Noe Valley Voice September 2001

Rumors Behind the News

By Mazook

SAW SUN, HAD FUN, on vacation in L.A. last month. But it's nice to be back in the neighborhood.

During the summer, the epicenter of our rumor jolts shifted from Downtown Noe Valley (24th Street) to Uptown Noe Valley. That would be the area around 30th and Church formerly known as "the end of the J-line." For us, it's the beginning of the line, and it goes like this:

* A neighborhood restaurateur announced that he would open a coffeehouse on the corner occupied for many years by Acropolis Travel. (Acropolis has moved to the Excelsior District.)

* Across the street, a new sushi bar sprung up in July without fanfare or signage, and it's packing them in like sardines.

* The space vacated by Cafe J (Church and 29th) will become a restaurant specializing in classic Greek food.

e Star Bakery closed--we think for the last time -- after 113 years in the bread biz, leaving the space up for grabs.

* Speckmann's Restaurant, on the corner of Church and Duncan, is being dismantled and will undergo major retrofitting to become an Italian restaurant.

* Oh, and the Fountain of Youth went poof. I feel older already.

= = =

LET'S TAKE THESE ONE AT A TIME: A hug and a kiss to Adam Bousiakis, who plans to launch a new coffeehouse, to be called Café XO, on the corner of 30th and Church, "hopefully sometime in late September or early October." The official grand opening party will be Sunday, Oct. 21, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The coffeehouse (and store) will offer a variety of coffee beans, plus its own trademark blend. "We will be brewing our own coffee and also serving fresh fruit, pastries, smoothies, and fondue for dipping the fruit into," says Adam. He expects XO's hours to be 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.

Adam, whom you may know from his many years as a partner/manager at Noe Valley Pizza on 24th Street, says he wants his new place to be "very, very comfortable for customers. We are putting in maple wood floors, a fireplace, a digital sound system, and DSL, so people can plug in their laptops while they relax and have coffee."

= = =

ONCE I HAD A SECRET SUSHI: Heading north, the new sushi bar that quietly opened its doors at the beginning of July is called Deep Sushi, but you'll just have to take my word for it because there are no signs on the outside. It's right next to Hungry Joe's at Church and Day.

Deep Sushi is open Monday through Saturday, from 5 p.m. to midnight. Evidently, people aren't having trouble finding this place, since the 40 seats fill up by early evening and the fish really starts flying around 10 o'clock.

Co-owner Ray Tobias, who was born and raised in Upper Noe Valley (his mom Sonia is a longtime Church Street merchant), shrugs his shoulders and says, "I can't quite believe that this thing has taken off so quickly; we are getting a lot of locals, but also people from other parts of the Bay Area and even some in from out of state who told me they heard about us 'from friends.'"

Ray and his cousin Galvin Gaviola, whose mothers happen to be twins, started the project almost two years ago. "We had to wind our way through the city permit process, which proved to be a nightmare, but we did it!" Ray says.

He adds that he and Galvin tried to create "a place with good food and wine, comfortable seating, eclectic music, and a place to socialize." French wines, chosen to be compatible with the menu, are served by the glass. "Just ask us for suggestions," Ray says.

Deep Sushi will take reservations for parties of six or more. If you're fewer than that, I advise you to get there early. Ray says he'll put up a sign later this month.

= = =

OPAA! Moving up Church, to the former site of Cafe J, you may have noticed a Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) application posted for a beer and wine transfer to John Spachis.

John, who prefers to be called Jack, is another Noe Valley native. He will be opening a restaurant with "authentic Greek cuisine" called Yianni's, which means "John's" (not Jack's) in Greek.

"We are going to open sometime in October for dinners, Tuesday through Sunday, with brunch on Saturday and Sunday," says Jack, who also owns and operates a Greek restaurant in Burlingame, also called Yianni's.

= = =

ALL HAM AND NO BALONEY: Next door to the late Cafe J, the Drewes Brothers, who are really the Epple Brothers, are happy operating their Drewes meat market. The classic butcher shop has been at this location since 1888 and was featured in a July 22 Sunday Chronicle story about places in San Francisco "where everybody knows your name."

Wrote Craig Marine, "More and more, it seems as though folks are tending to congregate at certain places, usually businesses (not their own), and spend as much time catching up on the neighborhood or the lives of friends as they do patronizing the chosen establishment.... Drewes Brothers is such a place."

According to Marine, Drewes brother Isaac likes to kid his customers by answering their how-are-you's with: "I'm great. I'm young, good-looking, own my own business -- what more could you ask for?"

Josh and Isaac Epple have a copy of the article at their counter, in case you missed it.

= = =

OOMPAH PASTA: On we go to the corner of Duncan and Church, where the only sign of the once-famous Speckmann's is the sign itself. The interior has been gutted and the whole building is being seismically reinforced. Somehow, the place will be magically transformed from a German deli and restaurant into an Italian deli and restaurant (so don't be surprised if it serves angel-Herr pasta).

Actually: "We are going to serve a rustic Italian cuisine with hearty food, such as braised meats, stews, game, and of course pasta," says Mark Pastore, who bought both the building and the business-- lock, stock, and schnitzel -- earlier this year for $1.13 million.

"I wanted to do this here [Upper Noe Valley] because there are a lot of longtime residents who really care about their neighborhood," says Mark. He hopes to please them by offering takeout, too.

I personally am hoping the deli will carry gelato (Italian ice cream), but I'll put that out of my mind for now because Mark says the project won't be finished until October 2002.

Mark hasn't chosen a name yet. How about Speckmannzini's?

= = =

PONCE DE LEON WILL HAVE TO KEEP SEARCHING: On July 29, Fountain of Youth ice cream parlor closed its doors on the corner of Church and 27th, "because I was, quite simply, not making it," laments owner Kathy O'Neill.

"I gave it two years, and realized that I had no promise of turning a profit. I was working two jobs. The weather here is too cold [for ice cream], there is not enough foot traffic on Church, and the last straw was the PG&E bill," she says.

Kathy, who lives on Potrero Hill, has been working in the neighborhood for over 10 years. You may remember her as the pharmacist at Thrifty Junior (now Rite Aid) on 24th Street. After opening Fountain of Youth, she continued to moonlight as a pharmacist.

Kathy can now confirm that the real money in the drugstore business is made in the pharmacy and not at the soda fountain. Her ice cream parlor, which Noe Valley families loved for its '50s charm, has been for sale for a while (the last asking price was $40,000), but unfortunately, there have been no takers. "So I am going to sell off the equipment, hold a yard sale, and get a life again," Kathy says.

In other ice cream news, Rory's Twisted Scoop at 24th and Castro has been put up for sale, confirms Greg Fisher, who with Robin Young operates Rory's and another shop on Fillmore Street.

Greg prefers to make no further comment, but the Food section of the Chronicle is reporting that "the successful duo that brought Luna Park to the Mission, A.J. Gilbert and his chef-partner Joe Jack, are in the process of acquiring a tiny space in Noe Valley, which they hope to transform into a neighborhood tapas and wine bar in December. The menu will feature a variety of bruschettas, 20 wines-by-the-glass, and craft beers."

Could this be Rory's spot, the original home of Bud's Ice Cream? Could we be seeing the end of ice cream in Noe Valley?

= = =

WHOLE LOTTA PARKING GOIN' ON: The 10,800-square-foot parcel on 24th Street once the site of Dan's Gas was officially sold in mid-July, according to Noe Valley Ministry pastor Keenan Kelsey.

For anyone who has been on the space shuttle and not reading the Voice for the past six months, a group of wealthy Presbyterians bought the aforesaid property for the Noe Valley Ministry, to construct a commercial parking lot that will give the Ministry free parking on Sunday.

According to Keenan, the donor group, "who wants to remain anonymous," has set up a corporation called the Noe Valley Parking Corporation. All revenue from the operation of the lot will go to the corporation; none will go to the church, she says.

Keenan explains that "the corporation and the church's governing board are in the process of obtaining all the necessary permits from the city to demolish Dan's [which has been there since the 1930s], get a conditional use permit to change it to parking, and then grade and resurface the lot, redo the sidewalks, build a kiosk with plumbing, and meet lighting code requirements...just to mention a few of the things we have to do."

They are also in the middle of negotiations with various parking companies for the right to operate the lot, and deciding the rates and exactly what the parking privileges will be for the Ministry.

So when will the dang lot will be finished? "We hope to have parking by Christmas," Keenan says.

As for me, I would like to receive about 4,000 Parking Corporation gift certificates for Christmas.

That's all, you all. Ciao, but no ice cream, for now.