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Food Delivery, Food Courts, The New Black
The Next Big Thing and an Unsuspecting yet Dubious Populace
Regardless of what developers, realtors, or those that they have purchased on the Board Of Supervisors will tell you, what makes San Francisco such a great place is it’s historic resistance to change, particularly change for greed’s sake. People come from all over the world to see the Victorians, the cable cars, the street cars, the parks, the mom and pop retail stores, the independent restaurants, the quaint neighborhoods built in a human scale. These are all beautiful creations that compliment a healthy lifestyle, they invigorate and stimulate us. The same thing cannot be said for boxy glass and steel condos that have been and continue to be built all over the city as if there is no tomorrow. There is no time to take a step back and reflect on how these cold and visually insulting behemoths will ultimately take away our sense of community, draining us of what we have taken for granted for so long: our delight in moving around what has always been such an engaging and aesthetically pleasing city. But although no one thought that there would be so much change happening so quickly, it is here all around us. Few are happy about it, but a small group of people have clearly grown very rich as a result of all of this change, and they don’t care who they had to evict to make it happen, so take it or leave it. They moneyed interests have won, and the city is being remade so that they might benefit.
There is yet another new change that is now being thrust upon us without any time to reflect or to discuss how the change will affect our society or or community. It isn’t the ride-sharing services that employ the under employed. No these services whose drivers are now trying to make ends meet in a city that was stolen out from underneath them are no longer new, in fact they are legal now, and I hope will start paying taxes and maybe insure their drivers. It isn’t Air BnB, again many of the people renting out their living spaces to out of town travelers, are also just trying to make ends meet in a city that is no longer theirs. No, the newest thing to be shoved down our throats as the newest thing on this race to the bottom, is a revolution in how we choose to eat. Two new ways to eat are being deployed at a rate faster than atrocious condos can be built. Are they necessarily bad? You be the judge:
First up, we have a slew of new home or office meal delivery services, many promise gourmet meals delivered to you in as little as 10 minutes for around $10 or less. Huh?
Munchery (munchery.com), a company that’s been around since 2010 but has taken off recently — the company fills about 4,500 orders a day and claims double-digit month-over-month growth. Munchery calls on seven staff and around 35 part-time chefs to make a wide variety of main dishes, sides, kids meals, and desserts that you order on the website or the iOS app at least two hours and up to two days ahead of time. The cost is around $10-$12 per entree, $2.95-$4.95 per delivery for most of the Bay Area, and it offers a wide selection and delivery range. The items are made earlier that day and delivered chilled. You have to heat them up yourself.
Sprig (eatsprig.com) The start-up’s easy iOS interface offers three rotating meals a day prepared by Nate Keller, formerly head chef at Google’s cafeteria. I ordered chicken agridolce with brown rice and spicy broccoli, and French onion shredded beef with carrots and green beans (there was a vegetarian option, a quiche, but it looked a little lackluster in the photo). Every dish is $10, with a $2 delivery fee. The hot food was at my door within 12 minutes of ordering. It was basically magic.
Spoon Rocket (spoonrocket.com) Started in the East Bay by two college students delivers meals (lunch) around $8.00 in about 10 minutes.
Chefler (chefler.com) Delivers “healthy” meals to buy professionals and parents but they are not currently accepting customers.
Plated (plated.com) is one of several services that deliver food and recipes to your door, you would then follow the instructions and prepare the ingredients yourself. Not sure if having someone who is so uncreative that they can’t manage to find their own recipe or choose their own ingredients prepare anything in the kitchen is a good thing.
Having tried these services, I have to say, the food is okay, not great, but it could be worse. I feel for the drivers, you know they aren’t being paid much and I’m told that you are not supposed to tip them. In a city with a restaurant on every block I find it hard to imagine these businesses being able to compete, but I wish them all the best of luck. The saddest thing is that all of these services encourage the consumer to not leave their home or office and makes it convenient to not interact with real people in the outside world. In our increasingly fragmented society where more and more people never look up from whatever screen they are using, this does not bode well.
Next up, we have a deluge of Food Courts heading our way, but they have been made over to look like Whole Foods meets the Ferry Building to make the dot com crowd feel safe, and they have been rebranded oddly enough as Food Halls:
Second Act (the former Red Vic Theatre)
Haight Street between Cole and Shrader Streets
The Haight’s Red Vic Movie House was a legendary place, you could watch movies on couches and recliners, and eat real popcorn with real butter. Now it is a mid-sized food court called, The Second Act Marketplace, a food stall and events space inside the now-defunct theater. Second Act is designed to serve as a neighborhood hub, offering coffee, juice and food options alongside book readings, film screening, shows and more. Betsy and Jack Rix, who were part-owners of the original Red Vic, are behind the metamorphosis, which brings five food vendors to the new space. We wish them luck.
The Market Hall
Forget that Oakland has already had a venue called Market Hall, albeit the official name is Rockridge Market Hall, and they have been in business since 1987. Not to mention, like the name implies, Market Hall in Rockridge is actually a market and not a food court. Forget about that Market Hall for second and remember that big sterile food halls are really the new black, as we’ve seen in the recent announcements of South Beach’s The Market Hall, This non-market which is also not a hall, is from the creative brain of Los Angeles Developer Tony Riviera, who comes with an idea and a 1990-ish look that would probably look great in the Southern California wasteland or San Mateo yet look completely out of place in San Francisco, except in maybe the new UCSF wasteland in South Beach/ Mission Bay. This impersonal and icy-cold, huge and vapid space looks like the interior of a German airport but not as interesting. The only saving grace about this endeavor and this whole disgusting area, where no true San Franciscan would be caught dead, is that if the Big-One hits, it’s all going into the quick-sand and will return to SF Bay. So pray for an earthquake before it’s too late.
The Twitter building has turned out to be a major job killer and a curse on the Mid-Market neighborhood. When the Twit nest first opened, the rents all around the immediate area went up, doubling and tripling almost over night, many restaurants closed immediately. But many struggled to stay open, believing that the the twatty employees would become customers. What they didn’t realize, was that much like home-schooled children, the Twit-staff rarely leave their building and do not mix much with the neighborhood. Their food is prepared for them inside the building and served to them for free. So it was with surprise that we heard about the food court that the Tweets are opening in their building. One great thing we heard, The Cadillac Bar and Grill is being resurrected inside the food court: The Cadillac Bar & Grill, a revival of a Mexican restaurant that’s been closed since 1999. Inside Scoop got the details from owner Michael Rodriguez, who’s ready to revisit the concept 15 years after the last fajita was served.
The plan is for the revived Cadillac to occupy a huge, 8,000-square-foot space, including a 50-foot bar pouring margaritas and the like. Family-style taco and fajita plates will dominate the menu (half of which will date to the original incarnation, and half of which will be updated for modern tastes), and a mesquite-fired grill will be in action. With a big patio, mariachis roaming the room, and tables designed for groups, it’s definitely meant to be a party atmosphere, in line with that of the original (which lasted for 17 years before meeting its end in the Moscone Center expansion and redevelopment). It’s set to reopen sometime this fall.
The Hall (L.A. North)
6th and Market Streets
One on of the most dangerous and sketchy blocks in the city, a giant Food Court has been announced: Called The Hall, it’s taking over the former billiards parlor at 6th and Market, and comes from entrepreneurs Ted Wilson (a wine distribution exec and vintner) and Scott Peterson (a former chef at Bocadillos, Bizou and Chow). Matt Semmelhack (AQ, TBD) is also consulting on the project, which will feature seven vendors, including a seafood restaurant, an Indian spot, coffee and pastries, and more.
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Here are the seven participating vendors:
· Fine & Rare: A concept from Wilson and Peterson, this spot will offer Southern-influenced seafood dishes sourced as locally as possible, as well as a raw bar and a wine shop with bottles to go.
· The Whole Beast: A brick-and-mortar incarnation of the popular food stand and pop-up, featuring dishes created from whole animals.
· Little Green Cyclo: A food truck gone perm, with Vietnamese dishes like pho, banh mi, and spring rolls, as well as bubble tea and housemade sweets.
· Raj + Singh: Curries and other Indian fare, including vegan and vegetarian options, and naan freshly baked on-site.
· Cassia: Moroccan-Peruvian fusion in dishes like a meatball masala bowl or a coconut pork pita pocket, from the folks behind the Fuki food truck.
· Dignitá: Coffee (including cold brew), pastries, and healthy snacks.
· Anchor Brewers and Distillers: An on-site bar, featuring wine and beer from the Anchor portfolio.
All of this fare will be offered in a communal setting, with picnic tables, trees located both indoors and out, and what’s described as an “indoor-meets-outdoor, rustic-industrial vibe.” An outdoor grill will apparently cook many of the meats and vegetables, which all the involved vendors are attempting to source as locally as possible. The Hall says it plans to land by the end of September; we’ll have an update later today with more info.
Market and 15th at Sanchez Streets
Project yet to be officially named
An artist’s rendering of the new building.
Next door to “No-Tell” MotelBeck’s Motor Lodge, on the spot that used to house, “Home“, is a building that I wanted to hate. The owner of the now defunct Rosie’s Cantina owns the land and she didn’t want a building that didn’t fit in with the neighborhood, and in my opinion, she did a great job and the building is stunning and a good fit for the surrounding area.
The Bay Area Reporter says that the new multi-use building, which is located at 2175 Market Street (at 15th) will feature a 3,895-square-foot emporium-style marketplace, to be shared by a collection of food vendors. The new space will join behemoth-to-be Market Square (that’s the Twitter building) and the smaller Second Act and 331 Cortland in adopting a shared-space model.
Though the specific vendors are still being decided, the planning report notes that the concept will be similar to the Ferry Building or a “European-style” marketplace, with a bar rumored to be part of the upcoming plans. A formula retail clause will restrict the vendors to local businesses only. There’s also an adjacent restaurant space whose tenant is yet to be determined. The building is expected to open its units to tenants in the fall; updates on potential tenants will follow as soon as they’re announced.
331 Cortland Marketplace
So we began in the Haight and looked at a smaller scale food court that began organically and brings something to the neighborhood without dominating it or destroying the eco-system that is already in place. We end with more evidence that the Food Hall concept can work if done right. In fact, besides Haight Street, it is currently working very well in Bernal Heights at 331 Cortland Avenue. It has been open now for about 5 years, it doesn’t have the cutting-edge restaurant scene of the Mission District or the tourist pull of the Ferry Plaza. But an influx of innovative food companies, embraced by a community with a fervor for locally grown businesses and food, has turned the neighborhood into something that would have been unthinkable a few years ago: an epicurean destination.
Alyson Jacks moved to Bernal Heights 20 years ago when the neighborhood was best known for its drug trade; the commercial strip, Cortland Avenue, had only a handful of unremarkable restaurants and liquor stores.
“In my time living here it’s been an extraordinary transformation,” said Ms. Jacks, wearing a black sweatshirt with “Bernal Heights” in gold letters. “I don’t have to get in my car to get anything.”
Local residents trace its initial revival in the early 1990s to the opening of Good Life Grocery, a midsize market, and Liberty Cafe, which later drew a following for its upscale twist on chicken potpie. After young families, attracted to the neighborhood’s tiny Victorian homes and narrow, walkable streets, created a real estate boom a few years ago, others built on the culinary foundation that had helped spark the turnaround.
The latest batch of food businesses focus on handmade products. Last month, an indoor marketplace at 331 Cortland Avenue opened with six kiosks inside 1,000 square feet. At Bernal Cutlery, Josh Donald slowly sharpens knives with Japanese whetstones behind an ornately carved wooden counter. Paulie’s Pickling sells East Coast-style deli sandwiches from a space barely larger than a pickle crock. Ichi Lucky Cat Deli offers fish and prepared sushi rolls. El Porteño Empanadas fills beef empanadas with meat from Prather Ranch and sweet ones with banana and dulce de leche. There’s also an organic produce stand and Wholesome Bakery, which sells vegan and gluten-free sweets.
The owner of the building, Debra Resnik, was inspired to create the market while volunteering at La Cocina, a San Francisco nonprofit organization that supports food entrepreneurs. The vendors previously had street food stands or worked in catering, and Most of the vendors live within blocks of the market.
“I love that it’s all artisan food, and I love supporting local people that we live around,” said Joey Bennett, who has lived in the neighborhood for eight years and brings her young children to the marketplace.
The Story of Oofty-Goofty & Big Bertha
Big Bertha and Oofty-Goofty, San Francisco, CA
Looking towards Washington Street from early Portsmouth Square, Kearney would be to the right.
Still not landscaped, Portsmouth Plaza in the foreground and Telegraph Hill in the background.
Doesn’t appear to be any rock quarrying yet on Telegraph Hill, or Signal Hill as it was likely to
be called then. There was probably still a beach in North Beach. The main area of the Barbary Coast
would be situated to the right and up a couple blocks from here. This square was not part of Chinatown
but instead was the main town square. The water line of the bay was still just a couple blocks east of here.
Photo from 1851.
Big Bertha arrived in San Francisco in the middle eighteen-eighties, posing as a wealthy Jewish widow searching for a good man to take care of her money, which she described as being far more than she could count. She required each suitor to transfer to her a sum of money, to be added to an equal sum of her own, the whole to be risked on an investment of which she alone knew the nature.
In this extraordinary manner she collected she collected several thousand dollars from a score of lovelorn males, not a penny of which was ever seen again by it’s rightful owner. She was at length arrested, but none of her victims felt inclined to brave the torrent of publicity that would result from prosecution, she was released on nominal bail, and the cases against her dropped.
As Big Bertha gained fame, the manager of the Bella Union hired her and put her on display in an empty storefront on Market Street as “Big Bertha, the Queen of the Confidence Women, Admission Ten Cents.” Bertha’s act consisted of a long “confession” of awful crimes she may have committed, followed by an off-key rendition of “A Flower from My Angel Mother’s Grave.” This went over so well that she took her act to the Bella Union and turned it into a comedic song-and-dance revue, which soon became the toast of the town. She had made herself into a local celebrity, through guts and determination. Other than her stage presence and sense of humor, she had virtually no talent for singing or dancing, but people loved her anyway.
|The Bella Union served for almost 60 years from 1849 to the great fire of 1906, to provide a venue for some
of the finest variety, minstrel and burlesque shows in the country, and was built on the site of the old
Colonnade Hotel. It was originally used as a gambling saloon as well as for entertainment, in 1856 becoming
a melodeon , but from 1893 was a waxworks and penny arcade. It was on the North side of Washington Street,
near Kearny.Also in this photo are the Verandah and the El Dorado with Portsmouth Plaza in the
foreground and Telegraph Hill in the background. Photo from 1856.
Meanwhile, another star, named Oofty Goofty, plastered with tar and horsehair, was wowing them with his Wild Man of Borneo Act, during which he repeatedly snarled out his name while shredding hunks of raw meat with his teeth.
Big Bertha, the Queen of the Confidence Women, played a brief engagement at Bottle Koenig’s and then went to the Bella Union, where she achieved considerable renown as a singer who couldn’t sing, a dancer who couldn’t dance, and an actress who couldn’t act. Built as a gambling palace in 1849, the Bella Union quickly began hosting burlesque sideshows, which eventually supplanted gambling as the main attraction. Its biggest star was a 19th-century performance artist named Big Bertha.(2) Her work in the drama, indeed, was so remarkably bad that she attracted audiences from all over San Francisco and brought to the Bella Union and the Barbary Coast hundreds of citizens who had never vsited the quarter before and never did again.
Her greatest triumph was achieved in “Romeo and Juliet”, in which she co-starred
with Oofty-Goofty. The management at the Bella Union, seeing the natural chemistry
between San Francisco’s biggest female and male stars, decided to cast Oofty and Bertha as the leads in Shakespeare’sRomeo and Juliet. Their move was a decade ahead of its time, for it wasn’t until 1896 that Alfred Jarry destroyed Macbeth with his outrageous parody Ubu Roi. Though the Bella Union version of Romeo and Juliet pretty much stuck to the original script, a few minor revisions in stage directions were necessary. Big Bertha was so heavy she couldn’t possibly be hoisted to the balcony, which wouldn’t have supported her in any case. So Oofty Goofy howled out Romeo’s lines from the balcony, while Bertha played Juliet from the ground. Oofty Goofy, unable to shed his typecast persona, played Romeo as the wild man of Borneo;
Bertha emerged from each performance covered with bruises from head to toe.
This was probably the most popular production that Ned Foster had ever staged, but within a week he was compelled to take it off the boards, for Big Bertha complained that as a lover Oofty Goofty was entirely too rough. She flatly refused to act with him any longer.
Soon thereafter Foster presented here in a condensed version of Mazeppa, in which she made her entrance strapped to the back of a donkey. This was also greeted with great acclaim, until one night the donkey fell over the footlights, carrying Big Bertha with him, and well nigh exterminated the orchestra. During the excitement Big Bertha, scratched and angry, crawled from beneath the braying donkey and, in language which she had doubtless learned during her career as an adventuress, indicated that she would never again play the role of Mazeppa. Thereafter she confined her stage work to singing, with an occassional dance, and appeared at various melodeons until 1895, when she obtained control of the Bella Union.
In 1895 Big Bertha takes control of the Bella Union on Kearny Street, or was it Pacific Street, where the Holiday Inn is now located. When she can’t sell liquor, she shuts the establishment down for good and leaves the Barbary Coast(1)
Oofty-Goofty was the stage name of a sideshow performer who lived in
San Francisco in the late 19th century. Leonard Borchardt’s first glimpse
of America was brief. The fourteen year old stowaway from Berlin was discovered en route to the new world by the Captain of the SS Fresia. He was forced to stay on the ship, join the crew to earn his passage, return to Germany and back again to the United States, before being allowed to disembark in New York. From there Borchardt drifted from state to state before signing up for the U.S. Cavalry in Detroit. After learning he would be fighting Native American Indians who might scalp him – Borchardt deserted, sold his horse and gun to a farmer,
and headed for San Francisco. He arrived in 1884 at the age of 22.
San Francisco harbor (Yerba Buena Cove), 1850 or 1851, with Yerba Buena Island in the background. Hundreds of ships poured into San Francisco only to have their crews
dessert ship to head to the foothills to search for gold. Consequently, the ships were
abandoned in the harbor, where the locals would put them to good use.
Borchardt would try any crazy scheme for money, starting with his impersonation of a “Wild Man of Borneo”, the scam that was to give him his infamous moniker. He was painted with glue, stuck with hair, and laid out on a roof to dry for five hours. Then he was shackled in a cage and fed raw meat whilst scaring visitors with grunts and wails of “Oof, Oof”. He performed this act in the Dime Museum Show and was a huge success; but his manager skipped town with the proceeds, leaving Borchardt close to death on account of his pores being blocked by whatever it was that had been fused to his skin. Borchardt made the news and was visited by curious medical students as he lay in a Turkish bath for five weeks waiting for the glue to dissolve. This cost the City $300 before he was well again. From then on Borchardt was known throughout California simply as Oofty Goofty.
Instead of shying away from the limelight as some might after such a to-do, Borchardt (now a celebrity of San Francisco’s Barbary Coast), embraced his new persona and no dare was considered too much of a challenge. From one day to the next you would not know if you might find Oofty Goofty acting as a human skittle in Woodward’s Garden where patrons would win a cigar if they hit him with a baseball, or hear of him heading to New York pushing a shiny red wheelbarrow for a bet, (a challenge that failed after 40 miles when he was knocked over in the darkness, landing head first in a creek).
For $20 he even allowed himself to be shipped in a box to Sacramento as a joke gift for a young lady. That they carted him there with the box updside-down, and left the package unopened in a warehouse over the weekend, did nothing to lessen his bravado, although he later admitted he was “pretty near played out that time”.
But Oofty Goofty was made from tough mettle. Not only did he survive a court martial for his earlier desertion, escaping three years of hard labor by throwing himself off a cliff to achieve early dismissal on grounds of disability.
Oofty, after a long and illustrious career, met a different, sadder fate. His big career move came when an irate clubowner, embarrassed at having booked such a loser, had the bouncers pick up Oofty and throw him through the air and into the street. Oofty slammed into the pavement with enough force to crush the spine of an ordinary mortal.
Staggering to his feet and brushing himself off, he made a remarkable discovery: He felt no pain! Just to make sure, he entered the nearest saloon and offered to let its nastiest-looking denizen punch him for a nickel. Still, he felt no pain. Soon Oofty was earning a good living with his expanded repertoire: for a nickel you could slug him, for a dime you could kick his rear
end with all your might, and for a quarter you could slam him in the butt with a baseball bat.
Practically every male in San Francisco, from the movers and shakers to the lowest denizens of the Barbary Coast, could brag of having banged on Oofty at least once. But finally, after decades of suffering the painless blows of fate, Oofty suffered the inevitable fatal blow. Heavyweight champ John L. Sullivan busted his spine with a pool cue, and Oofty died broke a couple of years later.
While San Francisco would undoubtedly have liked to claim this colorful character forever as its own, Oofty Goofty actually moved to Texas where his antics continued. Sullivan’s legendary belting did not stop him from traveling from one oil field to the next, where he would invite drunken workers to thrash him with a baseball bat for cash. Neither did his fertile imagination subside when it came to entertaining the masses with his fanciful schemes for making money. The last we hear of him, Oofty Goofty favored racing to drink beer with a bar spoon and quail-eating contests that became all the rage at the time.
|Oofty Goofty’s companion, Philomena Faulkner
He was later parodied in popular culture, notably in a 1941 eponymous film and in a 1937 Our Gang short film called “The Kid From Borneo.”
He is referred to in a story by Bill Pronzini, “The Bughouse Caper.” [Kurland, Michael (editor) "Sherlock Holmes - The Hidden Years" New York, St. Martin's Minotaur 2004]
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Alexander Alioto Opening Italian Restaurant on Valencia St
Another Monkey Becomes Another Alioto Italian Restaurant
Into the gorgeous space that used to be Another Monkey, a new restaurant has opened: Plin, from none-other than Alexander Alioto. Alexander Alioto, who is of course the former chef and partner behind the Seven Hills on Russian Hill, home of the Raviolo Al Uovo- a giant pasta pocket filled with spinach, ricotta and oozing egg yolk…Yum. Seven Hills won many awards including best Italian restaurant in the Bay Area 2013, and a spot in the top 3 Italian restaurants from Zagat in 2013 and 2014. His next move was much anticipated, as much as many wondered who would be moving into this great space on Valencia Street and 14th Street. This might just be the combination that works.
To ensure that this new endeavor is a success, (not that he needed any help) he has wisely recruited many from his famous family to do what they do best. His mother, Joanne Alioto was the lucky person who was chosen to be in charge of the interior design, and what a space she has had to work with! His father, Nunzio Alioto Jr, who is a Master Sommelier is responsible for the wine list, and he has teamed with yet another Master Sommelier, Chuck Furuya, to impress the hell out of their wine drinkers.
The Alioto family is well known in San Francisco, many family members have served in public office, and are prominent lawyers and members of the business community, but the family’s claim to fame is seafood. They were Sicilian fishermen who migrated to San Francisco in the late 1800′s, and in the 1920′s after operating several seafood companies, opened Alioto’s Restaurant in Fisherman’s Wharf. So it is truly fitting that the focus of the new restaurant is Italian Seafood. Alexander himself, operated seafood restaurants in Italy years ago.
The menu looks well balanced with many choices for every diet. Rustic yet modern, meat eaters will find choices like Chicken Liver Lollipops, Grilled Lamb Chop, Grilled Filet with Fried Oyster. Vegetarian choices include Eggplant Parmesan, Confit Heirloom Tomatoes and Seared Baby Lettuce. The seafood includes Raw Tuna with Mission Figs, Grilled Spanish Octopus, Monterey Bay Calamari, and Black Bass Carpaccio. Thankfully, the Raviolo Al Uomo has found a new home here as well.
Rounding out the selection here, is the cocktail menu from Master Mixologist Daniel Federico, who was rescued from Southern California to create a list worthy of any fine craft-cocktail bar including the American Sour (rye, Carpano Antica, Cappelleti, lemon and egg white). The dessert menu features mouthwatering indulgences like Buttermilk Panna Cotta Donuts with Cayenne Cinnamon and Vanilla Almond Cream, Tiramisu, and Berry Shortcakes. Delish…
Can’t wait to actually eat here, it opens tonight at 200 Valencia Street, in the Mission.
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