The second of two restaurants sold off amidst the #MeToo reckoning of Charlie Hallowell last year, Boot & Shoe Service in Oakland's Grand Lake district, is rebranding itself in a final step toward divorcing itself from Hallowell's history. Starting next month, the restaurant known for its pizza and cocktails will become Sister.
The name change, say owners Jen Cremer and Richard Clark, just makes sense at this point, now that they have been running the restaurant for over a year and have put their own stamp on the menu and the environment. (The quirky original name came from a prominent vintage sign that hung over the door, indicating the business that used to reside there — a boot and shoe repair shop.) As Cremer tells the Chronicle, they kept the Boot & Shoe name at first because they didn't want to scare off regular customers, and because, she says, "I don’t know if we had the confidence or ambition to say, ‘Let’s go in here and make a whole new restaurant.’”
Cremer had been a manager at Hallowell's other wood-fired pizza spot, Pizzaiolo, which always had a near identical menu to Boot & Shoe. In the wake of sexual harassment and misconduct accusations against Hallowell in late 2017, he "stepped away" from both restaurants as well as Penrose, the restaurant he opened across Grand Avenue from Boot & Shoe, ultimately selling two of them to former employees. Penrose reopened in December as Almond & Oak.
Hallowell has remained in charge of the original restaurant in his mini-empire, Pizzaiolo, and he issued a somewhat poorly received "12-point plan" to redemption last fall that included offering to be dunked in a dunk tank once a month as penance. Hallowell opened another restaurant in Berkeley last year — originally intended to be a second location of Boot & Shoe — called Western Pacific.
While the restaurant soon to be known as Sister remains fairly similar to the one it has always been, chef Martin Salata (who previously worked at Pizzaiolo) has moved the menu slightly away from Hallowell's strict Cal-Italian focus to include Asian and other influences in certain dishes — though pizza remains at the center of the menu. He also changed the pizza dough from a Neapolitan one to a chewier version made with a sourdough starter.
Look for the rebranding to Sister to take place in August.