A big wave of news recently is that Starbucks is closing all 23 of its La Boulange bakery cafes by September, having determined “the stores are not sustainable for the company’s long-term growth.” Pascal Rigo, creator of La Boulange, sold the company to Starbucks in 2012 for $100 million, and was partnering with Starbucks to elevate its food offerings with items under the La Boulange brand in all its U.S. and Canada locations.
Rigo has now left the company as well, and Starbucks’ press release states that he plans to “continue his passion for food in San Francisco,” and focus on “nonprofit ventures in an effort to supply quality food to schools with underprivileged children and bring innovative after-school clinics to help children with learning disabilities.” Go Pascal. According to the Chronicle, Rigo has plans for a few of the La Boulange locations.
Say what you want about the brightly colored spots practically in every San Francisco neighborhood, they did provide a comfortable space to grab a sandwich, enjoy a cafe au lait, have a meeting, and hang out. (There’s a petition to save them at change.org.) When the first Boulange opened on Pine Street, it provided a taste of France that many of us were looking for (which sadly got watered down with each location that opened). We all look forward to see what Rigo does next and are wondering what is going to happen to all those locations. Stand by.
The former home of Café Claude Marina, which closed back in March, has a new owner. Michael Mina has bought the space, and while the concept for the location hasn’t been decided, it sounds like it may be more neighborhood-minded and modest than some of Mina’s flashier projects around town. However, what he plans to do with the space in the meantime is almost more interesting: It will function as a pop-up/incubator for some of the Mina Group’s most promising young chefs. The first pop-up will come later this summer from RN74 chef Adam Sobel and Mina himself, who will be collaborating on a Middle Eastern-inspired dinner, which seems fitting given Mina was born in Egypt, and Sobel is half Israeli (2120 Greenwich Street).
Some exciting new tenants are coming to Ghirardelli Square: a project from chef Jonathan Waxman (Barbuto in New York City) and a second location of Le Marais Bistro & Bakery. Waxman’s project is a homecoming of sorts — he was born in Berkeley and, like a good Berkeley-born chef, has culinary roots at Chez Panisse. He will be opening a sit-down brasserie and a fast-casual cafe (currently unnamed) in the Mustard Building, which dates back to 1899, serving his seasonal and Italian-inflected cuisine (let’s not forget where Domingo Ghirardelli came from). The Chronicle mentions the opening is slated for the fall.
Meanwhile, Ghirardelli Square’s Apart-ment House will be the home of Le Marais Bistro & Bakery, which will have 116 seats in this two-level location. Husband and wife Patrick and Joanna Ascaso will be serving their artisan-made breads and exquisite array of viennoiserie (croissants, pains au chocolat, carrés, and Danishes), as well as pâtisserie selections (tarts, macarons, choux, and entremets). There will also be a bistro component, with dishes inspired by the French coastal regions, and cocktails. The historic location, which dates from 1916, has a fantastic view of the water and Alcatraz, which you’ll be able to enjoy from the outdoor terrace. The look will include leather banquettes, classic bistro mirrors, cream-painted cabinetry, and penny tile floors. Look for early 2016 on this one, and we’ll keep you updated (900 North Point Street).
Just in time for summer, Smitten Ice Cream opened their second San Francisco location in Pacific Heights. This new space has six of their special Brrr Machines for freezing ice cream with liquid nitrogen and will feature an outdoor garden with string lights, benches made of Radio Flyer wagons, and a living wall (2404 California Street,
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Some very exciting news: Chefs and co-owners Margie Conard and Dana Tommasino of the (sadly closed) Woodward’s Garden have found a new nest to land in. If all goes as planned with escrow and the ABC license transfer, they are taking over the Roostertail space and will be opening Gardenias in its place. (So the garden theme will continues.)
The ladies are beyond thrilled with how it worked out — it’s a sweet space that was renovated just about four years ago, with a spacious kitchen and back patio. The size is just right. (A personal shout-out to Steven “Stu” Gerry of Zephyr for helping them secure the space.) And if the timing goddesses are with them, Gardenias should be opening in early July (1963 Sutter Street).
Last month we told you that the wonder pastry duo Belinda Leong and Michel Suas of B. Patisserie took over the former Blue Fog Market space on California Street, where they have opened B. on the Go.
They have a mustard-yellow rotisserie (it matches the color at B. Patisserie) and are making sandwiches with a variety of meats. There’s an outstanding porchetta (they chop up the meat and glorious crispy skin, saturate it with salsa verde, and nestle it all into their ciabatta). The Grec sandwich with rotisserie Mary’s chicken and herbaceous yogurt is homage to a shawarma-like sandwich (it comes on a soft roll) that Leong remembers from her days living in Paris. There is also a Cubano, and their grilled cheese is very unusual: It’s made on a thinly sliced round of custom-made bread, about the size of a tortilla, which is folded over and filled with a variety of cheeses (smoked Gouda, Gruyère, and Swiss) and mushroom duxelles like a quesadilla. Decadent and delicious. Sandwiches range from $11–$13. There are also plans to sell the porchetta and chicken by the pound, and a vegetarian option will be added to the rotisserie, too.
Additional items include some salads and three kinds of classic desserts, like a pudding, panna cotta, and crème brûlée, plus a seasonal bread pudding and a galette, all designed for takeaway. Cookies range from lemon sable to ginger molasses to chocolate peanut butter. You’ll also find some vinegar drinks, like mango mint and raspberry vinegar. (Nothing will be a duplicate from what you currently find at B. Patisserie — each place has a different offering.)
There is a counter where you place your order, and there’s a large walnut communal table (which Suas made — in addition to the other reclaimed walnut features in the space, including the counter), where you can eat your goodies, although it’s mostly designed to be a takeaway spot. There are colorful Spanish tile floors and the beautiful glass tiles the color of wine in the kitchen, with lots of light. Have fun looking for the cute hand-painted pigs in the space (2794 California Street, Tuesday–Sunday 11 a.m.–4 pm.).
At this point, you may have figured out that we’re pretty sandwich obsessed. So it’s with great pleasure to announce that there’s a brand-new spot for you to get quality sandwiches: Belcampo Meat Co. is now serving lunch Monday through Friday. You’ll find an array of sandwiches featuring Belcampo’s quality and organic meats from animals raised humanely on their farm in Shasta.
Their newish chef, Dirk Tolsma, who came on earlier this year, has put together (in conjunction with the Belcampo team) quite a sandwich menu that includes a tartare tartine ($12), in which their fantastic steak tartare — mixed with creamy and bright yellow-orange egg yolk and pickled ramps — is piled on toasted whole wheat from Della Fattoria. You’ll also see their fantastic cheeseburger ($12), which is a rather perfect burger, with caramelized onions and butter lettuce; I so dig this burger.
Pork lovers will want to veer toward the roast pork Cubano ($11), a rare thing to find done well in this town. It has thin and juicy slices of mustard-roasted pork loin, ham, melted Swiss cheese, and their house pickles, all tucked into crispy ciabatta. It’s a beaut. But then there’s the wicked Bacon & Bacon ($14), with pulled bacon (yeah, think about that for a second), slices of crisp bacon inside a sesame bun, Tabasco aioli, and tangy cabbage slaw. (Don’t tell your cardiologist.)
High on the creativity scale is the mean Eggs & Ham ($12), a deep-fried egg (again, get ready for the bright orange and creamy yolk) inside a sesame bun with their deviled ham (it gets mixed with sriracha aioli and scallion), slices of avocado, basil, and cilantro — it’s kind of like a banh mi that ate a Scotch egg and went to California.
If you’re a sloppy Joe fan, prepare thyself for the next level: the Sloppy Mutton ($12) — or, as I discovered, the “slutton,” as the team calls it (I am still laughing). And the moniker is well deserved: a deeply flavorful filling of braised mutton shoulder and belly is tucked inside a soft sesame bun that soaks it up just so. And here’s the kicker: there’s a layer of roasted garlic mascarpone in there — genius! That sandwich is not one you want to miss. And here’s a little Tablehopper insider deal: If you order the slutton (you have to call it that!), you’ll get a free side of their beef tallow fries ($3 value). And trust, you want those fries. It’s slutton time!
One last tip: If you are hung over, or fighting a cold, or just need a little comfort, a cup of their bone broth egg drop soup ($6) is what you want. And be sure to pick up a dozen of their amazing free-range eggs and a little something from the meat counter on your way out — they have a bunch of new products, like sausages stuffed with jalapeño cheese, oh yeah (1998 Polk Street, belcamposf.com, 415-660-5573; lunch Monday–Friday until 3 p.m.).
We received word that Joseph Manzare’s Globe, which he opened with wife and partner, Mary Klingbeil, in 1997 and was such a late-night hangout and industry spot for years, has sadly closed its doors. They reportedly lost their lease and the restaurant had its last night on Saturday, May 30. Thanks for the memories (290 Pacific Avenue).