La Cocina's much anticipated Municipal Marketplace is debuting Monday on one of the rougher corners of the Tenderloin — in the former U.S. post office at the corner of Golden Gate and Hyde. And it's immediately going to be home to an array of multicultural food from six female vendors, most of whom are getting their first chance at running a brick-and-mortar business.
The La Cocina Municipal Marketplace has been in the works for five years, as the Chronicle recounts today, and it was meant to be open last year but, of course, a few things got in the way. As it is, Monday's grand opening of the food hall is only a partial grand opening — the vendors will be doing takeout lunches only, to start, and a seventh vendor, Bini's Kitchen, won't be starting serving in the space until indoor dining is permitted, likely this summer. Also debuting when indoor dining begins will be a La Cocina-run cocktail bar called La Paloma, so that adult beverages can be part of the dining experience.
"The La Cocina Municipal Marketplace stands as an innovative model of conscious, community-led development, offering economic opportunity for women entrepreneurs, jobs for Tenderloin residents, and delicious and affordable food for community members and those looking to eat with purpose," La Cocina explains on their website. The marketplace is the culmination of over a decade of work by the nonprofit supporting women-owned food businesses, many of them run by immigrant women and first-time business owners.
Success stories from the La Cocina incubator program include acclaimed Nyum Bai chef Nite Yun, Reem's chef Reem Assil, and Azalina Eusope, whose Malaysian food under the name Azalina's has been sold at Whole Foods and from a stand at The Market in the Twitter building. (Eusope's brick-and-mortar restaurant in Noe Valley, Mahila, unfortunately closed last month due to the pandemic and its economic toll.)
The six vendors that begin serving at the food hall on Monday are Creole "bodega" Boug Cali, pupusa and tamale specialist Estrellita’s Snacks, Senegalese restaurant Teranga, Algerian spot Kayma, and Mexican restaurants Los Cilantros and Mi Morena.
Mi Morena chef Guadalupe Moreno, who moved to the Tenderloin from Mexico City 20 years ago, tells the Chronicle that she's excited to be able to open a business in her own neighborhood.
"I think it’ll be beneficial for the community not only to have healthy meals but to be able to access food from all over the world," she said, "especially in a community where you have liquor stores all over but not any healthy options."
In addition to quesadillas and a chilaquiles kit for assembly at home, Mi Morena is selling guisados tacos — tacos made with Mexico City-style braised meats — with fillings by the pint.
Boug Cali specializes in New Orleans-style Creole food which chef Tiffany Carter says she grew up eating with her family in the Bayview — things like gumbo, smoked sausage, and po-boys. And she tells the Chronicle, "For me to open downtown, it means a lot," saying that she thinks Black people in SF are all too often segregated in their own neighborhoods with their own restaurants.
At Kayma, Wafa Bahloul and her husband Mounir will be serving North African fare like shorbat — a hearty beef and lamb stew with freekah — and delicious sandwiches filled with your choice of yogurt-braised chicken or beef merguez sausage.
Los Cilantros chef Dilsa Lugo, who runs a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Berkeley that opened in 2014, will be focusing on enchiladas and tostadas at the marketplace, with the latter featuring toppings like chicken tinga, pickled beef tendons, or cactus salad.
Estrellita's Snacks serves delicious pupusas that have been available around the Bay for several years now, and at the marketplace chef Estrella Gonzalez will be serving a dozen varieties, including those with fillings like chorizo and cheese and stewed lamb with cheese.
And last but not least, Teranga chef Nafy Ba Flatley will be serving hearty Senegalese peanut and bean stews, muffallettas, and fresh-pressed juices.
Place orders here for takeout starting on Monday, and initially hours will only be 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Look for hours to expand in the coming months, along with the addition of seating inside.
La Cocina Municipal Marketplace — 332 Golden Gate Avenue at Hyde, opening April 5
Photo: Erin Ng/La Cocina