the rumpus

April 4, 2012

April 4, 2012

Husband-wife team, Tim and Erin Archuleta of ICHI Sushi, a tiny sushi bar in San Francisco, review a film about sushi legend Jiro Ono.

After watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi, I told my husband that it felt like I had seen a two-hour cinematic love letter. Tranquil footage of the familiarity of tiny plastic kitchen timers for rice; toasting nori (seaweed); scaling fish; butchering whole hirame (fluke); the familiar sounds of hands slapping and two fingers repeatedly pressing nigiri into place — it was a visual pattern that reinforced our daily routine.

Eighty-five year-old Jiro Ono has spent 75 years of his life dedicated to the art and spirit of attaining the status of being a shokunin. Shokunin is kind of a hard concept to explain; it’s like being a craftsman, but not to be confused with someone dabbling in a craft. It’s the aspiration of repeated perfection and completing one’s work with an overall purpose of serving the higher good and the people. Being called a shokunin is a compliment and status of the highest order when bestowed by Jiro to his sushi apprentices.

And, as in most kitchen cultures, there’s a language, an unspoken pact agreed upon by all participants: 1. Chef is in charge. 2. When Chef gives direction or a critique, respond only ‘Yes’ and do it exactly as s/he says. 3. Strive to improve constantly. 4. Do it the same (correct) way every time. The film reflects this familiar aesthetic for any chef, line cook, or those of us who have worked at restaurants and paid any attention to what goes on behind the burners.

But, in the case of Jiro, what the viewer is granted access to is how one man, starting a culinary path at age nine, becomes recognized as the best sushi chef in the world, working from his ten-seat Sukiyabashi Jiro restaurant at the base of the Ginza District of Chou, Tokyo Subway station.

Precision, repetition, and striving for continual improvement are Jiro’s ethics; he takes only one day off per year, a Japanese national holiday, and even then, is impatient to return behind his sushi bar. Reservations for the restaurant are made a minimum of one month in advance. Although, after this movie, Jiro and his eldest son and restaurant heir, Yoshikazu, will probably be unable to handle the massive interest for those ten well-attended-to seats.

The film, a debut full-length documentary by Director David Gelb, parallels the story between Jiro’s own family, with both of his sons as sushi chefs, and the regimented structure of his restaurant. Viewers are part of the routine, watching kitchen prep, wrapt in the repetition of the routine. It’s all framed by an entrancing soundtrack of Philip Glass, Kronos Quartet, and Max Richter.

When his long-time friend, respected food writer and sushi critic Masuhiro Yamamoto, is asked if there are any differences in Jiro’s discipline or approach to preparation of sushi over the last forty years, he responds only that Jiro has “stopped smoking” after his heart attack. The line makes the audience laugh, and then pause. As a viewer, you fall in love with Jiro, who is so hard on himself, his sons, his apprentices. It occurs to you that Jiro is in fact human and fragile; he is one of the last of his kind. Jiro describes what modern people want from work. They want to have time to spend with their families; they don’t want to work too hard. This is not the life for Jiro. He has instilled his work ethic in his sons.

His youngest son, Takashi, has his own sushi bar in the family name: the Roppongi Hills location Sukiyabashi Jiro. Jiro and his sons openly address the challenge that so many Chefs de Cuisine and Executive Chefs face when working under a more prominent, beloved name. Jiro’s diners are loyal, and no matter how hard either Takashi or Yoshikazu work, the notion that the sushi is never as great as when Jiro is behind the bar will often cloud a diner’s judgment. Think about it, even your vacationing Aunt hopes to catch a glimpse of Emeril when she’s at his landmark French Quarter location.

A series of interviews explain the legend of Jiro’s restaurant. All of these interviews are strong connections or relationships. One of the most telling sections of the film highlights the relationships that Jiro and Yoshikazu have with their vendors. Father and son note, “The tuna vendor is a tuna expert. Our shrimp vendor is a shrimp expert.” Their devoted rice vendor brags that other restaurants with lots of money want to buy his rice, but he won’t sell it to them. Only Jiro deserves to prepare his rice. Everyone expresses that it’s not about the money. A counterintuitive notion for many of us, but these tuna vendors and shrimp vendors are carrying on family legacies and the weight of presenting only the very best every time.

Even in such a minimalist cuisine, there’s waste. In one scene, a sweeping view of the Tsukiji Fish Market’s back parking lot after a tuna auction, styrofoam fish boxes are piled as high the roof. One of the ocean’s biggest enemies is being bulldozed and lifted into the trash. Jiro addresses the shrinking ocean’s populations and when he began to notice good seafood becoming scarce, Anago (sea eel) was one of the first to go. He argues that sushi should be regulated and that fishermen should only seek the large tuna. They shouldn’t catch the smaller fish. He says business should balance profit with preserving natural resources.

The problem is caused by the ever-growing demand for sushi. As it has grown in popularity, over-fishing and devastating fishing practices are creating scarcity and extinction. In watching this film, one might also argue that if all sushi chefs practiced with the rigor and discipline of Jiro, his sons, and his apprentices, there would be a higher barrier to entry to being a true sushi chef or shokunin.

As soon as the film credits ended, we immediately Googled when it would be opening in San Francisco, so that we could buy a block of tickets and take our entire staff to see it. Jiro Dreams of Sushi validates the principles and rigorous standards we set for our own chefs and kitchen team at ICHI, pushing ourselves to serve sustainable sushi and be true to the craft of fish butchery, the use of an entire fish, and the practice of omakase (serving the chef’s choice of nigiri and sashimi with only the most skilled cuts). This film instills the age-old, teacher-to-student passed on practices that a true sushi shokunin must follow: to execute each task perfectly every time, and simultaneously, elevate that simplicity to a new, higher standard. This is a maxim that we live by, and would dream one day of just being able to stand in Jiro’s kitchen, washing dishes, watching a master and his team work.


Erin is the co-owner of ICHI. In addition to her role there, Erin works as the Director of Field Operations and Strategy at the youth literacy nonprofit 826 National and is a class member of the Leadership San Francisco 2012 Trusteeship for the City of San Francisco. Recently, Erin represented ICHI in a business owners' roundtable discussion with House Leader Nancy Pelosi focused on the American Jobs Act, and was nominated for the 2010 and 2011 Women's Initiative for Self Employment (W.I.S.E.) Entrepreneur of the Year award. Tim has spent the past 16 years honing his skills behind the sushi bars of some of the most bustling, popular sushi and Asian-fusion restaurants in Northern California, including Tokyo Go Go in San Francisco and Sushi on the River in Sacramento. Tim has worked as a sous chef, kitchen manager, and restaurant manager before stepping out on his own in 2006 to form ICHI Catering, where he presides as Executive Chef and Co-owner. In September 2010, Tim and Erin opened the doors to their first restaurant, ICHI Sushi.

tablehopper: the hardhat

This section is written by Erin Archuleta, half of the talent behind local outfit ICHI Sushi and ICHI Catering. Outside of the food world, Erin works full-time championing kid literacy at 826 National. Keep up with her @erinarchuleta.

The upcoming ~TACOLICIOUS~ in the Mission at 741 Valencia (between 18th and 19th Streets next to old-school local appliance mainstay Cherin’s in one of the old New College Buildings) is actually two projects: the Tacolicious concept of a smorgasbord of tacos and Mexican food, and Mosto, a cozy tequila bar with affordable snacks. You may be familiar with (or already a fan of) Tacolicious from their Thursday Ferry Plaza Farmers Market stand, or their Marina restaurant that opened in 2010.

Owner Joe Hargrave’s original dream for the next Tacolicious project was for a 2,000-sq.-ft. space, without the Mission even as a blip on the radar. What he found was a 4,500-sq.-ft. stunner on Valencia Street. When he and the guys—his crew, chef Antelmo (Telmo) Faria, and general manager Mike (Mikey) Barrow—walked through the space, they knew they had found their winner. First thoughts were to build out two spaces, one for Tacolicious with a keen patio space, and the other they’d sublease. Then, after a trip to Guadalajara with Mikey, the idea of a tequila bar came up.

The guys knew they had a killer layout: a gorgeous side entrance flanked with mid-century brick screens (think Palm Springs entryways and Vegas patio living), floor-to-ceiling windows, warm wood floors, an open kitchen layout to the back on the right-hand Tacolicious side, a drop-down ceiling on the Mosto side, an old-school (for those of you readers under 30) working phone booth bank, and an intimate back room.

Quite frankly, I’m pretty excited at the prospect of a place to show off to my tequila-drinking family the next time they’re in town. In the firm tradition of folks who celebrate à la shots of Cazadores at midnight on Christmas Eve in my grandma’s house, not one person in my family would shy away from trying a number of the 300+ tequilas the guys plan to serve. And, in a move that would shock even my Grandma Guadalupe (who’s seen it all), these guys plan to have some tequila on tap!

Poised just behind the bar, there will be an al pastor spit, the meat being shaved for daily al pastor taco specials. There will also be a raw fish special each day. And, Joe’s good buddy Saúl’s mom in El Salvador, Mrs. Reyes, is training Telmo and the gang in making traditional banana leaf tamales. That’s right, Joe sent Telmo all the way to El Salvador to get the recipe down perfectly. At Mosto, they’ll be featuring five small plates and five regular drinks you can count on to wind down (or up) after work with.

On the Tacolicious side, you’ll be able to peek through those dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows at an expansive Paul Madonna mural showcasing a vantage point from the top of Dolores Park. The seating will be made up of comfy banquettes and two- and four-top tables. And the floor will be covered in authentic, brightly colored Mexican cement tiles. The patio boasts outdoor seating under a retractable roof. Nights like the foggy one this author’s hard at work on, I’d truly appreciate a retractable roof over my backyard even for just taking the dog out.

Tacolicious may have even solved one of the greatest modern problems—the first date who thinks it’s okay to chat on his or her cell phone at dinner. The crew has built in a space for a 1950s and 1970s phone booth bank between the front space and the back dining room so that you can banish that bad first date or take that ever-important international business call in a designated phone area. (That’s right, insert E.T. jokes here.)

Just past the phone booths, you’ll find the back dining room. Even while it’s smaller and not connected to an outdoor space, it has four large skylights, giving you a more radiant glow. In the center of the room, there will be a big 7x7-ft. table covered with succulents.

Lighting throughout the space will mostly be open and natural, but in the bar, there will be a fun and funky home-spun art installation: thousands of Mason jars will be covering the ceiling, and everyone working on the project from the carpenters, to the drywallers, to the builders, will contribute something special to them—be it army men, marbles, or photographs. They got the idea from their bar garnish stations at the existing Marina location. And, at the heart of all this is a family project. Joe and his editor-wife, Sara Deseran, are designing the space themselves.

Their near and dear personal project is a blend of traditional Mexican cooking by Telmo and Joe’s modern Mexican cuisine. And, from this gal who’s worked in the Mission for close to 10 years now, I’m glad to have a neighbor with an al pastor spit at the ready and tequila my grandma’s never heard of.

tablehopper: the hardhat

This section is written by Erin Archuleta, half of the talent behind local outfit ICHI Catering and ICHI Sushi. Outside of the food world, Erin works full-time championing kid literacy at 826 National. Keep up with her @erinarchuleta.

~SOUTHERN PACIFIC BREWING~ is set in what could have been described as the “brewing district” of San Francisco at the turn of the century. They’re located on the site of a massive machine shop tucked away behind John O’Connell High School (which was built atop of an old brewery site itself.) Bottle caps from the long-defunct Enterprise Brewing Company and Broadway Brewery nearby can still be found when digging up Folsom Street. In naming their brewery for the former train tracks running through the Mission, friends Anthony LaVia and Chris Lawrence want to evoke the history of the place. In fact, while the guys were digging, they found an old railroad sign three and a half feet down. And, another fortuitous sign: they found the footing for old brew tanks! Southern Pacific Brewing Company (on the site of the old Broadway Brewery) wanted to keep that industrial feel that made the Mission District what it was so many years ago. And they get it right; they’re keeping all the production here in SF.

You could almost miss the brewery—it’s tucked away at 620 Treat Street (near Folsom and 19th Streets). Crazily enough, Anthony was a neighbor, and hadn’t realized that the massive, close to 10,000-sq. ft. machine shop warehouse was there. When they found it, it didn’t take long for them to decide this was the right fit. They only checked out a couple of other sites before realizing the opportunity that this mixed-license warehouse space offers them—the ability to be a restaurant, bar, and full production brewery with distribution.

In contrast to that quick decision, their elaborate build-out is a labor of love and a saga of permitting with the city two and a half years in the works. Boor Bridges is the architecture firm behind the transformation. (You might recognize the work of architects Bonnie and Seth at the new Four Barrel parklet on Valencia Street.) A major must for the Boor Bridges duo was bringing the light in with generous skylights and a stunning, custom-built glass front wall framed in galvanized steel for the gigantic, metal-wrapped, formerly dark edifice. The concept is centered on creating an indoor/outdoor feel no matter where you’re dining. There’s patio seating in the front, a lengthy bar along the right wall as you enter, and a dining room both downstairs and upstairs under the high ceilings. To the left is the giant roll-up door from which all that great beer will roll out into SF. Behind the downstairs bar area and bar-height dining area, the kitchen is housed under the mezzanine bar above. The mezzanine level has a stunning view through the glass front wall and will be available for private parties. (Think: best bachelor party ever.) And in the back is where all the brewing will take place.

All throughout the space, one of San Francisco’s horticultural darlings, Flora Grubb, will be doing up the landscape. On the patio and creating a little bit of green in betwixt all that elegant steel and glass will be a full spectrum of Flora’s work. In the middle of the dining room, two trees will grow up. Other elements warming the space include large reclaimed lumber from a 100-year-old redwood barn from Mendocino for the back bar and the face of the bar, as well as reclaimed wood pieces that were actually the joists from Anthony’s old house in Noe Valley, also about 100 years old, as accents in the bar and dining room.

And, in a favorite move for all those ladies who hate to wait in line: there’s a communal sink between the bathrooms. No waiting with legs crossed while someone ahead of you takes fooooorever to reapply her lips. Thank you very much, once I’m my third beer in. And, that’s pretty much a guarantee, as Anthony and Chris plan to produce all types of beer with some initial styles including IPAs, pale ales, and lagers.

When I met up with the guys, they were in the process of framing out the walls and getting up the sheet rock. HVAC was being installed, and the last bits of the machine shop were being removed.

In a stunning kitchen touring moment, this author found herself standing in the largest walk-in structure she’s ever seen (and I’ve been in some pretty huge warehouse kitchens…). The walk-in was 17-ft. wide x 31-ft. long x and 18-ft. tall. That’s a lot of precious beer to keep chilled for the Bay Area folks who will be drinking ‘em.

The kitchen will be full-service and will feature a pizza oven. The guys are still seeking a chef, and anyone interested can reach them by email. There’s a 15-ft. hood, and a pretty standard kitchen with a couple of fryers, grill burners, and whatever else the chef decides on. Plus, in your most favorite of Scooby Doo dreams, the kitchen staff will regularly use a dumbwaiter to run food up to the mezzanine level.

The guys have a long history in the beer business, Chris at Speakeasy as a sales manager and at Matagrano as a wholesaler. Anthony owned Cafe La Onda before turning it into Gestalt Haus, then sold that and bought the Arrow Bar at 6th Street, turning it into Matador and then selling it, as well. It’s clear that these guys know their way around a perfect pint. They are planning not only to brew and sell their own beer in-house, but to distribute it themselves, too. They say they’ll start locally in the Mission and then expand organically. Being able to keep the beer moving keeps it fresh.

The tanks, three fermentors and seven brights, are repurposed from the old Potrero Brewing Company. They’re beautiful showpieces (in fact, they’re the sister system to 21st Amendment), which are going to work hard to produce up to 2,000 barrels back behind the restaurant. The dry storage area in the back will allow for barrel aging in the cool, insulated section of the building.

The building being zoned as mixed-use made the build-out a bit easier for the guys, who have been managing the massive construction project themselves. Obtaining a Small Beer Manufacturer license made their vision possible. Other spaces they looked at that had Wholesale or On-Sale Beer and Wine Eating Place licenses were close, but not quite the right fit. The mixed-use license was perfect because it allows for in-house production, beer and wine sales, and distribution. With the other license types, the guys would have had to develop their brand in-house and then open another brewery. Chris and Anthony will also have a full liquor license for the bar for those of you who just need that shot of Jamie or Jack or Jim to go with your brew.

One positive aspect of a long build-out was the ability to source just the right equipment. They were able to watch for the best barrels from all over. This allowed them to save money and do some good for the planet by scouting great reclaimed materials and giving themselves the opportunity to be choosy.

The guys are excited to be adding their brewery, restaurant, and bar to a neighborhood full of other large and lively projects, like Southern Exposure’s arts space and the upcoming bowling alley project. Missionites are cheering the arrival of another tasty and outdoor option in the ‘hood, and are prepping their budding beer guts for the opening slated for late summer/early fall.

tablehopper: the hardhat

This section is written by Erin Archuleta, half of the talent behind local outfit ICHI Catering, the newly opened ICHI Sushi, and ICHI Lucky Cat Deli (at 331 Cortland in Bernal Heights). For updates, follow@ICHISUSHI on Twitter. Outside of the foodie world, Erin works full-time championing kid literacy at 826 National. Keep up with her @erinarchuleta.

Burnished, scorched bricks create the backdrop for San Francisco’s new fine dining destination, ~TWENTY FIVE LUSK~. Taking over the former Ogden Packing and Provision smokehouse, culinary school best buddies Matthew Dolan (executive chef) and Chad Bourdon (general manager) have come together as managing partners of this tucked-away South Park/China Basin find: a building abundant with character, oodles of space (9,800 square feet!), and a rich story. Peeking in from Townsend—between 3rd and 4th Streets—is an alley with old (by San Francisco standards) architecture and huge windows with light filtering through antique glass to tell you that you’re already on a path to another time, 1917 to be exact.

The two friends had been on a location hunt for quite some time before settling on this antique industrial gem. They had toured 22 properties before it, from the seedy and sad to buildings that were nice first dates but weren’t ready for marriage. When they walked into the old Ogden space the day after it went on the market, they knew that they had found their restaurant. Chad used to live in the neighborhood, and sensed the location’s possibility. They liked its “hidden gem” mentality.

To elevate the space, and diners’ experiences, Matthew and Chad brought in acclaimed architect, and San Francisco Arts Commissioner, Cass Calder Smith and his firm, CCS Architecture. (You might know his work from other restaurants like LuLuPerbaccoDELICA, or Terzo.) His elegant and organic style combines the warm elements of smoked brick and large Douglas fir timbers with cool, sleek black glass and white Venetian plaster, creating tucked away pockets of space and continual moments of discovery within the building. Since both friends knew they wanted to emphasize fine and private dining, Twenty Five Lusk’s raw space instantly drew them in with its potential for creating intimate dining and lounge areas.

There will be two levels in Twenty Five Lusk. The upper level will be reserved for à la carte dining, showcasing a seasonal contemporary American menu, with a whopping 120 seats! The lower level has been carved out for a variety of private dining opportunities, a 17-seat bar (offering selections from the menu upstairs), along with cozy lounge spaces surrounding two suspended Fireorb fireplace fixtures that will burn clean alcohol-gel. (Think: The Jetsons fireplace you soooo dreamed of having when you were seven, albeit much classier. And, now: with cocktail options!) Plus CCS crafted incredible options for two stories of temperature-controlled wine storage by taking advantage of an old service elevator shaft.

The various private dining configurations available here are the new premieres on the San Francisco dining scene. Nooks from the original smoke rooms make for 15 to 35 seats in the private dining area, and 15 to 60 seats in the semi-private dining area (with sliding fabric partitions), all carved out in Cass Calder Smith’s slick vision that integrates the upstairs with the lower level and plays with angles and vertical space. This custom-created ambiance is a deft opportunity for these guys to show off their polished service skills in a warm space.

Cool tones do get the chance to play up a sense of balance against all of the warmth already existing in the space. For instance, on my visit, there was a team laying 4’ x 24” slate floor tiles, and we discussed how the tabletops will all be ebony. No linens. No, ma’am, no sir. This is San Francisco’s comfortable take on the high life in a congenial atmosphere.

Working with Cass and his team, Matthew and Chad were able to craft a space that fulfilled their fine dining vision: two kitchens (one upstairs and one for the private diners below), and two bars (one for service up top and one for lounging below).

Matthew’s cooked in a number of noted kitchens: New York’s Café des ArtistesEmeril’s flagship restaurant in New Orleans, and he then went on to become chef de cuisine at Ravintola Demo, where he and his crew took a Michelin Star. Most recently, he entered the San Francisco food scene at Garibaldis as executive chef. Now, in carving out his own kitchen, Matthew collaborated with Cass to create a European suite with a U-shaped line where the cooks face each other. One side has a flattop cook surface and the other, a mixed, exposed burner offering up more flexibility in creating the menu. This set-up also ensures that the chef is the last one to touch a dish—insurance that each plate is a match for the original menu’s vision. He also insisted on putting in some of his own dream equipment, like a 40-quart Swiss braiser.

Chad’s career started at the Cranwell Resort in Lennox, Massachusetts, where he led the private dining program and managed the fine dining room. Prior to launching Twenty Five Lusk, he presided as general manager atFarallon. In talking about kitchen and dining room design, both Chad and Matthew agreed that they would have bread warmers, and serve room-softened butter. A large piece of stunning millwork will provide a roomy wait station, and smoked black glass will block the view (and the noise) of the kitchen and the dish room. Furniture will be custom-built for comfort. Pullman-style booths are carved out into the main space, and a “Bruno” chair is featured as homage to Mies van der Rohe’s classic modern original. Overall, the design team is seeking to create a look that’s new and unexpected for San Francisco diners.

Also on the team is wine director Cezar Kusik (well known from his Rubicon days), who will oversee Twenty Five Lusk’s initial wine list of 220 selections; the bar and cocktail concept will be created by bar consultant Michael Musil.

Twenty Five Lusk will make its fine dining mark with a strong friendship based in food and service, showcased in a space that allows us to discover a different dining experience with each visit. The guys’ project, which started back in September of 2007, is slated for completion and will be opening to the public on October 16th. Something tells me that there will be a serious bottle of bubbly popped to mark the start of this new South Park/China Basin destination.

tablehopper: the hardhat

This section is written by Erin Archuleta, half of the talent behind local outfit ICHI Catering and ICHI Lucky Cat Deli (at 331 Cortland in Bernal Heights). For updates, follow @ICHISUSHI on Twitter. Outside of the foodie world, Erin works full-time championing kid literacy at 826 National. Keep up with her@erinarchuleta.

Many of my chef-friends were geeking out that I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Corey Lee. After all, every chef and line cook out there fantasizes about what s/he would do with his/her own space given the opportunity, and here in San Francisco, Corey has just upped the ante. A James Beard Award winner who has worked at seven three-Michelin-star restaurants, Corey has worked under some of the biggest talent and in some of the most sophisticated kitchens in Europe and the U.S., including, most recently, leaving his post as the chef de cuisine at The French Laundry. And now,Benu, his first restaurant is slated to start with a hard opening date of August 10th, 2010. The website features a countdown showcasing the build-out process, and his team is now accepting reservations.

So, without much surprise, San Franciscans have been waiting and trying to get a peek at Benu (at 22 Hawthorne Lane in the former Two space), to see what he’s doing in there. Benu’s name references the Egyptian word for the phoenix, symbolizing a rebirth, or new beginning. It makes sense that Corey would reach to another corner of the globe when sourcing his inspiration, as his menu is not limited to any particular region of the world.

There’s no doubt that he has investors who trust him, and teams to execute his perfect vision, so folks all over the Bay Area have been dying to take a gander at exactly what Corey Lee’s dream first space looks like. And friends, just a couple weeks out from opening, I report—it’s cozy, calm, and elegant (much of what you might guess after reading interviews or watching YouTube videos of Corey in action). His presence is tranquil, measured, knowledgeable, and hospitable—it’s no surprise that this restaurant is an extension of his natural disposition.

When talking about the realities of the renovation of the space, Corey notes, “When you open a restaurant and talk about a build-out, it’s all about finding the right balance between all the different areas—what you spend on the mechanical, what you spend on the kitchen, the dining room. And, it’s really about being able to prioritize and organize your finances.” We talked about how 80% of the resources and cost used to renovate a major restaurant space the diners will never see: the ductwork, seismic reinforcements, the electrical, and framing. All of the necessity, in this case, is housed in some real beauty.

The major players in the design of the space include James Beard award-winning architecture firm Richard Bloch Architect (Corey collaborated with them in the past on other Keller remodels), designer Andrea Lenardin Madden working on the graphics, and the creative products design firm Blueoculus. Their sunken dining room has strong structural details, some of which are seismically necessary for this historic building from 1912. Others add visual interest, like columns that break up the sightlines of an entryway, keeping it from becoming too boxy, too clean.

For any former Two diners, there are a few big contrasts from your previous experiences: first, the space has been halved; and second, the dining room is bright and white with calming grey influences, a huge change from the dark, deep draw to the bar area of the former restaurant. The third biggie: there is no bar. That’s right, this fine dining restaurant is putting itself out there as just that. There are two options: an à la carte menu, and for the diner seeking an evening of it, an 8-12 course tasting menu. Wine plays a focus here, with two sommeliers employed for this 64-seat restaurant, including Master Sommelier and 2009 StarChefs’ Rising Star, Yoon Ha. But, even with two wine masters on the floor, Corey plans to keep things minimal, offering a tight list of wines at a range of prices, with a few high-end selections from which to choose.

In talking about the process for selecting the roughly 50 menu items (including New American eats like abalone porridge with wood ear mushrooms and green onion, and rigatoni with braised sea cucumber, oxtail, star anise, red wine, and butter) readying for launch, we discussed some of the differences between cooking in Yountville and cooking here in SF. It made sense to address the fact that while there are some regular diners in Yountville, the majority of the clientele would be tourists. He noted that people headed to Napa Valley are looking for a vacation destination specifically for food and wine, whereas people coming to San Francisco are not necessarily just seeking food and wine options.

The seasons here in Northern California play a major role in defining Benu’s menu. When I asked Corey about his approach to seasonality, he had this to say: “When you think of the seasons, you think of four seasons, but I think there’s more like 16 seasons. For example, favas—fava [beans] are available five months a year, but there are only a few weeks when favas are really, really good. So there’s all these subseasons within the seasons.”

To execute these 16 seasons, Corey has created one of the most chef-friendly kitchens I’ve ever seen. From recessing the ceiling of the bookstore below to create an ergonomic workstation above in the dishwasher galley, to having custom reach-ins built into the kitchen hallway’s design to replace what Corey described to me as walk-ins with dead space in the middle, his space plan is meticulous. As he describes his kitchen, you get the sense that not only does this guy think in terms of precision and efficiency, but also of the people at their workstations. Corey has chosen a lifestyle, and he’s asking for more from his kitchen. This is, he notes, his fourth time experiencing a remodel, two at The French Laundry, and one at Per Se. He’s piloting a stove made by Viking, with a mid-room island French Top range in which the heat is gradually diffused through the polished plate on top. This will be the first of its kind in America.

His kitchen is bathed in natural light, with passersby able to peer in from the Hawthorne Street side to watch the team in action. Corey’s team features two sous chefs named Brandon (Brandon Rodgers, a former Bocuse d’Or competitor with Gavin Kaysen, and Brandon Rosen, who worked at Alain Ducasse at the Essex House)—both Brandons were colleagues of Corey’s at The Laundry. Masaki Watanabe joins the Brandons, bringing French-Japanese cooking chops to the collaborative process as the third sous. The foursome have been innovating and perfecting the menu.

Of this menu’s regional influences, Corey elaborates, “I don’t think it’s defined by geography…When I first started cooking you were limited to these very distinct genres: classical French, haute cuisine, Italian…I don’t think these same boundaries exist. We’re kind of limited by our own vocabulary to describe what kind of cuisine we’re doing. And also, it comes down to something that is very personal. Something that reflects your own experience. And also the people you’re working with and their experience and so forth. To be able to tap into that, if you do that, then naturally you’re going to do something that is unique and original and inspired.”

One of my favorite moments touring through the new kitchen equipment is when Corey pauses to show me what might be the largest blender pitcher I’ve ever seen—used for all the daily vegetable trim to be puréed into staff smoothies. There’s a real care that goes into this kitchen, and you get a sense that there’s a lot of built-in rooting for the team.

In an era when so much of food and dining is fetishized, it feels like Corey is quite the opposite, returning to the classic notion of diners going out for an excellent meal in a special setting. Everything from creating custom Korean-crafted KwangJuYo porcelain dishes to sourcing hand-blown and etched Kimura glassware showcases the menu. In thinking of the dining experience, Corey even considers the foot positioning of the diner, by requesting that the designers create flat steel table bases (think: never having cramped feet that accidentally kick an adjacent diner again, or better yet—easy footsie access!). So with the Blueoculus design team, they collaboratively created the mac daddies of all two-top and four-top tables, weighing in at 100 and 200 lbs., respectively. I’m just picturing the classic table flip move of the Real Housewives of New Jersey going nowhere—Corey Lee may have created the answer to classing up America again, folks.

There’s a private dining room with seating for up to 18 of your nearest and dearest, hidden between the kitchen and the larger dining room space with a galley of windows peeking in from the little garden outside that was the former parking lot. The grasses and fragrant flowers are on one side of the diners, and rotating art from neighboring Crown Point Press on the other. The garden area offers up a spot for an after-dinner drink where you can sit amongst the coastal grasses, referencing an intersection of urban life and how we coexist with nature so close at hand, another nod to the idea of his own Benu—a reflection of the name, with Corey’s own rebirth in his new space.

tablehopper: the hardhat

Photo by Brian Smeets for   Grub Street  .

Photo by Brian Smeets for Grub Street.

This section is written by Erin Archuleta, half of the talent behind local outfit ICHI Catering and ICHI Lucky Cat Deli (at 331 Cortland in Bernal Heights). For updates, follow @ICHISUSHI on Twitter. Outside of the foodie world, Erin works full-time championing kid literacy at 826 National. Keep up with her@erinarchuleta.

Everyone’s been buzzing about what’s going on inside chef Tyler Florence’s new San Francisco signature restaurant Wayfare Tavern. Tyler’s vision—to create a welcoming destination for those coming from afar and locals alike—culminates in his new, Barbary Coast era, tri-level renovation of the former Rubicon space. The four-story building (including the kitchen prep basement) may seem a formidable project, but Tyler and his super-kind, well-run team have taken it in stride. This tall tavern has a feeling much like a meetinghouse, with smaller, more intimate spaces giving off the feeling of your own rumpus room or library.

It seems San Francisco is on the hunt for its roots, like nearby neighbor, the Comstock Saloon. While Comstock’s rich history has a past that could make you blush, Wayfare has a powder room for adjusting your rouge.

The shiny, marble-tiled entryway is inlaid withWayfare’s logo, drawing inspiration from the dollar bill. A wooden, podium-style host stand and plush carpeted stairway take you up to a gorgeous space; it brought me back to my eighth grade trip to Washington, DC, and seeing the White House for the first time. (I can picture the Walkman, pink kitty purse, and pegged acid-washed pants tucked into my hi-tops now. If only I could erase that misjudged perm…) What I mean to say is that it brought me to a feeling of what I thought “grown-up spaces” to be. The place makes a big entrance, with some fun secrets behind the bar.

This writer does not mean to overstate the importance of a bar and restaurant, but there really is a regal, welcoming presence in the design. The color scheme of crisp whites, warm wood, rich navy and burgundy hues, along with the goldenrod logo, brings that magic, aspirational feeling of possibly even what’s being referenced and renaissanced in DC now. Tyler and his team have purposely stepped away from trendy and hip, and seem to have found some substance anchored in our coast’s history.

The main floor will have a large raw bar, with seasonal selections for the after work or meet-up crowd. The 50 seats in this dining room will have a view of the open kitchen, with bar seats perched right in front. There is a fireplace framed out by a large bison head (I suppose daring you to order boar or beef). Images of the Barbary Coast come to play with old pulleys that Tyler brought back from a trip up on the water at Drakes Bay. There are even some sweet references to the institution that was Rubicon by creating the wallpaper design from the original sconces that were here in the old dining room.

Upstairs, antique farmhouse chairs rest atop handsome reclaimed hardwood floors that were wire brushed from an old tobacco farm in Kentucky. The design team sourced antique lighting fixtures, taxidermy, small furnishings, and art to set the timeless scene. The large dining tables were all created locally (also from reclaimed wood) at The Wooden Duck in Berkeley. Burnished brass lighting fixtures and deep nickel silvers edge the antique bars.

Old coins were inlaid in the upstairs “Buck Bar,” complete with antlered deer hanging overhead. This level is where the antique pool table that people have been eager to catch a glimpse of will fit into the scheme. Housed under a period tin punch ceiling, it’s in a smaller room that will, in contrast to all of the throwbacks, also have a plasma TV. This room features a “Red Hot Phone,” a tradition from the hotel era of the time allowing guests to call down directly to the kitchen to order up a burger or other item from the menu. It’s not often that you get to shoot a game of pool and dial-in a steak!

This second floor also houses a separate pastry kitchen, possibly ending one of those long-standing feuds over who will use the oven and whether that pastry should really be exposed to that delicious meat-juice scent (turn to your neighbor and debate). All of Wayfare’s bread will also be baked upstairs. Note: To singles out there out for a first very hope-filled date, the scent of baking bread is rumored to set quite the mood.

Upstairs, the third floor houses a private dining room, wine cellar, and the old vault from when the building was a Wells Fargo bank. This floor is where the Bartlett Room will be, named after Lieutenant Washington A. Bartlett, the man instrumental in changing Yerba Buena Island into “San Francisco” in 1846. In this room, I got a peek at the plateware and simple flatware. Again, nothing too ornate—just clean, simple, and classic—printed with the restaurant’s logo. Hanging above us will be an oil painting of Lt. Bartlett himself, peeking on in judgment of our Levi’s dungarees and dinner disclosures. And, of course, Rubicon’s legendary wine room has been revamped to authenticate the feel of a 100-year-old space (most likely housing some of Tyler’s own wine.)

The fellas were shooting to create a place that will still have warm, stayed presence years from now. I do believe they’ve achieved the creation of welcoming an out-of-towner to a true gentlewoman or gentleman’s dining room, and patrons will return again and again for the large seasonal menu, supported by culinary director, Jason Rose (formerly of über-local La Cocina.) While the place may have been decorated with the Barbary Coast in mind, the warm wood of the South, and the crisp images of our nation’s capital would make any traveler feel at home. And, with neighbor Wexler’s so well received, this little block of Sacramento Street may once again be the go-to spot.

tablehopper: the hardhat

This section is written by Erin Archuleta, half of the talent behind local outfit ICHI Catering and ICHI Lucky Cat Deli (coming soon to 331 Cortland in Bernal Heights). For updates, follow @ICHISUSHI on Twitter. Outside of the foodie world, Erin works full-time championing kid literacy at 826 National. Keep up with her @erinarchuleta.

Reopening within the next month or so at 155 Columbus is a historic gem of a San Francisco building in an area that’s seen it all: secret societies, prostitution, boxing, and piano-playing. What could be a better place to saddle up for a killer history lesson as you try to drown your database-driven working day blues? The Comstock Saloon is opening up in the site of the former San Francisco Brewing Company, and will offer a full bar and pub fare.

Named after Henry Comstock and the Comstock Lode, which brought silvery mining fortunes to the Northwest, the building harkens back to its original Edwardian-era roots established during the Barbary Coast days. Bartender friends Jeff Hollinger and Jonny Raglin ofAbsinthe are taking on this friends-and-family construction project in the much-mythologized border of the Chinatown and North Beach neighborhoods.

The 1907 site (rebuilt after the 1906 Great Earthquake and Fire) will reopen with a style that’s not as modern and masculine as it was under the old San Francisco Brewing Company reign. Both guys had dreams of finding a historic San Francisco building, and after searching for a few years, landed on the corner of Pacific and Columbus Avenues.

With due respect for the building’s historic status, important upgrades were still called for. For instance, in a cozy move to adhere to ADA bathroom/upgrade compliance, and keep with the original intent of the space, the guys constructed an alcove with a true Victorian/Edwardian parlor in which guests may “have a sit” next to the (faux) wood-burning stove (it runs on energy-efficient gas).

Jonny’s work as general contractor on this project has lent incredibly personal touches. His serious interest in the area’s history led him to befriend some local gents from the secretive Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus (best known as the descendents of miners who partake in an annual retreat to the grave of Emperor Norton); they were more than happy to open up about the history of the area. Jeff and Jonny are planning to work with the fraternal order to resurrect the plaque declaring the Comstock Saloon (by the Order) as the last standing bar on the Barbary Coast (it was removed when the SF Brewing Company’s fate was still up in the air).

The lead on construction has been Marin-based builder and friend, Steve Bernardini. Steve worked with the team over at Absinthe quite a bit, and the guys really liked his style. Another friend, Anand Gowda, SF-based furniture designer of Gravy Service, is building out the booths and tackling the other woodwork. Jeff and Jonny were familiar with Anand’s work after he built a stunning dining room table for Jonny’s home. You may have spied Anand’s work at the Curiosity Shoppe in the Mission where he designed the shelves. Anand is also working with a classic sepia and evergreen embossed imprint leather for the booth seats, keeping an authentic look for the space. Another friend (and future bartending employee) lending a hand is Matt Conway (of Citizen Cake andNOPA), who was sanding away on dining tables during my visit. These guys have such a cool dynamic while working, they’ve even taped a found (modern) copy of the Declaration of Independence to the bar to keep them rooted in history while they scrape, sand, and hammer.

The lighting in the space and all the metal work will be in cool silvers, standing out against the warm wood. The guys said they were purposely steering away from some of the clichés predicted for the space—no brassy finishes. No harkening in a literal way to the mines; instead, evoking the miner’s quest with subtle silver finishes and hints of shine.

The guys are softening the glow in the saloon with recessed lighting, decorative chandeliers, and sconces sporting Victorian-style fluted shades. On the main dining floor, the five booths will each have their own lighting, casting an intimate glow over brews, cocktails, or a bite. The antique front bar that they’ve been sanding for the last couple of weeks will seat 12 on foundry-cast bar stools with old ball and claw bases, and they’ll also have a big dining table with a marble top to seat larger parties.

Jeff and Jonny are leaving the silver-toned beer tower from the brewery in place, and are trying to keep as many nods to the former hotel’s history as possible. One note making this amateur boxing pupil super-excited is the gesture to the Andromeda Café’s original owners, who according to Jonny were big-time boxing promoters who employed Jack Dempsey to work here.

Even Baby Face Nelson found his way through the doors in this time, meeting up with bartender Freddie Field and proprietor James J. Griffin, who allegedly introduced him to locals “living left of the law.” In proper fashion, the front area along the long wall will be lined with images of the boxing heroes who frequented the old Andromeda.

In more practical, modern-day terms, a huge unexpected benefit coming with the building is the massive amount of space in the lower level. Almost unheard of in the San Francisco dining scene, there are walk-in coolers and there prep space galore. These multiple cold-storage spaces were leftover from the old brewery work, and now these rooms offer up excellent locations for a temperature-regulated preparation kitchen to supply the fare upstairs. Usually in a build-out, plumbing and cold storage can eat up a huge portion of a budget. For these guys, they’ve inherited their own mother lode.

In clearing out the catacombs downstairs connecting to the North Beach Hotel, they found panels from the 100-plus-year-old bar, which they are reinstalling. A huge portion of the build-out labor came from removing the old brewing equipment. While gutting the five-plus ton slabs of concrete from the front bar, the guys decided to keep a boisterous piece of furniture—the old upright player piano—and moved it to the mezzanine level, where they’ll employ a regular Ragtime pianist to play during happy hours.

The art will remain simple, all except for the Emperor Norton statue above the back bar, which came as an inspired idea to Jonny after listening to a podcast about the peacock-feathered and epaulet-laden Emperor on local San Francisco history blog, Sparkletack. These guys take their San Francisco history seriously, especially when it involves our wacky checkered past. So of course, rather than just recreate a statue, they called on local artist Daniel Macchiarini, whose father, Peter, cast the original mold in 1936. Peter was a beloved bohemian figure, and there’s even a set of North Beach steps named after him.

Leaving the Comstock felt a bit like one of those transformative visits you get when you’ve been to a more sacred and hallowed space (albeit this one is probably for our hedonists). The guys note that there was an assumption that San Francisco was this real city when the Gold Rush hopefuls came rambling in, when in fact most of our 7x7 was dotted with nothing more than makeshift camps. It looks as if the Comstock Saloon will be able to invoke a bit of that frivolity and debauchery by way of classic cocktails and offer a meet-up for all the company you keep.

tablehopper: the hardhat

This section is written by Erin Archuleta, half of the talent behind local outfit ICHI Catering and ICHI Lucky Cat Deli (coming soon to 331 Cortland in Bernal Heights). For updates, follow @ICHISUSHI on Twitter. Outside of the foodie world, Erin works full-time championing kid literacy at 826 National. Keep up with her @erinarchuleta.

Bar Agricole, or “Farm Bar,” as Thaddeus Vogler refers to his rustic and casual tavern, is set in the heart of a building whose exterior is a futuristic, stark contrast to this casual eatery that will be offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner service. The 4,000-square-foot space is being renovated as a part of an enormous project to maintain a visual reference to the original exterior of the historic corrugated metal building at 355 11th Street. This sleek box of a building filled with top-notch cocktails and coffee couldn’t be more different from its youthful punk rock neighbor Slim’s. Thad believes his tavern in this SOMA outpost will truly uphold a San Francisco tenet: the intersection of urbanity and agriculture in our daily lives.

Aidlin Darling Design are the architects behind the massive project, and have created San Francisco’s firstLEED-certified Gold building using the city’s accelerated permitting process. While adhering to this rigorous building standard, the building will maintain its historical status, yet tip its hat to post-industrial revolution good looks. The modern look of the perforated zinc exterior finish will complement the original corrugated metal front as it takes on a new 2010 kind of sheen. The crews and Aidlin are eagerly anticipating the possibility of having the first LEED platinum-certified commercial interior. This would make it the first of its kind in the country. That’s right New York; we’re doing it first.

One aspect of the project that’s getting folks both in the bar community and in the neighborhood buzzing is the addition of a 1,200-square-foot garden and patio. The project’s gardener, Mark Ellenbogen (better known as the wine director at The Slanted Door), said that the space will allow guests to step in off the street, and be hidden behind the walls covered in vines and aromatic blossoms to enjoy coffee drinks made on a Slayerespresso machine, or cocktails made with fresh culinary herbs, like a variety of unusual mints, from the very garden they’re gabbing with the girls or reading the paper in.

The interior of the space is a split-level bar and dining room. Up top, about 2,000 square feet offer two bars crafted from salvaged whiskey barrels and seating. Having two bars is a bartender’s dream, and they will offer bar star Thaddeus Vogler an opportunity to develop a labor-intensive drink menu using Mark’s herbs and locally farmed ingredients, with the support of three other bartenders on the floor. Elements of the rustic will pop up again on the reclaimed oak tabletops, and by serving Brandon Jew’s (formerly of Magnolia, Quince, and Zuni) seasonal fare on cozy ceramic plates from Sausalito’s Heath. Brandon’s kitchen will house a small hybrid gas and wood burning Beech oven, which will offset some of its environmental impact.

Other artisan investors and stakeholders have come to the project, like Mark Rogero of Concreteworks (the gang that has made Twitter’s conference tables so fancy on the inside, and who recently debuted a concrete wood burning oven for Scribe Winery). As an investor, Mark is contributing materials, labor, and design services by creating custom concrete floors. Chris French’s custom metal work investment can be seen in the sleek window frames and aluminum portals in the building. And glass artist Nikolas Weinstein is creating three skylights with custom glass extensions reaching downward to diffuse light. He’s been focused on larger commissions in Asia, so this project will be one of his first major public San Francisco installations.

Matarozzi/Pelsinger Builders, Inc. owns the building and has already moved its headquarters into the office space adjoining Bar Agricole. Another big boon for these building owners is a substantial amount of San Francisco’s ever-coveted parking. 15 spaces are available for the restaurant, and there’s the adjacent Costco lot, where patrons can pay for parking. That’s right, DPT, at least you won’t get me here.

Right now, Thad and the builders are on schedule, but he reminds me that he’s only five weeks into a five-month project. The process, though, with the support of so many talented friends, appears to be coming together seamlessly for this bartender-turned-restaurateur. It’s easy to compare this tavern to its name; like a farm, it will start as one thing for the SOMA neighborhood, and ultimately with the seasons, will continue to grow and evolve until the unusual building disappears into the visual mental map we already have of SOMA, simply growing into a part of things.

tablehopper: the hardhat

Fall 2009

Fall 2009

This section is written by Erin Archuleta, half of the talent behind local outfit ICHI Catering (@ICHISUSHI). Outside of the foodie world she works full-time championing kid literacy at 826 National. Keep up with her on Twitter @erinarchuleta

Coming from Flint, Michigan, my version of coffee well into adulthood involved blue tin Maxwell House coffee cans repurposed for snow fort brick-building, and sparkly Folgers flavor crystals that would soon make up the muddied contents of my dad's Aladdin thermos for his second or third shift commute to work on the assembly line. Meeting brothers and Sightglass Coffee (270 7th Street at Howard Street) business partners Jerad and Justin Morrison, it was obvious that they grew up with a different, more crafted version of the muddy brown liquid my own working-class hometown knew as a drip brew.

The Pacific Northwest's tradition of coffee-roaster craftsmanship has fostered these brothers' quest to emulate and surpass the coffees they roasted and served over the last ten years in Seattle, Washington (Jerad) and Eugene, Oregon (Justin). Now, combining what some may consider flannel-town forces, the brothers clearly have spent their time doing their artisan homework for us all to enjoy in the form of a "light industrial retail café space." What San Francisco zoning can't explain about the concept that Jerad and Justin have drafted up, along with architect partners Boor Bridges, is that you are in a coffee roastery from the moment you pass through the front. 

Most roasteries are coffee houses first, with the roasting equipment in the back. Playing on the image of a "sight glass," or meter by which you can gauge how much liquid is contained inside, the brothers have allowed us a peek inside the process of creating their version of the perfect cup of coffee. Their antique mechanical (not computer-based) roasting equipment will be in the front of the space, taking up what's usually considered prime real estate in front of the tall warehouse windows. Guests will find themselves between beans, burlap bags, and baristas in this new take on a gathering spot. 

Jerad and Justin were so hands-on that they repurposed the antique roasting machines themselves. It's one thing to know your craft well, it's another to understand the machinery on such a level that you can take it apart and put it back together in a new and improved way. The 1961 Probat roaster that they found in Germany was worth the shipping costs according to the brothers, because they would have more complete control over how the beans were roasted. They explained to me (a reformed Maxwell House girl), that when you allow a computerized mechanism to come into the process, you lose some of the ability to manipulate time and the depth of the roast. They are on a mission to get back to a more Old World way of doing coffee, based on the sensory experience of the roasting. 

With the logistics worked out, the gentlemen have a way to go on their build-out. But, it seems that they have a strong timeline (and a current coffee cart in their space) to support them. In an unusual business model, the brothers are open for business before their main space is completed. Customers are welcomed in to peek at the construction between 8am—5pm seven days a week while grabbing a cup of coffee or a small sweet in their little Seventh Street coffee garage space. It's funny to consider that this little cart will soon take on the 4,000-square-foot warehouse that once housed a sign company in its South of Market digs. 

The bulk of their work involved sandblasting the warehouse, and then jack hammering (themselves!) and trenching about 150 feet to lay new plumbing and run electrical conduit. They have been stoked with their partnership withMHC Engineers and are looking forward to breezing through their upcoming inspections. Erasing traces of the former sign company took eight dump trucks loaded full of debris. Sandblasting the remaining frame of their space to get down to the original old-growth Douglas-fir took three weeks, but was worth the effort to reuse the gorgeous resources already available to them. 

Clearing out the space, a long skylight was revealed, and with advice from their architects, another eight skylights will be added. Local reuse lighting designer Kevin Randolph will be supporting the design vision with his custom fixtures for the space. (You can read more about Kevin's other projects in a previous hardhat on Bar Crudo here.) 

Their bar is an unusual concept, which will be a central focus of the design. Instead of the domino rows of tables covered in laptops with no one talking, Jerad and Justin are encouraging community by having one huge central coffee bar with stools surrounding it. They are planning for some communal tables in the back where the laptop crew can click away in silence. Mindful of the existing warm Douglas-fir and cool concrete and steel bones of the building, they sourced furniture maker friend Earl Gonzales of EVG Design (and formerly of Linden Street Design) to create the bar and tables from local lumber. Earl will be relying on the brothers and their friend Mark Rogero from Concreteworks to pour the large bar, which will be a combination of concrete and the local bay laurel slabs he is sourcing. The bar will feature a couple of Slayer espresso machines (insert obvious heavy metal joke about Raining Blood here), which support the barista's ability to control more of the coffee experience. 

They have found a boon in storage, as well. There's a loft that they will use for their administrative offices and extra storage space once their distribution business is up and running. They are taking advantage of a niche market by offering direct trade coffees instead of just fair trade, cultivating relations with individual growers, and hope to support these growers' fair business practices over time.

tablehopper: the hardhat

September, 2009

September, 2009

Curious about what goes into opening a restaurant? Each month we'll be checking in on the build-out process of various bars and restaurants around the City, highlighting the unique coups and complications that arise when opening a business in San Francisco. This section is written by Erin Archuleta, a tablehopper intern and half of the talent behind local outfit Ichi Catering

For those expecting a large open-floor plan dining room at Quince: you're in for quite the intimate, nook-and-cranny surprise. The new Quince, located at 470 Pacific Avenue at Montgomery in the former Myth space, is slated to open later this week. Cotogna, its casual next-door neighbor, will feature a similar (but not identical) aesthetic.Olle Lundberg and his associate Jennifer Brodi are the architects behind the layout (his firm is also known for The Slanted Door and Distillery 209). 

For any of you who may have dined in the original tight space, the Tusk family and crew are putting the emphasis on elbowroom and elegance. The focus is on creating a similar flow throughout the smaller, connected spaces, which will make up the new Quince. Working along with interior designer Elizabeth Wakeman (Michael Tusk's mother-in-law) in the renovation of this 1902 Jackson Square building (it survived the quake and fire of '06), both felt it was important to incorporate the original brick and hardwood from the historic building into the new restaurant's design. 

In an earlier 'hopper, Marcia revealed that the restaurant will be done in platinum and rich dark chocolate colors; this is still very much true, but the most difficult element of the design to describe or even show in these morning light images is the plethora of diffused natural light that makes its way into the space. 

After living in virtually one room at their former location, this new space offers more opportunities for guest service (even though the main dining room is almost the same size as the previous restaurant). From an initial entrance with a coat closet, to the bar and lounge that open up into the dining areas with between 65-70 seats, a large wine cellar, and a private dining room, there is much for the crew to celebrate in terms of offering up more amenities.

The bar will be connected to the casual lounge, and both spaces will open up to the two dining areas which allow great seats to peer into the gorgeous 10,000-bottle wine cellar through the original arched windows. Talk about a vinophile's dream to peek into James Beard Award winner and much-admired sommelier David Lynch's wine wishes! The opening wine list is slated to have about 750 bottles available, with more to come (the former Quince location could house only about 500). 

The wine cellar is reminiscent of a Roman aqueduct. This walnut-shelved space came about because the brick alcove already naturally felt like a cellar. The historic arches received double-paned glass and were temperature-ready. David mentioned that this space felt just right for the wines, offering up a slightly higher temperature than an average cellar in order to make the wines service-ready. 

Much consideration was given to the 10-seat bar where walk-in guests can casually dine, facing a grand mirror reflecting art from chef (and art historian) Michael Tusk's personal collection. Michael noted on our walk-through that the windows from both the lounge area and dining room view the tree-lined street. He was thrilled that Olle was able to bring the outside in. Elizabeth worked his collection of photographs and oil paintings into the design. She noted that the interior design came about after spending time in the raw space. "If you stand in a space long enough, it suggests itself," she said smiling. The double-framed architectural elements lent interest to the colors and textures that Elizabeth and daughter Lindsay were discussing. 

You won't be seeing double or think you've had too large a sip pre-amuse bouche if you get that sense of déjà vu in the space, though. There will be repurposed antique sconces along the wall, and the original chandelier will make its appearance in the new private dining room (which will house between 16-18 guests for chef's dinners, wine events, and private parties--an option not available in the former tight quarters). These connections to the prior Quince location were important to the family, a respectful nod. 

The team at Quince opens the doors to the public this Thursday October 1st, and have already begun reserving spots for guests to celebrate. 

tablehopper: the hardhat

July 28, 2009

July 28, 2009

Curious about what goes into opening a restaurant? Each month we'll be checking in on the build-out process of various bars and restaurants around the City, highlighting the unique coups and complications when opening a business in San Francisco. This section is written by Erin Archuleta, tablehopper intern and half of the talent behind local outfit Ichi Catering

This month's assignment, Fondue Cowboy brought up all the clichéd images of rawhide, tumbleweeds, and lassoing steer. But what I found at the cozy 40-seat eatery at 1052 Folsom at Russ Street was a more grown-up spaghetti western theme. When I arrived, owner David Mur, and his construction friend Robert Harris were embellishing the bar you'd, ahem, saddle up to with warm multi-toned wooden planks that fill the base of the fondue, beer, and coffee bar. The opposing accent wall will feature cow skulls, Western-themed art, and here's to hoping, The Duke himself on the flat-screen TV! 

It's hard to picture this Wild West eatery as the site of the former Extreme Pizza production and commissary kitchen. Originally, Dave was dealing with a bright red kitchen twice its size, but negotiated for half the space, and his restaurant began to take shape. (The other half of the space will become an Italian deli that another restaurateur will open up later this year.) Dave's half of the split left him with a dish and prep room, small kitchen, two bathrooms, and a lanky, lengthy dining room filled with light from the Folsom Street-facing window. The initial design vision was made real with architectural plans drawn up by SIA Consulting

Recognizing the new arrivals of condos to the neighborhood, Dave is capitalizing on outdoor seating and intends to roll out a brunch program after a few months of operation. Part of this decision (other than the smart ability to take advantage of more seating) was based on the beautification of adjacent Russ Street, which runs along the side of Fondue Cowboy's space. This beautification was a surprise boon to Dave and his new restaurant since it fell under the umbrella of the Sixth Street Urban Solutions project, working with the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency. Urban Solutions is also offering support to Dave's start-up, with architectural advisement services, façade improvement funds, and tenant information. 

With this newly found help, and Dave's fifteen years in the industry, he felt confident taking on the remodel project. He is not only the owner, and developing the menu concepts with executive chef Brion McDonough, but he's also functioning as project manager on the build-out. All the plumbing, including mop sinks, floor drains, and the grease trap can be fairly expensive endeavors and plumbing sometimes requires costly trenching. And he's finding that his plumbing costs may compare to the installation of his security gate--a surprise cost that Dave never dreamed to bid would rival the other functionalities in the space. 

One money-saving byproduct of the fondue concept is that David will not need to run gas lines. His chef Brion, with a background in traditional fondue and French cuisine, will get to stretch a bit with a more modern version of fondue using double boilers and convection ovens only. The Fondue Cowboy idea came out of the desire to take traditional fondue and break away, much like westward travelers created their own new outlaws and ways. The kitchen isn't a fully open one, but customers will still get a fun preview of what's coming out in their fondue pots when peeking through the ample kitchen window.

Even with all of the support from Urban Solutions and friends in construction, the space Dave is inheriting has some flaws: the kitchen drops down with an uneven floor, requiring a step up. Under the remodel, David can file for an ADA hardship based on the percentage of cost of his build-out in comparison. Other improvements he's making are pouring new cement flooring in the kitchen, installing FRP (fiberglass reinforced plastic) and stainless steel kitchen walls, and planking a wooden bar and wood-paneled walls. There will be warm brown wall paint, bathroom fixture upgrades, he's laying a new tile floor behind the bar, installing pendant lighting and brushed aluminum fans sourced from neighbors at Bay Lighting & Design up the street, and installing a 71-inch flat-screen television showing (what else?) spaghetti westerns. 

Dave is working toward an early to mid-September opening, pending all inspections happening on time. The liquor license permit application alone has up to three months to review for an inspection. The timeline is coming together as of now, and I'm looking forward to a bite to eat with pals over the fondue pot in this unlikely SOMA outpost. 

tablehopper: the hardhat

May 12, 2009

May 12, 2009

Curious about what goes into opening a restaurant? Each month we'll be checking in on the build-out process of various bars and restaurants around the City, highlighting the unique coups and complications when opening a business in San Francisco. This section is written by Erin Archuleta, tablehopper intern and half of the talent behind local outfit Ichi Catering

Opening later this spring comes Eve, a smart, girl-geared project from husband-wife team Leilani Brennan and Colin O'Malley of San Francisco lounge John Colins. Eve is located at 575 Howard Street in the historic stretch of SOMA. (Side note: they're also simultaneously preparing John Colins for the move to 138 Minna Street due to the incoming Transbay Terminal project at their current 90 Natoma Street location.) 

Both craving to offer something more creative for San Franciscans, Leilani launched her long-time idea of an establishment catering to women's tastes with a jazzy lounge feel. They're planning to serve handcrafted cocktails, wines by the glass, and feature female bartenders. They called upon their architects, Y.A. Studios to support the launch of their creative vision for a feminine aesthetic. 

Unanticipated changes in the design and layout process included moving the bar from the back of the architectural layout to the left side of the space in order to meet fire code compliance. And, with this move, there's a bit less wall to frame out (saving them money). Y.A.. Studios guided them through this process and also conceptualized a hallway to create more occupancy for their lounge. 

At the core of the build-out is a friends-and-family team making things happen as quickly as possible. The project's general contractor is Melo Tabudlo of Dreamt Design & Build, Colin O'Malley's longtime family friend. And the labor for the project is friend and plumber Ghassan Zeidan from San Francisco based S & G Plumbing, and his brothers Patrick O'Malley and Nathan Mitchell. When I arrived, the guys were all jackhammering and trenching to wrap up Ghassan's plumbing project so that the concrete floor beneath the bar could be poured later that afternoon. And, according to Ghassan a 100-year plumbing update was in order. They laid all new copper pipe and are building out two bathrooms to accommodate the crowds. They're also preparing for the installation of the fire sprinklers. 

The crew was feeling confident about their timeline with these new layout changes from Y.A. Studios. They will install the conduit and electrical wiring after the concrete they're pouring dries (48 hours) and the framing is completed (within the week). After the framing is up they'll be able to schedule their mudding, taping, and fire inspections. 

During the trenching process for the plumbing, the brothers have unearthed some pre-1906 earthquake and fire artifacts. 575 Howard, they tell me, was an old print shop after the rebuild of the downtown area, and the burnt, crumbled pieces of the former building were repurposed for the foundation of the shop. In the dirt below the foundation the guys have pulled 100-year-old children's marbles, old printing press wheels, and seashells, and in a more recent find: apparently whoever handled the remodel of the walls in the flower-child era left an empty tall boy of Bud in the wall. In fact, as the guys have peeled back the walls, they've exposed the old frame and have found burnt wood everywhere, all reused remnants of the 1906 fire. 

With the museum-like interest of the build-out also comes the headache of working with a historic building. Originally, Colin and his brothers envisioned altering the facade with a similar look to their next-door neighbor, Kate O'Brien's. A local society contested the proposed parapet and their idea of altering the sidewalk. This contest held up the brothers' build-out by an extra two to three months. About the permitting waiting game, Leilani saya, "paying rent without being able to move forward on the project, even for two extra months in this economy is a real hardship." Ultimately, there will be some minor changes to try to match the neighborhood's look and the entrance will remain true to its post-quake roots. 

It's looking like they're back on schedule and are due to open late this spring, pending all rough and finished permits going according to plan. Here's to clinking the glass at Eve, harkening back to the lady who laid the ultimate groundwork for temptation and libations.

tablehopper: the hardhat

March 31, 2009

March 31, 2009

Curious about what goes into opening a restaurant? Each month we'll be checking in on the build-out process of various bars and restaurants around the City, highlighting the unique coups and complications when opening a business in San Francisco. This section is written by Erin Archuleta, tablehopper intern and half of the talent behind local outfit Ichi Catering.

~RN74~ is different from the other restaurants chronicled in this column for a few reasons: (1) they're putting the finishing touches on the place, so there's not much conduit hanging or lumber lying around; (2) they're at the bottom of a skyscraper; and (3) they hired their executive chef a year before the project would be complete.

The space brings the surprising feel of a train station. New York design firm AvroKO (known for creating other fab restaurant spaces like Public and Social House) worked to create a modern version of a European train platform and station room, with locally sourced exposed brick and metals. Mina Group wine director Rajat Parr first conceptualized the wine bar and restaurant to reflect the experience of traveling through another locale and time, inspired after a trip to the Burgundy region of France. Raj has been the wine director with the Group since 2003, and he's developed the wine programs at Mina's other locations across the country. Raj had been waiting to launch a project featuring Burgundy wines, and it was perfect synchronicity when Tim Flowers, the former general manager of Mina's Stonehill Tavern, and Jason Berthold, a winemaker-chef, came together on this project.

Meeting up with the fellas, it was clear that they're in the home stretch, but need the work on the 60-storyMillennium Tower building to be signed off on before they can finish the inspections on their own place. And they're looking pretty close to done, with hopes to throw open those doors and welcome guests the weekend of April 24th.

The finishing touches are playful, like the two large train "schedule" boards. The first board is a wine list that's designed to pair with the food menus. The second board is a little bit like wine Lotto, featuring an ever-changing selection of one-bottle-only options that will go to the first table or diner who requests it, immediately replaced on the list when the ordering system refreshes. These just-one-only bottles will reflect all price points, from a $20 bottle of something very special to a pricier bottle of something very spectacular. And when that wine disappears, a new one pops up with the sound of a train. 

Raj assures that diners at every price level will have access to amazing wines, all kept at the perfect temperature. On display will be fancy enomatic machines at the bar, keeping each varietal at exactly the right temp, and the spacious cellar has storage for up to 6,000 bottles.

Tim and Jason are very excited about the layout of the restaurant, with wine service poised in the center of the dining room, and a communal dining table for sharing or large group reservations. Since the Mina Group hired Jason (a French Laundry alum) on the project even before the build-out started, his input on the kitchen supported the design of the space with consulting Oakland-based designer Mark Stech-Novak. The kitchen prep area is in a smaller, separate space from the line (which hosts four chefs: Jason, and his sous Rodney Wages, Jeremy Miller, and Ming Lee). This prep space will support lunch service while readying the restaurant for its dinner crowd.

The dish station is so sleek, I considered quitting my day job to work in its accommodating space, complete with task lighting (!). The ceilings are perfect for my 5'1" stature, but Tim (who is quite a bit taller) laughed and explained that the ceilings are low to accommodate the superb Halton hood and ventilation system that is so quiet even chef Jason had trouble detecting it.

In the next three weeks, occupancy, health, gas, and fire inspections will need to be passed, but by the looks of things, they'll be waiting to pull out a chair for you and your friends soon enough.

tablehopper: the hardhat

March 3, 2009

March 3, 2009

Curious about what goes into opening a restaurant? Each month we'll be checking in on the build-out process of various bars and restaurants around the City, highlighting the unique coups and complications when opening a business in San Francisco. This section is written by Erin Archuleta, tablehopper intern and half of the talent behind local outfit Ichi Catering.

The ~BAR CRUDO~ brothers are just weeks away from opening their new NOPA spot, targeting the end of March for their opening. Twins Mike and Tim Selvera are trading in their former tunnel-toppy spot on Bush Street in favor of feeding neighbors and friends closer to home (both guys live near the new site located at 655 Divisadero at Grove). They have actually been working on getting a spot on their side of town since the beginning of their restaurant days. A friend points out that with the advent of the success of other eateries in the 94117, plus the close proximity of shows at the Independent, this is really the right time to bring all those oysters to the 'hood!

A former pizza parlor, the space was wired on the outside, so the guys had to bring in all new electrical upgrades and pipes. Moving each of the pipes was quite costly and it forced them to reconsider their resources. The original cash flow for all the extra help in the build-out was maxed, and smartly, they turned to their community for help. Their general contractor, Chris Holden of Holden James Construction, has been a customer since the beginning. His appreciation of the Selveras' aesthetic and love of raw seafood made a good marriage for putting up the walls and committing to the grueling inspection process.

Another long-time fine-art friend contributed to the sleek build-out of the new space, Kelly Tunstall. Tunstall is responsible for the gorgeous art at their first location, and will be creating wall murals and consulting on the final design of the space. She's collaborating with NOPA neighbor and lighting designer Kevin Randolph, currently a featured artist at The Perish Trust--they are creating a warm, ambient atmosphere that will draw the eyes around the cozy space.

And by cozy, I mean cozy. Much like their former location, the long, thin space, approximately 1,500 square feet, will accommodate 55-60 folks. They've smartly placed 16-foot marble bar tables along the wall across from their 14-seat bar. There's also a great upstairs gathering spot for groups that overlooks the bar--plus it has a view of the folks passing by on Divisadero through the original 1920's windows.

For Bar Crudo fans, the menu will remain true to the original tastes. As Tim states, "We're an oyster bar that does fish as a unique and more modern raw bar." Elegant seafood will remain as the main feature for diners. Tim also assures me that we shouldn't wait for dessert to appear on the menu. (He promises to refer out to other delicious neighbors offering coffee and sweets.) Do look for their trademark great selection of wines and beer, and they're adding even more impressive draft beers.
The guys have final health, building, and fire department inspections to pass in these next three weeks. Best wishes to the brothers as we wait to crack some fresh Dungeness crab and slurp oysters with neighborhood pals.

tablehopper: the hardhat

January 20, 2009

January 20, 2009

Curious about what goes into opening a restaurant? Each month we'll be checking in on the build-out process offlour + water, a new restaurant project that is underway in the Mission. The hardhat will highlight the unique coups and complications when opening a restaurant in San Francisco. This section will be written by Erin Archuleta, tablehopper intern and half of the talent behind local outfit Ichi Catering.

David Steele and David White are in the hunter-gatherer phase of the build-out of their soon-to-be Mission-neighborhood restaurant flour + water.

In the past marathon month, David W's crews have completed all their permitting and initial build-out hopes, and are now in the final stages of sheetrocking, mudding, and taping. David W. assures me that "once the sheet rock is done, it's a major milestone in any (building) project." David's also been sourcing some great equipment for repurpose at local restaurant auctions.

Most equipment will be repurposed, but the Mugnaini wood-fired oven will be specially hand-built just for the kitchen. An expert wood-fired oven craftsman, Michael Fairholme, is coming next week by way of Arizona and New York to build the gorgeous Italian stone oven at 20th and Harrison.

An exclusive scoop is the announcement that painter Jessica Niello was chosen as the winner of the flour + water mural contest. Per our October announcement, Jessica will be collaborating with designer Sean Quigley (whom you may know from Paxton Gate and Paxton Gate's Curiosities for Kids) to create a large wall mural in the restaurant. As the winner, flour + water will also host her SF Open Studios event in conjunction withArtSpan, purchasing her a full-page ad in the Open Studios Guide. Her work bears a like-minded approach to Sean's aesthetic, focusing on science, the natural world, and taxidermy. She is a neighbor to the restaurant, with studio space at 17th and Mission Streets. Jessica is currently showing work at Bell Jar and the new NOPA gallery and boutique, The Perish Trust.

Next month, we'll be checking back in with David Steele and David White on their exciting Italian wine list, as well as the story behind their house wine. In the coming week, both Davids will be L.A.- and Vegas-bound, eating some delicious meals for food and wine inspiration at some of Batali's joints, as well as other Italian notables: Pizzeria and Osteria MozzaAngelini OsteriaCasa BiancaFiamma TrattoriaEnoteca San MarcoB+B Ristorante andCarnevinoNora's Wine Bar & Osteria, and Trattoria del Lupo.

We wish David White a wonderful wedding in India, and may all the interior work be completed before his plane takes off with him and his tuxedo (and small bites at all those restaurants will ensure it fits!). 

tablehopper: the hardhat

December 23, 2008

December 23, 2008

Curious about what goes into opening a restaurant? Each month we'll be checking in on the build-out process offlour + water, a new restaurant project that is underway in the Mission. The hardhat will highlight the unique coups and complications when opening a restaurant in San Francisco. This section will be written by Erin Archuleta, tablehopper intern and half of the talent behind local outfit Ichi Catering.

These next few weeks may be the most crucial for the flour + water build out. Now that their plans have been approved by the city planning and building departments, David White and David Steele are moving forward with crews of plumbers, electricians, tilers, and drywall installers. 

David White's project manager process has moved a bit like this (while reading say this list as fast as you can, and you sort of get a sense of the pace these guys have been working at the past few weeks): get the drains in the floors, put in all the rough plumbing, venting for the kitchen, lay all concrete slabs--then acid wash, stain, and cover the floors, install the walk-in box (the giant fridge), tile the floors, cove the kitchen floors, do all the remaining plumbing simultaneously, then have the electricians work in all the conduit, get in the mechanical engineer to vent the hood, finish up the roof, get all the insulation in, and then (drum roll here)… sheet rock. 

Last week David W. had some major deadlines to meet. In order to get the sheet rock crew in they needed to finish framing all the walls for the electricians so that they could run conduit, speaker, and computer wires before they become enclosed and are taped and mudded. With this speedy and interconnected process, even small nuances like the weather can affect whether or not the build turns out smoothly. 

For instance, the sheet rock process will need two days to install, four days to hang, and then eight to mud and tape. The taping is critical because it's a fire tape that creates more fireproof seams in the walls, protecting the inhabitants and the structure itself from the rapid spread of a blaze. The real doozy is that if there's any rain, the mud won't dry in time. If the mud doesn't dry in time, then it holds up the rest of the building process. 

And, much of the process hinges on city inspections. The order of operations for this is pretty intense. First, the roof must be signed off on, then the framing, the HVAC, the walk-in box, the plumbing, the electrical, the cover-up, insulation, and then the nailing inspection. The city literally comes out to count the number of nails between studs hanging the sheet rock. If they find anything unsatisfactory, the guys have to do it again and schedule a new inspection. Each inspection takes about a week (or longer) to schedule. 

Their crews are working through the holidays to keep on the original opening schedule; the nailing inspection is scheduled on New Year's Eve, and the mudding inspection is scheduled for New Year's Day. 

Wishing all of you just a little rest over the holiday season, and we can't wait to see the place with walls! 


tablehopper: the hardhat

November 18, 2008

November 18, 2008

Curious about what goes into opening a restaurant? Each month we'll be checking in on the build-out process offlour + water, a new restaurant project that is underway in the Mission. The hardhat will highlight the unique coups and complications when opening a restaurant in San Francisco. This section will be written by Erin Archuleta, tablehopper intern and half of the talent behind local outfit Ichi Catering.

Peeking in through the plywood construction facade at flour + water, you wouldn't expect that there's much going on. But, after checking back in with owner David Steele and chef-owner David White, they've had their hands full with the permitting process.

The drawing and permitting process can be very nuanced. And in this case--they've got a completely custom-designed kitchen by David W. himself--it can be an extremely complex process. For each part of the design, whether it's the venting for the custom wood-fired oven (which took a month's research on its own), or the height of a door, many permitting experts have to be consulted. And, since they're all experts in their own respective areas (Health Department, Fire Department, oven manufacturers, HVAC, mechanical engineers, and electricians), this can mean that they won't always agree. 

David W. told me that each time he's heard the word "impossible" during the restaurant design process, it has only made him want to find the way to execute the idea. He has found "learning on the job" to be a critical asset. Now, after their final revision, the Davids have submitted the final design plan to the city for approval. Fingers crossed on all your hard work and endless consultations, gentlemen!

Other preparations are taking place before the commencement of the build: gastronomic ones! David S. is set for a research trip to New York where he will taste and sample the menus at ápizzCovo`inoteca Lupa, Pala, and Otto. Both Davids told me that they have been eating pizza and pasta at virtually every meal for the last couple of weeks. They are excited by the ideas they're developing, but are starting to get just a little bit sick of eating the same thing every day. David S. and I laughed about the impending weight gain, but he didn't sound worried at all, confessing that he's "workout obsessed." 

David W. has been making different pastas at home, getting a feel for what things excite the palate. He's also been up in wine country, exploring the fruit and experiencing the harvest. With his background in wine menu development, his mind is definitely on the wine. 

And, in my most favorite twist of research, one that doesn't exactly involve the charge card and discreetly undoing that top button for breathing room: David W.'s been out boar hunting! I picture some kind of Hunter S. Thompson backpacking trip, but he fills me in that boars have actually become a nuisance to farmers, and hunting and eating the pesky boars is actually welcomed. He's excited by the prospect of getting his own boar, and then curing the meat for tasting and experimenting at home.

We'll be back next month with more news and an update on the restaurant's progress! And perhaps some boar recipes! 

tablehopper: the hardhat

October 21, 2008

October 21, 2008

Introducing this new section: the hardhat. Curious about what goes into opening a restaurant? Each month we'll be checking in on the build-out process of flour + water, a new restaurant project that is underway in the Mission. The hardhat will highlight the unique coups and complications when opening a restaurant in San Francisco. This section will be written by Erin Archuleta, tablehopper intern and half of the talent behind local outfit Ichi Catering

Few restaurant purchases in San Francisco are turnkey endeavors, but some less decidedly so than others. David Steele, financier and Mission resident, and David White, a restaurateur who was most recently behind Nua in North Beach, have completely overhauled the former Mi Mazatlan Restaurant to create their own pizzeria, osteria, and enoteca: flour + water. Instead of hipping-up the old place, they have culled the city for pre-existing good fits to create an ambiance they feel will not be overly designed. They are eager to create a space "of the neighborhood, for the neighborhood."

The historic building befits the green idea of reuse. From kitchen items to unique décor, they've sourced the best bits for their diners. Even the espresso machine is one that David White built by hand and brought with him from his last restaurant. Their new big-ticket item will be a Mugnaini wood-fired oven. This build-out is expected to go through the spring. And so far, only rough plumbing and electrical have gone in. 

For more details on the project, you can read the original tablehopper chatterbox posting about it back in July.

Sean Quigley, of Paxton Gate fame, joins them in creating a unique look for their neighborhood spot. In hiring Sean, they are looking for a place that resemble Sean's aesthetic--the fantastic meeting the natural that Missionites have come to love and claim. While discussing the façade, Sean talked about needing a mural. David S., inspired at the thought of connecting with the local art community (as a board member of ArtSpan, he has a built-in network of over 800 artists!), decided to host a contest for local artists to showcase their work. 

In order to get the word out to artistic tablehopper readers, here are the deets of the contest:

Artists are encouraged to create something that embodies the neighborhood as well as the nuances of the restaurant. The chosen mural should capture the theme of the restaurant: organic, natural science, patina, or reclaimed. Due to limitations within the space, the media must be restricted to painting.

Interested artists should e-mail three jpgs of their current work and an essay about their plan for their mural to muralproject [at] artspan [dot] org. Please keep in mind the images should be low resolution so that they may transmit easily via email. Submissions may also be sent on a disc to:

Re: Mural Project
934 Brannan Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

Besides having the honor of painting this mural, the winning artist will receive a sponsored registration for SF Open Studios 2009 AND a complimentary full-color, full-page ad in the 2009 SF Open Studios Guide.

The deadline for this call for entries is November 31st, 2008 at 5pm. The winning artist will be notified by January 18th, 2009. 

Questions? Contact Jennifer Mullen at jmullen [at] artspan [dot] org and include "Mural Project" in the subject of the email. 

We'll be back next month with more news and an update on the project!