Fans of Chef Ravi Kapur's homemade SPAM and short rib steam buns can rest assured that Liholiho Yacht Club is indeed making its promised return this fall, nearly a year after closing in its temporary digs on 18th Street, and over two and a half years since ceasing indoor dining in Lower Nob Hill.
Kapur's almost-eight-year-old restaurant Liholiho Yacht Club did a popular pandemic takeout spread before deciding to pop back open in the spring of 2021 in the 18th Street space that was formerly home to its sister restaurant Dear Inga — and that is now home to its younger sister restaurant Good Good Culture Club.
The original Liholiho at 871 Sutter Street has been undergoing renovations, per the ownership team of Kapur, former Nopa partner Jeff Hanak, and co-owner April D. Storm.
Eater reported that, as of July, Liholiho was targeting a mid-October reopening, but the restaurant website lately says "reopening by November," with hiring now ongoing. The timeline for the renovation's construction is apparently a bit in flux.
In addition to the renovations at that space, the team has been overseeing the transition of the 18th Street space to Good Good Culture Club — which they said in a recent Chronicle feature had been a financial success as a new experiment in restaurant economics.
Liholiho will follow a similar model as at Good Good Culture Club, where kitchen staff is being paid an above-market living wage thanks to a flat service charge on checks and a more standard salary model for front-of-house staff.
While some experienced servers at Zuni Cafe and elsewhere have balked at this type of model because the pay is generally much less than they would make under the traditional tipping model, it's reportedly keeping back-of-house workers happy, and it's pioneering a more equitable model for how a restaurant can be run.
The revamped Liholiho will also use the QR-code menu and ordering system that was used at the Liholiho pop-up on 18th and now at Good Good Culture Club. As they say on this FAQ page, "From a service standpoint, we are no longer simply just order takers [with this system]. We now have the opportunity to step into the new role of hospitality professionals. This frees up our restaurant family to focus on the 'hospitality' part of the job more than the administrative and menial tasks. With QR, our guests are in control of their experience and pace."
It remains unclear whether Liholiho's bar within-the-restaurant, the downstairs hideaway Louie's Gen-Gen Room, will be coming back in a form similar to its pre-pandemic form, with it's own menu of cocktails, savory waffles, and light dishes.
Co-owner April Storm tells SFist, "We don't have clear plans for the downstairs yet," and she adds that the full return to form might be a slow process "as we gear back up."
Stay tuned for a more firm reopening date.