North Beach is buzzing with the opening of Original Joe’s (601 Union Street, 415-775-4877) on Washington Square Park (see our cover story on page 10). The restaurant, which dates back to 1937, tragically closed in October 2007 after a terrible fire ripped through the Tenderloin location on Taylor Street. The Duggan family ultimately decided to move the restaurant to the space that previously housed Joe DiMaggio’s, and prior to that, the historic Fior d’Italia. Kudos to the Duggan family (and Anthony Fish of Arcanum Architecture) for a great job integrating the classic O.J.’s elements into the new location. The signature burgundy red booths were brought over (and some of the counter stools), redwood panels, Art Deco mermaids, a vintage neon exterior sign, and the exhibition kitchen counter is also in effect. There’s a separate cocktail lounge with a piano, two private rooms, and look for sidewalk seating in the spring. On the menu: the same classic Italian-American style of dishes, like veal parmigiana, linguini and clams, and of course Joe’s Special (I like it with an egg and Tabasco on top), plus some new lighter items as well. Classic cocktails include a Manhattan, Aviation and Vesper. Hours are Sunday–Wednesday 10:30 a.m.–10 p.m. and Thursday–Saturday 10:30 a.m.–11 p.m.
Also on the square, Park Tavern (1652 Stockton Street, 415-989-7300) owners Anna Weinberg and chef-owner Jenn Puccio have just launched a weekend brunch with savory dishes like wood-fired eggs.
While we’re in North Beach, swing by the new salumeria Geppetto (658 Vallejo Street, 415-291-8811) from the owner of the next-door Trattoria Pinocchio. Geppetto has a Sicilian focus with dishes like marinated octopus, scungilli (conch), and other prepared dishes, plus imported salumi, cheeses, and other products. The G.M. and man behind the counter, “Steve” Leone, spent 17 years at Molinari.
Over at Txoko (504 Broadway Street, 415-500-2744), chef Ian Begg’s new menu has shifted to more of a traditional appetizer/entrée format (including a wood-oven–roasted chicken), although you can still order his small bites/pintxos at the bar.
A Tablehopper reader tipped me off that after 18 years in business, Rex Café (2323 Polk Street, 415-441-2244) is converting into a Spanish restaurant. Partners Bob DiFranco and Daniel Mougeot will close Rex at the end of February, and after a month of refreshing the space, will reopen it as Marbella, named after the Spanish coastal town. Instead of just small tapas plates, many dishes will be designed for groups to share. There will also be a new cocktail program featuring fresh juices. Stand by for a menu and more details in coming months.
Troya in the Inner Richmond is opening a second location, Troya Fillmore (2125 Fillmore Street), in the vacant Citizen Cake space. The menu will have the same Turkish focus (have you ever had their delicate and delicious manti [dumplings]?), with additional dishes from the eastern Mediterranean. It will open in a couple months, serving lunch and dinner daily and brunch on the weekends.
Speaking of dumplings, just around the corner, Dumplings & Buns (2411 California Street, 415-292-6209) has expanded its menu with a new section of entrées, soups and combination plates, like 24-hour Kwan pork sliders (try to eat just one), Pau Pau Lee’s tomato beef plate, teriyaki beef skewers with rice, and spicy and sweet “XO” dragon wings made with Cognac, plus three kinds of soup (wonton, a fulfilling Burmese-style chicken noodle, and egg drop), salad wraps, and more. Don’t forget some dessert dumplings to go, like the boozer buns made with Amaretto.