One of San Francisco's finest watering holes has her lights back on, her white-jacketed bartenders are shaking drinks again ... and she's now sporting a shiny kitchen serving Italian food until 1am. Tosca Café (242 Columbus, SF. www.toscacafesf.com) has new owners (Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield, of New York restaurant fame, like the Spotted Pig and The Breslin), and they did a bang-up job updating the space, while keeping the changes as minimal as possible, so stealth. As you admire the improved acoustics — opera arias and Johnny Cash still flow from the jukebox — you'll notice your Negroni has a bit more going for it as well. It's also clocking in at $12, but you can pay for it with a credit card, bet you didn't see that coming.
As for the famed house "cappuccino," you'll taste finer spirits in it, as well as ganache from local Dandelion Chocolate. Since there is now a dining room in the back area, you can order off a rustic Italian menu of dishes like chicken liver spiedini, a couple of salads, plenty of pasta options, and roasted chicken, or trout, for two. Ceri Smith and Randall Grahm (yup, the one and only of Bonny Doon) have plenty of classic Italian wines to keep you feeling warm this fall.
A few more lights that are on: State Bird Provisions (1529 Fillmore, SF. www.statebirdsf.com) has reopened after a petite expansion and remodel. The news: you can come by for Sunday dinner, and there are two tables for large groups. Sorry, scoring a reservation remains as tough as ever, though. Keep the faith.
Over on Broadway, Taps Social House and Kitchen (1516 Broadway, SF. www.taps1516.com) is now open, and it's a big'un, with 170 seats, 28 beers on draft, and chef Michael Lamina's gastropubby menu (which took a trip to France) includes a range of hearty items, from suckling pig to poutine and macaroni and cheese, plus there's a raw bar. Oh yeah, and cocktails. Cheers.
You like baked goods? I'm not talking about how you start your morning. Wait, actually, I am. Now open in Bernal Heights is Little Bee Baking (521 Cortland, SF.) baking up croissants, fruit tarts, cookies, cakes, ice cream, and pouring Four Barrel coffee. Meanwhile, over in SoMa, Savage Flour (1246 Folsom, SF. www.savageflour.com) is in the Crème Brûlée Cart space during the day, serving all kinds of goodies: sticky buns, biscuits, scones, cookies, and more.
BALLIN' ON A BUDGET
Anyone who loves fluffy baked bao should head on over to Pan Grill Sandwich Shop (Pier 33, SF. www.facebook.com/pangrillsandwichshop), a lunchtime pop-up by chef-owner Rob Lam of Butterfly. Pan is the Japanese word for "bread," and that's what the kitchen's perfected here. Swing by the takeout window on the south side of the restaurant from Wed.–Sun. (11am–3pm) for sandwiches made on a tasty milk bun — think pork katsu, tsukune chicken meatball — plus donburi bowls and salads. And nothing costs more than nine dollars.
Were you a fan of the awesome chef Guddu when he was at Lahore Karahi in the Tenderloin? Well, he has now opened up his own place in the Outer Sunset, Guddu de Karahi (1501 Noriega, SF. www.guddudekarahi.com), where you can score his fantastic tandoori fish, naan, paneer dishes, and more. Welcome back, Guddu!