Northside SF  

October '09

The Tablehopper:
Cow Hollow and downtown busy with new business

By Marcia Gagliardi

Cow Hollow is percolating with all kinds of news. First, there’s the opening of American Cupcake (1919 Union Street, 415-896-4217) in the former Joji’s House of Teriyaki. It was quite the transformation, because now it’s a chic, modern soda fountain, complete with go-go-boot white patent-leather-tufted banquettes and bar seating, and 150 LED “gumball” lights, which cast an ever-changing Day-Glo aura on the restaurant’s all-white interior.

The name may say cupcake, but there’s actually an all-day menu from chef Carina Lampkin (previously of Bar Crudo and Absinthe), featuring retro-Americana cuisine, like pulled-pork sliders with Jack ’n’ Coke barbeque sauce, Riverdog Farm organic asparagus soup, an albacore tuna melt, tangy mac ’n’ cheese with Indonesian long pepper, and a backyard barbeque “skinny dip” salad. More snacky items include truffle-Parmesan popcorn, Tater Tots with curried ketchup and wasabi aioli, and caramel and candy apples. For your sweet tooth, there are Whoopie Pies, banana Nilla pudding, house-made cotton candy, and giant “cupcake splits” (featuring house-made caramel, chocolate and strawberry sauces). There’s also beer, wine, champagne, and other concoctions. Hours are Tuesday–Wednesday 10:30 a.m.–8 p.m., Thursday–Saturday 10:30 a.m.–midnight, Sunday 10:30 a.m.–5 p.m.

Just down the street, there’s a new chef at Ottimista Enoteca-Cafe (1838 Union Street, 415-674-8400), Daniele Volpi from Vivande Porte Via on Fillmore Street. The previous chef, Glen Tinsley, has headed back to Italy to run the kitchen at the La Parrina wine estate after his stage there last summer. Volpi was raised in Denmark, but spent two months every year in his father’s hometown of Cremona, Italy, and he spent a year cooking at Palazzo Ravizza in Siena, and two years in Sicily at Ristorante Bye Bye Blues. You won’t find Ottimista’s menu drastically changed, but look for an expanded selection of small bites and seasonal contorni (sides), with dishes like cauliflower fritti, swordfish involtini, flash-roasted mussels, and house-made focaccia. Also launching soon is an expanded lunch menu with more panini, pizza and salads.

The Pasta Pomodoro space is getting a new tenant: Unwind (1875 Union Street). Owners Kai Vance and Todd Slosek will offer Cal-Med and American dishes in a casual atmosphere, ranging from $8–$14, plus a good program of affordable wine by the glass. Lunch, dinner and brunch will be served. They are targeting a mid-June opening. The new Food Network show, The Opener, will film an episode at the restaurant.

The Brick Yard Bar & Restaurant (1787 Union Street) is due to open in the former Bayside Bar & Grill space on Saturday, June 5 at the 33rd annual Union Street Festival. To celebrate, the restaurant will open at 10 a.m. offering $5–$10 menu items and signature cocktails like their Pura Vida (a watermelon-based rum drink) all weekend long. The menu of California cuisine will focus on healthful comfort food (citrus salad with grilled chicken, thin-crust pizzas, pulled pork sliders, chopped chicken lettuce cups, and seared ahi tuna). The spacious 3,600-square-foot venue has undergone floor-to-ceiling renovations, which include new tile and hardwood floors, custom-made wine displays, skylights, tufted leather booths, a 30-foot bar with flat-screen HD TVs, a private lounge that can be reserved for special events (stocked with its own audio system, personal bar and pool table), and there’s an elevated outside patio facing Union Street.

Over in the Presidio, I had a chance to catch up with Ray Tang, who filled me in on a few changes as he steps back in as owner of Presidio Social Club (Building 563, Ruger Street, 415-885-1888). There is a new chef, Derek McCarthy, who was previously at Blue Plate. Look for a new menu to launch in June, offering a different take on American cuisine (Tang explains the menu’s story as “cuisine that would reflect officers returning from abroad”). Prices will be lower, lunch will return, and the menu will move away from the recent Southern focus. Instead, look for an all-day menu with dishes like a chicken noodle soup, a BLT, a burger, steak for two, nightly local fish specials, roast beef, or chicken, served with classic sides like broccoli and baked potato, but featuring high-end and locally sourced products. (Tang also mentioned a basket featuring a fried trio of chicken, quail and rabbit.) The wine list will also be revamped, but the cocktails will remain the same (i.e., delicious). And look for the return of the Sunday roast pig. Additional details: Shawn Kearney is no longer with the company and is taking a break from the restaurant world; Puccini Group will continue as the management group.

Downtown has a few new projects: first, Bonbon Patisserie is now Fleur de Sel (308 Kearny Street, 415-956-5005), a gourmet delicatessen from Stephane Gregoire, the former chef of Chapeau! and Pisces (from the Aqua restaurant group). The day will start at 7 a.m. with natural, organic breakfast items like freshly baked croissants and muffins and Greek yogurt parfaits with seasonal fruit. Lunch and early evening options will always include a soup, a salad, an appetizer, a pasta dish, a risotto, a meat dish, and a dessert (and at least one of the dishes within this selection will be a vegetarian option). The prepared meals can be eaten there or available as takeout in compostable containers. The menu will be seasonal and local, and Stephane makes his own fresh pasta with organic semolina flour and slowly braises his meats sous-vide. There will also be organic, certified fair-trade coffees,
hot chocolates, Numi teas, and chocolates Stephane has created himself. Hours are Monday–Friday 7 a.m.–7 p.m.

Franck LeClerc’s businesses on Claude Lane have some changes to report: Bridget Batson (from former Hawthorne Lane Two) is the new executive chef of Gitane (6 Claude Lane, 415-788-6686). Baston has been working alongside opening chef Lisa Eyherabide, and will have assumed the reins completely by June 1, when Eyherabide heads back to France. Since Batson was most recently at Pizzeria Delfina with Anthony Strong, it should come as no surprise she is considering adding flatbreads to the Mediterranean menu.

More Claude Lane plans include a dedicated art gallery, called 5 Claude Lane, and Claudine, a shop in the former Golden Gate Perk space that will sell gourmet food products and food packaged to go. LeClerc got in touch with chef Alain Rondelli, who is collaborating with Batson on the takeout menu of prepared meals that reflect a restaurant-grade quality (I wonder if that includes all the butter?). Rondelli will also offer a custom collection of meals created especially for Claudine: Rondelli Deli for Claudine.

Marcia Gagliardi also writes a popular e-column about the local dining scene; subscribe for free at, where you can also order Marcia’s new book. Got a hot tip? E-mail

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