The team behind Namu Gaji and Namu Stonepot, who started making sourdough pizza and selling it through Instagram DMs under the name Sunset Squares during the pandemic, has just debuted a new beer hall in SoMa/Mid-Market with multiple food menus on offer — and the former Namu Stonepot on Divis is becoming a slice shop.
Chef Dennis Lee and his brothers David and Daniel have been known for pivots in the last decade. First there was the move from the more Korean-focused Namu in the Richmond to the more multi-faceted Namu Gaji at 18th and Dolores — which became known as much for its fantastic burger with bacon jam and its gamja fries (which also appeared at Namu). Then Namu Gaji morphed into Namu Stonepot, with more of a focus on takeout and delivery food and the stonepot rice dishes that Namu Gaji was also known for.
Namu Stonepot began as a spinoff on Divisadero in 2017, but following a 2019 earthquake-retrofit closure at Namu Gaji, the Lees pivoted and turned the Dolores location into Namu Stonepot as well, announcing that Namu Gaji would be reborn in another neighborhood — in the former Perennial space on Ninth Street that was abandoned in early 2019.
Then came the pandemic, and with some downtime, Dennis Lee got to work on perfecting his focaccia recipe and a sourdough pizza dough — which is a three-day, cold-fermented dough, pressed into square pans. In addition to traditional toppings like mushroom and pepperoni, he played around with mapo tofu, clam chowder, Korean-style pork belly, and chicken Alfredo. He started selling the pizzas on Instagram without telling anyone who was behind this Sunset Squares operation. And then, in December, he "came out" to Eater and announced that the pizza operation was moving into the former Perennial space. And in April, he told the Chronicle that the space would become a beer hall — with beer on tap as well as three menus, from Sunset Squares, Namu Stonepot, and Filipino pop-up Uncle Tito, with an additional new selection of street food hot dogs from Namu Stonepot. There's also a rotating guest pop-up spot yet to be filled — and Uncle Tito will be permanently in the space.
"It’s always fun when people can go somewhere where you can have inexpensive beer and wine and order off multiple menus, almost like a street food truck [market]," Lee told the paper at the time.
As Lee tells Eater this week, the decision to scrap the Namu Gaji plan came out of the eating trends of the pandemic.
"I see a throwback or regression to more comfort food items,” Lee says. "I think that everyone is a little bit traumatized, and also looking for less challenging kinds of experiences."
The beer hall, dubbed SSP Beer Hall, isn't actually occupying all of the former Perennial — the dining room has been converted into more kitchen space, and there's a clear hope that the demand for delivery and takeout food will continue, post-pandemic. The indoor seating space, therefore, is just using the front bar/cafe area of the former restaurant, with one long communal table and some bar and counter seats.
Do note: There's a crazy pizza that requires pre-order topped with sticky galbi jjim (Korean short ribs), and it comes with a side of rice cakes and some gloves.
You can salivate over all three menus here along with the beer and wine selections, and they're open today as of 4:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, the recently shuttered Namu Stonepot location on Divisadero is pivoting into a Sunset Squares Slice Shop — and there are plans to open more slice shops around the city, Lee says. It's not clear what will be on the slice shop menu versus the downtown menu, but it looks like the menus will be similar but with an emphasis on square- and round-pie slices at the Divis shop.
Sunset Squares Slice Shop doesn't yet have an opening date, but there was a preview happening there last night, according to Instagram.
Also, SSP Beer Hall is going to have a digital art gallery component. There are seven screens now hanging in the space which will display NFTs for sale — and the brothers say this is the first "beer hall and NFT gallery in the world."
SSP Beer Hall — 59 Ninth Street near Market — open Wednesday to Friday, 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday to Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sunset Squares Slice Shop - 553 Divisadero — Opening TBA