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Plant It Earth
The Weekly Feed
Hutong heads to Cow Hollow, Padrecito gets close in Cole Valley, and more news, trends and scuttlebutt from the Bay Area food scene.
Carolyn Alburger | Photo: Courtesy of Betelnut, Padrecito, and Plant It Earth | February 25, 2013
The Scoop: Alexander Ong, Betelnut's reigning chef of the last 12 years, just announced on ChefsFeed and his Facebook page that March 3 will be the restaurant’s last day in business. Betelnut opened in 1995 as one of the first to serve Asian street food in a restaurant atmosphere. And although the restaurant’s run will end after a commendable 18 years in business, Ong isn’t anywhere near done with the address. His team will take a week to tweak the décor with a plan to reopen soon as Hutong (2030 Union Street). Ong says he’s been working on the project for four years.
The name, Hutong, refers to the back alleys in Beijing where Ong, on a recent visit, says he emjoyed some of the most amazing, fresh, and simple food. His new restaurant will pay homage to these places with a menu of small plates, priced in the $7 to $15 range. This won’t be the Cantonese or Szechuan food San Franciscans have grown used to. Ong plans to draw from Fujian, Teochew, and Foochow influences to bring new flavors to town. Favorite dishes from Betelnut will live on in a “Happy Meal” section of the menu. The beloved “Beggar’s Chicken” will be available on 24-hour notice. And, if Ong has his druthers, his famous curry laksa will become the signature dish for a future food truck.
When Hutong debuts around March 11, look out for a back alley-inspired decor with graffiti treatment and old pasted newspaper ads on the walls. Apparently Ong wanted to put bad Yelp reviews of Betelnut up there as well, but the idea was shot down. Betelnut fans, you’ve got about a week to go in for short ribs, laksa, and Szechuan green beans.
Coming Soon: Mamacita owners Nate Valentine, Stryker Scales and Sam Josi are about to drop a whole lot of guacamole in Cole Valley. Their second Mexican restaurant concept, Padrecito (901 Cole Street), is about two weeks away from opening in the former Eos space, as Valentine tells GrubStreet. Months ago, Valentine debriefed me on the menu, which will be similar to the one at Mamacita with some adaptations, like corn and flour tortillas made to order. They’ll also open with margaritas, beer and wine from day one—a rare feat in a town where a full liquor license can cost upwards of $150,000.
Coming Eventually: In other Mexican food news, SFist brings word that a new 130-seat “Latin-themed” restaurant and mezcaleria named La Urbana (661 Divisadero) is gunning to enter the majestic former plant warehouse at Divisadero and Grove Streets. The map for the space is currently before the Planning Department. If it garners the city’s approval, the wait for a liquor license, build-out, neighborhood approval, and other inspections put this opening at least a year out. The business is registered to Latin Hospitality Group, LLC and may or may not be related to the restaurant group that owns Colibiri.
1) Dennis Leary, he of Canteen/ House of Shields/ Golden West/The Sentinel fame, has two more spots in the works. The first is Café Terminus, blessedly located within walking distance of the San Francisco magazine offices, at 10 California Street. Here, Leary will run a similar sandwich-centric business to Golden West and The Sentinel, although the joint will be open at night too, serving beer, wine and cocktails. Leary’s second new project is over in the Tenderloin, at the storied RJ’s address (701 Geary). He’s planning to open a bar that thumbs its nose at many of the San Francisco trends—you know, Edison bulbs, reclaimed wood, “mixology”—with its focus on “relationships with customers” an “international look,” and probably no mustaches.
2) After all kinds of speculation about what restaurants will go into the Twitter building on Market Street, we learn of one: AQ’s owners will be opening a 125-seat, all-day California brasserie called Bon Marche. Yes, these guys are on a tear. Their wine director, Kristen Capella, is working to curate the “largest sparkling wine list in the country,” which should go quite nicely with the planned raw bar. The space will sport a 60-seat bar, as the stage for it’s classic French cocktail program. And do note that “Bon marche” is the French term for a good deal—appropriate, since the prices will be lower than those at AQ. The early forecasted opening here is at least 18 months out.
3) The final biggie to break recently is The Cavalier, coming to a forthcoming Viceroy property called the Hotel Zetta at 55 Fifth Street near Mission. The owners of Park Tavern and Marlowe, Anna Weinberg and chef Jennifer Puccio, are behind this project, which will be similar in spirit to Bon Marche, in that it’s an all-day brasserie (albeit a London-themed one), serving Stumptown coffee during the day, and a full-bar at night. Ken Fulk will create the restaurant’s “old world” feel, slated to debut in “summer.”
Weinberg and Puccio are also overseeing the adjacent lounge space, called S & R Lounge. And do you have any idea what the “S” and “R” stand for? You were right! “Salvage” and “rescue.” This pretty much guarantees over 50% of the people out there will love it. Making that percentage even higher still: the bar will serve “tech-speak inspired cocktails,” “retro party food,” and will probably be the exact opposite of Dennis Leary’s bar. S & R should open next month.
Other Bits: One of the biggest charity taste-a-thons of the year, Taste of the Nation, is coming up on March 21 at the Bently Reserve. A lot of big-name chefs usually come out for this one, and this year, they’ve already got AQ, Central Kitchen, Frances, Locanda, Spruce, and State Bird Provisions on board. Each chef has a table and usually serves one or two bites, and you can bank on cocktails from good local bars, and loads of decent and above-decent wine sponsors as well. Tickets start at $125 and a portion of proceeds benefit Share our Strength.
Quince chef Michael Tusk is creating two intimate, customized five-course wine dinners in the coming months. The first ($275/person) is on Friday with a winemaker from Piedmont, Italy’s Le Piane. The second ($255/person) is on March 29th with Berkeley’s Donkey & Goat. You can arrive to both dinners at 5:30 p.m. for a mingle session with the winemakers; or meet up at 7 p.m. for the opening toast in Quince’s wine cellar. If you’ve got the cash to spare for it, these promise to be fun and insidery nights with beautiful food.