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The Valencia Corridor's Restaurant Boom

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Illustrations By Brent Couchman

Just when you thought the Valencia Street corridor couldn’t stomach any more restaurants, it did—18 of them. Introducing your guide to how to eat well now and what to save room for later, because there’s even more cooking up this spring. [Ed's note: Click here to read Carolyn Alburger's addendum to this story, including a restaurant or two that we missed and a lot more that have been come into play since this story was published in the 7x7 February food issue.]

1 West of Pecos
Slated opening: spring
Formerly: Bombay Bazaar

The MacNiven brothers of Woodhouse Fish Company have done a 180 from their two cozy East Coast-inspired seafood spots. Their new concept, a Southwestern-themed restaurant—taking over a sprawling space likely still redolent of the pungent Indian spices that used to be sold there—will serve things like crema-rolled grilled corn, maple-seared pumpkin, and meats roasted in a wood-fired oven. And yes, there will be a full bar—competition for neighbors Locanda and Wo Hing General Store. 548 Valencia St.

2 Locanda
Opened: April 2011
Formerly: Ramblas Tapas Bar

When Anne and Craig Stoll opened a little 35-seater called Delfina in 1998, they set the precedent for SF-style Italian cuisine: rustic, fresh, and hyper-local. Fourteen years later, the Stoll’s newest dining destination, Locanda, is packed nightly with cross-town diners who make reservations a month in advance. The two biggest draws: House-made pastas and a sophisticated cocktail program. 557 Valencia St., 415-863-6800, locandasf.com

3 Wo Hing General Store
Opened: October 2011
Formerly: The Slanted Door

Chef Charles Phan may have returned to his original Slanted Door address, but now he’s focusing on Chinese street food rather than Cal-Vietnamese. The space has been refitted with molded steel banquettes for a modern vibe, and the bar is made from repurposed bowling-alley wood. Dishes are casual—don’t miss chewy Shanghai dumplings, stir-fried noodles, and humble jook—yet the inventive cocktails served in fancy vintage glasses are anything but. 584 Valencia St., 415-552-2510, wohinggeneralstore.com

4 Bar Tartine (bakery annex)
Slated opening: early 2012
Formerly: Hideo Wakamatsu Luggage Shop

Chad Robertson’s French-style country loaf has always drawn long lines to Tartine Bakery just up on Guererro Street, but for Bar Tartine’s new bakery annex, he’s making rustic Eastern European breads full of ancient grains. Expect open-faced smorrebrod sandwiches topped with combos such as salmon, cured roe, and kohlrabi remoulade. There will be pickles too—all sorts of them. Chef Nick Balla’s penchant for brining is in full effect. 561 Valencia St., 415-487-1600, bartartine.com

5 Southpaw BBQ
Opened: November 2011
Formerly: Hong Kong Express Café

Alabama gal Elizabeth Wells wrangled North Carolinian Edward Calhan and Memphis-born chef David King to partner with her on this casual barbecue spot. Though there isn’t a regionality to the menu, the pulled pork from their on-site smoker has global appeal—as does the whiskey-centric bar program and house-brewed beers. 2170 Mission St., 415-934-9300, southpawbbqsf.com

6 18 Reasons
Opened: September 2011
Formerly: Jivano’s Cutlery Service

The Bi-Rite family moved the wee 18 Reasons, their culinary nonprofit, to this bigger space. Come for soup dinners, art installations, and DIY workshops. Stay for the gardening and food photography classes. 3674 18th St., 415-568-2710, 18reasons.org

7 Amber Dara
Slated opening: February
Formerly: a vacant space

The second restaurant from Amber India owner Vijay Bist is taking over the huge space next to Luna Park that’s been vacant for 10 years. Look for natural wood, a mezzanine lounge, creative cocktails, and Californian spins on Indian dishes priced under $15. 680 Valencia St., amber-india.com

8 Ken Ken Ramen
Opened: November 2011
Formerly: Hung Kee Noodle Company

Once a pop-up restaurant, Ken Ken Ramen now has a permanent space. Chef-owner Takahiro Hori serves up karaage (fried chicken), gyoza, and five ramen flavors, all with slow-braised pork shoulder. To drink, try small-production Japanese ales and sakes, as well as artisan boba made by the Boba Guys. 3378 18th St., 415-578-3196, eatkenkenramen.com

9 Pronto by Bar Bambino
Slated opening: Spring
Formerly: part of the ODC building

Though Pronto has had a kiosk in operation since the end of last year, come spring, the owners of Bar Bambino will open a full cafe inside the Oberlin Dance Collective theater. Performance or not, Pronto will be serving gourmet sandwiches, Sightglass coffee, and wine and beer on tap. Don’t miss the popcorn tossed with house-made caramel and peanuts. 3153 17th St., 415-701-8466, pronto.barbambino.com

10 Namu Gaji
Slated opening: February
Formerly: Studio 3579

In a little spot across from Dolores Park on the same corner as Bi-Rite Creamery, chef Dennis Lee will be serving a version of the Korean-Californian cuisine beloved by the regulars of Namu, his former Inner Richmond restaurant that closed at the end of the year. Look for grilled beef tongue, potato croquettes with kimchee and Korean chili aioli, and fried Brussels sprouts in brown butter and ponzu sauce with bonito flakes. 499 Dolores St.

11Izakaya Yuzuki
Opened: November 2011
Formerly: Ebb & Flow

Every restaurant once housed in this small corner building has failed—which is surprising considering the line at Tartine across the street. Now the cursed space has a brave new tenant in chef Takashi Saito, whose understated izakaya speaks fluent Japanese. The menu is full of meticulous creations, such as hand-molded lotus root dumplings in shrimp dashi, as well as more traditional items including miso-braised beef tendon. 598 Guerrero St., 415-556-9898, yuzukisf.com

12 Abbot’s Cellar
Slated opening: Summer
Formerly: John’s Jaguars

The folks behind the popular beer-centric Monk’s Kettle are trying their hand at the finer side of dining. In a classic brick building that was once an auto shop, chef Adam Dulye, formerly of Euclid Hall in Denver, will fire off daily fixed-price menus. Look for hearty roasts pulled from a hearth oven, all designed to pair with a serious cadre of brews—some 150 bottles plus 22 on draft. 740 Valencia St., abbotscellar.com

13 Tacolicious and Mosto
Opened: November 2011
Formerly: The New College

The city’s been short on sit-down Mexican restaurants—till now. Enter the second location of Tacolicious, opened by Joe Hargrave (husband to 7x7 editor Sara Deseran). The space sports cheerful Mexican tile, a mural by SF Chronicle artist Paul Madonna, and a menu that extends far beyond tortillas. Next door, Mosto, a tequila and botanas (snacks)bar, has some 300 agave-based spirits and the aromas of pork and pineapple wafting from an al pastor spit. 741 Valencia St., 415-626-1344, tacolicioussf.com; mostosf.com

14 Boba Guys
Opened: October 2011
Formerly: Timbuk2

Timbuk2 colleagues Bin Chen and Andrew Chau have geeked out on making boba milk teas, cooking up tapioca balls in small batches and serving them with Chinese soy milk or Straus half-and-half. Find their pop-up shop at Ken Ken Ramen and other locations via Twitter (@BobaGuys). 3378 18th St., 415-967-2622, bobaguys.com

15 Coming Soon: Southern
Slated opening: Spring
Formerly: The New College

Big news: Preservation Hall, New Orleans’ famous 50-year-old jazz house, is opening its second location right here in SF. To go with it, there will be a cafe and a bar (not yet named at press time) with a large outdoor seating area, as well as a dinner-only restaurant. Owned by Jack Knowles of Oakland’s À Côté, expect a menu catering to a California mind-set, all infused with the flavors of NOLA. We like one of their working names: Chapel. 777 Valencia St.

16 Coming Soon: barbecue
Slated opening: Late Spring
Formerly: Filipino Senior Citizen Community Center

Chef Scott Youkilis and Eric Rubin of 19th Street’s popular Hog & Rocks already have a slam dunk on their hands, so their next venture—a counter-service, picnic-tabled barbecue spot—should be a shoo-in. (They just need a name.) The restaurant will be powered by a 7,000-pound, wood-fired J&R smoker from Texas. Celeb bartender Scott Beattie’s knack for crafting drinks out of barrel spirits—aged tequilas, whiskeys, and bourbons—should result in a match made in heaven. 3416 19th St.

17 La Rondalla
Slated opening: Early 2012
Formerly: La Rondalla

Dark and draped in Christmas lights year-round, this iconic, Mexican restaurant and bar was never about the food. It was loved for its kitchy, hole-in-the-wallness. Though its been boarded up for five years, La Rondalla is now being resurrected thanks to the founders’ granddaughters who are redesigning and reopening the restaurant with an eye toward change. We just hope the mariachi band returns. 901 Valencia St.

18 St. Vincent
Slated opening: Early 2012
Formerly: Heart

David Lynch, the lauded wine director from Cotogna and Quince, has taken over this former wine bar and is updating it with a saintly concept. The wine list has 100 bottles under $100 and half-price half- bottles of every wine. All are meant to be paired with Italian osteria-style eats, made shareable by Bar Tartine vet Chris Kronner. Expect a total interior redesign of the narrow space before it opens. 1270 Valencia St., 415-285-1200

But that's not all...stay tuned for even more news on recent restaurants and bars moving to the booming Valencia Corridor, coming later today.

This story was published in the March issue of 7x7 Magazine. Click here to subscribe.