A second, 70-seat location of Eric Lilavois and Dave Cruz’s Little Gem (2184 Union Street) has opened in the former Umami Burger. The menu is similar to their Hayes Valley spot, with a couple new dishes (including their gluten-free fried chicken). They’re opening with dinner service only (full service, not fast-casual/order at the counter), but ramping up quickly for breakfast, lunch, and weekend brunch soon. The menu is designed for omnivores, herbivores, and keto, paleo, vegan, and gluten-free diets — so, basically, anyone is welcome. Wine, beer, and nonalcoholic beverages are also available.
Check out their Little Gem Pantry, featuring packaged versions of ingredients the kitchen uses, including bacon-coconut crumble, cashew butter, and seasonal jam. Tuesday–Thursday 5–9 p.m., Friday–Saturday 5–10 p.m. to start.
Dim sum fanatics (and Instagram stunt food aficionados) have been eagerly anticipating the opening of Palette Tea House (900 North Point Street.; no relation to Palette in SoMa), and it’s now open in the former Waxman’s space. Eater reports there are “127 seats in the main dining room, 19 at the bar, 10 in a private dining room, and an additional 100 on the patio.”
The restaurant is the latest from Koi Palace and Dragon Beaux owner Willy Ng, with general manager Dennis Leung. Look for many Koi Palace classics, along with some of the colorful and innovative dumplings from Dragon Beaux, plus upscale touches like Kurobuta pork, spot prawns, and rice crepes with wagyu and black truffle from chef Stephen Nguyen, with attention paid to colorful and whimsical presentations. Check out the insane lunch menu of your dim sum dreams, while dinner adds some grilled items. There is also a bar menu from 3–5 p.m. with some nice bites (bring on the sizzling Peking dumplings).
Pastry chef Lyn Manangan has desserts like chocolate mochi cake with salted pastry cream. There’s a full bar with a cocktail menu from Carlos Yturria (The Treasury, Whitecap), and John Vuong (High Treason) is behind the wine list. The interior was updated by Sunny Tam of Studio O2 and designer Chris Ho of C&E Designs, and has a modern style that is a counterpoint to the classic brick walls. Monday–Sunday 11 a.m.–9 p.m., Friday–Saturday 11 a.m.–10 p.m.
Yup, it’s more reporting on classic San Francisco establishments closing. The San Francisco I knew just keeps shuttering. The latest casualty is Elite Cafe, which closed after service on April 21, after 38 years on Fillmore Street. Owner Andy Chun (Schroeder’s, Press Club), who took over and renovated the space three years ago, thanked all the friends and neighbors who supported the restaurant. Thanks for all the memories of spicy oyster shooters and Bloody Marys on Sunday mornings while sitting at the oyster bar in the front window.
Now open is Fiorella Polk (2238 Polk Street) from Boris Nemchenok (managing director) and Brandon Gillis (culinary director), with executive chef Eli Franco. Similar to the original Fiorella, Fiorella Polk has a laid-back but well-dialed style, from the Cal-Italian menu centered on pasta and pizza (including a carbonara pizza) from the custom Mugnaini wood-fired oven to the modern interior. Some new dishes include calzones with seasonal fillings like broccolini with provolone, mozzarella di bufala, ricotta, and banana pepper salsa, along with house-made ricotta cavatelli al chicken sugo (so good). And then there’s the Tuesday night burger with buttermilk onion rings! Chef Franco is making pastas in-house from scratch, and doing in-house butchery from whole animals. Stand by for a house-made charcuterie program as well.
Find Italian and California wines selected by wine director Chris Tarbell, and bar consultant Patrick Poelvoorde has crafted a selection of low-ABV cocktails. The dining room seats 35, with a communal table for groups of up to eight, plus there’s a bar area with room for 12 at a marble counter with a view of the kitchen. Bonus: Sidewalk seating with eight seats. Warm springtime weather can’t get here quickly enough. Sunday–Thursday 5–10 p.m., Friday–Saturday 5–11 p.m.; brunch to come.
Looking for a brand-new brunch spot? The recently opened Abrazo (2000 Hyde Street) is launching Sunday brunch throughout the summer from 11 a.m.–3 p.m., and then reopening at 5:30 p.m. for regular dinner service.
EL Lopo (1327 Polk Street) is now open, a Spanish-inspired, food-forward wine bar (through a California lens), with dishes like Galician-style empanadas with romanesco and smoked ham and springtime tacos (to start — things will be ramping up in coming weeks). Sunday–Thursday 4 p.m.–midnight, Friday–Saturday 4 p.m.–2 a.m. (food menu 5–10 p.m.).
Marcia Gagliardi writes a popular insider weekly e-column, Tablehopper, about the San Francisco dining and imbibing scene at tablehopper.com. Follow @tablehopper on Twitter and Instagram.