Indian Summer in the Tenderloin

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When you reach that point of saturation in San Francisco wherein waking thoughts become sleeping thoughts and most are centered on, “Enough fucking sirens!” you realize that it’s time to get the hell outta Frisco because, once you decide to leave, San Francisco does indeed become Frisco once again. The question to answer in all of this is, when do you go back? As it turns out, somewhere around two years.

Two years allows you to do things like I’ve been doing which are living in Spain, writing books and generally writing about wine. During the summer last year, my wallet got picked in Barcelona and I found out that the only way to get a new driver’s license from California is to do that shit in person. After a year of sticking my head up my ass on the subject and realizing I had some expiring airline miles, my meager family, and good friends all reminded me that maybe I should head back to Baghdad by the Bay (I expect none of the current residents to know that reference) and see what was up.

After adventures with Air France striking (because France can strike the shit out of anything) I finally arrived and breathed in the fresh, robust smell that can only be described as wall-to-wall poo carpet on the BART. I was back home.

Crashing with friends at the top of the Loin more or less in Academy Hills, I went out to my old joints, sucking down a super burrito to find that even in the Loin, a super burrito is $8.50. When the hell did that happen? I mean this place has an 86 rating from the health department which is how I like it, but this price was not at all how I loved it. I suppose it’s lack of supply given that my other less good burrito joint on Sutter closed and is now a Papa Murphy’s which needs no comment.

Waking up and enjoying the aftermath of having thoroughly spicy and greasy food for the first time in two years, I headed down to Hooker’s. Thank god nothing there has changed and if anything, Hooker’s just keeps going with a new and geniusier selection of treats to build upon the classic, Third Nut, and Party Girl. I’m a bit pissed with David that out of all the new treats, my favorite had to be the “Curious Boyfriend”.

Fully caffeinated and sexuality thoroughly questioned I made a straight shot for Mid-Market. Does anyone even call it Mid-Market anymore? Honestly, while everyone went on at length about how much it changed, it looked much the same to me. Sure, there are some new buildings there which I realize is a fucking miracle to happen given SF’s Planning Commission and the Society of Those Who Fear All That Is New but otherwise, Market is still as filthy as my grandmother’s mouth after she’s had three Martinis. The amount of human shit on the street is exactly the same and some dude was ripping out a crazy potent deuce between two parked cars just to say, “Welcome home, bitch! OCs?”

Of course as anyone knows, nights are when things get “interesting” in the TL and it was great to see a few new places opening like Tender which brings a wine bar to the inner bowels of the Loin. Although the companion space next door, Huxley didn’t do so much to tingle my business as it just looks like you typical, “farm fresh, wholesome ingredients” yabba yabba whatever for the last 15 years.

I was quite pissed off to see that Big had closed as that was something truly novel and the last time I as in SF, I hit it up often. Sure, it was expensive at $15 a cocktail or whatever it was, but they were made to order and it was a damned cool space.

Also on the pissed off list is the fact that Minx (and previously the Red Room for those who are older) is now a fucking pilates and yoga studio? I’ve never had gentrification rammed up my butthole that hard before but yeah, it hurts. It was surprising to see how much space there is there once you tear out that wonderful thing called, a bar.

I had read about the Nitecap closing and I was never a huge fan of the place as I like shit that’s kinda in mid-dive. But, while in Hooker’s I met the new owners and got a tour. I also got to overhear the conversation they were having which went something like, “dude, there was so much ass” and “whoa, that place was full of ass” and “fuck, I’m a total ass”. The last part I threw in mainly because after seeing what they’re planning for the place, I just have say, take Rye, up the douche factor by 20 and reduce any originality by the same amount. Basically, from what I gathered, it’s going to The Royale but smaller and probably just a touch less class. Sure, prove me wrong, but I’ve seen it before.

Just to give some “original” source material to Curbed, it was nice to see something happening at 907 Post which is the photo above. As to what it is, no clue, although I’m sure that NIMBY warlord David Overdorf is strongly against whatever it may be give that this building is right next to his house and private alley.

But that’s about the most of it. Some good, some bad, some just Loin. I can tell you that after not being around it for so long, the old problems of the Loin are either exactly the same or slightly worse. This is of course no surprise as the neighborhood is San Francisco’s homeless and addict dumping crowd. Will that be changing anytime soon? Mayor Mustache needs to go ask Willie Brown and get back to you on that one but while you’re waiting, vote Jane Kim, she’s super!

Dottie’s finally getting their move on

As we mentioned back in July, beloved breakfast joint Dottie’s True Blue had to move, it just wasn’t known where or when exactly. Kurt, the owner, was trying to stay in the greater neighborhood which would make natural sense given that every guidebook under our sun and the nearest adjoining solar system has listed Dottie’s as basically the only breakfast spot in all of San Francisco. Well, it appears that the new spot will be Passion Cafe at 6th & Market (or actually Stevenson). The move should be happening as early as the beginning of December, although it seems it’s been hard to completely verify this. We can understand as everyone has probably been hounding Kurt about it for the last five months while the man has just been trying to find a new space and keep his business going.

Some of you might be thinking, “Passion Cafe, why have I heard that name before?” That would be because it’s been in the news a bit, and not in a good way. A little while back, the owner was attacked for no apparent reason, in spite of how he’s been tirelessly trying to be a positive force in the neighborhood and resisting to move to another location. This obviously does not bode well and while some people think that chunk of 6th is just an extension of the Loin, I’d take the old Dottie’s location over 6th Street there any day. Still, given the cool rooftop terrace and the huge increase in seating, with a little more security they could possibly do extremely well. Especially with the new 94 room hotel opening soon just a block up at 7th & Market in the old Grant building.

Undoubtedly, this is just another piece in the puzzle of redeveloping Mid-Market.

Photo of Passion Cafe’s rooftop terrace by bobbydejesus

Canteen gradually updates its interior, limits brunch to Sundays

Neighborhood stalwart and original keystone in the Dennis Leary empire, Canteen has been around for… what, 6 1/2 years already? Apparently Leary decided that it was time to dust off the old green counter and other interior elements. He’s now shifted it to a red counter with plywood paneling and this red light setup you see in the photo above. This has all been done without any closure to the restaurant though as it has been worked on during the day when they’re not serving and on Mondays when they’re not open. Just yesterday when we walked by we saw a lot of activity with several workers busy finishing up some more remodelling.

With all his other ventures going on, you do feel it when Leary isn’t in the kitchen, but it’s good to see that they’re still in business with a packed house just about every night. According to the Inside Scoop, though, Leary is sometimes in the kitchen on Tuesdays and Saturdays when the restaurant serves a prix-fix dinner instead of their usual a la carte menu. Also, as of this week the restaurant will now be serving brunch only on Sundays albeit with extended hours (8-3pm).

Tenderloin spots getting national media love

It appears the national media lens has descended on our lovely neighborhood. The first business to get no end of attention this holiday season is Hooker’s Sweet Treats. He’s been featured in gift guides in Food & Wine as well as Martha Stewart (yeah, Martha Stewart in the Loin). Then, on top of that he was filmed for the Cooking Channel’s Unique Sweets (shoot pictured above, from Hooker’s Facebook Page).

As they were apparently in the neighborhood, the Cooking Channel hopped a couple of blocks over to cover the newly remodelled Brenda’s as well. Apparently they were on a Southern deliciousness binge.

The episode(s) featuring these two will be airing at some point in February, so stay tuned.

Brenda’s French Soul Food finally at 100% Brend-o-city

For those who for the last year have been wondering, “Oh, when will Brenda’s start serving in the original half of the restaurant?” the answer is now. Starting yesterday, they’ve fired up the old-but-now-remodeled half finally doubling their seating space, and in the process pretty much disavowed everything we had said previously in regards to the partial move. Now the space is open and free-flowing with a great set of antique mirrors decorating one wall and a cool aged mural on the other. It looks better in the inside and outside, having the whole (historical) building devoted to Southern goodness.

Writing this after having had dinner there tonight we have to say that the new space is coming together quite nicely much like the dinner menu which is falling in to place and laying out some solid plates. We even tried something completely new that we loved: their sweet potato dumplings, which are more like almost sweet ravioli with a heavenly creamy sauce. Oh, and the biscuits and beignets are still solid. Which you now have an excuse to go eat again, as y’all need to go check out the gorgeous new space.

iThai to open soon in former Caffe Bella Venezia space

Apparently a new Thai restaurant (yes, another one) is set to open in the recently-shuttered Caffe Bella Venezia on Post & Jones — named iThai. We never ate there mainly because the burgers from Pearl’s next door always had a bigger draw and touristic Venice paintings for a decor don’t do much for us.

Tender sources tell us they had good food, but were extremely slow since they made everything to order. We have no idea if the new place is going to be any good, or simply catering to the tourists/AoA crowd in the area (along the lines of Pick me Up Pizza a few doors down). We just know what the wallpaper promises: “Bangkok street food”. But we have to give them props for the name, which is oh so clever, not overdone, or San Francisco techie at all… More details soon.

La Fina Estampa Re-Opens

Fina Estampa, the Peruvian & Spanish cuisine restaurant, had a long run on Van Ness between Geary & Post before CPMC ate 2 city blocks. The restaurant owner shared that she owns the building that the restaurant now sits in on Bush between Polk & Van Ness, but struggled for a while trying to get other businesses going in that space.

As of last week, Fina Estampa is back with the same menu as before. The interior has been completely remodeled and the owner has a real dedication to it all. It looked great inside. She let us in and worried about the tiniest specks of dirt in the tile grout. “I have to use a toothbrush on my hands and knees to clean it,” she said. You have to respect an owner who cares.

If you go and grab a bite, be sure to share your dining thoughts. Fina Estampa on Yelp.

Contest: review on Google Places, eat at Canteen!

The season of giving comes early (that and we’re flaky), so we’ve extended the deadline for submitting to our contest to end on Sunday, October 30th by midnight. So you have the whole weekend to go out places, review away, and send us your profile link to get in on this offer! All you need is a minimum of ONE review about a Tenderloin establishment (preferably not a sauna massage parlor day spa)

For those unfamiliar with it, Google launched their Places reviewing site a few months ago. It’s similar to other reviewing sites, but it’s a lot easier to use as it’s integrated with Google Maps and all you need is a Gmail/Google account and you’re off and running. Reviews can be quick, they can cover just about anything (including Muni!).

To spread the word, they’re now giving away $100 gift certificate to Canteen to one lucky Tender reader!

All you need to do to claim this fine prize is submit reviews to Places between now and the 26th, which means you have two weeks to unleash your opinions. Canteen, by the way (not to be confused with Cantina down the street), is one of our favorite restaurants for a special occasion, with great California-style food by well-known chef Dennis Leary. and it has an average of 4.42 stars on Google Places.

Don’t forget to leave a comment below with a link to your Places profile (or email it to us if you’d like), so a team of crack judges (us) will choose the best reviewer based on quantity and quality. Oh, and this being The Tender, at least one of your reviews needs to be about an establishment in the Tenderloin or TenderNob, although naturally we encourage more than that to increase your chances of winning.

Anyways, happy reviewing and hopefully happy eating at Canteen!

Hittin’ some wrap at Grill House Mediterranean

As is typically the case, food news exploded about Grill House Mediterranean when it opened about a month ago at 533 Jones like Jane Kim falling in to a pool. Then of course, it tapered off, never to be heard of again as everyone was quoting some discussion forum on Chowhound and nobody actually ate there. We were out of town when it opened so it took us a few days to get around to trying their food. Last weekend, we finally stopped there for a bite and can now give you our seal of approval.

Yes, it is indeed tasty. They’ve got some fresh grilled shawarma meatness going down and if you want an alternative to what God created on the 8th Day (burritos) that is still in a wrapped form, you should stop in. They also serve it on a plate, if you prefer a more sit-down experience. Although the grilled meat is obviously the star in their menu, they also have a few nice salads, hummus and pide pies too. Since the chef, Vahit Beshir is Turkish (from Adana) everything is made Turkish-style. Which simply means delicious.

What really surprised us, though, was the size of the place. From the street it doesn’t look like much, with barely a dozen small tables and a counter in the back, but once you step in you discover they have a really nice dining room past the counter. And even another one upstairs for private parties! They both look very cozy and are nicely decorated, so both times we went we saw a couple of families chilling in there.

So, go in and stuff yourself silly with grill-o-city at one of our newest spots in the hood.

Kare-Ken Japanese Curry opens tonight!

About a week ago we mentioned that Kare-Ken restaurant, specializing in Japanese curry, was about to open on Jones at Geary. The good news is that, after many delays, they’re finally opening tonight! (Right now, actually, and until they run out of food.)

It’s a soft opening as their interior is not fully finished, so they’ll only be serving to-go boxes from their sidewalk window. As you can see in the picture of the menu that we just snapped, they have chicken and pork katsu, dry beef and meatball curry as well as, of course, a vegetarian option. Since it’s their opening night, they’re having a special neighborhood price of $7 per box. Depending on how it goes tonight, they’ll be open during the weekend as well. Their full opening should be Thursday or Friday next week, when they’ll be serving their full menu.

Many of us have been waiting patiently for months for this to happen, so run there and get yourself some curry. We’ll update later with a photo of the one we’re about to get for ourselves. Enjoy!

>Update (1hr later)

Two words: yum, yum.

The katsu curry