The Michael Bauer Bestoweth 2.5 Stars Upon Hillside Supper Club


The Michael Bauer, His Eminence Restaurant Critic from the San Francisco Chronicle, returned to Hillside Supper Club on Precita Park recently to take the menu for a test drive. And lo, The Bauer was pleased:

Using the moniker Supper Club isn’t an exaggeration because Hillside feels like a neighborhood gathering place. That feeling was evident even when I returned for a regular meal several nights after the anniversary dinner. What I found was that in the year since I first reviewed the restaurant, the service has become more professional and the kitchen has found more consistency.

The small menu includes eight appetizers, four main courses and three or four specials printed on a blackboard above the open kitchen. The specials may include more unusual items than the ones on the regular menu, such as escargot and foie gras. These live in stark contrast to the homey Nonna’s meatballs ($9) in a sweet tomato sauce, accompanied by a chunk of focaccia.

Other starters include squid ink ravioli stuffed with Dungeness crab ($14), where the two ravioli in a brown butter glaze are set on puddles of avocado puree with celery root, poppy seeds and herbs; it’s a pleasant blend that works together well.

The kitchen’s more refined side is evident on the white anchovies ($12) crisscrossed like a checkerboard, with dollops of lemon puree and a scattering of orange segments, herbs and puffed amaranth. Duck liver mousse ($9), a menu mainstay, is served in a glass canning jar with a glaze of huckleberry gelee, a sweet contrast to the whole-grain mustard, cornichons and grilled bread served alongside.

Main courses include exceptional pot pies, with a buttery crust that clings to the side of a cast-iron skillet. One time it was filled with rabbit, another time venison ($24), its gaminess partly quelled by juniper in the veloute, along with Brussels sprouts and caramelized chunks of salsify.

The Bauer’s final rating: 2.5 stars. Yesssssss!

In other news, Hillside chef Tony Ferrari tells Bernalwood that the Change of Ownership sign in the window is no big thing; Tony and Chef Jonathan Sutton merely reorganized themselves into an LLC partnership. Bon appetit!

PHOTO: John Storey for San Francisco Chronicle



Fabulous 331 Cortland Getting an Indoor Seating Upgrade

331 Cortland

Are you sitting down right now? Because as you read this, the fabulous food marketplace at 331 Cortland is getting a major upgrade, in the form of an indoor seating area. It’s also getting a new mission statement. 331 Cortland owner Debra Resnik brings the tell:

What: 331 Cortland Marketplace remodel to result in 10 seats at the formerly seatless kiosk shop.
When: Shops close for remodel Feb. 1-5 and reopen Feb. 6 with new daily opening hour of 8 a.m.
Who: Anda Piroshki, Paulie’s Pickling, and Mae Krua food kiosks
Why: To give customers exactly what they’ve asked for.

Visitors to the “three shops in one” at 331 Cortland in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood pretty much all say the same thing: “This place is amazing!” They also ask the same question: “Is there anywhere to sit?” The shop is pleased to announce that the answer is about to change to “Yes.”

In a total redefinition of purpose, the storefront is set to transform itself from small-business incubator into microcafé. Although the incubator model has been spectacularly successful, launching Ichi Sushi and Bernal Cutlery into their own storefronts (and other businesses into wholesale and retail,) property owner and in-house theoretician Debra Resnik has worked hard to give customers what they want: seating. Resnik and 331 Cortland residents Anda Piroshki, Paulie’s Pickling, and Mae Krua Thai food are excited about the forthcoming seating and remodel: Kiosk chefs Anna Tvelova, Liz Ashby, and Anucha Kongthavorn hint at expanded menus in the near future, thanks to the improved space. Paulie’s will continue to carry favorite retail items from 331 alum and friends in the new configuration as well — including Suite Foods waffles.

Locals Paul Ashby of Paulie’s Pickling and recent Russian transplant and Anda Piroshki cook Roman Ugrimov will do the construction, while a bittersweet note comes from the decision of waffle shop Suite Foods to change focus to wholesale and catering work. Their presence in the shop will be missed. However, Deb and the team look forward to giving customers from Bernal and beyond exactly what they want: seats!

PHOTO: 331 Cortland time capsule, circa 2011; by Telstar Logistics

Four-Legged Foodies Rejoice: Fancy Pet Food Store Opening on Precita Park


The commercial space on the northwest corner of the Precita/Alabama intersection has seen many transitions in recent years.

That wasn’t always the case; For around 100 years, it was just a typical San Francisco corner store. That changed in 2011, when the corner store closed. Then it became an ill-fated children’s art center and gym, which was followed in by an ill-fated pet grooming shop.

Now the wheel has turned again, and 433 Precita is set to become… a natural pet food store!

The new place is called Jeffrey’s Natural Pet Food, and Bernalwood is told it will offer a mix of house-made and locally produced organic dog and cat cuisine, in all your favorite flavors. Like, for example, Canine Beef, Yams, and Broccoli


… or Feline Turkey and Polenta:


The full menu of Jeffrey’s house-made food is right here.

The About page tells us:

Jeffrey’s Natural Pet Foods is the best source of raw, organic and all natural pet foods, treats, supplies and information in San Francisco. At Jeffrey’s, we make our own locally sourced, fresh, handmade pet foods and treats.

Jeffrey’s Fresh Meat Pet Foods are prepared five days a week, using fresh and locally sourced ingredients. Our food contains only the highest quality ingredients: raw, free range meats free from hormones and antibiotics, fresh organic vegetables, vitamins and minerals. Our food is a great choice for your dog or cat.

The Precita Park outpost will be Jeffrey’s third; the other two are in The Castro and North Beach.

If all goes according to plan, Jeffrey’s Natural Pet Foods will be open this weekend. No word on plans for weekend brunch service; or if they do wedding, bar mitzvah, or quinceañera catering; or if reservations are required for parties of more than six.

Meanwhile, if you listen carefully, you might just hear the sound of a certain change-averse Bernal neighbor‘s head imploding just a few blocks away: “Gourmet organic pet food?  Whaaaaaaaaaat???!”

PHOTOS: Top, Telstar Logistics. Below, Jeffrey’s Natural Pet Foods

Coco Ramen Is Good Ramen We Can Walk To, Anytime


I remember the first time I encountered a bowl of ramen. The year was 1986, and I was sitting in a New England movie theater, watching the opening scene of Tampopo, the wonderful Japanese comedy about the sensual joy of food and the complex art of making an excellent bowl of ramen. This is what I saw:

The scene is a spoof, but it obviously pointed to something very serious, and I knew at that moment that I wanted real Japanese ramen to be part of my life. Even though I was in New England. Even though it was the 1980s, and sushi was still considered a novelty. Somehow, I wanted to have ready access to tasty ramen like the delicious-looking stuff I saw on that movie screen.

It took a few more years until I had the opportunity to actually eat a proper bowl of ramen, and I had to go to Japan to do it. But it was worth the wait. Good ramen is superlative soul food: Delicious, hearty, soothing, and so much more.

Yet Japan is far away, even when you live in San Francisco.

A decade ago, you had to drive waaaaay down to the South Bay to get a good bowl of ramen. More recently, San Francisco has enjoyed something of a ramen boom, as general awareness of the Joy of Ramen has slowly permeated our local food culture. For a while, Katana Ramen, downtown, was the only ramen gig in town. Then, a few more ramen places opened in the Richmond. Then, ramen came to the hipster zones of The Mission, north of 18th Street. Your Bernalwood editor tried most of it, and much of it was pretty good, so that in due course, my ramen cravings could be satisfied with only a short car trip across town. We even had a ramen pop-up for a brief while on Cortland, though it was only available one day a week, and it didn’t last for long.

Yet there has not been a place where I could well and truly live the ramen dream that has beguiled me for these many years: To be able to get a decent bowl of ramen, within convenient walking distance from my home, without too much fuss, pretty much whenever the mood hits me.

Until now.

Coco Ramen opened a few months ago at at 3319 Mission Street, in a former head shop next door to Crazy Sushi, near 29th. Your Bernalwood editor has eaten at Coco Ramen three or four times since then, and I’m here to tell you that it’s it’s a big win for Bernal Heights.

Let’s get the caveats out of the way: No, Coco’s Ramen isn’t the best ramen in San Francisco. Yes, it’s connected to Crazy Sushi, which means the owners and staff are all Chinese. No, they don’t really have much in the way of idiosyncratic regional styles or exotic gourmet ingredients.

None of this is really meant as a ding. San Francisco is currently flush with fancy-schmancy ramen, yet Coco Ramen is simply a very solid neighborhood ramen joint; equivalent to a something a Japanese commuter might be quite content to find near the local train station. Simple. Reliable. Convenient. Affordable. Spiritually rejuvenating.

Here’s a bowl of Coco Ramen’s tonkatsu broth:


The broth is rich, fragrant, and flavorful, which is the most important thing. The noodles are springy and properly cooked. The smoked egg is excellent. The chashu roast pork slices are a weak link, but not terrible. Overall, pretty good!

Coco’s Ramen enjoys a very respectable four-star rating among the crankypants critics on Yelp. One reviewer ate there a few days ago, and he gets it just right:

I’m not a ramen snob but do frequent the good spots like dojo, parlor, santoukas, and orenchi. That said the ramen here is pretty good. They aren’t that fancy but do offer no/regular/black garlic options and have a good assortment of toppings. Their soft boiled egg is great! The braised pork belly is awesome too. One qualm I have is that, seeing as the owners are Chinese, there are clearly some Chinese rather than Japanese flavors, especially in the braised pork belly. It tastes like a traditional Chinese clay pot pork belly (which I love) but seemed a bit of a misfit in the ramen.

The chicken karaage likewise had a Chinese popcorn chicken taste to it.
Price was fine at $11.50 a bowl average.

Overall: 3.5 stars. Rounding down for the odd tastes, but still very delicious!

Boom. Exactly. The ramen at Coco does not disappoint, but the results from the other dishes on the menu can be uneven. The gyoza is quite good. The yakitori not so much. Grilled shishito peppers are meh.

But who cares! The point is, I can now walk out of my front door, and 10 minutes later find myself sitting in a perfectly cozy little ramen joint, ordering a perfectly respectable bowl of ramen, with no driving or airfare required, for lunch or dinner (any day but Tuesdays).


It took three decades for all these pieces to fall into place for me.

But now Coco Ramen is here in Bernal Heights, and my humble dream is fulfilled. Good ramen. In my neighborhood. Pretty much whenever I want.


Monday Night: Come Celebrate Hillside Supper Club’s Second Anniversary


Has it been two years already?  Because it seems like just yesterday that the Hillside Supper Club crew was wandering around the Mission District in pop-up mode, dreaming of one day opening up a restaurant of their very own in Bernal Heights.

They did it, of course — inside the former sad Italian restaurant (and former rowdy hippy biker bar) on the southwest corner of Precita Park.

So on Monday, January 19, Hillside Supper Club is celebrating its second anniversary, and Chef Tony Ferrari writes to say he hopes you’ll drop by after 9:30 to celebrate:

Want to shoot over some details about our second anniversary dinner/party. We’re having a special reservation-only dinner earlier in the evening — but its already sold out.

After dinner is over (I’m guessing around 9-930ish) we will open up to the public and welcome everyone to celebrate the rest of the night with complementary sparking wine, five dollar draft beers, and seven dollar glasses of wine.

We again want to thank all of our friends, family, neighbors, guests, bernal heights, and industry folk for supporting us and allowing us to do what we love most: feeding people. We have come a long way and don’t plan on stopping any time soon. We are honored and grateful to be apart of it all.

We look forward to celebrating with everyone!

PS: Our limited poster was screen printed by hand with Jon Fischer, and we will be giving them out during the night.

Separately (though not surprisingly) none other than The Michael Bauer, eminent food critic for the SF Chronicle, recently revealed that Hillside Supper Club makes some of his favorite pot pies in town.

Your Bernalwood editor is no The Michael Bauer, but I did dine at Hillside Supper Club on Friday night, and I did order the very same venison pot pie described below. So I can indeed confirm: It is extremely delicious:


Unholy “Donut Turducken” Created by Clever Bernal Heights Foodie


There’s a new food fetish that’s attracting attention on the social media Interwebs, and it is deeply infused with Bernal Heights DNA. The Huffington Post captured the buzz:

The mention of a Thanksgiving turducken — you know, the turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken — will get mixed responses. Generally, avid carnivores are all for it; vegetarians are rightfully disgusted. But we’ve recently come across another type of turducken that we think everyone will be on board with: a donut turducken.

There’s no poultry of any kind to be found in this donut creation. The name was bestowed upon this breakfast pastry because it uses the same philosophy of the more traditional turducken: stuffing delicious things into already delicious things. It was made in the test kitchen of CHOW and we can’t stop thinking about it.

Consider how great chocolate frosted donuts are. Then top that with sprinkles and fill it with custard. The donut turducken takes this already truly stellar donut and stuffs it with an entire fried apple fritter. Amazing, we know.

If you click through to that Chow article mentioned above, you’ll find this little bit of backstory:

Last week at CHOW, Kim Laidlaw was testing donut recipes […] As she was finishing up, she did something monstrous: She wrapped an apple fritter in a custard-filled donut, then glazed it with chocolate and paved it with sprinkles as subversively menacing as clownface. We spent—oh—10 minutes trying to think of a name monumental enough to describe a thing so weighted with desires of the id. Nothing seemed as right as referencing that other fantasy of conflated wants, the turducken. Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to the turducken of donuts, a cream-filled, double-fried, chocolate-glazed vector of desire.

It’s insane! It’s creative! It looks delicious! Those are all things we associate with Bernal Heights, so it should come as no surprise that the diabolical inventor of the turducken of donuts is Bernal recipe guru and author Kim Laidlaw, who lives on the south side of Folsom near the Alemany Farmer’s Market.

And someday, when you see long lines of skinny-jeaned hipsters queuing in long lines to sample the Turducken of Donuts, you will know that it was born of Bernal Heights.


PHOTOS: Turducken of Donuts by Chow. Kim Laidlaw and daughter via Kim Laidlaw

Sunday: “Cry Baby’s Brunch Pop-Up” at PizzaHacker on Mission



This Sunday, December 21, local chef Risa Lichtman is reprising her tasty pop-up brunch extravaganza inside the PizzaHacker on Mission Street. Chef Risa says:

I’m excited to bring Cry Baby’s Brunch Pop-Up back to Bernal! Our first installment was a great success, with delicious food, lovely people, and a packed house in our host shop, the PizzaHacker. Come join us again for another seasonal brunch featuring local produce & breads. Bring your friends & family, or come on your won’t regret it either way!

Some favorite menu items include:

Lonely Mountain Egg Sandwich (add crispy prosciutto) – with a fried farm egg, arugula, fresh chevre, calabrian chili aioli, Arizmendi english muffin. side of greens.

Polenta Breakfast Bowl – with a poached farm egg, cheesy polenta, varietal winter squash, dino kale, and salsa verde.

The Cure – a pizza braid filled with fluffy farm eggs, pecorino, prosciutto, sweet ‘n sour chili sauce and a side of greens.

Cry Baby’s Brunch Pop-Up
Sunday, December 21, 2014 from 10:30am – 2pm
at PizzaHacker, 3299 Mission St (at 29th Street)
*Cash only!

PHOTOS: Courtesy of Cry Baby’s Brunch Pop-Up