Happy St. Patrick's Day, everybody! If you didn't already get your fill of Guinness and sloppy twentysomethings during last weekend's downtown festivities, you've still got a nice-weather Friday here in which to do some damage at any one of these Irish bars, so tally ho. And did you catch the news that Ruby Skye is closing? Finally, right? Also, The Corner Store has called it quits, a bunch of Bay Area folks and restaurants got James Beard nominations, and out in the Sunset, Andytown is expanding with two new locations. Also in coffee news, Blue Bottle is still trying to move in on that former Bean There space in the Lower Haight. But here's what else has been going on.
Eater has word that the recently darkened Shorty Goldstein's space in the FiDi already has a new tenant moving in, and it's called Meatball Bar (126 Sutter). The owners are Gianni Chiloiro and Angelo Sannino of Doppio Zero, which is a Neapolitan pizzeria concern with locations in Cupertino and Mountain View, and this is their first SF venture, for which they've been seeking the perfect space for a while. The menu is pretty simple: a variety of meatball options for about $8 each, and some veggie side dishes. A sample menu includes salmon balls, turkey balls, lamb balls with green sauce, pork belly balls in pho, mushroom balls with truffled cream sauce, and Italian meatballs in red sauce. Look for the place to open in May if all goes well.
The big news up in Napa County is that the Meadowood team is finally ready to open their casual spinoff in downtown St. Helena, The Charter Oak. We first learned about the project over a year ago, coming to the storied space that was for 30 years the home of Tra Vigne, where chef Michael Chiarello made his name. Chef-owner Christopher Kostow promises Eater family-style dishes and an easy-going vibe, saying, "We already have one precious, highly orchestrated restaurant. We don’t want to do two." He hints there may be some dim-sum-style elements to the service (it's a trend), and former Meadowood chef de cuisine Katianna Hong will be heading the kitchen. And, of course, she'll get to take advantage of Meadowood’s nearby culinary garden. They are currently aiming for an end-of-May debut.
How do you feel about the idea of ice-cream-filled doughnuts? You really can't go wrong there, and Milkbomb is promising to bring those to you in Potrero Hill, in the former, short-lived home of Twirl & Dip at 1717 17th Street. The idea is to make organic, glazed doughnuts and stuff them with organic ice cream in flavors like Birthday Cake, Horchata, and Vietnamese Coffee. As Hoodline tells us, they're hoping to open by summer or earlier.
Hoodline also brings the news of a new caviar spot in Cow Hollow, The Caviar Company, which just opened a retail shop and tasting room at 1954 Union Street. They currently supply restaurants like Cala and Leo's Oyster Bar with their fish eggs, and they're planning to host private classes as well.
And just down the block at 1977A Union, Vegan Picnic has just opened. Hoodline reports that it's a vegan deli and owner Jill Ritchie says she "became obsessed with finding good-tasting vegan food" to serve her daughters and herself, and from that effort sprung this business.
Yet another food truck park is headed to SoMa, this one at the corner of 6th and Harrison, across the street from the EndUp. Hoodline has it that the former car wash lot went up for sale in 2014, and the name on the liquor license app is currently Wo Wo Car Wash Food Truck Park. There's no word on an opening timeframe.
Omakase Restaurant Group is on a roll with their still newish SoMa spots Omakase and Okane, and the recently announced Dumpling Time, and now the Chronicle reports that owner Kash Feng has inked a deal to open Japanese Yakiniku Steakhouse + Whiskey Bar, a fast-casual noodle place and a Japanese butcher shop in the base of One Henry Adams in the Design District. It's expected to have a fall opening, and also coming to the building will be another offshoot of The Grove.
China Live kicked off all-day service this week, which, as Inside Scoop reports, means that they're serving dim sum and the full menu from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Wednesday. The bustling Chinatown venture still has more expansion to do on its upper floors in the next few months, but for now you can go in most hours of the day for food, cocktails, and beer or wine at the bar or any of the big communal tables in the Market Restaurant. Check out the menus here, and don't miss the crab and lobster fried rice.
In related news, Matier & Ross came for China Live owner George Chen this week, reminding everyone that he got some major city subsidies to open an airport restaurant at SFO back in 2000 called Restaurant Qi and Water Bar, and after it failed the city took the biggest hit: $4.8 million
Fancy wine and spirits shop Maison Corbeaux, which has a satellite location at Wingtip downtown, has just opened their flagship location in Pac Heights at Sacramento and Divisadero. As Inside Scoop reports, the new location is also carrying hard-to-find beers, and will soon feature a food counter in the back of the shop catered by fast-casual purveyor Greenbox.
The former Money Mart at Polk and Post is becoming Kuma Sushi + Sake as of this spring. Hoodline brings word that it's the venture of two Blowfish Sushi vets, Ryo Sakai and Cory Jackson, who also helped open Domo Sushi in Hayes Valley. And the chefs say they're most excited to feature anago, or saltwater eel, from Pescadero, in contrast to the unsustainable freshwater eel, unagi, that's mostly farmed in China.
A new "stylish and modern luncheonette" is coming to the FiDi according to Tablehopper and it's called City Counter. Intriguingly, longtime Blue Plate chef Sean Thomas is serving as consulting chef, and "Dishes will be approachable and nostalgic, but New American and creative." They're aiming for a May opening.
Despite being pretty consistently busy over the last five years, Cassava in the Richmond has launched a crowdfunding campaign and says they may have to close if they don't $50K right now. As the Richmond Blog notes, the owners say business has slowed down significantly in the last six months and they're feeling very cash-strapped.
Out in the Bayview, nonprofit jazz supper club Old Skool Cafe is launching a gospel brunch, as Hoodline tells us. They're doing it on Saturdays instead of Sundays, out of respect for local churchgoers (but doesn't everyone go out to eat after church?), and you can expect things like Dutch pancakes, eggs Benedict, and shrimp and grits.
And, finally, in what can only be seen as a sign of the times for San Francisco and the gentrifying Mission District, the now shuttered McDonald's location at 16th and Mission is becoming a health food delivery service called Mealmade. Mission Local quips, "A fryer that once churned out fast-food potato fries will now be producing sweet potato fries made with organic, sustainably sourced palm oil." It's entirely gluten-free, with paleo, keto, and vegan options available as well (obviously), and it's begun doing catering and delivery with plans still in the works for a sit-down restaurant in the front of the space.
This Week In Reviews
New Chronicle columnist Chris Ying, formerly of the soon-to-be-defunct Lucky Peach, has penned a lengthy meditation on San Francisco's many French bistros a topic SFist addressed with a list of relatively unsung examples in January. Ying calls many of these bistros, with their remarkably similar menus and immigrant sensibilities, a "guilty pleasure," pointing in particular to Le P'tit Laurent in his own neighborhood of Glen Park and saying, "I find that a neighborhood restaurant loses some of its romance if it’s not in your neighborhood." Among the things he dings most of these places for, like the ever-popular L'Ardoise, Chapeau, and Mathilde, is the phoning-in of their bread game, typically serving cheap, supermarket-style baguettes in a region rife with excellent bread-making. Also, he shames L'Ardoise for using truffle oil on anything, and wonders why none of these places pays attention to seasonality, instead keeping their menus unchanged year-round. He does, though, give some props to Corey Lee's Monsieur Benjamin (even though, as bistros go, this one is probably the most expensive in town). He says that while it seemed a bit too fussy and exacting when it opened, it's "settled into itself," and the cassoulet rocks.
Michael Bauer, meanwhile, revisits eight-year-old Frances on his annual Top 100 update tour,
saying that the place remains excellent under newly installed chef Connie Tsui, who has "done an admirable job of honoring the owner's vision while adding her own touches." He praises all the favorites, like the panisse frites and bacon beignets, and says Tsui's entrees are hardly afterthoughts, with the pork chop and striped bass being standouts. All told: the big three stars, all these years in.
And for his Sunday review, Bauer goes way out of his comfort zone to review a new hot pot restaurant at the edge of Oakland's Chinatown called Tastee Steam Kitchen. It's the first of its kind locally and part of "a trend that reportedly started in Guangdong and moved to Hong Kong and Singapore several years ago" where every table has its own steam table at the center, and diners watch as their food cooks under a dome, which servers then serve when it's ready and drippings from the items all end up in a bowl of rice below that is eaten at the end of the meal. He's a fan of the pork buns, not so much of the pork dumplings, and says that some things like the beef "rolled around long clusters of enoki mushrooms" weren't so great when steamed. He seems to say you should stick to the vegetables and fish, and maybe the marinated meats. In the end: two and a half stars.
We've also got an early mini-review of The Wolf from SF Weekly's Jeffrey Edalatpour. The Oakland restaurant that replaces longtime favorite Baywolf, Edalatpour says, still has kinks to work out as of the first month, with a pan-fried rock cod sandwich "cooked to a reptilian dryness," and though the "California-casual decor here tries to communicate an attitude of upscale calm," an "underlying anxiety of influence dominates the atmosphere." Pacing and service still need work, he says, but you can't go wrong with the fried Brussels sprouts.
And Pete Kane gives us his thoughts on Alba Ray's, one of two new Cajun-Creole spots to open in the Mission so far this year (along with Bayou Creole Kitchen). He loves the crispy boudin balls with pickled okra, and the chicken-and-andouille gumbo, and he prefers the smoked eggplant and carrot jambalaya to the meat version. And recommends avoiding the seafood linguini with its absinthe cream sauce, and not missing the beignets for dessert.