Yet another of the "first generation" Hayes Valley businesses those that have been around since the neighborhood first began its current gentrification, after the double-decker section of the Central Freeway that went over Hayes Street came down due to damage in the '89 earthquake, in 1992 is biting the dust, as Eater informs us. Momi Toby's Revolution Cafe and Art Bar is giving up the ghost after 23 years on Laguna Street, and via a liquor license transfer application, they learn that local restaurant PR person Jen Pelka is teaming up with a couple partners to open a Champagne bar in the space to be called The Riddler.
Momi Toby's owner Anthony Shou, who's only owned the business since 2013, told Hoodline a full year ago that he'd received nine offers to buy the place just in two years, but he seemed to be holding out for a buyer who'd keep the place going as the scrappy neighborhood cafe and bar that it had been for two decades. It sounds like Pelka finally made him an offer he couldn't turn down, however.
The name, The Riddler, derives from the part of the Champagne making process known as riddling a turning and gradual tilting of the bottles, neck down, so that the yeast and sediment from the bottle-fermentation process collects in the neck and can be removed. The process, pioneered by Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin, known as the Widow Clicquot ("veuve" is "widow" in French) is mostly done by huge machines these days, but was originally done by hand using large wooden racks and it's still done this way at Schramsberg in the Napa Valley, if you ever want to see. As the story goes, the Widow Clicquot inherited the Champagne house and became the first woman ever to run one in 1805. Unhappy with the cloudy, sediment-filled bottles that were being produced, she and her cellar master, Antoine de Müller, invented riddling racks and she began making the brand famous in royal courts throughout Europe and in imperial Russia, for its clarity and quality.
Pelka is paying tribute to Ponsardin with the name in part because The Riddler will be an entirely female-run business.
It remains unclear when Momi Toby's may close, and it remains open for now liquor license transfers typically take a couple of months. After that, there will be renovations, and an opening date for the Champagne bar remains TBA. Stay tuned.