A new addition that has Russian Hill all a-twitter is Verbena (2323 Polk Street, 415-441-2323), in the former Marbella/Rex Cafe space (see cover story). The project is from Berkeley’s Gather team, with chef Sean Baker leading the kitchen. The contemporary and seasonal California menu has some bites ($5–$7), an extensive, six-choice vegetable section ($10–$13), and both smaller and larger seafood and meat dishes ($15–$28), like sardines, quail, swordfish, and duck meatballs. Yup, this is a perfect place for vegetarians and carnivores to coexist nicely at the dinner table. You’ll also notice the gorgeous pottery: most, but not all, is custom from Jered’s Pottery, as is one of the chandeliers. Michael Ireland (French Laundry, Quince, Meadowood) is behind the producer-driven (and international) wine list; there’s also a full bar, with cocktails ranging from $11–$12, and four beers on draft (including Green Flash West Coast IPA and Linden Street Urban People’s Lager). Abueg Morris Architects (Nopalito, Comal, Hi Lo, Roam) designed the space with room for 62 in the dining room (including bar seating). Also, an upstairs mezzanine has room for 12 guests, and the sidewalk tables seat 16. There’s an exposed brick wall, plenty of wood, and a splash of bright cobalt on the back wall. You’ll also notice quite the stash of backlit pickled items on the wall flanking the bar — no trying to sneak up the ladder to get your own, OK? Verbena’s hours are Sunday–Wednesday 5:30 p.m.–10:30 p.m. and Thursday–Saturday 5:30 p.m.–11:30 p.m. Weekend brunch will begin in the spring.
Some tasty tidbits for you: Sabrosa (3200 Fillmore Street, 415-638-6500) in the Marina is now serving brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. The menu includes raw bar offerings, two chilaquiles varieties, and fideo seco (fried angel-hair pasta) with shrimp and egg. And yes, they have that full bar.
The very tiny, very charming Le Marais Bakery (2066 Chestnut Street, 415-359-9801) is expanding into the other half of their building. The new space will allow them to add some additional seating (about 11 seats in all), plus it will give them the opportunity to add some savory options to their menu. Eventually, they also hope to hire a chef and start offering bistro-style fare at dinnertime.
Comstock Saloon (155 Columbus Avenue, 415-617-0071) just rolled out a lunch counter in their new second bar area, with a variety of sandwiches (including a fried chicken sandwich, rabbit currywurst, and the Comstock burger), some salads (beets or Brussels sprouts), and more (like potato leek soup) from chef Ronnie New, but don’t fall in love with just one thing because the menu is subject to change. You can sit and hang out (and order a drink!) or grab and go, but either way, the counter is open Monday–Friday noon–4 p.m. (The Friday lunch offer — free lunch if you order two drinks — still stands.)
And here’s some spicy news: It looks like the Lusty Lady (1033 Kearny Street) will be getting a second life at the hands of Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield. The pair, who reopened Tosca Cafe in October, have taken over the space of the former worker-owned strip club, which sadly closed in September. Seth Boor, whose previous projects include Sightglass, The Mill, and Southern Pacific Brewing Co., is the architect behind the remodel. They are hoping to maintain a lot of the spirit of the beloved Lusty Lady, including its seediness, with private booths available by reservation, and maybe even peep show windows that open onto a bartender. (I foresee lots of inappropriate cocktail shaking technique.) Ceri Smith and Randall Grahm will also be in charge of the wine list, and Isaac Shumway will helm the drink list. They’re still working on a name, and hope to open in the second half of 2014 (first they need to get a lock on a full liquor license).
Corey Lee is targeting a spring opening of his modern (yet casual) bistro, Monsieur Benjamin (451 Gough Street). Chef Jason Berthold (RN74) will lead the kitchen — they both worked together at The French Laundry and Per Se. Monsieur Benjamin will offer something that we don’t have a lot of in this town: traditional French bistro dishes with seasonal ingredients, and updated with some modern techniques. There will be late hours (yay), and Aidlin Darling Design is designing the 95-seat space, plus there will be 16 seats outside.
With the sad closure of Moishe’s Pippic after 26 years, that prime real estate was not going to sit for long. Jocelyn Bulow (Chez Maman) and co-owner David Alexander are taking over the space, and are planning to open a second location of Potrero Hill’s Papito this spring, calling it Papito West (425A Hayes Street). While the Potrero location is casual, the Hayes Valley version will feature a raw bar (with oysters, ceviches, and plateaux de fruits de mer — look for a little jalapeño in the mignonette) and a menu that is more restaurant oriented than a taqueria. There will be 40 seats plus some outside seating and beer and wine. Bulow is hoping to open by March 15.
Chile Pies and Ice Cream (601 Baker Street, 415-614-9411) will be serving weekend brunch. From 11 a.m.–2 p.m., you can get some serious brunch goodies, like breakfast egg pies and biscuits and gravy.