San Francisco: Restaurant Openings
Chef-owner Ravi Kapur, known for his eight-year stint with Nancy Oakes at Boulevard and as opening executive chef of Prospect, together with Nopa and Nopalito owners Jeff Hanak and Allyson Jossel, opened Liholiho Yacht Club in January. The comfortable, narrow, playful restaurant in San Francisco's Lower Nob Hill invites diners to "grind, talk story, get jag" (eat, hang out and let loose) and enjoy a taste of Kapur's native Hawaii. Kapur's heritage driven concept began in 2011 as a sought-after pop-up around town; the name comes courtesy of Kapur's uncles on Oahu, some of whom lived on Liholiho Street, who threw large beach parties in the name of the fictitious "Liholiho Yacht Club" during Kapur's youth. The wall-size black-and-white photograph behind the bar is of Kapur's mother. Look for dishes such as marinated squid with crispy tripe, cabbage, peanuts, fried shallots and mint, or lamb ribs with dates, almonds and watermelon radishes. Liholiho Yacht Club, 871 Sutter St., San Francisco, CA 94109, 415-440-5446.
Oakland favorite CommonWealth Cafe & Public House has a new Emeryville baby sister, the CommonWealth Micropub, located on Adeline Street in what's known to locals as the Triangle District. The wee spot may be short on space --- tight tables in the nicely appointed interior accommodate about 15, while outdoor tables offer a bit of stretching room for 20 or so more --- but it's big on charm and intent thanks to the owners, husband-and-wife team Ross (a Scottish native) and Ahna Adair. There is no bar, only table service, with a daily changing selection of about eight to ten draught ales, lagers and ciders. However, the U.K.-inspired menu boasts nourishing flavors: Scotch broth, robust samosas, Yorkshire pudding and shepherd’s pie. Note: All service charges are included in the bill, no tips required. Lunch Sun., Dinner Tues.-Sun. CommonWealth Micropub, 3986 Adeline St., Emeryville, CA 94608, 510-858-5122.
Oakland's Uptown district has a new mixed-use space called The Hive that is about to get a new restaurant. Chris Pastena (Lungomare, Chop Bar) will open Mexican destination Calavera in what looks like May if all goes according to plan. The 4,000-square-foot restaurant with 18-foot ceilings is designed by Arcsine, and features an abundance of wood, subtle color and interesting geometry in the décor. The restaurant promises an impressive tequila and mezcal selection, along with "reimagined" regional Mexican cuisine. Calavera, The Hive, 2337 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612, No phone.
Manresa executive chef/owner David Kinch, head baker Avery Ruzicka and Andrew Burnham partnered to open a brick-and-mortar shop ManresaBread, inspired by the local farmer's market and pop-up retail success of Ruzicka's small-batch breads and pastries. On offer: levain and other classic breads, sticky buns, monkey bread and innovative selections such as kuri squash streusel muffins and polenta sourdough made at a permanent bakery near the retail space. ManresaBread, 276 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos, CA 95030, 408-402-5372.
Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson Team Up on Loco'L
Maverick chef Roy Choi’s upcoming healthy fast food spot in Watts, Loco’L, is projected to open in late summer or early fall. Choi (Kogi, POT) has teamed up with San Francisco chef Daniel Patterson (Coi), who will also open a Loco’L in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. The chefs share a goal of “revolutionizing” fast food. Healthy burgers will be made with grains and tofu, buns will be nutrient-dense, and they will be priced at only 99 cents. Choi insists there will be no sodas, only agua frescas.
Drought Dining --- Early Summer Weather Means Eating Al Fresco
All sun and no rain has led diners to enjoy some early summer-style dining options around the bay. In Oakland, the Dock at the Lake Chalet has opened for business, featuring al fresco dining and a lively bar on Lake Merritt with gondolas parked tableside. In San Francisco near AT&T Park, The Yard at Mission Rock is a new shipping-container pop-up village at the corner of Third Street and Terry Francois Boulevard, featuring street food from Off The Grid, an Anchor Brewing beer garden and an al fresco wine bar among many offerings. Remember --- all this pretty weather comes at a cost. As of April 15, California diners receive water at their tables by request only.
With Spring Comes Picnics at the Presidio & Fort Mason
Off The Grid's food truck gatherings become two richer each spring with the return of Picnic at the Presidio and Off the Grid: Fort Mason. Sundays from March 1-November 1, Picnic at the Presidio offers street cuisine enthusiasts the chance to picnic in style among the Presidio's greenery on the Main Post lawn in a leisurely environment that includes more than 30 food trucks and specialty purveyors, bocce ball, yoga classes, live entertainment, good views and plenty of Bloody Mary drink kits. Blankets and Adirondack chairs are available for rent. Friday evenings from March 6-October 30, 30-plus food trucks congregate at Fort Mason Center for a lively combination of outdoor food and entertainment, with Magnolia brews, cocktails and wines adding to the Friday-night feel and appeal. For a list of participating food trucks, visit offthegridsf.com.
Changes in Potrero
For years, Jocelyn Bulow seemingly had a monopoly on casual French elegance on Potrero Hill with his beloved Chez Papa and Chez Maman bistros. With the end of 2014, Chez Papa closed, and now there will be changes to Chez Maman as well. The old location of Chez Papa, still under Bulow ownership, will transform mid-March into a new Chez Maman. The old Chez Maman will then become casual offshoot Chez Maman Rotisserie. Bulow also has a stake in Mexican cuisine, and his Papito Potrero has a new chef in Efren Villalobos (Mamacitas, Mexico DF, Marino, Papito West). (On a side note, Bulow has sold his property Papito West at 425 A Hayes St. in Hayes Valley to general manager David Alexander.)
Hottest Ticket in Town
Mission District restaurant Lazy Bear (an anagram of chef David Barzelay's last name) has given State Bird Provisions and other notoriously difficult-to-get-into San Francisco restaurants serious competition since its brick-and-mortar opening in July, 2014. Barzelay was a former lawyer with only brief staging experience when he began his underground dinner parties in 2009. Now, diners purchase nonrefundable tickets for one of two dinner seatings Tues.-Sat., each comprised of 40 guests and each treated as a dinner party --- cocktails are passed before guests are directed to their pre-assigned seats at two 22-foot communal tables. The kitchen is completely open to guests and Barzelay and staff actively interact with diners throughout the experience. Cuisine is modern American and ranges from 12-18 courses. Cost is $110-$150 per person, with optional beverage pairings for an additional $75. Service fee and tax are not included. Tickets are released in advance on a monthly basis; join the restaurant's mailing list for alerts. Dinner Tues.-Sat. Lazy Bear, 3416 19th St., San Francisco, CA 94110, 415-874-9921.
New Full Bar at Boxing Room
Mardi Gras season got a little more festive this year at Boxing Room, the New Orleans-inspired restaurant from the Absinthe Group located in Hayes Valley. The restaurant boasts a new full bar --- outfitted in vintage New Orleans details such as brass instruments and an old Saints helmet --- and cocktail menu from Absinthe Group's bar operations director Jonny Raglin, and opening bartender Bobby Baker returned after a stint managing six popular local watering holes under Future Bars. Executive chef Justin Simoneaux has expanded the seafood bar (marinated mussels, Louisiana-style barbecued shrimp) and added a sampler called "Taste of the Swamp": turtle soup, fried frogs’ legs and alligator sauce piquant. Boxing Room, 399 Grove St., San Francisco, CA 94102, 415-430-6590.
Dine, Give Food at Off The Grid
Off The Grid food truck market gatherings will host local food bank representatives on select dates through December to accept donations of nonperishable goods. Check the market schedule at www.offthegridsf.com for when and where to take food items, or make a direct donation using Square for mobile payment.
Rose Pistola has a new executive chef in Steve Walker, who joins the North Beach restaurant from Corso in Berkeley, where he was chef de cuisine. Walker will focus on updating the Italian menu with new programs such as whole animal butchery, salumi made in-house, house-made pastas and daily changing seasonal menus. Rose Pistola, 532 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, CA 94133, 415-399-0499.
Florio on Fillmore Street has a new executive chef in Colin Dewey, most recently executive chef of Zero Zero. Dewey has plenty of French and Italian cooking in his background, having worked at San Francisco's Bix, New York's Del Posto and as Lidia Bastianich's sous chef at Felidia. He spent this winter on a cooking sabbatical, staging in Piemonte, Fruili, Umbria and on the Amalfi Coast. His menu at Florio will focus on the Mediterranean stretch "from Provence to Naples." Florio, 1915 Fillmore St., San Francisco, CA 94115, 415-775-4300.
After a promising first year, Verbena --- sister restaurant to Gather in Berkeley --- closed abruptly on March 23. It reopened March 26, under the same ownership, as Reverb Kitchen & Bar, with chef Ryan Shelton in charge of the kitchen. Cuisine is comfort food made from local, seasonal ingredients, and a focus on craft cocktails, with dinner nightly and brunch on weekends. Verbena, 2323 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109, no phone.
Ala Romana has closed unexpectedly. The restaurant from Allegro Romano owner Lorenzo Logoreci opened in late 2013. The property is for rent. Ala Romana, 1098 Jackson St., San Francisco, CA 94133, no phone.
After only several months, Game --- the "new American exotic" restaurant from Sachin Chopra, located inside the former Masa's space --- has already closed. Chopra shut the restaurant after service March 7, but will transition it into a second All Spice, Chopra's Indian standout on the Peninsula, within the week. According to the website, the new All Spice opens Friday, March 13. Game, Executive Hotel Vintage Court, 648 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108, no phone.
Radius on Folsom Street has closed. The restaurant caused a splash when it opened in 2010, for its notable focus on using ingredients found within a 100-mile radius. A portion of the space, still owned by Radius owner Jon Whitehead, has already morphed into a casual café and wine bar called Carafe; Whitehead will transform the rest of the property into a second restaurant in the months to come. Radius, 1123 Folsom St., San Francisco, CA 94103, no phone.
Vegans and vegetarians are not the only ones upset by the news that famous vegan destination Millennium Restaurant will close at the end of April 2015. The restaurant has set the gold standard for organic, plant-based fine dining. According to a letter posted on Facebook, Millennium's lease is up and two of its owners are retiring. However, executive chef and co-owner Eric Tucker --- who has been with the restaurant since its 1994 inception --- hopes to open his own future venue in either the East Bay or San Francisco to perpetuate the cuisine and philosophy that made Millennium so special. Millennium Restaurant, The Hotel California, 580 Geary St., San Francisco, CA 94102, 415-345-3900.
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