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Summer of SoMa
A New Foodie Frontier
by Lily Ko on Sep 23, 2010
This summer, restaurateurs looked east of the Mission, into the vast frontier that is SoMa. With multiple subdivisions, ample parking, and cheap rent, restaurants are popping up left and right in the district better known for nightclubs and the Folsom Street Fair. In the last three months, a handful of successful spots opened, creating a wave in the SF dining scene. Whether you're looking for a hot date spot or a new neighborhood eatery to frequent in with friends, SoMa offers plenty of new options:
1198 Folsom Street
Chris Beerman (formerly of Bento 415, Boulevard) teamed up with longtime friend, Chef Cheryl Burr (Pinkie's Bakery), to open a dual diner and bakery on Folsom Street. Beerman operates Citizen's Band, while Burr runs Pinkie's across the adjoining hallway.
Beerman says he saw the space and immediately thought “diner”, but with a modern twist. The 52-seat dining room and semi-opened kitchen are decorated with a collection of salvaged flea market goods. The menu changes biweekly and offers a select 14 wines by the glass.
The signature fried chicken, which is always on the menu, features California poussin with a perfectly salty, crispy buttermilk batter. Another must-try is the macaroni and cheese, which comes topped with a huge stack of onion rings — why haven't we seen this combination before? For dessert, Pinkie's Bakery offers exclusive dishes like Peach Berry Cobbler, that are in tune with the New American cuisine of Citizen's band.
1123 Folsom Street
Chef Kelly Hughett relocated from New York to take a gamble on co-owners of Radius, Christian Baker and Jon Whitehead. After a lot of joking, Baker, an aspiring architect, and Whitehead, a burned-out marketing director, decided to go all-in and open a restaurant.
The concept is simple: 100 percent local from a 100-mile radius of San Francisco. The website shows where everything is sourced from and from how many miles away. “We want to support local farmers, ranchers and wine makers,” Whitehead says. “It's easy to do in California.”
Chef Hughett, who most recently worked under Chef Alain Ducasse in NYC, brings her classical French techniques to rustic Californian ingredients. The outcome is blend of fresh salads that are really a celebration of greens, homemade pastas with artisan cheeses, and a to-die-for chocolate torte.
“We didn't want anything pretentious,” Whitehead says, who says most of the customers are neighborhood folks who come in a few times a week. The restaurant offers dinner service while the cafe is open all day and offers an easy takeaway menu.
The restaurant, which will begin weekend brunch service starting October 10, shares a tucked away outdoor patio with the cafe.
826 Folsom Street
Zero Zero stands out among SF's viral pizzeria scene with 00, the ultra-fine Neapolitan flour it’s named after.
The flour and imported Italian tomatoes are the key to their traditional Neapolitan style pizzas, says chef/owner Bruce Hill. The menu boasts a selection of 10 pizzas that take a mere two minutes to cook in the Mugnaini oven. The pizzas are then served unsliced, in true Naples fashion. The crispy, chewy edges may look burnt, but don't be fooled — the smokey flavor enhances every bite.
While the pizzas are the backbone, appetizers, pastas, and desserts are also a must. To start, try the Ricotta Stuffed and Fried Squash Blossoms, or the Compressed Watermelon salad. Then move right on to the Wild Nettle Agnolotti which features chanterelle mushrooms, black garlic and a lovely brown butter sauce. The dessert menu is a fun build-your-own soft serve, with Straus organic ice cream and custom toppings such as freshly baked waffles.
Located just around the corner from Moscone Center, Zero Zero caters to a mix of conference attendees and neighborhood locals, and is now open for lunch.
300 Spear Street
Prospect is the hot, hip, younger sibling to San Francisco landmark restaurant, Boulevard. The Boulevard team — Nancy Oakes, Pam Mazzola, Kathy King, and Ravi Kapur — have been looking to grow for some time now.
Chef Kapur says SoMa was the ideal neighborhood for them, as they wanted something in relatively close proximity to Boulevard. While it's not just another Boulevard, it still has the same culinary integrity, he says.
“It's more than the menu,” Kapur says. “It's about the philosophy of the food. First, delicious food, then also interesting and not something somebody can make at home.”
You won’t be disappointed with the Yellowtail Crudo with seaweed rice cracker, pickled cucumber and white miso. The Northern Halibut is another triumph. But don’t be fooled by the massive white-table cloth dining room — Prospect it isn't meant to be a fussy special-occasion restaurant.
“We want people to eat, but to go beyond that and to socialize,” Kapur says. “We want them to be comfortable — to come here to remember things, and to forget things.”
Prospect will be open for weekend brunch starting October 3.
8 Mint Plaza
The retro-minded creative team behind Spork, a 1950s style restaurant, introduced Thermidor this summer. Moving along chronologically, Thermidor is an ode to 1960s fine dining.
Chef/co-owner Bruce Binn puts a spin onto iconic dishes with options such as Lobster Thermidor, which comes served in the shell with a generous amount of succulent, buttery lobster.
To balance out the rich seafood, the melon ball salad is a refreshing modern dish that could double as a dessert. To go with the 1960s feel, you can’t go wrong with a martini or Mai Tai. Each cocktail is $9 and pairs well with any of the $6 appetizers. If you're not looking to spend a lot, it’s a great alternative to the Westlake food court.
Thermidor participates in the Mint Plaza Farmers Market every Thursday with limited-edition chicken crispy sandwiches. Weekend brunch is coming soon.
1052 Folsom St.
Ex-tech project manager turned restaurateur, David Mur, recently opened this refined, but renegade fondue spot. But, why fondue?
“Fondue is fun,” Mur says. “We have a great niche. There isn't anything like us in the city.”
The relaxed vibe goes with the simple interior that features stencil mural work by local artist John Baden. The food is uncomplicated, as well. Mur set out to feature simple, light flavor profiles with high-end cheeses and artisan chocolates. The novelty is really in the interaction between diner and food.
For the savory dips, Mur says the Rawhide is his favorite. It features Italian dolce gorgonzola, Emmentaler, white wine, bacon, and roasted garlic. Each cheese comes with seasonal dippers, but always bread and potatoes.
On the sweeter side, Happy Trails is 68 percent dark chocolate with cayenne pepper for a little extra kick. It comes served with madeline cookies, marshmallows, and a variety of seasonal fruit.
by Lily Ko on Sep 23, 2010
Radius. Photo Credit: Lily Ko
Citizen's Band. Photo Credit: Lily Ko
Prospect. Photo Credit: Lily Ko