By the time this column is in your hands (or on your computer screen), the reborn Fog City Diner will be open, but now as Fog City (1300 Battery Street, 415-982-2000). The brand-spanking-new 145-seat digs are from chef-owner Bruce Hill (Bix, Picco, Pizzeria Picco, and Zero Zero) and founders Bill Higgins and Bill Upson (Real Restaurants). The place hadn’t been updated since it opened in 1985, so expect some ch-ch-changes. The 4,334-square-foot space has been completely redone by architect Michael Guthrie, and is now much more open, with a V-shaped onyx-hued 30-seat bar and an open kitchen. There will also be outdoor seating along Battery Street.
The menu is “San Franciscan cuisine,” with a strong focus on items from the monster wood-fired grill, like wood-grilled tomato soup and mesquite-grilled local albacore or lamb skewers. The burger will be made with Bruce Hill’s special technique using his patented Chef’s Press. The wood oven will also be blazing full time, cooking up clams and chicken. Erik Lowe (Bix) is the chef. Many items are house made, from the hamburger buns to the American cheese (even the hot sauce on the chilled oysters is barrel-aged). Dessert includes frozen custard (from Straus Family Creamery milk) and French crullers made fresh to order. The cocktail menu includes classics, plus newer-school creations, like barrel-aged and on-tap cocktails. Look for primarily local wines on the 16 taps; there are also 7 beer taps. Cheers to a new era for the iconic restaurant.
Over at the Ferry Building, Ferry Plaza Seafood is leaving the Marketplace and plans to reopen in the former Pasta Pomodoro (655 Union Street) in North Beach near Washington Square. Hog Island Oyster Bar will move into the Ferry Building space, which will more than double the current size of the restaurant. Construction will begin in January 2014 (Cass Calder Smith is behind the design); look for a full bar, expanded menu, communal tables, and, of course, a killer view.
Some new projects in the infamous Triangle: Open now is Franck LeClerc’s second location of Café Claude (2120 Greenwich Street, 415-375-9550). The space is definitely opulent and over the top, with damask wallpaper, gilded mirrors, burgundy leather, and shiny, dark wood surfaces (the swank design is from Elmer Lin of Consortium). There is bar seating (with a bar menu), and the secluded booth in the back is great for a large party. On nice days, there will be six tables outside, plus windowed doors that open.
On the bar menu, look for aperitifs like the Bitter Grin with Bonal, lemon juice, and soda, and bites like charcuterie and cheese plates, escargot and a brandade. On the regular menu, from chef Doug Degeeter, you’ll find a rotating daily special, including short ribs on Sunday and loup de mer on Friday. The menu is classic bistro fare, with small plates like a smoked trout salad and steak tartare. Larger dishes include a burger, roasted chicken, and Niçoise salad.
And just next door, Adam Snyder, Hugo Gamboa, and Andy Wasserman (The Brixton) will be turning the former City Tavern space into Sabrosa (3200 Fillmore Street), a Mexican restaurant and bar. Jose Ramos (Nopalito and Nido in Oakland) will be the chef, who will offer a menu highlighting regional Mexican cuisine. And of course there will be a lively bar. Look for an opening later this year.
Another new project: Ken Tominaga (Hana in Rohnert Park) is partnering with Michael Mina on another restaurant. Coming in spring 2014 will be the second location of Pabu and the launch of Ramen Market, both in 101 California Street (a Platinum LEED-certified green building with a glass and atrium area focused on plants). Pabu is the modern izakaya concept the duo launched at the Four Seasons in Baltimore — this iteration will include a sushi bar (with local seafood and fish sourced via Japan’s Tsukiji Market), izakaya dishes, a robata grill, shabu-shabu, noodle, and soup dishes.
Ramen Market will be open breakfast through dinner, with the busy FiDi customer in mind (who can order takeout or dine in). There are five ramen choices or guests can make their own bowl, choosing from five or six broths, proteins like duck confit, plus a variety of vegetables (there will also be gluten-free Japanese sweet potato noodles and low-carb vegetable noodles). Many of the greens, vegetables, and herbs will be grown in the residents’ garden (remember, there’s that atrium).
RUSSIAN HILL AND NOB HILL
Residents have been wondering what was opening in the former Pasha (and short-lived Cossu) space on Broadway. Owner Giovanni Toracca, a name many North Beach longtimers know well, is opening Taps (1516 Broadway Street), a 170-seat restaurant that will have chef Michael Lamina (Leopold’s and Cav) at the helm. The menu will be gastropubby by nature, with an extensive selection of elevated bar food, like terrines and pâtés (there are also plans for an in-house salumi program; stand by). There will be a wood grill and a rotisserie with different meats each day (lamb, pig, chicken). The menu will have plenty of apps for large parties to share, and main dishes will be offered à la carte with sides listed separately, like a duck breast, chicken, steak off the grill, and, of course, a burger.
Jesse Ostroski (Bigfoot Lodge) is running the bar program, which will feature 28 beers on draft, and will highlight many local craft beers (Lagunitas, Pine Street, Magnolia), plus two ciders and a range of bottle choices, including Belgians, sours, and some Mikkeller beers. There are also eight wines on tap. Cocktails will feature six classics to start (with more drinks to be added later), and fresh juices and seasonal ingredients will be a focus.
The front room features a long 35-seat bar, a stand-up table, several high seating areas, a communal table, and an open kitchen with more counter seating, plus a chef’s table for 10 in its own alcove. There’s also a back room with a separate bar that will open a month later as a quieter raw-bar space. The look is simple and rustic — and a little industrial — with banquettes in leather and warm-toned fabric upholstery. After some inspections, they should be open this month.
Luella has closed after nine years on Russian Hill, and the new takers are Jason Kirmse and Cyrick Hia (Fat Angel), who are partnering with Ryan Cole (Michael Mina). The new project will be called Stones Throw (1896 Hyde Street), with Jason Halverson as chef (Michael Mina). The team plans to offer a neighborhood vibe and good value, but with all the Mina training, you know many details will be dialed in. And with Fat Angel’s involvement, you know the beer will be good. The project will open this fall.
Chef Jan Birnbaum has left Epic Roasthouse (369 The Embarcadero, 415-369-9955) after six years for some much-needed rest and a travel break. While he is no longer handling day-to-day kitchen operations, he remains a partner. Chef de cuisine Eric Hollis is running day-to-day operations at the restaurant in the interim. Take good care of yourself, Jan.
Meanwhile, over in the Presidio, chef-partner Joseph Humphrey has left Dixie (1 Letterman Drive, 415-829-3363), taking part of his kitchen crew with him. Managing partner Dean Tinney has brought on Erik Hopfinger (Spoon, Circa, Top Chef) as a consulting/interim chef, who will make the menu more casual.