The Tablehopper

Off-the-Grid returns to Fort Mason; North Beach Little Vine owners to open Union Larder in Russian Hill

Nearly three dozen food trucks are heading to Fort Mason, photo: Lynn Friedman / flickr

Spring weather is here along with longer days, and how perfect — every Friday at Fort Mason from 5–11 p.m. (rain or shine), once again you’ll find more than 30 Off the Grid food vendors including the likes of Azalina’s, Red Sauce Meatballs, the Lobsta Truck, and Johnny Doughnuts. There’s also a heated area set up, as well as music and lots of carnival games. Think an old-school arcade, with Whack-a-Mole, Skee-Ball and shuffleboard. There will also be local wine on tap, Magnolia’s brews, and cocktails from The Alembic. Sounds like a great way to wrap up the week!


Residents are going to be very happy to hear about this new and impending addition to their neighborhood: Melissa Gugni and Jay Esopenko of the popular Little Vine specialty grocery (and sandwich shop) in North Beach are planning to open a new concept, Union Larder (1945 Hyde Street), in Russian Hill. It will be a cheese, wine and charcuterie bar with a full-service cheese counter, plus many of the same grocery items featured at Little Vine. They’ll have around 15 taps with wine, beer, kombucha, and cold-brew coffee. There will also be oysters all day (yes!), some Alpine-style dishes like raclette, fondue and bratwurst, plus their killer sandwiches and a couple of salads. John-Paul Henaff (Ame, RN74, Central Kitchen) will consult on the food — he is known around town as a wine guy, but he has an extensive background/knowledge of gastronomy as well.

Esopenko is extremely passionate about wine, and the space is inspired by a cava bar he adored when he lived in Barcelona — he wanted to create a place all about eating delicious food while drinking good wines. There will also be pour-over coffee from Bicycle Coffee; espresso is TBD because space is limited. There will be around 30 seats, with a bar and some tables. The look will be larder-inspired, and there will be floor-to-ceiling shelving in the back with rolling ladders. The space was originally a parking garage that was later renovated into condos, and they are taking over the 800-square-foot commercial space on the ground floor, which has big windows. Look for an opening around early June. Hours will be Tuesday–Sunday 11 a.m.–11 p.m., and they’ll be open on Mondays soon after opening.


Some chef news: Despite reporting to the contrary in December, it looks like chef Gloria Ciccarone-Nehls will not be returning to Big 4 (1075 California Street, 415-771-1140) upon its reopening later this year. The restaurant is currently looking for a chef to replace Ciccarone-Nehls, while she is looking forward to having some time off to decide her next move. She began at the restaurant in the late 1970s at the age of 21 and had been at the kitchen helm for more than 30 years. We’ll miss you, Gloria, but can’t wait to see what you do next, and we hope it involves a well-earned and long vacation!


An exciting opening downtown is Kin Khao (55 Cyril Magnin Street, 415-362-7456) in the Parc 55. Owner Pim Techamuanvivit (Chez Pim) and chef de cuisine Michael Gaines have opened this casual Thai restaurant, featuring authentic dishes made with many local high-quality ingredients, and almost everything will be handmade, from the sauces to the curries. Pim said the two things the kitchen won’t be making are fish sauce and fermented shrimp paste. Don’t miss the fried duck egg, the Dungeness crab noodles, and the curries. The space has a capacity for 75 diners and a clean look, with handmade wood tables and a bar made of sycamore where you can enjoy cocktails by the Bon Vivants. Dinner 5:30 p.m.–11 p.m. or so, with the bar opening at 5 p.m. for cocktails. Bar bites and cocktails will be served until 2 a.m.


Charles Phan and his team have opened a new concept in the former Heaven’s Dog space, which has been closed since November 2012 (after an unfortunate pipe backup and flood). The new restaurant and bar will have a strong English accent, and is called The Coachman (1148 Mission Street) in honor of the Chinatown restaurant where he was a busser and his father was a janitor in 1978, soon after the family immigrated to the United States.

The menu is focused on British food done well. Phan said he would continue doing what he always likes to do: take classic dishes that have a place, story and history, research them, and prepare them well. There’s a reason some dishes stick around, he said — they’re tasty and people like them — the classics like prime rib, Yorkshire pudding, smoked herring with beets, and lamb sweetbreads with green beans. He doesn’t want to make things up and create something new here, but instead offer his own perspective of these dishes, tweak some to be a bit lighter or heavier, or add a few more vegetables. Phan also mentioned making the dishes family style. Some initial dishes include rutabaga-brown bread soup; creamed spinach; Waldorf salad; beef tartare with fried smelt; blood sausage with braised cabbage, apple, mush; skate wing with brown butter and capers; and prime rib. The chef de cuisine is Ross Wunderlich, who was a sous at Hard Water.

As for the cocktails and beers, naturally bar manager Erik Adkins has a deeply historic take on it all. The cocktails (16 in all) will be focused on punches, cups, cobblers, and some farmhouse/rural drinks, spanning both Georgian and Victorian eras. There are also two beers on offer, both cask-conditioned ales that will be hand-pumped. The space was updated a bit, and now has around 100 seats in all. The Coachman is open nightly for dinner.

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Marcia Gagliardi is the founder of the weekly Tablehopper e-column; subscribe and get more food news and gossip at table Follow her on Twitter: @tablehopper. E-mail: [email protected]