There’s a new taker for the former Café des Amis space (2000 Union Street): restaurateur Adriano Paganini (Beretta, Lolinda, Delarosa, Starbelly, El Techo, Uno Dos Tacos, and Super Duper Burgers). While there aren’t any details to release about the concept just yet, expect a gathering spot that will be more casual, and there’s talk of a spring/early summer opening.
Over in the Marina, The Republic (3213 Scott Street) sports bar has closed, and moving into the space is former Fog City chef Erik Lowe and pastry chef Aaron Toensing. They plan to open an American restaurant in the space, with a full bar; details are forthcoming. Meanwhile, Javier Montano (Grand Café) has taken over for Lowe at Fog City.
Just down the street, wine bar Bin 38 (3232 Scott Street, 415-567-3838) has been sold to Brian Cassanego (Noir Lounge, Hayes Valley) — look for a closure in April, and Cassanego to open something similar in its place a few weeks later (the trinity of wine, craft beer, and food will remain).
Pisto’s Tacos in North Beach plans to relocate in the former Mas Sake space (2030 Lombard Street) in three to six months; in the meantime, fans can still get their tacos and more at Don Pisto’s (510 Union Street).
The Transit Cafe (215 Lincoln Boulevard) has closed its doors, and the new taker for the space is none other than Traci Des Jardins, who’s in the middle of a bit of a Presidio takeover, with her recent openings, Arguello and The Commissary. Look for coffee, pastries, and other quick takeout options once the new spot opens. There’s no name yet, but in the interim, a food truck called “The Transition” is parked out back Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Exciting news: Florio (1915 Fillmore Street, 415-775-4300) has a new chef, the talented Colin Dewey. He most recently worked at Zero Zero with Bruce Hill, and returned this winter from a cooking sabbatical in Italy. Prior to Zero Zero, he worked with Lidia Bastianich and Mario Batali. His new, Italian-focused menu at Florio launched in February, with house-made pastas and his own take on bollito misto. Florio classics like steak frites and roast chicken will remain, though the general focus of the menu will turn toward Italy, not France. Dewey plans to use local and seasonal ingredients, and everything will be made in-house, including sausages, preserves, and gelato.
And in case you were wondering about Nicholas Pallone, the previous chef at Florio, Eater just reported that he is opening his own spot on Fillmore, just a few blocks down from Florio in the Pizza Inferno space. His new place will be called Academy Bar & Kitchen (1800 Fillmore Street, 415-775-1800) and will focus on Neapolitan-style pizzas cooked in the wood-fired oven. He’ll be doing everything in-house (anyone sensing a theme here?), including curing his own charcuterie, brewing vinegar, and milling flour. Inferno is currently slated to close March 1, and Academy plans to open in mid-April.
The Pub At Ghirardelli Square (851 Beach Street, 415-351-0500) has really lightened things up, moving away from the Irish pub feeling and more toward the rustic/industrial side, thanks to Oakland’s SRG Architects and seating upgrades by Big Daddy’s Antiques. Owner Scott Broccoli also added some new menu items and cocktails.
Acai bowls are now available on Polk Street at Basik Cafe (1958 Polk Street Jackson/pacific). This is the first mainland location of the Hawaiian cafe, specializing in smoothies and bowls of fruit and granola made with the Brazilian berry. Hours are Tuesday–Sunday 8 a.m.–4 p.m.
Mayes (1233 Polk Street, 415-885-1233) started the year with a new look, and a new management team: Matt Corvi (Velvet Lounge), Johnny “Love” Metheny (Johnny Love’s), and Nick Pigott (The Pigott Group). The look is a bit clubby-meets-Gothic cathedral in the back, with some dramatic lighting for the dance area. Swing by every Thursday and Friday for happy hour, and Johnny “Love” Metheny will be taking over the bar making cocktails and serving his very own Kobe beef burger. Happy hour drink specials include $5 draft beers and $6 well drinks.
Until Pisto’s Tacos reopens in the Marina (2030 Lombard Street) starting March 2, fans of their burritos, tacos, and quesadillas will be able to find them at Don Pisto’s (510 Union Street) Monday–Friday 11 a.m.–3 p.m.
Owner Pete Mrabe also plans to move the Chubby Noodle pop-up that’s currently inside Amante (570 Green Street) into the Pisto’s Tacos (1310 Grant Avenue) space, and will be tweaking the menu a bit. A few Chubby Noodle staples will remain, like the ramen, plus grilled skewers, soups (like seafood udon), and a raw bar. And beer. That should all be up and running in three months or so. As for Amante, it will have a limited menu for now and Mrabe is going to be launching a new food concept in the space; stand by for more on that.
LOWER NOB HILL
One of the most exciting and anticipated openings has happened: Liholiho Yacht Club (871 Sutter Street, 415-440-5446). The first thing you will notice is the word “Aloha” in blue tile embedded in the penny tile entrance. It definitely sets the tone for this place, one that has such heart and family at its core. Chef-partner Ravi Kapur has opened this exceedingly personal restaurant, partnering with longtime friends Allyson Jossel and Jeff Hanak (Nopa and Nopalito), who are both San Francisco natives. They are all seasoned pros, deeply entrenched in our restaurant scene and local community.
It’s an airy, welcoming, and cheerful restaurant, such a long way from the empty room I first saw last July. The space dates to 1916, and was a market from the 1930s until its brand-new incarnation as a restaurant. There are three dining areas, with 80 seats in all. The front room has high ceilings with two skylights over the bar made of cold-rolled blackened steel (by Ferrous), with 10 seats, and 4 at the lower ADA counter. The floor is laid with blue three-tone Moroccan cement honeycomb hex tile, and the spacious two-top booths of raw sugar pine could actually fit four good friends willing to cozy up together, which is kind of the point here. The front bar area is no reservations, so there’s room for people to mingle, drink, and eat, including a standing ledge. (It’s worth noting a lot of soundproofing and acoustic treatments were installed throughout the space to manage the potential din.)
As you look at the communal table with the modern cord-and-metal chandelier, the dove gray plaster walls, the three-legged steel stools with contoured wood seats (by Brendan Ravenhill), you realize how bright and fresh and clean it all feels. Nothing is reclaimed, except for the exposed brick walls, otherwise it’s all new, and looks crisp and neat. Architect Brett Terpeluk has done a great job.
In the center of the space is the bright and open kitchen, outfitted in mustard yellow tile by Fireclay, creating a warm and friendly glow. Just across the kitchen along the wall are larger booths (that seat four to six), also in pine, eventually extending into two-tops toward the back, with vintage school chairs, oak floors, and more pine tables with banquette seating along the left. Below, there will eventually be a private dining room and private bar, with room for 18–24.
His longtime right-hand woman, chef de cuisine Nana Guardia, who has been working with him for almost nine years, joins Ravi in the kitchen; Penelope Lau (Craftsman + Wolves, Jane) is the pastry chef.
Anyone who attended the Liholiho Yacht Club pop-ups over the past couple of years will have a sense of Kapur’s freestyle cuisine that defies definition (I explored this in a piece for 7×7), one that is rooted in his Hawaiian heritage, which also integrates migratory elements from India and China (his grandmother, a great cook, was Chinese). And then there’s his love of Northern California produce and ingredients, which was explored deeply in his eight years at Boulevard and then Prospect.
The menu includes delicious shared bites like beef tongue in poppy seed buns; tuna poke on a crisp nori cracker; and larger appetizers like marinated squid with crispy tripe, cabbage, peanuts, fried shallots, and mint; and a beautiful salad of radicchio, smoked paprika-honey roasted carrots, toasted quinoa, pistachios, and herbs. Larger mains like Manila clams in coconut curry and fried game hen with a tamari glaze, cashews, and flowering kale are stupendous.
While Kevin Diedrich was originally slated to be the bar manager, he left the project earlier this year. Overseeing the bar is Nopa and Nopalito’s Yanni Kehagiaras, who has created 8–10 original cocktails, but they are not heavily garnished tiki drinks. The bar will have a well-curated selection of spirits, with some special Japanese whiskies.
Also from the Nopa family, Lulu McAllister is overseeing the wine selection, dividing the menu into “Old Friends” and “New Friends.” There are 10–12 wines by the glass, with 75–80 bottle selections. There is a strong focus on sake (all available by the glass), with a selection of beer (eight on tap) and by the bottle. Dinner Monday–Saturday until 10 p.m.–11 p.m. or so.