The Chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)
January 12, 2021
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The former back patio at Bistro Aix, the new home for Jaranita. Yelp photo by David G.

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The exterior of the upcoming Osito location. Instagram photo via @osito_restaurantsf.

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Banh cuon from GAO Viet Kitchen. Instagram photo via @gaovietkitchen.

I was happy to see the long-closed IJJI sushi on Divisadero is going to have a new tenant: ~KEN~, from Ken Ngai of Kusakabe, who has been working with chef-owner Mitsunori Kusakabe for the past 15 years. I reached out to Ken for details, stand by for more. It sounds like he’s already offering pre-ordered takeout for a soft opening. (Thanks to tipster Lisa B.!) 252 Divisadero St. at Haight.

Opening in mid- to late-January, is ~JARANITA~ from the La Mar SF team (part of Acurio International Restaurant Group) in the former Bistro Aix in the Marina. It’s going to be a Peruvian wood-fired rotisserie concept (with a custom-built charcoal grill), featuring grilled meats (including pasture-raised chickens rubbed with Peruvian spices, and slow-roasted meats cooked over charcoal on the rotisserie), cebiches, empanadas, tapas, sandwiches, salads (plus vegan and vegetarian options), and low-ABV cocktails from executive chef Javier Cussato and GM Kenzeo Mpoyi. They’re going to start with takeout and delivery, and then launch open-air dining when that’s allowed (the patio dining area has a super-high ceiling and is one big skylight, and there’s a parklet, too). Will keep you posted on a menu and launch date. Hours will be daily 11am-11pm. 3340 Steiner St. at Chestnut.

Just around the corner on Chestnut is a new Peruvian restaurant opening February 1st called ~CANCHA PERUVIAN BOUTIQUE GASTROBAR~ in the former Castagna space. (Cancha is the name for the crispy, Peruvian toasted corn that is often served as a snack and garnish.) Their menu will include ceviches, tiraditos, lomo saltado (the awesome steak and French fry stir-fry), ají de gallina (creamy chicken stew), adobo arequipeño (Peruvian pork adobo/stew), and much more—they will also be serving juices and drinks, including chicha morada, a drink made of purple corn. 2015 Chestnut St. at Fillmore.

Chef Seth Stowaway (Bar Agricole, Mister Jiu’s) has been holding pop-ups and fundraising for his live-fire, California cuisine/Tex-Mex, upscale restaurant, ~OSITO~, which will offer one seating and menu per evening. In a post on Instagram, he has revealed the location: 2875 18th Street, at the corner of Florida, and kitty corner to the Heath building. It’s a new buildout, and construction will begin soon. Stand by for more as this develops. 2875 18th St. at Florida.

Another Instagram find: fans of the popular Vietnamese restaurant GAO Viet Kitchen in San Mateo and Ben Tre Vietnamese Homestyle in SSF, Millbrae, and San Mateo, will be happy to hear the family-run businesses are coming to SF, opening ~GAO BEN TRE~, a combo of the two in the former KFC-Taco Bell at Irving and 20th Avenue, which was no stranger to a combo concept. In the post, the owner muses: “14 months and about $100k later (permit fee alone is around $30k) just to get permit approved to start the work. How does any small business even be able to do business in San Francisco.” Great fricking question. Anyway, the space is gutted, so this will take a bit of time, more soon. 1900 Irving St. at 20th Ave.

A tipster friend who works on Valencia Street let me know a place called ~CHIC’N TIME~ was coming to the former Burger Joint. Details have been revealed in this post on Mission Local, mentioning the owner is Michael Ho, who owned Perilla Vietnamese Cuisine. He’s going to offer a simple menu of deep-fried popcorn chicken, chicken wings, chicken noodle soup, and garlic noodles, plus imperial rolls, cabbage-chicken salad, and other appetizers—you can take a look at the menu here. He’ll be opening for takeout and delivery as soon as he passes his final inspections. Initial hours look like 11am-3pm and 5pm-9:30pm. 807 Valencia St. at 19th St.

The former Almanac Tap Room and Seven Stills tap room on 24th Street is transforming into ~BREWVINO~, with new owner Carly Buck (and her husband). It’s going to be a combination restaurant and retail shop, serving beer and wine (duh), pizza, salads, and other family-friendly bites, while the retail space will include affordable wines from around the world, craft beer, and grab ‘n’ go food options. According to their Instagram, they got their license, and look busy putting on the finishing touches. They plan to open on Wednesday January 20th, “so people can get their celebration bubbles and pizza for Inauguration Day.” Cheers to that! 2704-6 24th St. at Potrero.

Moving out toward the beach, there’s a new owner of ~OCEAN BEACH CAFE~, and according to some videos on his Instagram account, Joshua James is fired the eff up! There will be chef-driven sandwiches, breakfast burritos, salads, smoothies, coffee service, and in a salute to the owner’s recent sobriety, he plans to offer the largest selection of non-alcoholic beverages in the U.S. (he also says “the world,” so I’m looking forward to seeing this take shape). Delivery will also be a big part of the offering, with free delivery to the beach. There will be local art and a very community-minded sensibility. He’s going to start with a small menu, and is hoping to open in a couple weeks. 734 La Playa St. at Balboa.

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Come say hi to the new seafood market and café, Billingsgate. Instagram photo via @billingsgatesf.

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The Baja fish taco at Underdogs Tres. Instagram photo via @underdogstres.

A couple quick opening updates for you! At long last, the seafood market and café from Adrian Hoffman and Ismael Macias of Four Star Seafood, ~BILLINGSGATE~, has opened in Noe Valley. I first saw the news via Traci Des Jardins on Instagram (love her cat eyeballing the bowl of clams!). Not only are they selling a variety of seafood and shellfish for you to prepare at home, but they also have an extensive café menu of prepared dishes, from chocolate clam ceviche (it’s a type of clam, you may have tried it in Mexico) to New England clam chowder to seafood salads (check out their latest posted menu here). They also have caviar, beer, and wine to go. Get ready to pick up some Dungeness crabs! Open Tue-Fri and Sun 10am-7pm, and Sat 9am-7pm. 3859 24th St. at Vicksburg, 415-590-3001.

~UNDERDOGS TRES~ has opened in Nopalito’s former Inner Sunset location, after moving from/closing their original Irving Street location. You can view their takeout and delivery menu of tacos, burritos, soup, breakfast, and more on their site. What’s crazy is Underdogs is down to just one location right now: Underdogs Too in the Parkside suffered a devastating fire on December 15th (thankfully, no one was hurt), but it remains to be seen what the fate of that location is—owner Doug Marschke is currently waiting to hear back from their insurance. In the meantime, they launched a GoFundMe to help their employees. 2020, what a beast. Open 11:30am-9pm daily (until 10pm Fri-Sat). 1224 9th Ave. at Lincoln.

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The irreplaceable and historic interior of Far East Cafe. Yelp photo by Todd H.

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The braised pork shoulder from Tripleta. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

I was so incredibly sorry to hear ~FAR EAST CAFE~ in Chinatown was closing on New Year’s Eve, just before their 100th birthday. Seriously, big thud. The vintage interior is such a remarkable time capsule, with private booths and opulent chandeliers and lanterns that made you realize the tourists were really onto something. There is also a banquet and party room upstairs, one of the few remaining in Chinatown. (You can read and see more about the restaurant in this profile here.) There was an outcry from Chinatown (and concerned city residents) about the lack of support for the neighborhood’s suffering restaurants, and supervisors Aaron Peskin and Sandra Lee Fewer stepped in to propose a $1.9M Chinatown Restaurant Support & Food Security package to help bring some relief to restaurants while helping to feed seniors and families.

While supervisors and other city agencies continue to fine-tune the proposed economic relief package for Chinatown, SF New Deal was able to immediately increase their orders with Far East Cafe—the restaurant will now provide weekly meals to Gum Moon Women’s Residence (they were already providing some meals for the Great Plates Delivered program). Far East, along with Capital Restaurant (another beloved Chinatown staple), will be the preferred providers for this women’s supportive housing site located in Chinatown, as long as Far East Cafe can continue to stay open. Talk about a last-minute save (for now)! Amazing.

It doesn’t appear that Far East Cafe is currently open for takeout, no one picks up their phone, but if you hear they have reopened to the public, order some won ton soup or mustard greens with pork and salted egg or their delicious egg foo young (classic!). Here’s hoping they make it through this immensely challenging time, they have an important birthday to celebrate. 631 Grant Ave. at Sacramento, 415-982-3245.

After 33 years of serving banana-walnut pancakes and scrambles to a dedicated following of regulars, ~CHLOE’S CAFE~ has been sold to new owners. The cafe is currently closed for a remodel, and they plan to reopen as Chloe’s Kitchen for takeout in late January (the website mentions January 22nd). 1399 Church St. at 26th St.

After experiencing an incredible test meal of ~TRIPLETA~, the new Puerto Rican pop-up in the former AL’s Deli from brothers José and Juan Rigau and chef Aaron London (AL’s Place), I was dismayed to learn they had suddenly suspended operations just a few days later.

But what’s worse, Eater shares that it was reportedly due to a disagreement over changing ownership terms (ugh, the curse of verbal agreements), and the piece also mentions: “According to the Rigaus, when they attempted to reach a compromise regarding the partnership, London instead locked them out of a shared Google drive account containing their recipes, and brought a sous chef and line cook from Al’s Place (which is temporarily closed) into the kitchen. Then he verbally suspended their partnership and kicked them off the premises, the Rigaus say.” London says the brothers’ recounting and explanation of the events are “firmly and factually incorrect.” The whole thing is so unfortunate and extremely messed-up. Here’s hoping the Rigaus find another way to share their family recipes with us, the food was bangin’. I know London collaborated and applied some technique and tweakin’ to their recipes, but I can’t imagine running that concept without them. 598 Guerrero St. at 18th St.

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Sadly, guisados heaven has ended at Los Guisados Del Patrón. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

I was so sorry to be swiping through Instagram and see one of my favorite new taco spots has closed, ~LOS GUISADOS DEL PATRÓN~. Their extensive menu of guisados was so good—it was stewed meats heaven—at a crazy-affordable price, and with such nice hospitality. Truly kind. I will miss you, costillas con nopales en salsa roja. You too, chile relleno taco. The owners mention they will be back in some form some other time, so one can only hope—meanwhile, they continue to rock la casa (and quesabirria) at Tacos El Patrón. Best wishes. Suerte. 601 S. Van Ness Ave. at 17th St.

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Wherever the Miss Ollie’s fried chicken goes, I go. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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A variety of dishes at the new Alley & Vine in Alameda. Photo: Nicola Parisi.

Some big changes are in the works for ~MISS OLLIE’S OAKLAND~—chef-owner Sarah Kirnon has closed the beloved restaurant as it existed and is working on a new, Black community-centered, nonprofit concept. The Eater piece states: “Instead, starting in January, it will morph into a new project called Sanctuary, a nonprofit venture focused on providing a platform for Black creators — chefs, yes, but also artists and other creative folks.” There’s a lot more to it, be sure to read the piece—I have a follow-up call scheduled with Sarah, so stand by for an update in the next tablehopper.

I received a note from Casey Hunt, one of the owners of the new ~ALLEY & VINE~ in Alameda, who was previously the director of events at Waterbar for 12 years, along with Francisco Bazo (previously the bar manager at One Market Restaurant for 12 years, and the beverage director at Waterbar for 10 years), and chef Jason Ryczek (also at Waterbar, and most recently the executive chef at Farallon for the past five years).

It just opened for takeout and delivery in mid-December, offering farm-to-table dishes like Liberty Farms duck breast with butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, and pearl onions from local farms, and caviar cultivated from California sturgeon on top of a smoked sturgeon quiche (from that same fish!), plus casual dishes like a prime rib roast French dip sandwich on locally baked bread. Take a look at their full menu on their site; there’s also a meal kit for two. They’re also offering craft cocktails, wine, and beer to go—there’s a happy hour daily from 3pm-6pm, and they conveniently have a parking lot for curbside pickup. Follow @alleyandvine for updates. Hours are daily 12pm-8pm. 1332 Park Street, Suite D at Central Ave., Alameda, 510-227-5006.

It’s a tough time to run Oakland Restaurant Week, but they’re forging ahead with a variety of specials from 59 restaurants who would love to see you and have your support, from newcomers like Daughter’s Diner to established spots like Daughter Thai. Specials run through January 18th.

According to this post on Instagram, there’s a new ~SEÑOR SISIG~ to-go window in Downtown Oakland at 1628 Webster Street. They’re offering both their original menu as well as their plant-based Señor Sisig Vegano menu. Order ahead for pick up or delivery. Open 11am-8pm.

There are additional updates of new East Bay openings and expansions and moves, like Square Pie Guys, Popoca, Augie’s Montreal Deli, breakfast at Chez Panisse, and more—read this Nosh post for details. Meanwhile, this extensive post has a full lineup of December openings and closings, including the retirement of June Taylor, after 30-plus years of making her superlative marmalades and more (you can read further details in this SFGate piece).

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The Good Food Awards podium. Photo from Facebook.

People who love food products [raises both hands], mark your calendars for Friday January 22nd (5:30pm), for the Good Food Awards Ceremony! With a livestream viewing ticket, you can be the first to hear who is named a 2021 Award Winner, with a special opportunity to get a glimpse into their kitchens and farms. You’ll also get a digital cookbook, with favorite recipes from the newly minted Good Food Award Winners.

You can apply $5 of your $25 ticket toward the Good Food Awards Pop-Up Shop (to be used before Sunday January 31st); the online marketplace will launch on Monday January 25th, featuring products from nearly 50 percent of this year’s winners. You’ll be able to shop for cheeses, sweets, coffee, pickles, and preserves, one-of-a-kind elixirs and spirits, and build the cheese and charcuterie board of your dreams. The marketplace will feature over 100 crafter listings, and what’s great is you’ll be able to purchase items from multiple Good Food Award winners in one transaction.

December 16, 2020
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The smoked egg bottarga from the State Bird Provisions Atomic Workshop. Photo courtesy of State Bird.

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Housemade torrone from A16! Photo: A16.

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Jeera biscuits from Besharam! Photo: Heena Patel.

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China Live chili bean sauce. Photo: China Live.

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Rye and oat granola from Kantine. Photo: Kantine.

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Get excited to try ma’amoul cookies from Reem’s (with espresso-date, walnut, and pistachio fillings)! Photo: Reem’s California.

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The famed Miss G’s pepper sauce from Miss Ollie’s Oakland. Instagram photo via @missolliesoakland.

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Fina’Denne’ vinegar from Prubechu. Photo: Prubechu.

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A stylin’ reusable Baggu tote from Mister Jiu’s. Don’t forget the onions! Photo: Mister Jiu’s.

Wow, that sold out fast, twice! Thank you so much! WOWZA! We have a waitlist for the second version of the bag, which is $247—it includes a larger bottle of Miss Ollie’s hot sauce and comes in a tote from The Anchovy Bar! There is still room on the waitlist, so if you want to be added, please email marcia@tablehopper.com! Thanks, everyone! You rock! XO ~M

We all know how much our independent restaurants are suffering, especially this brutal month, and yet they still manage to make beautiful food and products and holiday treats that fill us with delight. Let’s support them and celebrate them with the Hopper Holiday Restaurant Gift Bag! This abundant gift bag is packed full of some of the most delicious, local, hand-crafted, and exclusive restaurant treats! I’m talking about 18 stellar, San Francisco Bay Area restaurant-made products.

You can order it for yourself, you can split up the gift bag into stocking stuffers for your friends, or you can even send a gift bag to someone who would really love it (and maybe can’t afford it right now). Imagine giving someone the gift of supporting local restaurants…I know, it’s a good one. Check out the goods:

  • The smoked egg “bottarga” from Atomic Provisions (from State Bird Provisions)
    Shave this on everything for flava and an umami blast, from your pasta to salads to open-faced sandwiches.

  • Miss G’s pepper sauce from Miss Ollie’s Oakland (4 oz.)
    One of my favorite hot sauces, made according to chef Sarah Kirnon’s grandmother’s recipe.

  • Black bean chili sauce from China Live (6 oz.)
    One of my top secret weapon condiments to cook with (and their number one seller), made with 10 ingredients, including fermented soya, fava, and black beans!

  • Ma’amoul cookies from Reem’s California (six)
    Traditional Arab cookies with espresso-date, walnut, and pistachio fillings. Enjoy with tea, coffee, cocktails, or for an afternoon nibble. Contain nuts.

  • Chili honey from Nopa (8 oz.)
    This is the hot honey that comes with their superlative fried chicken (obsessed!). Drizzle it on all the things, from toast to waffles, and I even dunked a piece of chocolate in it one night (mwah ha ha)!

  • Rye and oat granola from Kantine (300g)
    Perfect for topping your morning yogurt or evening ice cream. Made with old-fashioned oats, crumbled Danish rye bread, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, butter, honey, brown sugar, salt.

  • Jeera biscuits from Besharam (seven cookies)
    Chef Heena Patel is making these special holiday cookies for us! They’re like a salty-savory shortbread, made with semolina, flour, fennel, and a touch of cumin. They’re wonderful with tea (and a cup of hot chocolate).

  • Torrone from A16 (3 oz. bar)
    It’s not the holidays without torrone! Leave it to A16 to make their own housemade version, striking that perfect chewy-crunchy balance, and it’s light as air. Contains honey, sugar, water, egg whites, almond, pistachio, vanilla, almond and orange blossom extract, salt.

  • The Chef’s Press (13 oz. size) from chef Bruce Hill (Bix, Zero Zero)
    I don’t know how I’d make a grilled cheese, burger, or quesadilla without my Chef’s Press! Chef Bruce Hill has created one of the best tools for even (and vented) cooking, and wants you to have that perfect sear!

  • Chinese Hot mustard from Palette Tea House (6 oz.)
    Palette’s Chinese hot mustard is made from horseradish and mustard. The spiciness level gives a nice zing to your sinuses and pairs well with everything! Try it in a sandwich for some pow!

  • Seasoned flour from SF Chickenbox (1 lb.)
    Chef Christian Ciscle is one of our O.G. fried chicken whisperers here in the City, so he knows his way around a proper dredge! Use his magic seasoned flour for fried chicken, pork chops, or fried fish. If you detect a hint of Old Bay in there, you are correct—he’s a Baltimore native!

  • Housemade rigatoni from Montesacro/54 Mint (1 lb.)
    There’s nothing like a hearty bowl of rigatoni with a meaty ragù in the wintertime, mmmhmmm. The elves at Montesacro have a pound of housemade rigatoni for you to cook up at home with your favorite sauce. Buon appetito!

  • Fina’Denne’ vinegar from Prubechu (5 oz.)
    This is the perfect vinegar to have around when you need a pop of acidity on your food, from anything fried to your rice to a hearty stew. Give it a Chamorro hit! It’s made with soy sauce, onions, and white vinegar.

  • Plum jam from 20th Century Cafe (8 oz.)
    Chef Michelle Polzine is known for her marvelous and small-batch plum jams, featuring peak-season and top-quality produce. Get excited to level up your morning toast.

  • Holiday marzipan treats from Schubert’s Bakery (four)
    Much love to this Inner Richmond bakery, which has legions of fans for their cakes, since 1911 (including their legendary princess cake). You’ll enjoy a selection of three marzipan petit fours: Nutella-filled, apricot-filled, and raspberry-filled. (Please note the marzipan contains almonds.)

  • Custom Sesame Swirl S’mores Bar from Not Too Sweet
    Penelope Lao was the opening pastry chef at Liholiho Yacht Club, and is now running her extremely delicious “pop-up pastry CSA box.” She’s going to be custom-making a special chocolate bar for the gift bag: a Sesame Swirl S’mores Bar, with chocolate chunk brownie, soy-sesame seed praline, and toasted graham marshmallows (contains gluten and butter, nut-free).

  • Cheese knife and tote from The Cheese School of San Francisco
    Guess who’s back in action? That’s right, The Cheese School at Ghirardelli Square! They’re offering virtual cheese classes, gift baskets, cheese club subscriptions, and more. You’ll be toting home your goodies in their sturdy navy blue canvas tote, with a mini cheese knife that will come in handy for your holiday snacking!

  • Reusable tote bag from Mister Jiu’s
    Since this gift bag is pretty bountiful, you’re actually going to need two bags to get everything home! You’ll love this reusable Baggu tote bag from Mister Jiu’s, designed with scallions, for future and stylin’ shopping excursions.

  • $10 donation to SF New Deal
    Your gift bag includes a donation to this incredible organization that has been helping restaurants feed our communities in need during the pandemic. Thank you! If you want to make a bigger donation, please click here. XO

Whew! So how’s that for an extravaganza of flavor? The Hopper Holiday Restaurant Gift Bag is $225 (click to order), and 100 percent fabulous. All sales are final, no refunds or returns.

Everything will be shelf-stable, so you don’t have to worry about getting anything into the fridge after you receive it (but some items will need to be refrigerated after you open them).

Unfortunately, there are no substitutions or custom orders. If there’s something you can’t eat or enjoy, I’m sure you can find someone who will! Thanks for understanding. If you need more details about any ingredients, please get in touch.

Items are subject to change and availability—since we’re dealing with so many items here (18!), there’s a small chance we’ll need to make a change or swap an item. Please trust it will be delicious. Thank you for understanding, we’ll keep you informed of any changes.

This run is going to be limited to 25 gift bags, so you’ll want to hop to it. You have until Saturday December 19th at 3pm PST to order (unless it runs out first). Email me to be added to a waitlist if it’s sold out.

In-person, pre-paid pick-ups will be available at Nopa Tuesday December 22nd and Wednesday December 23rd from 4:45pm-9pm and Thursday December 24th from 1pm-3pm (pick up some house-smoked trout and cocktails while you’re at it). Nopa: 560 Divisadero St. at Hayes. (Please don’t contact the restaurant for any questions you have about the bag. Hit me up instead.)

Delivery in San Francisco will also be available Tuesday December 22nd through Thursday December 24th for an additional fee of $12. We will finalize your delivery time window after we get all orders in and can map things out. Please specify your preferred day and timeframe to start (morning is 9am-12pm; afternoon is 12pm-5pm, evening is 5pm-8pm). Available time slots will be Tue afternoon, evening; Wed morning, afternoon, evening; Thu morning. Stand by for more details and a better ETA soon if you choose this option. If you miss your delivery (things happen!) and there’s nowhere safe for us to leave it, you’ll be able to pick up your bag at Nopa. No refunds (unless it’s totally our fault).

Sorry, no shipping (I’m crazy, but not thaaaat crazy), and I won’t be able to offer the gift bags any earlier than next Tuesday.

On behalf of all our local restaurants, thank you. We appreciate all your kind and generous support, and this gift bag will be a great way to share and show and feel the love. Our Bay Area hospitality industry is so special, let’s do everything we can to support it.

(If there are any elves who have a car and/or spare hands to help me out with product pick-ups or bag assembly on Sunday or Monday, I’d be so grateful! Please send me an email and I’ll get back to you. Mwah!!)

December 15, 2020
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The smoked egg bottarga from the State Bird Provisions Atomic Workshop. Photo courtesy of State Bird.

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Get excited to try ma’amoul cookies from Reem’s (with espresso-date, walnut, and pistachio fillings)! Photo: Reem’s California.

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The famed Miss G’s pepper sauce from Miss Ollie’s Oakland. Instagram photo via @missolliesoakland.

I’m so thrilled to announce the launch of the first-ever Hopper Holiday Restaurant Gift Bag! This is a last-minute idea, and I must be certifiably crazy to be doing this, but this elf has a few tricks up her sleeve and access to Santa’s spare turbo sleigh to make this happen. We all know how much our independent restaurants are suffering, especially this brutal month, and yet they still manage to make beautiful food and products and holiday treats that fill us with delight.

So just imagine an abundant gift bag packed full of some of the most delicious, local, hand-crafted, and exclusive restaurant treats! I’m talking about 17 or so stellar San Francisco Bay Area products, my friends, like the smoked egg bottarga from Atomic Provisions (the amazing pantry line from State Bird Provisions), Miss G’s pepper sauce from Miss Ollie’s (one of my favorite hot sauces, made according to chef Sarah Kirnon’s grandmother’s recipe), the black bean chili sauce from China Live (one of my top secret weapon condiments to cook with), ma’amoul cookies from Reem’s (traditional Arab cookies with espresso-date, walnut, and pistachio fillings), and some custom goodies you can’t even get, like Nopa’s chili honey that comes with their superlative fried chicken (obsessed!). Everything will be shelf-stable, so you don’t have to worry about getting anything into the fridge after you receive it.

The gift bag also includes a donation to SF New Deal, an incredible organization that has been helping restaurants feed our communities in need during the pandemic.

This run is going to be limited to 25 gift bags, so you’ll want to hop to it. This will be an extremely short order window, running until Saturday afternoon, and then I’ll be super-busy in Santa’s workshop for a couple days getting this all together. In-person pick-ups will be available at Nopa Tuesday December 22nd through Thursday December 24th (and you can pick up some house-smoked trout and cocktails while you’re at it). Delivery in San Francisco will also be available on those same dates for an additional fee. Sorry, no shipping (I’m crazy, but not thaaaat crazy), and I won’t be able to offer the gift bags any earlier than next Tuesday. There are additional terms as well, like no substitutions or custom orders, sowwy.

I’ll be finalizing all the products and final details by tomorrow (Wednesday), and will be sending another newsletter out as soon as the hopper shop is live. (I will also be announcing it on social media, so keep your eyes peeled!)

The Hopper Holiday Restaurant Gift Bag is going to be around $200, and 100 percent fabulous. You can order it for yourself, you can split up the gift bag into stocking stuffers for your friends, or you can even send a gift bag to someone who would really love it (and maybe can’t afford it right now). Imagine giving someone the gift of supporting local restaurants…I know, it’s a good one.

Okay, Champers the elf has a lot of work to do, stand by for the details and a link tomorrow. On behalf of all our local restaurants, thank you. I appreciate all your kind and generous support, and this gift bag will be a great way to share and show the love.

(If there are any elves who have a car and/or spare hands to help me out with product pick-ups or bag assembly on Sunday or Monday, I’d be so grateful! Please send me an email and I’ll get back to you. Mwah!!)

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The exterior of the Cliff House. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The lounge area and seating at August (1) Five. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The blue velvet booths and large-party dining table at August (1) Five. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Photo of Mission Cheese by Jeannie Choe for The Feast.

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It was last call for Lucky 13. Photo via Lucky 13’s Facebook page.

On Sunday evening, I received word about the upcoming permanent closure of the 157-year-old ~CLIFF HOUSE~ on December 31st, due to a mishandling of the contract by the National Park Service (NPS). Dan and Mary Hountalas have been proprietors of this historic location since 1973, and the way they’re being mistreated (and the 180 employees losing their jobs) is a heartbreaking ending to their 47 years of stewardship (as if the closure earlier this year of Louis’, their neighbor, wasn’t already sad enough).

You can read more in their note on the Cliff House website about the issues with the NPS, their contract extensions, and their “offer” to have the Hountalas family “continue guarding and maintaining their building with all costs to be paid for by us without any compensation whatsoever from the NPS” for one more year. With the pandemic and unknown timing of a return to business, that “offer” is on a particular level of insanity—especially when it costs thousands of dollars every month to maintain the San Francisco landmark.

It gets worse: since there isn’t a successor operator, the Hountalas family “must remove all personal property in the building including all memorabilia as opposed to being paid for our property by the ultimate successor operator as provided in our contract.” A lot of it is going to be auctioned off, separating the property from its precious artifacts. The property will be enclosed and boarded up, and it could be another two to three years before another potential operator has a contract. What that operator will discover is a building that has been left to be a victim to the harsh elements—perched on the cliff, the saltwater and winds will take their toll on this beloved location.

This is a landmark that has burned and been rebuilt twice. The first Cliff House even suffered damage when a schooner loaded with dynamite ran aground on the rocks below. But even in its third and neoclassical iteration, it has always had that captivating view. We have seen countless black-and-white images of Victorian ladies and gentlemen in bowler hats in front of the Cliff House. Many of us remember visiting the Arcade (and being terrorized by Laughing Sal) when the Musée Mécanique used to be underneath it.

I have seen some comments on social media that the food wasn’t that good and was overpriced. Some of that is true, but not entirely. After walking across the City for my friend’s 50th birthday celebration, we ended our journey with a delicious meal (and Manhattans) while taking in one of the most iconic and breathtaking views in the City. It was one of those restaurants where I could recommend out-of-towners visit the bar and café for some clam chowder if they couldn’t afford the main dining room experience—you could still enjoy some unique atmosphere and bask in the glory of the Pacific Ocean. There’s nothing quite like it at sunset, or even on a foggy day, it has its charms.

In their letter, Dan and Mary Hountalas say, “This is certainly not the way to thank us, a local small business owned and operated by native San Franciscans, for taking care of this San Francisco treasure this past year at a significant financial loss. Again, this all could have been prevented by the award of a long-term contract two and half years ago.” It’s a shameful ending, and robbing future visitors of a special experience for at least the next few years.

You can write to the NPS and share your disgust with their failure to maintain one of our landmarks, and their mistreatment of the Hountalas family, and the 180 emplo􏰂yees. You can email the NPS directly. You can also call Nancy Pelosi at 202-225-3121 and voice your concern.

After the temporary closure of outdoor dining a little over a week ago, we knew there would be some impending closures of restaurants who can’t survive this impossibly bleak winter season without federal assistance (and on takeout alone). But the mental preparedness doesn’t make it hurt any less when you find out a special place like ~AUGUST (1) FIVE~ is closing. Owner Hetal Shah was a dedicated and thoughtful operator, someone who left tech and followed her passion for elevating Indian food and hospitality to open this stylish and modern Indian restaurant. My recent meal in her cozy parklet reinvigorated my affection for the sophisticated and creative and incredibly delicious dishes (and cocktails!) they served, and so receiving her email about their upcoming closure on December 21st hit hard.

She opened the restaurant in November 2016, and has had to suffer through all the construction on Van Ness, along with the many challenges of running a profitable restaurant in SF, and now a pandemic. I know she and her team tried so hard. In her heartfelt note, she says, “I truly believe that this industry plays a pivotal role in shaping the youth and immigrant population of this country, and some fortunate ones like me walk away with a treasure chest full of lifelong lessons of humility, learning what it truly takes to hustle, and most importantly the art of kindness.”

They will be missed so much. You can order takeout/delivery through December 20th, be sure to enjoy the palak chaat and spinach and paneer lasagna one last time. 524 Van Ness Ave. at Golden Gate.

I was also dismayed to see the Instagram post from ~MISSION CHEESE~ announcing their closure at the end of the month after “nearly 10 years of slinging amazing American cheeses.” Like many independent businesses, they have been struggling greatly since March to make it through this period with little relief. It’s a shame to lose this place that championed craft American cheeses so passionately, as well as so many local product makers.

Mission Cheese was the site of many first dates, first meetings, and friends gathering over cheese flights. Thanks to the founder, Sarah Dvorak, for creating one of the best third places in the City. You have two weeks to swing by for one last wedge of Harbison and a bottle of En Cavale s.b. Thanks to the team for all their dedication to offering such a thoughtful experience. 736 Valencia St. at 18th St.

And one last thud: ~LUCKY 13~ has officially thrown in the bar towel after so many closure close calls over the years (those sad condo conversion plans have been looming for five years). You can read more in this post from Broke-Ass Stuart. Like the closure of The Stud, it’s so sad to have to close a longtime business (27 years!!) during the pandemic, with no farewell party, no last shot, no final thanks to the bartenders. So many San Franciscans have popcorn-scented memories in that tried-and-true dive bar. Raising a glass. 2140 Market St. at Church.

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The cheerful new space at Reem’s California Mission. Yelp photo by aL Z.

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Tuscan fried chicken at Tosca. Photo courtesy of Tosca.

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The new Frita Cubana at Media Noche. Photo: Media Noche.

I wanted to share some quick notes with you on some fab takeout options you can take advantage of, and this one is especially important: sadly, last Wednesday morning (December 9th), the central oven at ~REEM’S CALIFORNIA MISSION~ exploded, creating damage beyond repair. The five employees who were present were thankfully not in the crossfire of the explosion and were unharmed. Thank goddess.

It has already been challenging enough for Reem’s to open this new location the first month of the pandemic, and now this. It could be months before a new oven is shipped and installed. Sadly, a bakery without an oven simply can’t exist. For the duration of December, they will pause takeout and delivery services from their Mission location, but will continue to pay their workers through this time. A couple ways you can help them do this is to purchase their holiday meal kits and special holiday treats, or purchase gifts from their newly launched online merch store with gift cards, t-shirts (proceeds from all sales will go towards operations and workers), and Right of Return posters, which can be shipped nationwide. Help keep the dReem alive.

While the temporary suspension of outdoor dining is a disaster for our restaurants, you gotta look for the tiny silver linings, and one of them is you can now order takeout from the new ~THE ANCHOVY BAR~ from the State Bird team. They launched a new line of sandwiches, including an oyster po’boy and a schnitzel sandwich, which look fantastic. Plus, there’s a beef cheek and bone marrow stew, oof. Open Wed-Sat 11am-4pm. You have this week to check it out before they close for a holiday break (from Saturday December 20th-January 6th).

Another thing to note: after a quick blip of outdoor dining, ~TOSCA CAFE~ is once again offering their to-go menu with a different family meal each night ($55 per person), and it looks fantastic. Wednesday: lasagna, Thursday: tomato-braised ribs, Friday-Saturday: Tuscan fried chicken, and Sunday: spaghetti and meatballs.

Lastly, launching this Friday at ~MEDIA NOCHE~ in the Mission is their new Frita Cubana, their take on the traditional Cuban “burger.” The grass-fed beef patty is seasoned with a special blend of spices and their secret red sauce on a brioche bun and served with plantain shoestring “fries” for $14.50. Generously, they are offering 10 percent of proceeds to benefit the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank. They will only be making a limited quantity daily and it is only available in-house for now (i.e. takeout and online ordering—not via third-party delivery). 3465 19th St. at Lexington.

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The Noche Buena feast from Pinoy Heritage, on Feastin. Photo: Hannah Wagner.

If you follow me on Instagram, I’ve been posting up a STORM of holiday eats and treats, from Peking duck dinners to latke parties to prime rib feasts for Christmas. There are too many for me to write up, so check my Highlights for Holiday! and look for the menorah for brisket and more. In tablehopper a couple weeks ago, I mentioned a bunch of items as well, including gelato-stuffed panettone. Uh huh. Here are a few more places to look for holiday meals and things:

The Feastin platform, which I have mentioned here before, supports a bunch of restaurant partners who are offering special holiday feasts for delivery, including a Noche Buena kamayan feast from Pinoy Heritage, a whole snow crab dinner from Alamar Oakland, and more.

What I especially love is for every single Feastin order during the month of December (through December 24th), Feastin will donate a meal box to feed a family of four, including a whole chicken, two pounds of potatoes, two pounds of carrots, and a selection of fresh fruit (current food bank partners include Alameda County Food Bank, Redwood Empire Food Bank, and Second Harvest Silicon Valley). You can purchase additional meal boxes for families in need for just $5 each. Be sure to place your order this week! Pick up some uni from ABS Seafood while you’re at it, you deserve it.

I know a bunch of us have some messed-up holidays happening, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat like the king or kweeeeen you are. Are you a good home cook? Check out this Holiday Feast for Dining Solo from Four Star Seafood & Provisions (a local purveyor founded by local chefs) that you can cook up: you get half a Dungeness crab, 12 oz. Flannery dry-aged ribeye steak, 1 bunch of organic carrots, 0.5 lb. king oyster mushrooms, plum mostarda, and a Petit Pot dark chocolate pudding, which I love; ($61). If there are a few of you, check out this cioppino kit ($80)! Free delivery throughout the Bay Area.

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Empanadas vallunas at Chao Pescao. Photo: Barbara Ve.

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The mariscos (seafood) paella from Destapas. Instagram photo via @destapas.

There’s a new Latin-Caribbean restaurant in the former Soluna: ~CHAO PESCAO~, which translates to “see you later alligator.” Soluna owner Rene Denis is pulling from his Cuban-Colombian upbringing, offering homey dishes like empanadas vallunas (three kinds of Colombian empanadas, made with a masa dough and fried), pan de bono (gluten-free cheese bread), soups, ropa vieja (one of Cuba’s national dishes, with shredded flank steak, green olive, red bell pepper, tomato, bacon, and oregano), choripan, a Cubano sandwich (on housemade bread), plus some fun dishes, like Tajin fried chicken. Dishes are affordable, and all entrées come with black beans from his late-grandmother’s recipe. There are also a variety of cocktails, from a daiquiri with 12-year-old rum, to a Santería Sling (Havana Club blanco, lime, pineapple, house grenadine, benedictine, angostura, soda), plus some fun wine packs.

Keeping most of his kitchen staff employed, and some of the front of house as well, he and the team completely remodeled the restaurant, doing much of the work themselves. Go team! Pick-up and delivery are available. 272 McAllister St. at Larkin.

There’s a new sandwich spot operating out of Swirl Wine Bar in the Castro called ~HEROIC DELI~, an offshoot of the original location in Santa Monica. Read the Eater post to learn more about the folks behind it and a creative pandemic solution they had with the location. There are four sandwiches and salads, and the idea is these smaller but crafted sandwiches (on rolls from Montesacro Pinseria) will be appreciated by sandwich lovers who don’t necessarily need a huuuuge hero. The OMG ($16) has Italian prosciutto, spicy salami, capocollo, mortadella, porchetta, smoked mozzarella, roasted artichokes and tomatoes, lettuce, housemade giardiniera, French’s mustard, and mayo with Italian black truffle infusion (sounds fun, but I’m going to need some convincing with that French’s). Open for takeout Thu-Sun 12pm-6pm. 572 Castro St. at 19th St.

I’ve been tracking the opening of ~DESTAPAS~ in the Mission, and I love it when a tablehopper reader tips me off to the opening! This new spot is from a Spanish catering company based in the East Bay, and their menu is focused on paella (three kinds—seafood, Valenciana, or vegetarian), and they offer a smaller size with a salad for lunch, sweet. There are also a couple sandwiches, and I think this soup sounds amazing: patatas a la Riojana soup, with Spanish chorizo, onions, bell peppers, smoked paprika, and chicken broth. Yes, please. More dishes and sangria coming soon; takeout only for now. Open Mon 11:30am-2pm, Tue-Sat 11:30am-2pm and 5pm-9pm. 2708 24th St. at Potrero.

And out in West Portal in the former Paradise Pizza, John and Elena Duggan have opened ~LITTLE ORIGINAL JOE’S~, serving pizza (a first for the OJs restaurant group), pasta, and parm, plus rotisserie chicken, soups, salads, sandwiches, and more. You can pick up at the counter, and there’s a market too, with some retail offerings and items in the cold case. Open daily 10am-10pm. 393 W. Portal Ave. at San Fernando Way. [Via Eater.]

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Tamal de pollo mole rojo from La Guerrera’s Kitchen. Instagram photo via @laguerreraskitchen.

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A selection of dishes at Jayna Gyro. Photo courtesy of Jayna.

I was so sad when La Cocina entrepreneurs ~LA GUERRERA’S KITCHEN~ closed their Fruitvale location in March, their first brick and mortar, but great news: owners Reyna Maldonado and her mother, Ofelia Barajas, are reopening in the former Tamarindo Antojeria space in Old Oakland (another beloved business). The maiz warriors are back!

Eater reports the menu is going to include their tamales (just in time for Christmas!), their fantastic barbacoa, and green pozole, but with the bigger kitchen, they’re going to be serving additional specialties, like tacos dorado con consomé, tacos al vapor, and more. How wonderful. Order some tamales for Christmas and welcome them in their new digs. There’s an outdoor patio they look forward to being able to open when that time comes. Hours for now (pick-up only): Fri 12pm-3pm, Sat-Sun 12pm-3pm. 468 8th St. at 8th St., Oakland.

Another new opening for you includes ~JAYNA GYRO~ at Public Market Emeryville, which according to their Instagram knows how to stack one helluva gyro spit! This fast-casual place is from Yusuf Topal of Tarla Mediterranean Grill in Napa, and the chef is Jason Naaman of Tarla. The menu includes a chickpea sandwich (a nostalgic dish from Yusuf’s childhood, who grew up in Gaziantep, Turkey), chicken and beef gyros, their signature Greek salad, and appetizers like dolmades, spanakopita, hummus, and tzatziki. Open Mon-Thu 11am-7pm, Fri-Sat 11am-8pm, closed Sun. 5959 Shellmound St., Kiosk 14, Emeryville.