Tacobar shaping up as a jewel

UPDATE: Tacobar is now open.

By Chris Barnett

Locals have been clamoring for better and more authentic Mexican food on Fillmore Street even before La Posada said adios a few years ago and the fast food chain La Salsa shuttered its shop at the end of last year.

They may soon get their wish.

Tacobar, at the corner of California and Fillmore, seems destined to be far more than a typical taqueria. Owner and top toque Jack Schwartz, 40, has fashioned a mini-Mexican restaurant with organic food considerably above the ordinary and a whimsical design that promises to be lively and fun. Just check out the handpainted mural on the ceiling of el bano, the unisex bathroom.
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Exporting Fillmore’s coffee culture

By Anne Paprocki

Tucked in an unassuming office behind two Fillmore boutiques, longtime local residents Elise Papazian and Scott Pritikin hope to expand the horizons of coffee connoisseurs everywhere with their recently launched online service GoCoffeeGo.

“Nobody should be drinking the same cup of coffee every day,” says Papazian, “It’s just boring. Would you eat the same food day in and out?”

The website includes a selection of coffee beans from 18 different roasters, including Zoka, Ritual, Cuvee, Atomic, Equator Coffees & Teas and Johnson Brothers. Papazian and Pritikin — who admit to testing up to 10 different coffees a day — have vetted each offering.
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Sheba: authentically Ethiopian

Sheba is located in the Fillmore Jazz District at 1419 Fillmore.

Since she and her sister opened Sheba Piano Lounge on Fillmore in 2006, Netsanet Alemayehu has created a distinctive ambiance with a sophisticated design, live music and a menu offering authentic Ethiopian dishes.

Much of what makes the food special is the spices — the cardamom, berbere, mitmita and oregano — Alemayehu imports in suitcases with the help of her family in Ethiopia. “It’s the same, only different,” she says of Ethiopian oregano. “It makes a lot of difference in the taste.”

Now Alemayehu has branched out and started selling the spices — and incorporating them into new cocktails and small plates.

“It’s nearly impossible to find a lot of the Ethiopian staple spices in San Francisco,” she says. “People have been asking for them. Since I get so many rare things directly from my family in Addis Ababa, I thought it was a good idea to sell them to the public so it’s easier for home chefs to create Ethiopian dishes.”
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Baker & Banker get their bakery

The Planning Commission voted unanimously yesterday afternoon to allow the new restaurant Baker & Banker, at Bush and Octavia, to operate a self-service bakery.

“We’ve been working on trying to create a neighborhood space,” said chef Jeffrey Banker. “The bakery will be a big part of our success.”

Banker’s wife and business partner, pastry chef Lori Baker, will be the mastermind of the bakery operation, offering for take-out the breads and desserts served in the restaurant during dinner. The restaurant is open every night except Monday for dinner at 1701 Octavia Street. The bakery will operate around the corner through a kitchen entrance on Bush Street from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Baker and Banker had hoped to open at 7 a.m., but ran into opposition from the Pacific Heights Residents Association.

“It’s the classic commute mess,” said Paul Wermer, a director of the residents association. “Anything that would encourage people to stop or slow down [on Bush Street during the morning commute] is a bad idea.”

Wermer said the association supported the bakery as long as it did not open before 9 a.m. The Planning Commission unanimously agreed.

EARLIER: Back where they belong

Baker & Banker: back where they belong

Baker & Banker's dining room manages to be glamorous and homey all at once.

Jeff Banker moved to San Francisco on December 31, 1997, ringing in a new year and a new life as the chef he always knew he would become. He found a job at Postrio, Wolfgang Puck’s Union Square hot spot, and an apartment on Bush Street, not far from a popular neighborhood restaurant called the Meeting House.

“It was really close to my house,” he says. “I used to walk by that place all the time, and something drew me to go in and ask for a job. I wanted to work in a small restaurant again.”

By then he had been at Postrio for two and a half years, but still he was a little surprised to be hired as the Meeting House chef de cuisine. Soon he realized that’s because the partners were splitting up. “It was a big, weird mess,” he says.

He’d married pastry chef Lori Baker, another Postrio alum, and she’d come to love the Meeting House space as well. But they let it go and moved on to work in some of San Francisco’s favorite restaurants — Bix, Bizou, Fifth Floor, Eos and Home, plus stints in Paris and Italy and travels in Asia.
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A place with a past

1701 Octavia Street: an address with lots of stories, some possibly true.

By Chris Barnett

It’s a simple Victorian storefront at Octavia and Bush, but the building housing Baker & Banker has a notorious past.

Vintage San Franciscans will remember the spot as Robert Restaurant Francais during the 70s and 80s — a small and stylish place with a popular appetizer not listed on the menu. One day the cops busted through the front door — without reservations — just as one of Robert’s kingpins disappeared out the back door, much to the disappointment of patrons who favored his cocaine-to-go-go.
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Fat Angel flies in

Fat Angel's golden mascot at Fillmore and O'Farrell.

A new cafe and wine bar — Fat Angel — is now open in the Fillmore Jazz District behind Starbucks at 1740 O’Farrell. And it’s promising to be a neighborhood place.

“Fat Angel was born out of a passion for the Fillmore District,” say the owners, who live nearby and have made the neighborhood a key part of their business plan. “Fat Angel’s mission is to become the Fillmore’s benchmark in food, service, price and atmosphere.”

Their mascot — a honey of a golden angel — was rescued and repurposed, like much of the interior, from a previous life in another part of town.

Video on Facebook: the angel arrives