Here are the latest restaurant happenings in the Northside:
Now open in Jackson Square is Verjus (528 Washington Street) from Michael and Lindsay Tusk of Quince and Cotogna, and new managing partner Matt Cirne. It’s a French-inspired cave à manger (which means “eat in a cellar”), and includes a wine bar, wine shop, and conserva bar, with a retail shop offering vintage housewares and kitchen items.
It’s the most casual of their ventures to date: no reservations, and you even order at a counter; similar to a pintxos bar of San Sebastián, or a cicchetteria in Venice, where you can drop in for a bite and glass or two, and grab a bottle to bring home. The wine selection will highlight small-scale, independent, organic wines, natural wines, and wines with a strong sense of terroir, Champagne, wines from overlooked terroirs, and more.
The all-day (and daily changing) menu from chef Michael Tusk and chef de cuisine David Meyer (The French Laundry, The Progress, and In Situ) will lean on French charcuterie such as pâtés en croûte, rillettes, and terrines, along with boudin blanc or noir, duck confit, Dungeness crab tartine, and a daily omelette with seasonal produce from Fresh Run Farm in Bolinas. The selection of tinned fish and shellfish in the conserva bar will be available to eat with bread, lemon, olive oil, salsa verde, and pimentón.
The historic space dates to the 1850s, when it was the Eclipse Champagne Building, and Verjus occupies two formerly separate and now connected spaces at 528 and 550 Washington Street, flanking Hotaling Place Alley. The stylish design is inspired by France in the 1950s–60s, with midcentury modern Luigi Caccia Dominioni and Gino Sarfatti light fixtures, and Pierre Chapo vintage tables and chairs, all under a lacquered burgundy ceiling. The music is a soundtrack of yé-yé pop, jazz, and more.
Monday–Thursday 4:30–10 p.m., Friday–Saturday 4:30 p.m.–midnight (bar à vin); Monday–Thursday 11:30 a.m.–7:30 p.m., Friday–Saturday 11 a.m.–7:30 p.m. (la cave); lunch coming soon.
Last year, I broke the news that Zarzuela was closing after 24 years, and that Abrazo (2000 Hyde Street, 415-872-9239) was opening in its place. Chef-owner Michael Pawlik (Frascati) and his girlfriend and co-owner Amanda Banks Barker (Mamanoko) opened it over the holidays. The updated menu has primarily Spanish dishes (you’ll still find octopus, but there’s also a scallop tartare), and you’ll enjoy a refreshed restaurant inside. Monday–Saturday 5:30–10 p.m., Sunday 5:30–9 p.m.
Coming to Polk Street in the former location of recently closed The Pour House is El Lopo (1327 Polk Street), a Spanish-inspired, food-forward wine bar (through a California lens). Owner Daniel Azarkman’s concept is inspired by imagining if California remained a Spanish colony — what would our food look like? So the wines will be focused on Spanish varieties grown in California, along with some Spanish vermouth (on tap), sherries, and wines, plus beers.
The snacks will have some Spanish ingredients and inspiration — past dishes from his summer pop-ups included a Galician-inspired empanada of pork picadillo, yellow peaches, and sweet peppers, topped with romesco; fig and ham toast with mission figs, jamón serrano, and queso fresco on Jane fig and walnut bread; and roasted Mary’s chicken wings in a sauce of almond butter, saffron, and oloroso sherry. Azarkman is working with the Butcher’s Local Union 510 on making custom Spanish charcuterie, starting with a hard chorizo. There will also be canned seafood (like mussels and sardines) that will be served lightly embellished (think soft-boiled egg, greens, and bread).
Azarkman was most recently working with Off the Grid for six years, helping entrepreneurs launch their own food businesses the past three years, and was inspired to give it a go himself — he was also an intern for Tablehopper some years ago, so it’s fun to see this happening.
An opening is planned around Feb. 1 as a bar with a limited menu (room temperature items like canned seafood, salads, and charcuterie), and once some permits come through, the full food menu will start. The rustic space will have 48 seats, with a long bar. 4 p.m.–midnight (limited menu), 5–11 p.m. (full menu, coming soon).
A switcheroo: Seven Hills will be moving from its cozy digs with a tiny kitchen into the Stones Throw space (1896 Hyde Street) after the seismic retrofit is finished this year. Look for an expanded menu and more.