Noe Valley Voice July-August 2001

Store Trek

Store Trek is a regular Voice feature profiling new stores and businesses in the neighborhood. This month, reporter Laura McHale Holland sheds light on a new vegetarian-friendly café in "uptown" Noe Valley, a flower shop whose owner has local roots, and a popular workout center that recently jumped from Castro to Church Street.

Pomelo Restaurant

1793 Church Street


Have you seen the large yellow fruit sculpture suspended over the entrance to what was once Valentine's café on Church Street near 30th? Neighbors have guessed that it's a pear, a lemon, and even a grapefruit. But it's none of those. It's a pomelo, a sweet, pear-shaped citrus fruit originally from Asia, and it heralds San Francisco's second Pomelo restaurant.

The original Pomelo, located on Judah Street, has been going strong since principal owners Rolf Bachmann and Emmanuel Liotard-Vogt opened it in 1997. Recently, their executive chef, Michael F. Fowler, also became a partner. The trio opened in Noe Valley for brunch in April and began serving dinners here June 1.

"We have many regular customers from Noe Valley, so we knew it would be a good location. But we have really low prices, so 24th Street is too expensive. We were fortunate to find something on the perimeter," says Bachmann.

Pomelo has the same menu at both locations. It includes dishes from around the world, most of which are named after their place of origin--from Tunis to Palermo, Saigon to Lanzhou, East L.A. to Bernal Heights. Brunch is vegetarian and vegan. Dinners are not necessarily vegetarian, but are vegetarian-friendly.

Local patrons can try the Tokyo, a dashi broth with buckwheat noodles and soy-ginger-sake chicken ($7), or the Cremona, a ribbon pasta with asparagus, red peppers, and cherry tomatoes on a light, lemon-scented sauce, and topped with ricotta salata ($8). Diners can also enjoy Pomelo's signature drink, ginger lemongrass iced tea, which, according to Bachmann, has a huge following on Judah Street.

"We are not a fusion restaurant; we feature authentic dishes," notes Bachmann. "What they have in common is that they are noodle- and grain-based."

Bachmann hopes this homey café, painted in hues of yellow and green, will become a favorite haunt for neighborhood residents. "We're not a trendy, here-today, gone-tomorrow kind of place, and we're very open to feedback from our customers," he says.

Pomelo serves brunch Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner is Wednesday through Sunday, 5 to 10 p.m. For more information, call 285-2257.

Purely Physical Fitness

1300 Church Street


Last October, after seven years of helping locals improve their health, humor, and appearance, Purely Physical Fitness lost the lease on its Castro Street home. Fortunately for those who depend on this little antidote to corporate-run gyms, Purely Physical reopened in January in the spot formerly occupied by Kennedy's Pub, at the corner of Church and 25th streets.

"Of the spaces available in the neighborhood when we lost our lease, this one felt the best -- with its high ceilings and windows -- and it's a convenient location for everyone. We have many of our former clients, and lots of new ones, too," observes Lori Bitterman. She co-owns the business with Fran Aldwell, who is also a personal trainer.

The gym, which was featured in a February 1998 story in the Voice (see, still offers personal training, circuit-training classes with Mark Duval, and, says Bitterman, "basically everything that anyone needs for a whole body workout."

Hours are Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Stop in and check out the equipment, or call Lori Bitterman or Fran Aldwell at 282-1329 for more details.

The Flower Station

1600 Castro Street


If you're looking for an orchid with character, you might want to visit the Flower Station, an airy establishment at the corner of Clipper and Castro streets that opened its warm yellow door for business on May 8.

Among a carefully placed assortment of cut flowers, plants, soaps, candles, and other accessories, you'll find a variety of intriguing orchids, fuzzy mums, and furry trachelium. All orchids are $35 and are three feet high from the bottom of the pot to the bloom. Gift baskets of fragrant bath soaps, aromatherapy candles, and massage oil are also available for as little as $19.

"The phalaeoneopsis orchids are a stunning yellow with red spots. Some are shaped like spiders, while others are more like butterflies," notes owner Juliet Panlasigui-Wilson. "The trachelium come in purple and white, and they feel soft, like rabbit fur. At $2 each, they're an excellent accent flower."

A native of the Philippines, Panlasigui-Wilson was formerly employed in a retail pharmacy. She earned her bachelor's degree in commerce, but she studied art privately. She feels her skills are ideally suited for the florist business. She particularly enjoys providing floral arrangements for weddings, corporate accounts, and special occasions.

"Unique arrangements, especially tropical, are my specialty," says Panlasigui-Wilson. "I do artwork as well, so I don't go by standard shapes and flower selections. I incorporate a personal touch into each design."

She chose a Noe Valley location because her children (Sean, 8, and Alexandria, 6) attend St. Paul's Elementary School on Church Street. "It's very convenient in terms of dropping them off and picking them up," says Panlasigui-Wilson. "Also, there are many young couples here and people who are romantic at heart. I think they would like to stop in and buy some flowers for that special someone."

The Flower Station is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

If you call Panlasigui-Wilson at 550-8546 and place an order by phone, she'll deliver it right to your door.

-- Laura McHale Holland