The Tablehopper

Great coffee in Cow Hollow and new life in the former Purple Onion


Fans of Wrecking Ball Coffee (2271 Union Street) — you may have encountered it at Firehouse 8 or Marla Bakery — will be pleased to know they have their very own new location in Cow Hollow in the former That Takes The Cake space. Partners Nicholas Cho and Trish Rothgeb both have some serious chops behind them: Rothgeb has been roasting, buying, and in the coffee world for 25 years, and Cho will be rocking the retail and barista side (he has 12 years under his belt). They’re excited to be opening a neighborhood coffee shop, a place with a bit of feminine style (cute pineapple wallpaper made in San Francisco, check, and stylish aprons by studiopatró). As Nick says, “We wanted a shop to be proud of.”

But it’s not a place to bring your laptop. There’s a long 16-foot bench inside where you can sit next to some neighbors, and there’s a small counter where you can sit in front of the pour-over station and geek out with your barista, almost like a chef’s counter (both owners are big on education). They plan to get some outdoor seating soon, but they’ll have to get that permit first.

The duo has been working on finding a balance of flavors in their coffee drinks. For example, Cho says they have found using 2 percent milk for their cappuccino offers more flavor and balance (although you are more than welcome to order your cappuccino with whole milk). Look for some creative drinks, effervescent drinks, and a chocolaty number to come when the weather gets a touch cooler. Hours will be Monday–Friday 7 a.m.–7 p.m., Saturday–Sunday 8 a.m.–8 p.m.


Here’s a cool project that just opened, and I need to credit my fabulous assistant Dana Eastland for writing it up: The former Purple Onion space has officially reopened as Doc Ricketts (124 Columbus Avenue, 415-649-6191). The owner is Christopher Burnett of Darwin Café, and he’s done quite a number on the historic location. The three-level space has been divided into two areas: Doc Ricketts, the restaurant, and Doc’s Lab in the lower level. The basement is where Purple Onion used to be, and it is still a performance space, with a full lineup including comedy, music, and other acts.

As for the restaurant, it’s on the main floor and seats 32 with room for 8 at the bar. There is booth seating along the wall, with raw slab tables and glass light fixtures. The restaurant is named after Doc Ricketts, a marine biologist who inspired a character in John Steinbeck’s novels, and there is a touch of the maritime in the decor. One wall has a large vintage educational marine biology poster, and a painting of an octopus appears in another corner. Ricketts’s photo even appears over the bar. In the coming weeks, they also will be adding sidewalk seating.

In the second-floor kitchen is chef Justin Deering (previously of 15 Romolo). His menu is focused on straightforward ingredients, carefully prepared with layers of flavor and texture to create something exciting and complex. The small plates selection is focused on vegetable and seafood dishes, including a cauliflower dish ($11) that sounds simple but includes three kinds of cauliflower, all prepared differently, and served with house-made vadouvan yogurt and vinaigrette made with sultana raisins. There is also a selection of house-made charcuterie ($7.50 each or $24 for a plate) — there’s a curing room on-site.

As for the main dishes, they are heartier, with choices like a pork chop with mustard, maple and späetzle ($26). There is also a burger made with short ribs and served with fries ($14), and a roasted chicken with liver toast, fingerling potatoes, and broccoli rabe ($22). A version of the menu will also be served in Doc’s Lab, so there is a section of the menu devoted to snacks ($6), which will also be nice at the bar.

Speaking of the bar, it’s a small one, but they have a full liquor license and are serving classic cocktails (nope, not “with a twist”) like a Martinez (gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino, orange bitters) and a Vieux Carré (rye, Cognac, vermouth, Benedictine, bitters). The drinks are priced at $9–$11. The wine list is small with five whites, one rosé, and six reds, all intended to pair well with the food. There are four beers on tap as well: North Coast Scrimshaw Pilsner, Big Daddy IPA, Anchor Liberty Ale, and Eel River Porter, plus a few more bottle choices. Charlie Brown, who was the restaurant manager at Prospect since it opened, is in charge of operations.

Doc’s Lab will offer a limited version of the menu when it opens, and it has its own bar. The calendar is booked for the next month already, including some literary events in partnership with nearby City Lights bookstore, along with music, comedy, and even a magic show.

Restaurant hours are Sunday–Wednesday 5:30–10 p.m., Thursday–Saturday 5:30 p.m.–midnight. Doc’s Lab will be open for events.

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