New Year brings new restaurants, new names, new dishes, new deals
By Marcia Gagliardi
Hope your kickoff to the New Year was celebratory and full of nice moments with family and friends (ideally bearing good bubbly). Sure, the media is foretelling further doom and gloom, but I hope some of these restaurant openings will spark some optimism about the good and affordable meals that are in your future.
Lalola Bar De Tapas (1358 Mason Street, 415-981-5652) just opened (don’t get them confused with the Spanish Laïola in the Marina – no relation). Lalola is a sleek tapas place that opened in the former Fortune Wok location, serving a variety of pintxos (one for $3 or two for $5), and small or large tapas to go with wines off the all-Spanish list (plus some beer and sangria).
Jones (2400 Lombard Street, 415-440-2000), the sporty Marina steakhouse, is coming under new ownership – the crew behind Bin 38. Here’s more from co-owner Don Davis: “The working name is Scott Street Bar & Grill, though that may change. We’ll be doing an upscale neighborhood bar and grill, a new take on a classic. Expect lots of dark wood and leather with a fresh, modern take. We’ll have a wood-fired grill and pizza oven to put out the best bar classics in town. The drink list will focus on our twist on classic American cocktails and the largest American craft beer selection in town. Additionally, we’ll introduce the sports lounge concept, providing the only upscale place to watch sports in town.” Jones is slated to close in mid-February, and after three to four months of remodeling, the bar and grill is looking like a June/July opening.
Just across the street, Bin 38 (3232 Scott Street, 415-567-3838) is now offering 50 percent off your first bottle of wine (up to $100) all day on Sundays, which means that bottle of 2005 Terra Valentine Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is only going to put you back $34. You can cozy up with your bottle under the newly installed heated winter tent.
Just in case you were wondering what happened to Lettüs Organic (3352 Steiner Street, 415-931-2777) in the Marina, due to some legal issues, it is now The Plant Cafe. Same owners, menu, hours, everything – just a different name. When the Pier 3 location opens (for now it’s looking like mid-March), it will also be The Plant Cafe – Pier 3.
Scooting over to Cow Hollow, chef Mark Young of Ottimista (1838 Union Street, 415-674-8400) is now at Serpentine in the Dogpatch, and taking his place is Glen Tinsley, an alum of Joe’s Restaurant in Venice Beach, and most recently AKA in St. Helena. Here’s more from Ottimista: “You’ll find an expanded selection of large plates and more market-driven specials, including three to four contorni [vegetable sides] each night. To whet your appetite, think baked penne with porcini fonduta, Robiola, and guanciale; pizza with duck confit, figs, butternut, and balsamic; pumpkin ravioli with crispy chestnuts, chanterelles, and brown butter; and roasted figs with Valdeon blue, Iberico ham, chestnut honey, and aged balsamic, just to name a few.” Wine director Don Jost has also moved on to boutique import companies Trilussa and Zigzagando, but you’ll still find him behind the bar at Ottimista on Sunday nights. General manager Lorraine Castillo has transitioned into the role of general manager/wine director.
A few happenings on Russian Hill: Loving Cup (2356 Polk Street, 415-440-6900) is a new cafe specializing in rice pudding, with flavors like chai and vanilla, plus some holiday-inspired flavors. There is also frozen yogurt (with toppings mixed into the yogurt), smoothies, coffee, and baked goods. Open Monday–Friday, 6:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m. and Saturday–Sunday, 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m.
I know many people are sorry to learn Tajine (1338 Polk Street, 415-440-1718) has closed – the last night was in December. The charming owner Mohamed Ghaleb has some personal family matters to attend to, and between his trips home to Morocco and running the restaurant, he sadly chose to close the business for a while. He hopes to reopen in a year. For now, let’s all wish him (and his family) well.
And now for something sweet: Candy Darling (796 Sutter Street, 415-346-1500) has opened in the Lower Nob Hill area. I had some brief contact with one of the owners, Carla Stacho, whom some may remember from the Candy Jar on Jones. There are truffles, house-made peanut brittle, English toffee, bonbons, wrapped candies, caramels, and more.
Thirsty? Swank (488 Presidio Avenue, 415-346-7431) has opened in the space formerly occupied by G Bar in Laurel Heights. The vibe is swingin’ ’60s (Harvey Wallbangers and Champagne cocktails are on the menu), and the space is sporting sleek retro decor. There’s a fireplace, an outside patio and a lounge outfitted with shag rugs and comfy couches. Closed Sundays.
Dosa on Fillmore (1700 Fillmore Street, 415-441-3672) is now open for lunch, so you don’t have to wait until the weekends to savor their delicious chaat dishes (normally only available on the weekends at the Valencia Street location). Lunch is served Monday–Friday, 11:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m.; and brunch Saturday–Sunday, 11 a.m.–3:30 p.m.
In North Beach, the well-lit Piazza Market (627 Vallejo Street, 415-981-9881) has opened in the former Rossi’s Market space. It’s a grocery store with food for take-out, catering, and casual, self-service dining, plus specialty foods and a wine shop.
Also in North Beach, Joey & Eddie’s (1652 Stockton Street, 415-989-7800) is running a family-oriented special on Monday nights: all children under 12 will receive a free 8-inch cheese pizza.
One more deal for your radar: The Terrace Restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton (600 Stockton Street, 415-773-6198) launched a new Sunday brunch, blending buffet and à la carte selections for $55 instead of the former mega-buffet jazz brunch for $78. There’s now a smaller breakfast buffet that includes fresh breakfast pastries, seasonal fruits and berries, house-smoked salmon, build-your-own omelet station, breakfast meats, and potatoes – you then choose your main course, which includes a variety of Benedict variations, French toast, Belgian waffle, New York steak and eggs, corned beef hash, a vegetable sandwich, and more. And then there’s the dessert buffet, with a choice of assorted European-inspired desserts. There’s also the option of ordering a shared seafood platter for the table, or caviar and blini. The $55 includes a glass of sparkling wine, freshly brewed coffee or tea, choice of orange, grapefruit, or tomato juice. Sundays (excluding special holiday brunches) from 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Cheers!
Marcia Gagliardi also writes a popular weekly e-column about the San Francisco dining scene; subscribe for free at www.tablehopper.com. She writes additionally for San Francisco and Travel + Leisure magazines, and Fodors.com. Got a hot tip? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.