To Think That I Saw It on 30th Street
TORONADO IS not your father’s Oldsmobile. Nor is this new spot on North Park’s happening 30th Street a beer hall, although in France it might be called a bistro à bière, since it serves casual fare to complement an amazing variety of brewskis. The first offshoot of a San Francisco establishment of the same name, Toronado offers mind-boggling choices: Some 50 craft beers are on tap, and the number of bottled selections, including some vintage brews, is expected to reach 300. For grub, chef Dylan Weaver (a former instructor at the California Culinary Academy in Babylon-by-the-Bay) stuffs lengths of baguette with grilled artisan sausages and cooks up other beer-friendly chow . . . Sheer bliss, and cheap, too: a $4 bowl of chewy-texture tomato-fennel soup and a plate of buttery Cheddar-herb biscuits at Urban Solace (five biscuits run $4.25, and any you haul home will reheat beautifully) . . . More or less catercorner to Urban Solace, the new location of The Linkery is large, handsome and busy from 5:30 nightly (wish they served lunch!) . . . The sign at La Boheme condos on 30th just north of University has been up a while, and you have to hope that the promise “Coming Soon——Arrivederci Ristorante” will be kept. There’s always room for another good Italian, and the restaurants in the small Arrivederci group are among the best.
MAMAS, DON’T LET YOUR DAUGHTERS grow up to be hostesses——unless you teach them some manners before turning them loose on the world. One recent eve - ning, a guest and I entered the lobby of an expensive, well-known eatery (which I won’t name, on the principle that it’s management’s job to train employees, not mine) and approached the hostess, who stood behind a massive desk with crossed arms and a sour expression. “Is there something I can do for you?” she snapped. My jaw still aches from hitting the floor. Whatever happened to “Good evening”?
FISH OR CUT BAIT AT JADE THEATER, the hip haven at Seventh and C that every Thursday night presents the “Rok & Roll Sushi Social” from 6 to 10. Twenty bucks buys all-you-can-eat sushi, and if you get there before 7, the drinks are on special, too . . . Around the corner, the Spanish retreat Paul Dobson opened circa 1985 has reopened as La Gran Tapa Café——Bar Europa. The place slowly declined after Dobson sold it and was just plain gnarly a couple of years ago. The washed-and-brushed-up décor looks good, and the interesting, largely meatless menu (there are several meat-based or meatflavored dishes) divides among small and large tapas plates such as a Sicilian tomato salad, baguette slices with a trio of sauces, a savory chicken stew and wildmushroom risotto . . . As part of an ever more common phenomenon, La Gran Tapa notes on its menu “Bread served upon request.” Some places no longer serve bread at all, even if you beg. Feel free to translate one restaurant manager’s explanation that “People don’t want it anymore” as “It costs plenty to put bread and butter on the ta - ble.” . . . Alex Thao is expanding his miniempire north to La Cienaga’s restaurant row in Los Angeles, where Rama will open between STK and Nobu (no, these aren’t cross streets).
ONE IF BY SEA, TWO IF BY BICE: Remember The Paladion, the multistory distillation of Rodeo Drive built by the late developer Walter Smyk in the early ’90s at Front and G streets? Iit now houses offices, and filing cabinets stand behind what were Tiffany’s display windows.) It was there that Bice, the New York–based, high-end Italian cuisine chain, opened an extravagant rooftop eatery with $2 million décor by Adam Tihany that everybody just hated. Bice opened just in time for the recession that creamed Southern California (and subsequently fled) and now may have timed its second try in San Diego to coincide with another spell of dicey economics. The globe-spanning chain has branches in Is tanbul, Jeddeh, Madrid and Bethesda, Mary - land, and will occupy the fine Gas lamp corner of Fourth and Island. Mike Mitchell, managing partner of The Oceanaire Seafood Room down the block, says he and wife Robin always make a point of dining at the flagship Bice whenever they visit Manhattan.
Gimme Shelter (by the Bay)
PAUL MURPHY, an adventurer among chefs who periodically spends a few days under the waves teaching U.S. Navy submariners the finer points of gourmet chow, describes the new look at Humphreys Restaurant as “Out with the Polynesian, in with the modern.” It’s an apt description for the trendy remodel of this landmark Shelter Island eatery, though it remains true that if you’re seated windowside when the setting sun backlights Point Loma, you tend not to notice the interior. You will notice what’s on the plate: Murphy wrote an engaging new menu to complement Humphreys’ new look. The chef likes great big flavors, and offers starters like mirin and sesame-flavored shrimp with both wasabi sauce (it’s hot!) and mango-mint relish, and irresistible bites of grilled skirt steak soaked in a Korean-style marinade. Seafood highlights an entrée list peppered with such niceties as lemongrass-crusted swordfish with Thai red curry sauce, and seared Kona kampachi with orange–Serrano chile sauce. Cool the spice by finishing with pear bread pudding.