 3rd St., Oakland.

A little bit over a week ago, Reem Assil of Reem’s California announced on Instagram that the team is closing the original ~REEM’S OAKLAND~ location in Fruitvale. For the past year and a half during the pandemic, their Oakland team “produced thousands of meals a week in partnership with programs such as World Central Kitchen and SF New Deal, putting food into the hands of frontline medical workers and people experiencing homelessness, those most vulnerable and impacted by this pandemic.” She also mentions, “We have also worked to launch a wholesale program, making signature Reem’s products available in local grocery stores such as Good Eggs and Berkeley Bowl, an operation that took months of scheming, learning about food packaging, and perfecting our mana’eesh and fatayer production so you can enjoy Reem’s at home!”

Since the Reem dream team can’t stop/won’t stop, they’re also continuing to work on opening a worker-owned flagship bakery, and have moved their kitchen operations just a few blocks away to Restore Oakland on 34th Avenue and International.

As for the next tenant, there’s some great news: they are “proud to be passing along our original Fruitvale space to Crystal Wahpepah, an indigenous cook, activist, and educator from East Oakland.” Get ready for updates on her plans for the location. In the meantime, she’s running some teasers of coming soon dishes at @wahpepahskitchen! Hello, maple cream-squash blossom corn bread!

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Farewell to Bistro SF Grill. Instagram photo via @bistrosfgrill.

After generously feeding so many people for just $5.50 per meal during the pandemic, I’m sorry to see the generous duo (Senijad Felic and Hasim Zecic) behind ~BISTRO SF GRILL~ are closing their doors. (You can read more about their moving personal history here.) Their farewell post mentions they will be selling their stock of Mediterranean and Balkan wine and beer at a discount over the next few days, so you can swing by and say thanks. Best wishes, guys. 1305 Castro St. at 24th St.

September 8, 2021
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A Cal-Italian spread at the new Fiorella Sunset. Photo: Hardy Wilson.

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The new rooftop seating area at Fiorella Sunset. Photo: Hardy Wilson.

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Seafood tower handroll at the new Chīsai Sushi Club. Photo: Darren Samuelson.

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SF Chickenbox bounty. Instagram photo via @sfchickenbox.

There are a bunch of new openings happening, starting with the latest and third location of ~FIORELLA~ in the Sunset (in the former Park Chow) from founders and co-owners Brandon Gillis and Boris Nemchenok. (Fun fact: it was also the site of the first American restaurant Nemchenok’s parents dined at when they emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1983.) This project has been a long time coming, but it sure is worth it. The location has a fantastic rooftop deck, plus new dishes from the new chef, Fiorella’s first foray into cocktails (from Candice Jae: Evil Eye, Lolinda, Alchemist, Macondray), along with housemade pasta and gelato.

The bi-level space offers a variety of indoor and outdoor seating (hello, retractable awning!), with a working fireplace and their trademark Flavor Paper Bay Area Toile wallpaper (yup, that’s Dennis Richmond on there). Fiorella Sunset’s chef de cuisine Scott Schneider comes from New York’s Ai Fiori, where he was honing his fine-dining chops for over a decade. The team will be cranking out housemade pasta in the glass-enclosed dough room, and new dishes unique to this location include housemade farfalle with peperoncino, marjoram, toasted breadcrumbs ($22); a clam pie (yes!); king salmon crudo ($17); romaine cacio e pepe with Little Gems, house-cured anchovy, pecorino, black pepper, fried capers ($14); and tempura-fried seasonal vegetables with salsa rossa, pecorino, and lemon ($10).

The new bar program includes eight cocktails, a large selection of amari and vermouths, and their wine lists are always full of interesting (and affordable) selections, plus there’s a Far West x Fiorella collaboration “Nice for a Slice” hard cider. Open for dinner to start, followed by weekend brunch and weekday lunch soon. 1240 9th Ave. at Lincoln.

I’m happy to see new life in the former ICHI Sushi space in Bernal, and from chef-owner and former employee Erik Aplin, no less (some former Ichi crew will also be joining him). Open as of Tuesday night is ~CHĪSAI SUSHI CLUB~, the latest addition to SF’s omakase scene, with an innovative, Bay Area-ingredient spin. There are three nigiri-focused, omakase tasting menus: 13 courses for $80, 17 for $110, and a 12-course vegetarian (or vegan) menu for $65 (complete with tomato “maguro” prepared like tuna).

After ICHI, Aplin also worked at Akiko’s and Robin, no strangers to innovative sushi. Aplin is putting together a version of a Louie salad (an SF classic) with pickled daikon, finished with shaved, miso-cured egg yolk, and his “open-faced” hand rolls include a BLTA in its own custom holder. (Check out the pic of the seafood tower with raw scallop, Fort Bragg uni, and ikura, topped with nori butter melted on top, inspired by the flavors and components of a traditional seafood tower.) There will be some non-nigiri dishes, like an uni carbonara with udon noodles. Open Mon-Wed 5:30pm-9pm and Thu-Sun 5:30pm-10pm. 3369 Mission St. at Godeus.

Our man of fried chicken fame, Christian Ciscle, has moved ~SF CHICKENBOX~’s to its new North Beach coop. Get your box (and mochi muffins) delivered or for takeout. Open Mon-Sat 10am-10pm. (You can also check out their latest collab: Songs for Community, Vol. 3, with 100 percent of funds raised from the compilation going to Arm the Girls Mutual Aid.) 464 Broadway at Grant.

Just next door to Café de la Presse (in the former Herlen Place wine bar) is a new and fast-casual location of ~SCOTT’S CHOWDER HOUSE~ (the first in SF), with chef Laurent Manrique acting as culinary advisor on the concept. The abridged menu features a variety of chowders and soups, salads, and seafood sandwiches/rolls for dine-in (crab, lobster), to-go, or delivery, along with beer and wine selections, and ice cream sundaes. Opening hours to start are Wed-Sat 11:30am-6:30pm and Sun 11:30am-4pm. 334 Grant Ave. at Bush.

Over in the Mission, the former Top Round Roast Beef (in the classic Discolandia space) is now a brick-and-mortar location of ~LA VACA BIRRIA~, a San Bruno food truck from Ricky Lopez (via SFGATE). The menu includes birria tacos/quesabirria, birria fries, and birria ramen, as well as a torta ahogada. Open Wed-Sun 11am-9pm. 2962 24th St. at Alabama.

North Beach’s ~BRIOCHE BAKERY & CAFÉ~ just opened a location in the Upper Haight (in the former Sparrow). Their breakfast/lunch/brunch menu includes eggy dishes for breakfast, sandwiches, hot panini, tartines, and fresh-baked pastries, coffee, and wine, with early dinner too. The outdoor deck is open as well. Open daily 8am-9pm. 1640 Haight. at Belvedere.

Another location of ~GOTT’S ROADSIDE~ is opening at Thrive City in Mission Bay on September 17th. Look for the Airstream trailer serving beer and wine to go with your burger. Thrive City at Chase Center, 1 Warriors Way.

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The weekend mezze brunch board at Lulu in Berkeley. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Chef-owner Mona Leena of Lulu will help you to “think pink!” Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The fantastic market fish amandine (with a tableside pour) at Tribune. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The bar and front dining area at Tribune. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The iconic Tribune Tower. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Hop on over to @tablehopper for pics of fantastic experiences I had at two new East Bay establishments, but first, I wanted to share some backstory on them here.

Last week, I visited the brand-new ~LULU~ from chef-owner Mona Leena in Berkeley’s Gilman District. This is her first brick and mortar, although you’ll recognize her from her popular pop-up, The Mana’eesh Lady, which she launched after Oakland’s Dyafa shuttered due to the pandemic (where she was the executive chef). Lulu has opened in the former Nest of Comforts tea house, and is the kind of restaurant you will wish was in your neighborhood. Translated from Arabic, Lulu means “pearl,” Leena’s childhood nickname (she is first-generation Palestinian, and born-and-raised Californian). It has a sunny, airy, cheerful interior, with outdoor seating under blue umbrellas.

The menu of Palestinian-inspired, California cuisine features her housemade baked goods (her breads are so fabulous), mezze brunch, and lunch, with a plan to start dinner service later this year. If you have any excuse to enjoy a midweek lunch with a friend, book it here (but be sure to make a reservation early, demand is high and there aren’t many tables). If you’re coming Fri-Sun, you’ll want to order the abundant and eye-popping mezze brunch board for two so you don’t have to decide between dishes like za’atar fried eggs, fried halloumi, labneh, baba ganoush, shakshuka, za’atar mana’eesh, seasonal fruit, and more.

The menu is full of creative and seasonal dishes, like the pillowy mana’eesh with a rotating menu of two kinds on offer each day, like Early Girl tomato, chèvre, and zhoug (a vibrant, spicy, green hot sauce) or akkawi cheese with seasonal fruit jam, or the fully loaded classic za’atar version, with brown butter labneh, hard-boiled egg, seasonal vegetables, and herbs. There’s a breakfast sando or a fried chicken sando on a simsim bun, bowls, and more. The menu just makes me so dang hungry. I also plan to come back for the shouka-quiles, made with pita chips, sweet peppers, Early Girl tomatoes, fresh feta, and soft-scrambled eggs.

There’s a coffee bar, with enticing espresso drinks like a rose brûlée cappuccino, cardamom-TCHO mocha, and caramel-tahini cold brew, all using coffee from Mother Tongue Coffee. You’ll be able to enjoy a tahini-caramel sticky bun or a “zalabyeh” cruller doughnut with black cardamon and lechera glaze with your coffee, or a housemade croissant with za’atar and feta for my fellow savory fans. Open Tue-Thu 7:30am-3pm and Fri-Sun 9:30am-4pm. Make a reservation! 1019 Camelia St. at 10th St., Berkeley.

Newly open in downtown Oakland’s historic Tribune Tower is ~TRIBUNE~, a New American brasserie from chef-partner Omri Aflalo and operating partner-general manager Darrin Ballon (they are also behind Town Revival).

The minimalist space was designed with Jon De La Cruz (Che Fico, Leo’s Oyster Bar, The Cavalier), highlighting classic architectural elements of the 1923 building, but bringing in some modern-chic touches. There’s a spacious bar you’d be happy to dine at, tufted leather banquettes, comfy tobacco leather chairs, wood tables with quite a bit of space between them, and outdoor seating, too. 

The focused menu highlights peak-season ingredients, like a tomato and melon salad with burrata ($20), or their house chopped salad ($17), and the truly divine pasta dish of housemade cavatelli with summer mushroom duxelles, Meyer lemon butter sauce, hazelnuts, chanterelle confit, chives, and pecorino ($22), don’t miss it. Afalo’s French background really shines in the grilled local fish “amandine” ($28), stuffed with a piperade farce and house-cured lardo, that you pour amandine sauce over (made with roasted almonds, barigoule, and shallots)—let me tell you, I’m not one to usually order the fish dish at a restaurant, but this one is IT. The wild rice pilaf and puffed rice on the side added nice texture, a common element you’ll note in most dishes here (also in the unexpected creamed corn presentation with white corn pudding, butter popcorn, and popcorn powder, so fun). There are also elevated touches (like a roulade preparation) and components, like cilantro oil or nasturtium “vert” thyme oil. I’m coming back for the burger. Sticky toffee cake with Bahri dates and burnt toffee sauce is guaranteed dessert happiness. Don’t attempt it alone.

Cocktails ($14) are playful and creative, and the wine list from consultant Martin Sheehan-Stross has some fantastic selections, including the crushable Gros Ventre Cellars vermentino from El Dorado that I really need more of in my life. Service has fine-dining chops, complete with some tableside touches, but feels relaxed and engaging. Open Thu-Sun 5pm-10pm for now. 401 13th St. at Franklin, Oakland.

For the month of September, Tribune is hosting a weekly guest bartender every Thursday, starting this Thursday September 9th at 5pm with Elmer Mejicanos of Red Window, serving up his Spanish-influenced cocktails like the sherry cobbler. September 16th: Nora Furst of the forthcoming Buddy Bar in San Francisco and beverage consultant with West Bev. Furst will create low-ABV, sessionable cocktails. September 23rd: Ron Boyd of Nightbird’s Linden Room in Hayes Valley will create light, seasonal cocktails. September 30th: Adam “Boots” Brogan, longtime San Francisco bar consultant, will focus on classic, San Francisco-inspired cocktails.

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Some of the popular brunch dishes at Cassava. Photo courtesy of Cassava.

A couple weeks ago, Outer Richmond’s ~CASSAVA~ co-owner Yuka Ioroi excitedly posted a sneak peek of their upcoming (and spacious) North Beach location, which is the former Trattoria Pinocchio (this is such a breath of fresh air, considering the crazed tirade the previous owner posted in the windows last year—ciao, pazzo).

Owners Yuka and her husband and chef Kristoffer Toliao are moving their neighborhood restaurant as part of their 10-year anniversary celebration, and plan to open in 2022. They just launched a WeFunder campaign, a “Kickstarter for investments” that allows the public to become angel investors (investors will receive a 1.5x repayment amount, plus special perks).

Here’s more about the fate of their current location from the press release: “After recent renovations, the current Cassava location in the Outer Richmond area plans to reopen later this fall, with reservations available for brunch. They will continue operating as normal there until the North Beach location opens, at which point the Outer Richmond location will be re-envisioned as a pop-up incubator with a rotating lineup of local foodservice concepts, a further testament to the creative tenacity of Ioroi and Toliao.” Stand by for updates in coming months. Go team go. 401 Columbus Ave. at Vallejo.

SF Chickenbox owner Christian Ciscle tweeted a few weeks ago that ~EL FAROLITO~ was going to be expanding their burrito empire and was coming to the former The House space at 1230 Grant Avenue. But this recent and in-depth post by Mission Local outlines how this opening is actually uncertain due to SF’s formula retail restrictions, ugh. We’ll need to wait and see what the Planning Department decides.

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[#]1 DB Douchebag Crab Fried Rice at Lily. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Lily’s dining room. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The fabulous midnight chocolate cake. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Some positive news to report, starting with this update that is rich with wok hei: ~LILY~ has brought back their now (in)famous #1 DB Douchebag Crab Fried Rice…but for a cause! I suggested the idea to chef Rob Lam (we’re good friends) that he should bring this hyped dish back for charity, and I’m so proud of the Lily team for making this happen. It’s priced at $500 per plate, but before you get mad, $400 from each dish sold will be donated to community-based partner organizations. YES! SF New Deal is the first recipient, a nonprofit that has provided support to small businesses and food-insecure residents during the pandemic.

Limited to just 10 orders per week, available on Wednesdays and Thursdays ONLY. You need to make a reservation for Wed or Thu dinner and you can pre-order it; there are just five available per night.

This extravagant fried rice is topped off with red king crab from Japan, eco-certified sturgeon caviar, wagyu beef, Hokkaido uni, Jidori egg yolk, and much more magic (including their black truffle XO sauce). Chef Lam says, “We did this as a joke! A stoned-out, bored-ass, pandemic gift. To soothe a takeout nation during the holidays. It was a two-week special! We never meant for this to take off! The dish isn’t even Vietnamese!!” It quickly became so popular that it was difficult for the Lily team to keep up with the orders—they had to remove the dish from their menu, but now, the douchebag is back…for a cause! Thanks to everyone who is putting their money where their mouth is, and helping our local community. Head to lilyonclement.com to book a reso.

A tablehopper reader reached out with a depressing photo of a letter from ~MR. AND MRS. MISCELLANEOUS~, announcing they were closing their Dogpatch ice cream shop after 11 years of scooping in the neighborhood. But great news: chef Deuki Hong and The Sunday Family team have taken over from former owner Annabelle Topacio, and are working with her to train their team on her recipes so some of her popular flavors live on. The location is now ~SUNDAY SOCIAL~, running Thu-Sun 12pm-7pm, and will officially relaunch in October (look for additions like espresso, as well as cookies, pie, brownies, and more). 699 22nd St. at 3rd St. [Via Eater]

Happy to see ~OUTERLANDS~ announce their plans to reopen for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, starting with a counter brunch service. They just had their first service this past weekend; hours will be Thu-Mon 9am-3pm. [Via Eater]

Down in Atherton, the swanky ~SELBY’S~ is reopening after months of serving family meals for takeout and a brief period of indoor dining, and they’re returning with a special $65 prix-fixe, three-course menu. Enjoy a wedge salad or their three-milk Robiola ravioli to start, followed by their fantastic chicken parmigiana or fennel coriander-crusted duck breast, with their truly magnificent midnight chocolate cake for dessert (I dream about that dessert). You can upgrade with caviar service and other fancy Continental dishes. There’s also a bar menu (with the famed Black Label burger). Dinner is Tue-Sat 5pm-9pm. 3001 El Camino Real, Atherton.

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Umami soup by Hisato Nakahigashi of Miyamasou. Instagram photo via @insitu_sfmoma.

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The original interior of the très petite (and très charmant) Le Marais Bakery on Chestnut. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Khao soi at Kin Khao. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Some unfortunate closures have rolled through, starting with ~IN SITU~ at SFMOMA, which completed their five-year term at the museum (bummer about that last year, thanks for nothing, Ms. Rona). An email shared, “It was an honor to learn from some of the most innovative, talented, and influential chefs in the world and represent them here in San Francisco,” and cited they served “over 100 dishes spanning more than 25 countries, 20 U.S cities, and almost 50 years.” You can read a personal note from chef Corey Lee here.

Baguette and croissant lovers are dismayed over the news that ~LE MARAIS BAKERY~ is being forced to close their flagship Chestnut Street location in late October, after ten years in the Marina. In an email (as well as in this Instagram post), owner Patrick Ascaso mentions issues with their new landlord (and failed negotiations over the past two years), and how tragic it is to close their beloved location, especially after putting so much into it—it’s such a vibrant part of the neighborhood. Yesterday, I was sent a petition to Keep Le Marais Bakery in the Marina posted by one of their customers, here’s hoping it helps them find a way to stay. For now, they are open daily 7am-5pm. Their other locations in the Castro, Mill Valley, and the commissary on Sutter are still open. (You can also find their frozen croissants at Williams Sonoma, the sales of which have supported their bakery through the pandemic.) 2066 Chestnut St. at Steiner.

After nine years in Hayes Valley, owners Roberth and Andrea Sundell of the Swedish ~PLÄJ~ have decided to close the restaurant. In a farewell note on Instagram, they say: “We were very excited and hopeful when planning our reopening. Unfortunately, the reality of the current environment has created a scenario that we can not sustain.” Sadly, this is a common refrain. Stockhome, their sister restaurant in Petaluma, will remain open.

After a year in Dogpatch, Pim Techamuanvivit has closed the offshoot location of ~KIN KHAO~, partly because Restaurant Revitalization Funds were rescinded by the SBA from minority- and women-owned businesses (no thanks to white male business owners who filed discrimination lawsuits, assholes). Techamuanvivit will reportedly still be reopening the original location in the Parc 55 Hotel at some point.

After 30 years on Union Street, ~PANE E VINO~ has closed its doors—you can read their farewell note on their site. Best wishes to chef Bruno Quercini (who is reportedly retiring). (Thanks to eagle-eyed reader Leslie G. for the tip.) 715 Union St. at Gough.