Ninebark is a new Napa restaurant and rooftop bar and lounge set to open in October 2015 in the current Thomas & Fagiani's space on Main Street. The restaurant will feature three floors of "airy, garden-driven design," and will include an open kitchen, chef's table, rooftop garden and casually elegant bar, lounge and dining areas. Chef will be Matthew Lightner (Atera, Mugaritz, Castagna), who has formed a partnership with the AvroKO design group, owners of PUBLIC, The Daily, Saxon + Parole, Madam Geneva and GENUINE Roadside. Ninebark is their first venture together, with more on the way. http://ninebark-napa.com/. Ninebark, 813 Main St., Napa, CA 94559, 707-226-7821.
Sessions at the Presidio is a new 3,500-square-foot craft brewpub and dining room inside the Letterman Digital Arts Center --- Lucasfilm's San Francisco campus --- just inside the Presidio's Chestnut Street gate. Heading the team are executive chef Michael Bilger and GM Evin Gelleri, whose shared love of "session" ales --- flavorful, yet low in alcohol --- led to the concept. Brews include some small-batch beers crafted on-site, guest homebrews and upwards of 100 domestic and international craft beers. Cuisine is robust, seasonal and shareable, and includes many ingredients from organic Skywalker Ranch in Marin County. Skywalker Ranch wines are also on a short wine list (that includes 10 choices on tap); craft cocktails under the direction of Peter Ziegler round out the beverage program. Also, notably, Sessions employs the tip-free service model, applying an automatic 20 percent charge to each tab. Lunch Mon.-Fri., Dinner nightly, Brunch Sat.-Sun. Sessions at the Presidio, 1 Letterman Dr., San Francisco, CA 94129, 415-655-9413.
Sam's Grill has a classy new outdoor bar and lounge on Belden Alley. Called Sam's Seafood Alley, the concept is a modern, al fresco addition to the San Francisco restaurant with its private wooden booths and white tablecloths (and history dating back to 1867). A wood burl bar provides a centerpoint under the outdoor lounge's protective awning, and the space features hardwood flooring and lounge and table seating for about 40 (first come, first served). Cocktails, craft beers, chowder, crab rolls and raw bar offerings make for an appealing after-work menu. Sam's Seafood Alley also has a happy hour that runs every weekday from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. Call Sam's Grill for more detail. Lunch & Dinner Mon.-Fri. Sam's Seafood Alley, 374 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94104, 415-421-0594.
A casual Italian restaurant is nearing completion in the Outer Richmond. Called Fiorella and headed up by owner Boris Nemchenok (Uva Enoteca, and New York's Otto Enoteca e Pizzeria), who grew up in that neighborhood, and chef-partner Brandon Gillis (Brooklyn's Franny's), the 40-seat restaurant will offer fresh pastas, pizza, crostini and antipasti, as well as Italian wine varietals from boutique Italian and domestic producers. Look for a December 2015 opening. Fiorella, 2339 Clement St., San Francisco, CA 94121, No phone.
The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco, has an opulent new wine tasting lounge from winemaker Jean-Charles Boisset. The JCB Tasting Lounge is a small, sumptuous enclave off the hotel's lobby, featuring an interior and accessories designed by Boisset himself. Flights of limited, boutique wines, light, luxury bites from Parallel 37's chef de cuisine Michael Rotondo and options of cheeses, caviar and more are provided. The lounge also has a retail space with merchandise from Baccarat, Christofle, Goyard and others, and concierge services for wine lovers that reach into San Francisco, wine country and beyond. Open daily. JCB Tasting Lounge, The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco, 600 Stockton St., San Francisco, CA 94108, 415-296-7465.
Casual Cal-Med restaurant Oro at 8 Mint Plaza has opened. The project from Jason Fox, executive chef and owner of Commonwealth, together with Timothy Felkner, owner of consultancy firm Vigilante Hospitality, features individual and shareable plates from chef de cuisine Travis Day (Central Kitchen, Yoshi's). Specialties include whole animal butchery, charcuterie (coppa de testa, salami cotto, rabbit rillettes) and a "blind" chef's tasting experience of off-menu items, served family-style. The beverage program is headed up by some big names, including wine director Kelly Evans, most recently of Saison. Oro, 8 Mint Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94103, 415-974-1212.
Oakland's Uptown district has a new mixed-use space called The Hive that is home to Calavera, a Mexican destination from Chris Pastena (Lungomare, Chop Bar). 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, 510-338-3273.
Dominique Crenn's Hayes Valley restaurant Petit Crenn is billed as an "homage to her mother and grandmother's cooking," and features cuisine reminiscent of her native Brittany. This sister offshoot of Crenn's famous Atelier Crenn offers a five-course menu for $72 per person (including service but not including tax and wine). Petit Crenn, 609 Hayes St., San Francisco, CA 94102, 415-621-5482.
David Kinch (Manresa) will open New Orleans-inspired restaurant and bar The Bywater. Located just down the street from Manresa at 532 N. Santa Cruz Avenue in Los Gatos, the small, casual dining enclave will feature the cuisine of chef David Morgan (New Orleans' Restaurant August, Cyrus). The beverage program led by Claire Sprouse and Chad Arnholt of San Francisco-based Tin Roof Drinking Community will feature classic, authentic cocktails as well as beer and wine. Dishes will be French- and New-Orleans-inspired and there will be a raw bar. Live music will be a focus, and a back patio will offer outdoor seating. The Bywater, 532 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos, CA 95030, no phone.
Joshua Skenes (Saison) and Los Angeles-based restaurant owner Adam Fleischman (Umami Burger) will open a fast, casual Chinese restaurant in downtown San Francisco called Fat Noodle. Hand-pulled noodle dishes (along with rice and egg noodle base options) will be served in a production-line fashion as guests choose various broth, meat, vegetable and sauce toppings. Fat Noodle, 92 Second St., San Francisco, CA 94105, no phone.
Sabio on Main brings upscale, contemporary dining to Pleasanton. Executive chef and co-owner is Francis Hogan, formerly of Bluestem Brasserie, whose specialties include whole animal butchery, charcuterie and cheese mongering. Hogan is also a certified sommelier. His seasonal, sustainable menu features small plates showcasing a range of international flavors --- European, Asian, Latin American and even Caribbean fare --- but more than 50 percent of the menu highlights Spanish cuisine. Sabio promises an extensive wine list and artisan cocktails. Sabio on Main, 501 Main St., Pleasanton, CA 94566, 925-800-3090.
Bon Marché Brasserie & Bar comes from Matt Semmelhack and Mark Liberman, cofounders of the Mercer Restaurant Group (AQ Restaurant & Bar, TBD Restaurant). The 7,500-square-foot space provides a variety of all-day dining options for mid-Market denizens, including a full-service brasserie, coffee shop, raw bar, craft brewery under master cicerone Rich Higgins and a lounge, along with a private dining room for special functions. The grand, Art Deco-inspired venue has a vibe reminiscent of the Marais district of Paris. There is even a flower shop. Though Bon Marché is overseen by Liberman, executive chef is Matthew Sieger, and the focus is seasonal French fare for lunch and dinner. Pastry chef is Rikki Garcia; sommelier is Allegra Angelo. Bon Marché is part of Shorenstein Properties' redeveloped 1355 Market Street historic building, now known as Market Square. Bon Marché Brasserie & Bar, 1355 Market St., San Francisco, CA 94103, 415-802-1700.
Café de la Presse Closed Temporarily
Laurent Manrique's Café de la Presse is temporarily closed for renovations and has scheduled a late October reopening. Those looking for an authentic French fix in the meantime might consider a visit to Manrique's nearby property, Aquitaine. Café de la Presse, 352 Grant Ave., San Francisco, CA 94108, 415-398-2680.
Monday Family Dinners at Terrapin Crossroads
Terrapin Crossroads serves a prix-fixe family dinner every Monday night from 5:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m., featuring varying specials such as fish ‘n’ chips, taco, pasta or pizza dinners meant to be shared. Prices differ for adults and children, and there are à la carte draft beer or house wine options for an additional $5. The casual Marin County restaurant and live music venue is owned by Grateful Dead member Phil Lesh, and known for crowd-pleasing seasonal cuisine. Terrapin Crossroads, 100 Yacht Club Dr., San Rafael, CA 94901, 415-524-2773.
Win a Coastal Bistro in Northern California
Mendo Bistro in Fort Bragg, California, in Mendocino County, is looking for a new owner and holding a contest to see who might have what it takes. The restaurant, owned and operated by chef Nicholas Petti, has 88 seats, coastal views and a reputation as a local and visitor's favorite. Petti, who is moving into a career as a college professor, would like to give a prospective owner without much capital the same opportunity he was given when he opened the bistro in 1999. Entrants must submit a 250-word essay (and $100 entry fee) by December 18, 2015, limited to 7,500 entrants. Visit mendobistro.com for details.
EPIC Name Change
Prime Embarcadero restaurant EPIC Roasthouse is now EPIC Steak, courtesy of a May 2015 name change and new focus on mesquite-fired cooking from chef Parke Ulrich. Much of the restaurant remains unchanged, including the show-stopping waterfront views. EPIC Steak, 369 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94105, 415-369-9955.
Express Prix-fixe Lunch Monday-Friday
La Mar Cebicheria Peruana has an express prix-fixe lunch option weekdays from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. For $26.95, diners are offered three courses with items such as cebiche, chicken wings and Peruvian desserts, and guaranteed turnaround time is one hour or less. La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, Pier 1 1/2, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94111, 415-397-8880.
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.
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.
Jeff Banker is now executive chef of Bluestem Brasserie. Banker, a California native, is well known locally for his now-closed restaurant Baker & Banker --- a collaboration with his wife, pastry chef Lori Baker --- and was also executive chef of former restaurant Home for three years. His modern-brasserie menus at Bluestem maintain the restaurant's focus on seasonal, local ingredients and whole animal butchery, including house-made charcuterie and salumi, in small, large and share plates. Vegetables and fish also receive Banker's full attention in dishes such as pan-seared McFarland trout with succotash, marinated calamari and black garlic rouille, and seasonal vegetable maccheroni with slow-roasted San Marzano tomato sauce, eggplant purée, goat cheese and Calabrian chili bread crumbs. Bluestem Brasserie, One Yerba Buena Ln., San Francisco, CA 94103, 415-547-1111.
Daniel Patterson has announced he will step down as executive chef of Coi in January 2016, relinquishing the role to Matthew Kirkley (L2O). The North Beach destination for transformational California cuisine will continue to be owned by DPG. Patterson maintains his partnership with chef Roy Choi on Loco'L, the upcoming healthy fast food spots in Watts and San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. Coi, 373 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133, 415-393-9000.
Le Charm (315 Fifth St.) has closed and owner Lina Yew reopened the restaurant in late August with a new partner, four-year front-of-house vet and French native Mathilde Gravel. The new incarnation is called Mathilde and remains French focused.
Three years after purchasing Pascal Rigo's La Boulange Bakery brand for $100 million, Starbucks has shuttered the La Boulange cafés located around the Bay Area. The cornflower blue awnings and signage of La Boulange bakery-cafés graced most of San Francisco's tonier neighborhoods, and the chain's quality baked goods had fed café-goers and provided picnics for locals since French-born Rigo founded the first La Boulange on Pine Street in 1996. Now, La Boulange baked goods fill the shelves of Starbucks, but Rigo has left Starbucks and his cafés are no longer a part of Bay Area culture. We look forward to seeing what will come next for him in either the baking or restaurant realm.
Nojo in Hayes Valley has closed. Chef-owner Greg Dunmore has sold the restaurant to a Japanese conglomerate and will stay on as consulting chef when the new incarnation opens October 1, 2015. Stay tuned for more details.
Oakland's Bay Wolf closed in August. Newly-retired owners Michael Wild and Michael Phelps, both 75, wished their longtime East Bay community "abundant joy" in a heartfelt Facebook farewell. The restaurant was a leading destination for seasonal California bistro cuisine since its inception in 1975.
Valencia Street comfort-food enclave Luna Park, known for its relaxed, quirky atmosphere, good drinks and budget-friendly crowd-pleasers such as burgers, roast dinners and make-your-own-s'mores, has closed after 15 years. Owners cite high rents and other concerns. The Los Angeles location of Luna Park remains open. Luna Park, 694 Valencia St., San Francisco, CA 94110, no phone.
The Berkeley location of Washington-based Pyramid Alehouse, Brewery & Restaurant shuttered abruptly in July 2015. The prodigious brewpub had been a favorite for Berkeley families, students and groups since the late '90s. Pyramid's location in Walnut Creek as well as its Oregon and Washington brewpubs remain open. Pyramid Alehouse, Brewery & Restaurant, 901 Gilman St., Berkeley, CA 94709, no phone.
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