Noe Valley Voice May 1998


By Anne Gates

Storetrek is a regular feature of the Voice profiling new shops and businesses in the neighborhood. This month we introduce a used bookstore and a restaurant serving Middle Eastern cuisine.

Used Book Company

4190 24th St.


If you liked the eclectic Austen Books on Haight Street, then you'll love Used Book Company, now occupying the Wine Seller's old spot at 24th and Diamond streets. The Haight Street bookstore, originally named for Jane Austen, moved to Noe Valley and adopted a more obvious, generic title in December.

"I got tired of Haight Street," says owner Brian Beard, who worked at Austen Books for seven years before acquiring the business four years ago. Since he's lived in Noe Valley for the past two years, he felt that this neighborhood would make the ideal location for his store.

"My new shop is cleaner and has fewer low-end books," says Beard. But it's still a general used bookstore, with a diverse collection of reading material. If he had to pick a specialty, it'd be history. "I have a personal weakness for books about history, as long as it's pre-1940," he laughs.

Beard spends his mornings and evenings scouring the city for "quality fiction and literature. I've always relied on having really good stock," he says. In fact, his motto is "Damn Good Books."

He realizes Noe Valley has a high caliber of readers. "I love the neighborhood, great people. The neighborhood has real-ly responded well to my history collection," he says.

The other bookstores in Noe Valley, such as the San Francisco Mystery Bookstore across the street, have also been welcoming. "Rather than competing, we complement one another. [Noe Valley is like] a small town in Wales where the majority of businesses are bookstores. That town has become a destination."

Local bibliophiles are invited to come in and browse, or bring in their books to sell or trade. Beard says the condition of a book is an important factor in assessing its value. "It has to be in good shape."

Aside from expanding his inventory, Beard is working on starting a reading club. He welcomes input from customers and says, "Drop by and let me know what books you'd like to read and when you'd like the club to meet."

Used Book Company is open Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 8 p.m. The shop is closed Mondays.


1361 Church St.


Fattoush is both a Middle Eastern salad that's popular after the long fast of Ramadan and a new Noe Valley restaurant. "We serve very authentic Middle Eastern cuisine," says owner Abed Amas. "There's nothing else like it in town."

Fattoush opened April 16 in the site formerly occupied by the New Courtyard Cafe at Church and Clipper streets (where Rami's Caffe was until the mid-'90s). The restaurant can seat 40 people, and its sunny back patio can seat about 35 more.

The restaurant's new interior showcases warm woods and throw pillows on long banquette seating. The patio has outdoor tables, but also features a glass-enclosed sun room. (Amas says heat lamps will be installed soon to ward off any evening chill at dinner.)

Fattoush's menu focuses on "tribal food and celebration food of poor people from the regions of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine/Israel," the owner says. Special appetizers include the Fattoush Salad, featuring tomato, cucumber, parsley, mint, green onion, grilled eggplant, sumac, and pita croutons ($7.95, but big enough for two), and the Fatayer, a baked filo-dough pastry stuffed with seasoned beef and parsley and served with a tahini date syrup ($5.95). Most other appetizers run around $4.95.

Two of Amas' favorite entrees are Mansaf, a lamb dish cooked in aged yogurt and served with rice topped with almonds and pine nuts ($14.95), and Sambusak, made of spinach, mushrooms, onion, and feta cheese wrapped in filo dough ($11.95).

The Kenafeh dessert, another house specialty, has shredded filo dough layered with melted cheese, topped with rose water syrup and minced pistachios ($3.95). "That's been very popular," says Amas.

Fattoush also serves more well-known Middle Eastern dishes such as shish kebab, kufta kebab, tabouli, shawarma, and baklava. Several vegetarian dishes are available, and most entrees are priced around $12.95.

In several weeks the restaurant plans to offer daily specials, but for now the menu is new and "everything's a great special," Amas says.

Fattoush accepts VISA and MasterCard, and serves beer and wine.

The restaurant is open for lunch Tuesday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; for brunch Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and for dinner Tuesday through Thursday, 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 5:30 to 10 p.m., and Sunday, 5:30 to 9 p.m. The patio and sun room are also available for private parties.

For information or reservations, call 641-0678.