The long and slow recovery of San Francisco's downtown has been a death sentence for many small businesses and restaurants that catered to the FiDi worker crowd. But a bevy of recent and upcoming openings point to some bullishness about things picking up.
If you haven't been to SF's Financial District or the general downtown area recently, you may not know that there's been a lot happening in recent months, with more set to come as we move into spring and summer. The mayor's Vacant to Vibrant initiative brought a slew of pop-ups to empty spaces at Embarcadero Center and elsewhere; Holbrook House debuted in late August and has been giving the two- and three-day back-to-the-office set a swanky new happy hour destination; and Heartwood has been similarly bringing in weeknight crowds for its excellent cocktails and bar food on the alley known as Commercial Street.
Across Market Street, the Dawn Club has been gaining traction as a somewhat below-the-radar, mellow nightlife destination, with live jazz and an extremely deep whiskey list.
And there are a few things readying for openings later this year that add up to a general renaissance for downtown. Longtime Thai stalwart Osha Thai is moving into a large space at Montgomery and Pine streets, as the SF Business Times reports this week. The 4,000-square-foot space had been a location of The Plant Organic Cafe, which closed a while ago.
This will be Osha Thai's third downtown location, after their longtime spot at 4 Embarcadero Center, and their Osha Thai Express location at One Market.
Another venerable SF institution, Crustacean, is also opening a new downtown location. The 33-year-old Polk Street restaurant is relocating to new digs at 191 Pine Street, as the Business Times reported a year ago, with its lease on Polk coming to an end. The opening date for that has still not been announced.
And no one is more bullish on SF's downtown than celebrity chef Tyler Florence, who has two big projects in the works in addition to his two new Miller & Lux Provisions cafes in Union Square, which debuted in November.
We learned a couple months back that Florence is taking over Town Hall, the longtime New Orleans-themed restaurant in SoMa. Town Hall closed after 20 years in business on Halloween, and Florence is planning to reopen it in "early 2024" with a refreshed menu.
There is also an ongoing buildout happening at 201 Pine Street (at Battery), which is going to be a new three-level location of Florence's Wayfare Tavern. Florence has yet to clarify whether the original Wayfare at 558 Sacramento Street is going to remain there, or if this will be a full relocation. But the Business Times reported last February that the Florence team "will renovate the basement-, first- and second-levels of six-story 221 Pine, transforming the former ground-floor Tunisian restaurant Dar Fatma and adjacent shuttered GNC store into an 8,000-square-foot restaurant featuring the Wayfare's private lounge and event space, The Sequoia."
The plan also includes retractable awnings and outdoor seating on Pine Street.
Florence has operated Wayfare Tavern since 2010, taking over a space that had famously been home to the hotspot Rubicon in the previous decade and a half. But soon, including the two Union Square cafes and the pricey, Ken Fulk-designed Miller & Lux steakhouse at the Chase Center, Florence will be at the helm of five (possibly six) restaurants in the city, making him the most prominent celebrity chef currently in business here.
Stay tuned as opening dates for all this stuff come into focus.
Photo: Google Street View