Northside SF  

October '09

The Tablehopper
Plenty of new places and things to eat
By Marcia Gagliardi

Impressively on schedule, Baker & Banker (1701 Octavia Street, 415-351-2500) opened in the former Quince space (and before that, Meetinghouse). Owners and couple, pastry chef Lori Baker and chef Jeff Banker, offer a New American menu with delicious-sounding items like white bean, pancetta and cavolo nero soup with green garlic sofrito; house-smoked trout with celery root latke, horseradish crème fraîche, pickled beets, and shaved fennel; Jones Farm country rabbit and French prune pâté with walnut toasts; seared black bass, Thai shellfish risotto, herb salad, and crispy shallots; and bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin with semolina spätzle, Savoy cabbage, and dried cherry reduction (main courses are $19–$27).
More stomach rumbling: Baker’s dessert menu includes kumquat-prune sticky toffee pudding with candied kumquat ice cream and blood orange sauce; brown butter-huckleberry doughnuts and Meyer lemon curd; and caramel walnut bar, Nocello crème fraîche ice cream, and cranberries (Baker is known for her ice creams, so get ready.)
There are also house-made breads, like soft potato rolls and buttermilk herb. Wine director Collin Casey (most recently the on-site sommelier at La Mar under master sommelier Emmanuel Kemiji) has put together an impressive list; most are old world and priced between $27 and $136; glass pours are $7 to $15. The 49-seat restaurant used to be an apothecary, which inspired designer Michael Brennan to highlight details like the molding and woodwork. There are light caramel walls, Edison bulbs in the light fixtures, a visible ceiling pipe system, and banquettes upholstered in espresso leather. The room also sports a bar with six stools and a back bar with woodwork from the 1940s.
Meanwhile, the new Quince (470 Pacific Avenue, 415-775-8500) location over in Jackson Square is going to have a neighbor. A wine bar is coming to Pacific Avenue, directly across from Quince, and sure enough, a recent permit reveals the project is called The Barrel Cellar (461 Pacific Avenue). I learned the partners are local-ish: one is in the wine business in Sonoma, and the other is from the City. They’re keeping a tight lid on it for now, but the projected opening is early this year. Will share more details as they’re revealed.
The Marina has a couple of new projects in the neighborhood: Delarosa (2175 Chestnut Street, 415-673-7100), the latest project from the Beretta and Starbelly team (Ruggero Gadaldi, Adriano Paganini and Deborah Blum) has opened in the former Fuzio space on Chestnut. The all-day eatery is open continuously, plus there’s late-night dining. The menu has a strong focus on the item of the year (yes, pizza), but these are Roman style, very thin and 14 inches (there are 12 to choose from). There are also a variety of antipasti, like meatballs or bruschetti, plus panini, salads, pastas (like orecchiette or the interesting-sounding black olive gnocchi), and bomboloni for dessert.
While Beretta is cocktail-focused, Delarosa is primarily a birreria, with a list of over 14 beers on tap and 15 in bottle chosen by Rich Higgins – he designed the beer menu at Starbelly. Ten seasonal and handcrafted cocktails are also available. Jim Zack of Zack/de Vito Architecture (Starbelly, Bacar, Globe, Manresa) is behind the modern tangerine and dark grey space, which has diners tucked in at communal tables and a 12-seat bar. Delarosa is open daily (and continuously) from 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Just down the street, the Cal-Spanish Laïola (2031 Chestnut Street, 415-346-5641) has morphed into Tacolicious. There’s a new look, and the menu includes tacos, ceviche, albondigas, cocktails, and daily specials. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to midnight daily, with a special late-night bar menu.
The Financial District has a new restaurant called Credo (360 Pine Street), an urban trattoria owned by Clint Reilly and housed in an old Chinese bank. The name comes from the Italian and Latin phrase “I believe,” which has been transformed into a design element: large panels on the walls feature quotes from famous people (ranging from John F. Kennedy to Howard Stern) that begin with “I believe.” There are 79 seats, with a spacious private dining room below with room for 50, and an upstairs bar with 8 seats. The design is modern, with treated cement floors, and special tables handmade from scrap wood by Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek. Richardson Architects of Mill Valley is behind the design.
Chef Mario Maggi, who hails from Florence and trained in Milan, has worked in 31 restaurants around the world, and this is his first opening in San Francisco. His menu of rustic Italian fare features baked pastas, including a dish called sedanini al credo, which is baked covered with a lid of pizza dough, almost like an Italian potpie. And reportedly, the Emperor of Japan is crazy for Maggi’s tiramisu. Lunch and dinner is served Monday through Friday, and dinner on Saturdays.
There are also some new places to pick up lunch downtown: first is Urban Picnic (125 Kearny Street, 415-413-1233), which launched in the former Chill dessert cafe. Owner Trang Nguyen hired Poleng Lounge’s Tim Luym to develop a new menu of healthful and ethnically inspired salads, sandwiches and soups, ranging from turkey with honey and avocado on a baguette, to salads with additions like roasted chicken, to a chicken pho noodle soup. The location’s original dessert concept means there are desserts and beverages as well, including all natural frozen yogurt, frozen custard, gelato, and coffee. Open Monday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Warm up with some kimchee at Stone Korean Kitchen (4 Embarcadero Center, Street Level, 415-839-4070) in the old Oishii Sushi space. Three best friends have come together to offer a menu featuring Korean dishes from their families. You’ll be able to check it out for lunch, happy hour and dinner, Monday through Friday. Gi Paoletti Design Lab designed the 75-seat space, and there’s also a patio planned that will be quite nice in less-chilly weather.
A third The Plant Cafe Organic, is now open at 101 California, in the old Palapas Mexican joint. Hours are Monday through Friday for light breakfasts and full lunches (and catering). It has a similar menu to the Marina location (create-your-own salads, fresh juices, smoothies, grain bowls, sandwiches, the plant burger, all-organic house-made baked goods, Blue Bottle coffee, and more), but this location has rotisserie chicken, a more-extensive grab-and-go selection, and some new items such as a fish sandwich and a breakfast burrito. Every ingredient is 100 percent organic and almost exclusively locally sourced, only sustainable seafood is served, and poultry is free range. Cass Calder Smith also designed this location, so you’ll see similarities to other Plant locations with the hickory slatted ceiling, tables, and many of the same fixtures are used.
Here’s wishing that 2010 is starting out well for everyone – cheers!

Marcia Gagliardi writes a popular weekly e-column about the S.F. dining scene; subscribe for free at She also writes for San Francisco magazine, Edible San Francisco, and the weekly San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau blog, Foodie 411. Got a hot tip? E-mail

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