Northside SF  

October '09

The Tablehopper:
Fillmore Street continues to be worthy dining destination

By Marcia Gagliardi

The rumors proved to be true: Michael Mina is once again taking over the Aqua space (252 California Street) since the Bacchus Management Group’s (Spruce, The Village Pub) plans to move in didn’t pan out. The deal just happened, so we’ll have to stand by for Mina’s plans for the space.
I had a chance to catch up with the ever-busy Elizabeth Falkner about her plans for the new Citizen Cake location (2125 Fillmore Street, 415-861-2228) opening at the end of March. She described the new look as Victorian-era apothecary-meets-soda-fountain (that serves beer and wine, heh). Speaking of beer, she mentioned beer floats, and to that, I say cheers, plus sodas made with gum syrups. She explained the restaurant and pâtisserie will be combined, with 30 seats (including 6 bar seats) open for guests who just want to come in for an éclair and coffee, or a sit-down lunch or dinner (some seats will be held for reservations as well). When you walk in, there will be a big slab of marble for the pâtisserie display, and there will be more cakes, pastry items, petits gâteaux, and even ice cream made to order with liquid nitrogen.

New dishes may include a roasted carrot salad with avocado, walnuts, agretti, and a cumin vinaigrette; a mache salad with beets, beef heart, and horseradish; a Cobb chicken sandwich (sounds dangerous); classics like clam chowder and cioppino; mussels and chorizo; a few pizzas; steak frites; chicken Marsala with crispy sweetbreads and king trumpet mushrooms; and pork spare ribs (of course these dishes will feature her trademark twists and layering of flavor). I can’t wait to try the escargots with yuzu-miso butter and fried garlic chips. There will also be smaller bites to nosh on, like arepas, a pancake-like bread made of cornmeal (Falkner mentioned one with gravlax, ancho crema, cucumber, and pepitas). Lunch and dinner will be served daily, continuously from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Just down the street, opening in the former La Salsa space on California and Fillmore will be Tacobar (2401 California Street, 415-674-7745), a new taqueria featuring items made with quality ingredients, but still keeping affordability in mind. Owner Jack Schwartz was born in Mexico City, and after doing the circuit in upscale restaurant kitchens (Maya, Citron and À Côté in Oakland), he is excited to finally have his own restaurant. He also lives in the Fillmore neighborhood, and wants to do what he can to serve the locals.

Schwartz’s culinary training will be evident in the preparations of the various dishes, but he still wants to keep things simple, and similar to a Mission-style taqueria. Look for potential dishes like a jicama salad with avocado and grapefruit; tortilla soup; classic tacos like carne asada and carnitas plus a Baja-style fish taco with line-caught fish (the same fillings are also available as burros – a relative to the burrito); and there will be four kinds of quesadillas. Schwartz is planning to introduce daily specials as well, and there will also be a kid’s menu, seasonal aguas frescas, and coconut flan. The space is tiny (about 20 or so seats, plus some outdoor seating), but will feature a lot of custom touches by Geremia Design. Take-out and catering will be available. Hours will be Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., with breakfast possibly opening later. The plan is to open by the end of March.

Over in North Beach, I was thrilled to learn that the chef for the upcoming Comstock Saloon (155 Columbus Avenue) is Carlo Espinas, whom some of you may recognize from Piccino, Bar Jules, and currently Camino. I spoke with co-owner Jeff Hollinger (Absinthe), who said the menu will focus on some classic San Francisco saloon-apropos fare, like a pot pie; pickled items (vegetables, eggs); a variety of seafood cocktails (crab, oysters); and good bar snacks. The dining room is shaping up to be larger than originally thought, with around 80–90 seats total. They are currently pushing for mid-April opening.

The hot dog trend continues: the latest spot to join the local hot dog pound is The Dogfather (532 Green Street, 415-834-5277) in the former North Beach Lobster Shack. There are a variety of sausages on the menu, from bratwurst to hot links to wild boar; plus fries (french, chili-cheese, curly); corn dogs; and a ton of toppings (peppers, onions, mushrooms, relish, sauerkraut, avocado, and bacon). While a basic dog will put you back $3, you might not want to say no to the Dog Corleone: an Italian sausage that comes loaded with sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and mozzarella for $7.50. Another is the Little P, a garlic sausage with crispy bacon, onion, cheddar cheese, and chili ($7.95, heartburn is complimentary). The owner is local boy Tommy Balistreri, who grew up in North Beach and noticed the neighborhood needed a good “salciceria” (that’s how the window spells it). As the menu says, “We’ll make you a sausage you can’t refuse.” Woof. Hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
There’s a new cafe open in the new Crissy Field Center called the Beach Hut Cafe (1199 East Beach in the East Beach parking lot, 415-561-7761). The menu has coffee and tea, sandwiches, salads, baked goods, smoothies, and Straus frozen yogurt – perfect for all those dog and power walkers. Open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

And it’s official! My first book is out – The Tablehopper’s Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco: Find the Right Spot for Every Occasion from Ten Speed Press. It’s the first restaurant guidebook of its kind, recommending the right locations for all of life’s occasions. Three book launch events are scheduled in April: April 8 at 18 Reasons; April 16 at Fog City News, and April 29 at Bix. For more information, to buy tickets, or learn more about my book, just visit Hope to see you there!
Marcia Gagliardi also writes a popular weekly e-column about the S.F. dining scene; subscribe for free at Additionally she writes for San Francisco magazine, Edible San Francisco, and the weekly San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau blog, Foodie 411. Got a hot tip? E-mail

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