After the 1906 earthquake, the city’s resurrection ushered in a wave of new restaurants to entice tourists back to San Francisco. Chinatown gained its pagodas, and Downtown added a slate of now-historic dining rooms like the Garden Court. A decade or so later, Prohibition prompted bootleggers to open speakeasies across the city.
Two newly revived restaurants are carrying the torch of these historic establishments. The Blind Pig Speakeasy Lounge has reinvigorated the old Cathay House in the center of Chinatown, and the Barrel Room welcomed back diners to its FiDi wine cellar, which sits atop a defunct bank vault.
For something completely different, head over to the Chase Center for the opening of a Black-owned cupcake shop at Thrive City, the arena’s shopping complex. Or to the Mission, where chef Javier León has turned his Mayan-inspired food truck into a diminutive cafe.
Brand new to the Design District is Rosemary & Pine, a modern American concept from the Omakase Restaurant Group. Michelin-starred executive chef Dustin Falcon, who you may know from Niku Steakhouse, focuses on seasonality with this menu, and those values carry over to the cocktail list as well. Read on for a sneak preview …
A Spirited Start
Rosemary & Pine
1725 Alameda St.
Bar manager Michael Hart joined the burgeoning team at Rosemary & Pine just three months before the restaurant opened this week. Coming to the new Design District eatery from Elements Bar & Lounge at ONE65, Hart aims to keep the bar program approachable and environmentally sustainable by leveraging the connections that chef Falcon has cultivated with local farms. To that end, he created a blackberry-forward vodka shrub called Sage Advice to coincide with the end of blackberry season.
Hart told The Standard that over the years he’s learned to emphasize quality over pretense. “The worst feedback that anyone can ever give is to say a drink is interesting,” he said.
Hart’s favorite drink from the new menu is a singular take on the Ramos Gin Fizz. Called the Chalk & Cheese, a British colloquial phrase meaning two things that you wouldn’t expect to go together, the cocktail is a cheeky nod to the general manager’s English roots. This gin-based drink also incorporates the restaurant’s namesake flora, sourced from the Pacific Northwest. Hart finishes off his reinvention with an ingredient that won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s tried a fizz before—an egg white.
Game Day Cupcakes
Cupcakin’ Bake Shop at Thrive City
1725 Third St.
The Warriors just gained a resident baker. The latest addition to Thrive City’s shopping complex, right next to the basketball team’s official store, Cupcakin’ Bake Shop frosts its first batch of red velvets next Tuesday. This location is the fifth for shop-owner Lila Owens—she currently operates two in Berkeley, one in Oakland and one in Walnut Creek. With the SF opening, Owens reveals a new flavor to suit the season: peach cobbler.
3224 1/2 22nd St.
Throughout the pandemic, chef Javier León could be found in his red food truck, splitting time between Spark Social and District Six. His Mayan-inspired cuisine has finally found a brick-and-mortar home on 22nd Street in the Mission, and León hopes to start serving Yucatanean specialties for the public next Thursday. He’ll start slowly with weekday breakfast, weekend dinner, and it’ll be BYO until he acquires a beer and wine permit next year. For the most important meal of the day, he’s serving chorizo breakfast burritos, chilaquiles out of a Chinese takeout box and a torta de huevo omelet with black beans.
Chinatown Landmark Gets a New Chapter
Blind Pig Speakeasy Lounge
718 California St.
The Cathay House occupied the back rooms of a striking turquoise and red pagoda-style building at the corner of California Street and Grant Avenue beginning in the 1930s, but it has laid fallow for the past few years. Those days are now over. Derrick Li has cleared the dust and transformed the Chinatown cornerstone into a speakeasy-style drinking den that’s reminiscent of pre-war Shanghai. With a name that references a Prohibition-era attraction, Li centers high-proof baiju in many of his cocktails. Those curious about the less familiar liquors on the menu can order a spirits flight.
A Wine Connoisseur's Dinner
The Barrel Room
415 Sansome St.
Another fallen Covid restaurant will come back to life next Tuesday when wine director Sarah Trubnick and chef Manuel Hewitt renew dinner service at the Barrel Room—just in time for Fall SF Restaurant Week. This FiDi wine cellar boasts 1,000 bottles, and as such, the dinner menu functions as a regional wine pairing, featuring a Pacific cheese plate and a Santa Maria tri-tip, a cut popularized on the Central Coast. With the Barrel Room’s dining room back in business, they’ve also reopened a literal vault—that is, an underground former bank vault-turned-speakeasy that survived the 1906 earthquake.
Sarah Holtz can be reached at [email protected]