Bel, the New Belgian-Style Gastropub, Now Open on Mission

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Belgian beer lovers and moules frites fans rejoice! Inside Scoop brings the news that Bel has at last opened for business at 3215 Mission Street near Valencia. They write:

Some foods were just made to go with beer. This is nothing new to Richard Rosen and Jennifer Garris, the team behind the Mission’s craft beer and pizza joint, Pi Bar.

With the opening their brand new Bernal Heights’ gastropub, Bel, the pair are at it again — this time, tackling the beers and foods of Belgium. Located in the former Locavore space on Mission, at Valencia Street, the restaurant opened its doors Sunday night (5/25).

On the beer front, expect a range of saison, Trappist, sours and fruit beers, among others. According to Garris, of the twelve drafts, four will be dedicated to a rotating roster of Belgian beers. Also available, a variety of California-made Belgian-style brews and a bottle list of about 45 Belgian bottles. Wines will be mostly French and German. (The full drink list is online.)

Rosen’s menu, which is comprised of small and large plates, looks promising, and of course, includes an obligatory interpretation of moules frites. Other classic Belgian offerings include a Ghent-style fish chowder made with prawns, mussels and cod called seafood waterzooi and carbonades flamandes — a dish made with beef brisket and Flemish sour beer, Rodenbach. On the side, in addition to frites, you’ll find a chiffonade of Brussels sprouts and a Belgian endive gratin.

Here’s the menu.

Oh, and be advised, Bel has even installed their very own Manneken Pis. What’s a Manneken Pis? Apparently, that’s Belgian for this fella:

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PHOTOS: via Bel

Welcome to Dernal Heights, Where All The Durritos Follow Burrito Law

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These are strange days for San Francisco burritos.

On the one hand, it is the best of times: San Francisco-style burritos are more popular than ever before. Quant-geeks rate them. Big chains mass-produce them. Yet with this culinary clout comes the inevitable copycats who seek to offer San Francisco-style burritos on far-distant shores — often with mixed results. Now, in one such effort to capture the spirit of the San Francisco burrito far away from the actual tierra that provides its substance, Bernal Heights has become a casualty.

Or rather, “Dernal Heights.”

The photo you see above was taken at the newest outlet of the burgeoning Mission Burrito restaurant chain, in Brindleyplace, Birmingham, England:

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We can’t say much about the quality of the burritos from Mission Burrito (especially after so much long-distance travel), but we did notice a nontrivial problem with the big map of San Francisco painted on the wall of the new Brindleyplace location. Look just south of the Mission District on the wall map shown in this Brindleyplace store photo-montage, and you’ll see a shape that accurately replicates the outline of our own neighborhood.

But it is labeled “Dernal Heights.”

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How. Awkward.

(Note: We stand in solidarity with our urban neighbors to the northeast, who apparently live in “Retrero Hill.”)

In light of this embarrassing faux pas, and even more heinous crimes against burritodom such as this, none other than Burrito Justice, La Lengua’s rebel spokesblogger and carnitas-fueled provocateur, has taken it upon himself to codify a set of standards governing what is and is not a proper burrito:

Despite our best efforts, we are seeing escalating threats, both international and domestic, against the sanctity of burritos. This must cease.

By the powers vested in me by the City and Country of San Francisco, Junipero Serra and Febronio Ontiveros, I hereby declare BURRITO LAW:

Statute 1:
If you pull off all the foil, it is no longer a burrito.

Statute 2:
If you touch it with a knife and fork, it is no longer a burrito

We frankly cannot believe these first two statutes are necessary but that is what things have come to, folks. It is indeed an era so dark that our next statue is sadly required. Brace yourselves:

Statute 3:
If you get it outside the Bay Area, it is no longer a burrito.

That’s right people, not all cylinders are created equal. We have no choice but to implement appellation d’origine contrôlée de burrito: if it’s not made in a county that touches San Francisco Bay, it’s not a burrito. (OK, fine, Santa Cruz too. Any county that touches a county that touches the Bay. But we get to disqualify any burritos in these secondary counties. Caveat Burritor.)

These are rigid criteria, to be sure. But as the Citizens of Dernalwood, the necessity of such standards is now painfully clear for all to see. Because a durrito from distant lands is not a burrito that can be trusted to get the details right.

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PHOTOS: Mission Burrito

Red Hill Station Has Its “Check, Please! Bay Area” Moment

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Red Hill Station is one of Cortlandia’s culinary treasures, and it’s been fun to watch as the rest of San Francisco gradually figures that out.

Bernal neighbors Taylor Pedersen and Amy Reticker create some serious food magic at Red Hill, and last week the wannbe food critics of KQED’s “Check, Please! Bay Area” took Red Hill Station for a televised test drive.

In this episode, our discriminating Check, Please! taste-testers were:

  • Jeff, an epidemiologist
  • Jennifer, a belly dancer
  • Christopher, a deputy district attorney

And of course, we were joined by the glamorous host of the show, Leslie Sbrocco:

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Red Hill Station was recommended by Jeff the epidemiologist, and if you want to skip ahead to get to the Bernal part, start watching this video at around the 10:30 mark:

Don’t want to ruin the surprise, but suffice to say… Red Hill Station pretty much blew everyone away. Naturally, we knew that would happen, all along.

IMAGE: Leslie Sbrocco GIF, courtesy of Andy Welfle

Thursday: Benefit at Little Nepal on Cortland to Assist Earthquake Victims

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There aren’t many Nepalese restaurants on this side of the pond, but we’ve got one on Cortland, and Little Nepal is hosting a special dinner on Thursday, April 30 to help victims of the massive earthquake that struck Nepal last weekend:

Our hearts are heavy with the news of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked Nepal on Saturday, April 25, killing more than 2,500 people in the country and dozens more in surrounding nations. The earthquake also triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest, killing at least 17 people. With poor infrastructure in a densely populated area, Nepal needs our help more than ever.

Please join us in dining to help rebuild and provide aid on Thursday, April 30.

Little Nepal (925 Cortland Avenue) has graciously agreed to create a donation-only select menu for this evening only. We spoke with the Owner and Executive Chef, Prem Tamang, and he is from the district of Kavrepalanchok, Nepal. All of the cash-only donation proceeds will go directly to his hometown. The restaurant is open from 5 – 10 p.m. Come anytime! Upon your arrival, please let the host / server know that you are here for the donation-only meal. Please note that this will exclude beverages and other items off the special menu.

Please spread the word and extend this invite to your network. Together, we can eat delicious Nepalese Cuisine while making a difference.

Prem, Chasa and Sebastien

PHOTO: Courtesy of Little Nepal. Hat tip: Eater SF

Tuesday: Special Spring Wine Dinner at Blue Plate

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We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: We, the Citizens of Bernalwood, are fortunate to have Blue Plate at our metaphorical doorstep. Blue Plate was delicious and cozy and local before delicious and cozy and local were cool, and apart from being one of the most consistently fabulous restaurants in the city, co-owner Jeff Trenam tells us Blue Plate is hosting a special event tomorrow night… and you’re invited:

We are hosting a Scribe Viticultural Society Spring Allocation pick-up dinner on Tuesday, April 28th.  It’s open to the public and we will be pairing their new wines with some new menu items. Everything will be available á la carte. Adam and Andrew from Scribe should be here too.

BLUE PLATE
Scribe Spring Wine Dinner

WHO: Blue Plate and Scribe Winery
WHEN: Tuesday April 28, 2014
WHERE: Blue Plate, 3218 Mission Street (at Valencia)
 San Francisco, CA 94110

WHAT: Adam and Andrew Mariani from Scribe Winery will be at Blue Plate to chat with guests. Scribe Viticultural Society members will get to pick up their spring allocations and Chef de Cuisine, Sean Thomas will serve an á la carte menu with suggested SCRIBE pairings.

RESERVATIONS:  www.blueplatesf.com or call 415-282-6777

PHOTO: Blue Plate’s iconic neon sign by Erik Wilson

Coming Soon: A New Golden Age for Beer in Bernal Heights

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Though you’d hardly know it from walking down the street right now, Bernal Heights is poised to enter a new Golden Age of high-quality beer. That’s right: craft beer, in many varieties, and great abundance… all coming to Bernal, and very soon.

Bernal neighbor Lessley Anderson of Baja Cortlandia is an ace reporter and ardent beer lover, and she files this exclusive report:

Once upon a time, Bernal had it’s own local beer at 3314 Army/Cesar Chavez, called North Star Brewing Company. (You can even see it in this photo.) But that was pre-prohibition, when San Francisco had almost 100 small breweries, and almost every neighborhood had at least one place pumping out fresh beer for the locals.

Joyfully, it appears we’re heading back to those days. According to SF Brewer’s Guild stats, the number of breweries is set to double in San Francisco next year, and cool beer bars are opening up faster than strip-mall cupcake concept stores in 2003. Beer is so hot right now, and the good news for Bernal beer lovers is that one of the hottest hotspots in this hot trendy trend, is… you guessed it, glamorous Bernal Heights.

In the coming months, three new and ambitious beer-focused establishments will open on Bernal’s stretch of Mission Street. Plus, word on the street is that still more beer projects are in development. Taken together, Bernal Heights is poised to blow up into a full-on craft beer destination. But you have questions, and I’ve tracked down lots of answers, so here are the details on what coming:

Name: Bel
Where: 3215 Mission (in the former Locavore space)
When: Plans to open by end of this month
What: This will be Belgian beer bar and bistro from Jennifer Garris and Richard Rosen, of Pi Bar fame, with 12 tap handles. Four of those taps will be dedicated to imported Belgian ales. The others will rotate, including local versions of Belgian-style styles. Bel will also be a full-on restaurant, serving Belgian dishes like moules frites (YES!) , steak frites, and fish waterzooi (which is a stew with an intriguing name).
Fancy/Kid-Friendly: More schwank than Pi Bar, but not fancy. And yes, bring the kids.
Fun Fact: The bar has purchased a replica of Manneken Pis, that famous statue of the little boy peeing into the fountain in Brussels. They’ve also commissioned a seamstress from the SF Opera to make him special outfits for important days, such as Pride, or Elvis’ birthday.

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Name: Old Bus Tavern
Where: 3193 Mission (in the former El Patio space)
When: Slated to open by early June
What: As Bernalwood previously reported, this will be a brewpub and chili-focused restaurant with a separate-but-related VW party bus project. That’s a lot to take-in… so here’s the breakdown: First, these guys will make their own beer (on a small, 3.5 bbl system, for all you beer-geeks out there). They will produce a range of styles, but their flagship beer will be a lemon-basil Saison. They’ll also serve a full menu of “California elevated bar food” that will highlight different chilies, and they’ll have cocktails. Lastly, as mentioned, they’re crowdfunding the purchase and transformation of a vintage Volkswagen bus into a beer/food truck/party mobile.
Fancy/Kid-Friendly: Won’t be fancy, but may be a little hipstery. And yes, kid-tolerant.
Fun Fact: Inspiration for the menu came from an epic roadtrip the partners took through Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, where they sampled regional chilis.

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Name: Old Devil Moon
Where: 3472 Mission (in the current La Terrazza space)
When: Hopes to open this fall
What: After La Terrazzo passes the torch, Old Devil Moon will be a bar, first, and foremost. Yet it will also have a limited menu on the side. (A great burger, and some Southern food they say.) They’re not making their own beer, but rather serving other people’s, with 20 rotating taps and a cask ale system, plus cocktails and a deep-dive into whiskeys. Founder Chris Cohen says he wants this place to rival the “best beer bars in the city.” He certainly knows what he’s talking about; Cohen founded the San Francisco Homewbrewers Guild and literally wrote the book on how to become a certified cicerone (which is like being a sommelier for beer). He wants it to be a cozy neighborhood spot with lots of wood and warm colors. They will also serve brunch.
Fancy/Kid-Friendly: Not fancy, and technically, yes, kids allowed. But this will really be more of a bar, FWIW.
Fun Fact: The name comes from an old jazz standard, originally from the musical Finian’s Rainbow. Cohen liked the “dark-yet-comfortable” vibe it conjured up.

BONUS! More more more! Fresh from the rumor mill!! 

Name: Hop Oast
Where: 2887 Bryant (at Cesar Chavez, in the former D&J Furniture store)
What: The ABC license says it’s going to be a “small beer manufacturer” and “Pub and Brewery.” And right now, the windows are covered up with recycled bags of beer-making malt. Lisa Marie Delgadillo, owner of the Lucky Horseshoe Tavern on Cortland, is one of the masterminds behind the project, but she says it’s too premature to discuss: “It would be like someone taking a home pregnancy test, then sending out baby shower invitations for a date nine months out,” she explains.

Beer and Chili: Old Bus Tavern, Opening in June, Also Raising Funds for a Fun Bonus Project

OBT Window of Wisdom

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The emergence of our very own NanoTokyo District is an exciting development in Bernal’s culinary landscape, but that’s not the only food news to share from our stretch of Mission Street. A few hundred yards north of NanoTokyo, near the intersection with Valencia, the Old Bus Tavern is gearing up to open soon at 3193 Mission, in the former El Patio space:

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Neighbor Bennett (Ben) Buchanan lives on Precita Avenue, and he’s one of the co-founders of the Old Bus Tavern. He says the focus will be on craft beer and haute chili, and he passes this along this preview:

Slated to open in Bernal Heights in early June, Old Bus Tavern is a destination for upscale pub fare, house-brewed beer, and comfortable craft cocktails. Partners Ben Buchanan, Jimmy Simpson, John Zirinsky, and Tim Symes are collaborating to create a neighborhood gathering place where guests can put away a pint of Lemon Basil Saison, enjoy cocktails with a Southwestern spirit, and dig into next-level bar food with a contemporary culinary sensibility.

The food and beverage menu is a team effort: Buchanan and Zirinsky are co-brewmasters (they’ve been home brewing together for nearly a decade), and Simpson and Symes oversee all food and beverage operations. Bar consultant Christina Cabrera (Novela, 15 Romolo, Range, Michael Mina) is on board to create the cocktail program, which will reflect the tavern’s forward-thinking approach.

Designed with the support of architect Thomas Pippin of Lifebox Studios (ICHI), and Sarah Greenwood Design (who is Zirinsky’s mom), Old Bus Tavern’s aesthetic embodies the feel of a casual restaurant, brewery, and bar that offers unique drinks and creative, craveable takes on pub food. The brewery equipment will be on full display so patrons can watch the process, and a variety of dedicated dining and drinking areas encourage patrons to settle into whichever of the Tavern’s 47 seats best suits them.

While the primary funding for the restaurant build-out is all lined-up, the Old Bus Tavern crew also has a crowdfunding campaign underway to raise some extra money to convert an old VW bus into a mobile food truck. The video they created for the effort also provides a nice introduction to what the Old Bus Tavern will be all about:

If you’d like, you can contribute to the effort — and learn more about the proposal — at the crowdfunding site.

Of course, there’s one detail that cannot pass without mention.  If you watch the Old Bus Tavern video above, you may notice something odd. Something very curious. Something very bizarre. At the beginning of the video, it says:

“Welcome to the future home of Old Bus Tavern, Mission-Bernal’s new brew pub.”

Hmmmm.  Confusing. And then, it happens again, just 15 seconds later:

“We want to bring back that tradition of fresh, local beer to the residents of Mission-Bernal”

Those latter words are spoken by none other than Neighbor Bennet of Precitaville, which is particularly baffling because Neighbor Bennet is a longtime Citizen of Bernalwood. You will notice that in the video, Neighbor Bennet’s lips move, and sounds emerge from his throat, and he says:

“Mission-Bernal”

Mission-Bernal? Mission-Bernal!? Where is that? What is that? Does that even exist? And if it must be a hybrid, shouldn’t it be Bernal-Mission?

Your Bernalwood editor brought this matter up with Neighbor Bennet of Precitaville, and he assured us that it was just a big misunderstanding. Neighbor Bennet said something about establishing a brand and **cough cough** a national marketing plan and… to be honest, I couldn’t even pay attention to what he was saying after a while because I was to busy feeling queasy and hyperventilating. I mean… Mission-Bernal?  What?

Suffice to say, after some constructive dialog, Neighbor Bennet now understands with perfect clarity that the Old Bus Tavern will be opening soon in a place called Bernal Heights, and that the Citizens of Bernal Heights are very excited to welcome their new establishment to our lands. We’ve received tacit assurances that geo-nomenclature matters will be handled with greater sensitivity in the future.

But just in case there’s any lingering ambiguity, Bernalwood also sent the Old Bus Tavern team this helpful best-practices guide:

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PHOTOS: Courtesy of Old Bus Tavern