The Tablehopper

Palm House opens on Union Street; Big 4, Hog Island Oyster Bar return

COW HOLLOW

The former Nettie’s Crab Shack has reopened as Palm House (2032 Union Street, 415-400-4355). By Bergerac/Foreign Cinema alumni Anderson Pugash, Bruce McDonald, Benson Wang, and Gayle Pirie, the tropical-inspired bar and restaurant has a seasonal California influence. Pirie worked on the menu with Lea Walker, and is running the kitchen. The menu includes many influences from warmer world regions — Cuba, Brazil, Indonesia, Hawaii, and the Caribbean. You’ll find snacks like the fried jalapeños with smoked guava salt ($6.50) or Calypso chicken wings with Thai-style chile sauce ($7.50), and entrées with lots of seafood, like a West Indian jerk grilled mahi mahi ($23) or Khalua duck tacos with pineapple salsa and pickled cabbage. Anthony Parks (Bergerac and Audio) heads up the bar, with plenty of fun and refreshing tropical flavors, like mai tais and margaritas, punch bowls for groups, and even a slushy machine for blended drinks. As for the historic space, the outdoor seating is under a Victorian-style pergola, and there’s a relaxing, tropically inspired vibe inside.

LOWER PACIFIC HEIGHTS

Divisadero mainstay Tortilla Heights has been sold to partners Miles Palliser and Ezra Berman (Corner Store), along with a third partner, Neil Holbrook (The Kezar Pub). The new project is a sports bar, San Francisco Athletic Club (1750 Divisadero Street) but with lots of fun twists to make it a little different. A whopping 28 televisions will show the usual American sports like baseball, football, and basketball, as well as international favorites like soccer and rugby, with audio a priority. Clint Miller (Corner Store, Sabrosa) is redoing the space to include a 20-seat bar and pullout bleachers for big games, a pool table, and a shuffleboard table.

The bar menu will include 12–16 beers on tap, and more by the bottle, with both local microbrews and lighter crowd-pleasing choices. And when we say crowd, how about beer by the bathtub? Yup, you can get beer by the bottle, by the bucket, or by the bathtub: For groups sitting in one of the four reservable booths, customers can order beer by the case, served in an ice-filled porcelain bathtub. Move over bottle service, now there’s bathtub service. The cocktail/wine list will have something for everyone, with a focus on whiskey and tequila and eight wines on tap. As for food, Matt Rosson and Sam Kazik (Corner Store) are planning a menu that balances heartier pub fare with lighter, more produce-driven options. The current plan is to open by Thursday, June 12, when World Cup kicks off. Goal!

NOB HILL

All is well on Nob Hill, with the reopening of Big 4 (1075 California Street, 415-771-1140) at the newly renovated Scarlet Huntington Hotel. The menu by new chef Kevin Scott has many of the previous staples but also some new twists. Fortunately the green leather banquettes remain in the dining room, and look at that, they decided to keep the white tablecloths as well (small cheer over here). The bar, grand piano, and artifacts on the wood-paneled walls all remain in place, but you’ll notice refreshed things like a newly carpeted floor. The big change was really with the plumbing, so that’s why it was closed for some time. The new cocktail menu offers classic Big 4 cocktails, and some new ones speaking to Nob Hill’s history, and the hotel’s railroad and mining history, with drinks like the Golden Spike (Sheep Dip Scotch, apricot liqueur, Licor 43). The three sparkling options by the glass make it an excellent spot for celebration. Many of the beloved bartenders and staff remain, including Ty himself. For now, they’ll be open for breakfast and dinner daily from 6:30–10:30 a.m. and 5:30–10 p.m. with lunch service coming later (yay again!). Welcome back, Big 4!

EMBARCADERO

The newly reopened Hog Island Oyster Bar (1 Ferry Building, 415-391-7117) took over the Ferry Plaza Seafood space and has therefore doubled in size, and it now has a full bar, with executive chef Christopher Laramie leading the kitchen (former chef-owner of Berkeley’s Brasa and Eve). Menu cult classics like the clam chowder and the grilled cheese sandwich remain with new additions like an oyster po’boy on a special baguette-style roll developed with Acme Bread (a good neighbor to have), plus a spin on a Caesar salad with crispy white anchovy “croutons” and a creamy oyster-based dressing. There are even steak frites! You can enjoy the bay view while noshing on house-smoked potted sturgeon and fried smelts, and of course there are plenty of oysters. All the seafood is sustainably raised and harvested, with many small fish that are low on the food chain. Even the produce and herbs come from the restaurant’s own gardener near the oyster farm in Marshall.

Designed by Cass Calder Smith Architecture, the expanded space now has 65 seats inside and 65 outside. There are three bars: a 16-seat oyster bar facing the bay, an 8-seat cocktail bar, and an 8-seat chef’s counter with mirror-reflected bay views (ooh, trippy), plus communal tables, too. You’ll see lots of recycled materials, with oyster shells in the concrete and an oyster bar top by Bohemian Stoneworks, and the shelves at the cocktail bar are from an original 1880s redwood foundation at the Hog Island farm in Marshall. Nautical elements include a hull-shaped ceiling of wood and rope and kelp sculptures woven by Inverness artist Lina Prairie. The cocktail list is by Scott Beattie and Michael Jack Pazdon (St. Helena’s Goose & Gander). Look for spirits from Bay Area small-batch producers and lots of fresh produce; drinks are $10–$12. There are also West Coast wines, including a couple of custom collaborations, plus five microbrews on tap, a cider, and Boylan natural sodas (also on tap). Happy hour continues Monday and Thursday 5–6 p.m., with chef’s choice of half-price oysters on the half shell (selection changes weekly), plus beer and wine specials.

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Marcia Gagliardi is the founder of the weekly tablehopper e-column; subscribe and get more food news and gossip at tablehopper.com. Follow her on Twitter: @tablehopper.

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