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Store Trek is a regular Voice column introducing new businesses in the neighborhood. This month's Store Trek, written by Heidi Anderson, profiles a cute clothing store on Castro and a French restaurant that offers to take you to Paris.
4063 24th Street (near Castro)
First, a quick review of high school French: "Zinc" means pewter and is what the typical bar counter is made of in a Parisian café. For all of us who skipped language lab too often, the word is pronounced "zang."
So when you stop by Le Zinc -- the classy French bistro that opened on 24th Street in November in Hopwell's old spot-- don't forget to admire the bar. It's an antique that was rescued from an old bistro in northern France.
Beyond that, says co-owner Diana Barrand, "Come in if you're interested in good French food and good wine and want to be transported by the ambience to another country."
You will have ample opportunity to sample Le Zinc's menu, supervised by Barrand's husband and chef, Max Braud, because the establishment is open from 7 in the morning until 10 at night. "French cafés stay open from 6 a.m. until 2 a.m., with a few hours in between to clean up," Barrand notes.
Le Zinc offers breakfast (le petit déjeuner), lunch (le déjeuner), and dinner (le diner), plus traditional afternoon snacks (charcuterie). All items are à la carte at the moment, but a prix fixe option (choosing two or three items from the menu for a fixed price) may be available soon. The restaurant seats 60 and takes reservations for dinner Monday through Saturday. Additional seating on the patio is planned for the spring.
Breakfast, served from 7 to 11 a.m., features such things as soft-boiled eggs with baguette fingers, poached eggs on toast with cheese, and fresh fruit salad (all priced at $6). Lunch, served until 2:30 p.m., offers soups, crispy North-African-style crêpes called briks ($6.50 to $9.50), and omelettes and sandwiches for $7 to $12. Charcuterie (soups, cheeses, wine, coffee) is served from 2:30 until 5:30 p.m.
And then, but of course, there's le diner: the whole kit and kaboodle of soups, breads, salads, seafood, poultry, et cetera.
"The dinner menu changes daily," says Barrand, "but we have found the cassoulet (a southern France-style casserole of duck confit, sausage, and other meats, $19) to be very popular, especially when it's cold outside." She adds that the Filet de Boeuf aux Trois Poivres (beef tenderloin with three-pepper sauce, $22) is a favorite for repeat customers.
Braud, a native Frenchman, grew up in his family's restaurants in Paris. He and Barrand, who is originally from England, ran a brasserie in Paris for several years before moving to the U.S. in 1999.
Why Noe Valley? "We looked at all the neighborhoods in San Francisco, but liked this one best," says Barrand. "Twenty-fourth Street has real Anglo-Saxon charm, not only the architecture but the way the store windows are decorated." She and her husband live close by in Glen Park.
Both Barrand and Braud promise no points will be taken off your grade should you mispronounce "Zinc" or need haricots verts explained to you in English. "We just want you to have fun!"
Le Zinc is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday for brunch only from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
1236 Castro (near 24th)
Perched just above 24th Street in a cubby-sized space formerly occupied by Castro Computer Services, Vivon is a new clothing store of a type rarely seen in these parts.
Owner Vivon Chan has been busy feathering (or rather sequin-ing and beading) the nest since the store opened in mid-November.
"I have very special clothes," says Chan, "like all my sequined T-shirts and handmade sweaters." She also carries a lively selection of pants and other shirts in an array of blues, reds, pinks, and yellows.
"I guess most of my customers are girls from about 16 to 35," she says.
Chan previously owned another store, also called Vivon, in the South of Market area. She chose Noe Valley because, "Well, it is beautiful, and this neighborhood is known for its shopping."
And its dogs. "I love dogs!" she enthuses. "There are so many here!" Vivon invites dogs to accompany their owners into the store. Any dog sweaters in that perfect shade of pink for a Pekinese?
"No," Chan says, but the animals are encouraged to help their guardians pick out a snazzy, people-sized number.
Chan has been in the clothing business for six years. Before that, she sold jewelry in the Gift Mart downtown.
To lure shoppers to her Castro Street nook, Chan currently has a discount pricing strategy. "I have very, very good prices right now, on almost everything."
Some of the bargains she points out are a pink hand-sequined purse for $25, bright purple flare pants for $12, and a leopard-patterned sleeveless T-shirt for $3. There are lots of scarves and other accessories, in an imaginative range of styles and textures, priced from $8 to $28. "I have new stuff every week," she adds.
Vivon is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 3 p.m.