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Food & Drink

San Francisco Basque restaurant Piperade closes after 2 decades

An eggplant-colored exterior of a restaurant with wide doors.
Piperade has been a staple of the Northeast Waterfront for two decades. | Source: Courtesy Google Street View

An upscale Basque restaurant just north of Downtown San Francisco will close today after more than 20 years in business.

In the city’s Northeast Waterfront, a quiet, formerly industrial neighborhood near Levi’s Plaza and the Embarcadero, Piperade had made a name for itself, serving meat-rich dishes and the bite-size appetizers known as pintxos. Longtime fans cited the refined decor and elegant service, as well as a substantial wine list.

Eater SF was the first to report the news, quoting chef-owner Gerald Hirigoyen as saying the closure had nothing to do with Downtown San Francisco’s well-documented emptiness. He is simply ready to retire.

Hirigoyen, a native of France, has opened or run a number of well-regarded restaurants in San Francisco during his long career, including Fringale, which lasted for nearly 30 years in the city’s SoMa neighborhood. He had been nominated for a James Beard Award in 2006.

Championed by Julia Child and others, a piperade—pronounced “PEE-per-odd”—is a stew made from sauteed onions, tomatoes and peppers with spicy Espelette pepper, which together resemble the colors of the Basque flag. Piperade, the restaurant, served its $28 version with ham and a fried egg.

Around Bakersfield and in many rural regions of California, Basque restaurants are relatively common, as ranchers and shepherds from the region around northern Spain and southwestern France migrated there in the last century to work the land. But in San Francisco, Basque spots are somewhat rarer, with the tapas-heavy Mission District restaurant Picaro perhaps the best example.

Astrid Kane can be reached at