How many of you are sitting at your desks glumly today? That's what I thought. But it's a new year, friends, and with a new year comes new restaurants. I am the unabashed cheerleader of this fresh start, and I'm looking forward to seeing what enterprising young go-getters have up their sleeves. First up, a project I've been wanting to spill the beans about for a long time called Local:Mission Eatery. Some of you might have noticed the construction underway in the former home of Alhambra meat market, the short-lived halal butcher shop two doors down from Philz coffee (24th St. and Folsom). The new project is a collaboration between Yaron Milgrom-Elcott and chef Jake des Voignes (who dropped off the face of the earth following his departure from Fish & Farm but has turned up at long last). Milgrom-Elcott, who masterminded the venture, has never run a food business. In fact, he's most recently been working on a doctorate in Medievel Jewish Mysticism, but he's the kind of food fanatic that reads Harold McGee for fun and dabbles in molecular gastronomy for his weekend brunches with friends.
Together, the duo are in the midst of creating a food business that's unlike anything else in San Francisco (at least that we've heard of). During the day, the shop will sell what Milgrom-Elcott describes as "high-concept" sandwiches and baked goods, which you can eat there or take to-go. In addition, there will be evening classes, taught by a rotating roster of food professionals. Some will be directed at home cooks, while others will be hands-on tutorials for professionals looking to expand their skill set. Twice a week the eatery will host sit-down prix fixe dinners that will encourage mingling with the chef beforehand. Says Milgrom-Elcott, "I gave a lot of thought to how we could make this a new eating experience for people. We hope to bring an intimacy and transparency to the dining experience that really doesn't exist elsewhere. People will come both to eat and to learn." Another detail I'm excited about is the cookbook lending library—for a small annual fee, members will have access to all sorts of tomes, from the Fat Duck's giant tour de force to quirky manuals and best-sellers.
As a trained scholar, Milgrom-Elcott cops to his inspiration—"I have to cite my sources. Saison, 18 Reasons, Kitchenette, Cane Rosso, Dynamo—they've all been inspirations. But we're hoping to bring something new to the idea of a neighborhood place." Milgrom-Elcott is overseeing (and participating in) the build-out of the green business himself, a project that once again tapped his well-developed research skills, as he's spent days pouring over building codes and wrangling the proper permits ("Turns out," he quips, "I'm a real tight-ass"). And though the space still looks rough, the hope is to open in early February. The light at the end of the tunnel? "I stay up at night imagining the first dinner in the finished space, surrounded by the family and friends that made this possible, and the thank you speech I'll deliver. After fatherhood, this project has had the steepest learning curve I've ever experienced."