Noe Valley Voice July-August 2004

Store Trek

By Doug Konecky

Store Trek is a regular Voice feature profiling new shops and businesses in Noe Valley. This month we introduce a Yucatecan Mexican restaurant, a gourmet olive oil store, and a shop specializing in handmade crafts, jewelry, and stationery.

Mi Lindo Yucatan

4042 24th Street near Castro Street


Whereas Mexico City restaurant stood its ground for only three months (see Voice Store Trek January 2004), owners Benny Huerta and Jorge Gongora of Mi Lindo Yucatan are determined to reverse the trend of unhappy endings to new restaurants at this address.

One big thing the two have going for them is Chef Maria Pacheco. Pacheco's delicious takes on specialties from Mexico's southeast region have already proven successful at the first Mi Lindo Yucatan on Valencia Street, which has been dishing out salbutes, panuchos, and chilindrinas to packed crowds for almost a year.

All that's left of the old Alcatraces decor are the tables and chairs. The interior has been freshly repainted in bright, primary colors, with paintings of Mayan women making tortillas hanging on the walls right next to glyph-like muy macho warriors about to head off to war. An altar-like window treatment scatters black beans under red and blue bowls of pasilla chilies and yellow sunflowers.

Yucatecan cuisine is different from the cooking of north or central Mexico. You'll find more grilled foods, more pickled accompaniments, and more heat in a restaurant in Merida, say, than in Mexico City, Monterrey, or Mexicali.

Pacheco's Yucateco delicacies explode off your tastebuds. Poc-chuc (charbroiled pork marinated in Yucatecan spices, $8.75); Relleno Negro de Pavo (turkey cooked in a very dark and smoky mole brought from Yucatan and cooked with habanero, pasilla, and jalapeno chilies, $8.50); and the weekend-only Puchero Yucateco (a kind of soup-stew of chicken, pork, beef, and vegetables, said to be kind to people with hangovers, $8.75) are dishes not often seen in San Francisco.

An intense antojitos (appetizers) menu is available as well, most of them variants of tortilla wrappings around various fillings. The flautas and Tacos de Cochinita (pork cooked in achiote with pickled red onions) are cheap ($1.95) and delicious, though many try the Platillo Mi Lindo Yucatan ($12.75), which is a combination plate bringing to the table two small-size versions of seven different appetizers.

Huerta, who is from Cuernavaca, Mexico, ran Carmen's Taqueria Express for several years, while Gongora, who is from Yucatan, was a chef at Julie's Supper Club. Assuming the Mexico City lease, they opened Mi Lindo Yucatan on 24th Street on an auspicious date: Cinco de Mayo (May 5). "We want to bring our food to local people," Huerta says. "We know they're going to love this cooking."

Mi Lindo Yucatan is open daily from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Stonehouse California Olive Oil

3901 24th Street at Sanchez Street


The Bay Area is known for its dominance in all things edible, from Napa Valley premium wineries to Berkeley's Chez Panisse to the Mission's cheap, hearty burritos. For foodies in Noe Valley who feel our neighborhood has been left behind (we do have our farmers' market now), don't despair: there's a new epicurean contender on the corner of Sanchez and 24th streets.

Stonehouse California Olive Oil, an eight-year-old Fairfield company, opened its second San Francisco retail store--the other is in the Ferry Building--on May 1 in Dharma's and Juice-It's old location.

President Trish Baldwin, a Berkeley resident, loves 24th Street and is excited to be in one of her favorite San Francisco shopping spots. "Everybody cooks in San Francisco," Baldwin says. "Noe Valley is a community that fits in exactly with what we're doing." What they're doing is offering top-quality olive oil in bulk. As Assistant Manager Kim O'Neill describes it, "Our goal is to sell good olive oil to people, and to provide them with a service that is ecologically sound."

O'Neill says the company also hopes to fill part of the void left by the Real Food Company last fall. To that end, Stonehouse has started selling Fatted Calf Charcuterie products, which include sausages, pâté, and salami made with Niman Ranch meats and organic spices and seasonings. The shop is also selling imported Italian and French grocery items such as canned tomatoes, anchovy paste, and risotto.

"The idea is to have a product mix so that customers will think of us as an easy gourmet dinner stop," O'Neill explains.

The bright corner store has been furnished sparely, with dark green walls behind white wooden cabinets stocked with tall bottles of olive oil and imported vinegars. At the rear of the shop is a tasting bar, where O'Neill invites customers to sample chunks of Acme baguettes dipped into small dishes of oil.

Stonehouse's basic Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, which won a silver medal at the Los Angeles County Fair in 2003, has a lusty, grassy flavor. The extra-virgin Sevillano Oil is "more buttery and very suave, with a rich mouth feel," says O'Neill. Other standouts are the Persian Lime, Blood Orange, and Lisbon Lemon olive oils. These are flavored oils made from olives and citrus fruits crushed side by side.

O'Neill says the Dipping Oil is "super popular." It's a blend of the company's garlic olive oil, imported balsamic vinegar, hot pepper flakes, and spices.

The silver medal blend is $14 for 750 ml, and the Sevillano costs $20 for 500 ml. The blended oils retail for $10 for a 225 ml bottle and $14 for a 500 ml bottle. Stonehouse will refill customers' empty bottles with any of the oils in the store for $2 off the retail price. Any bottle will do, even an old wine bottle.

Stonehouse owns its own 100-acre grove outside of Oroville, just below Table Mountain, and farms organically; however, since the company also buys bulk olives from other producers, the oil cannot be labeled organic. A strictly organic estate oil will be added to the inventory soon, Baldwin says.

She also plans to offer housewares such as lemon zesters, peelers, and a Pizza-at-Home Kit. People can come in and buy fresh-made pizza dough, plus all the ingredients to put on top, to make and eat their pizza at home hot from the oven. Baldwin will even sell pizza stones for those who don't have one, she says.

Customers should feel free to stop by and let Baldwin, O'Neill, or any staff member know what sorts of sundry items they'd like to see in the store.

Stonehouse is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Ladybug Ladybug

3870 24th Street near Vicksburg Street

415-824-5477 (415-824-KISS)

Lisa Rachel Sherratt and Sheila Musgrave are the creators of Ladybug Ladybug, a new handcrafts gift shop that opened in late April in the space vacated by See Jane Run at 24th and Vicksburg. (SJR's athletic apparel shop moved up to Toko Imports' old spot.)

The proprietors, who are longtime friends, named the shop after the well-known nursery rhyme ("Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home").

"It's a good tag line," Sherratt says, adding that she and Musgrave used to work for a greeting card company. "Also, ladybugs are lucky, so it's doubly lucky."

The partners have completely renovated the storefront, starting with a coat of ladybug-red paint on the exterior. Sherratt is an artist, and her touch is apparent everywhere. The floor has been sprayed a sea-foam blue and is covered with displays filled with colorful gifts.

Sixty percent of the stock is produced by local artisans, including greeting cards, art books, jewelry, baby oils, and a raft of merchandise festooned with--you guessed it--ladybugs. Sherratt can and will customize anything with her popular design--right now the store carries wall hangings, pillows, T-shirts, scarves, sachets, and framed art bearing the lovable little red arthropoda insecta coccinellidae hippodamia.

Jewelry prices range from 99 cents to $200; greeting cards start at $1.50; bath and body oils sell in the $18 to $20 range, and Sherratt's silk paintings bring in anywhere from $10 to $300. The store also sells silk slippers, candles, tote bags, stuffed animals, and stationery.

You'll also find Lisa's Garden, a series of children's books illustrated by Sherratt and written in Scotland by her mother, Sue Bates ("my not so silent partner"). The books sell for $3.50 to $6.95 and have titles such as The Bold Worm, The Independent Ant, and The Lazy Bee. In December 2003, Lisa's Garden was named one of the top five products in San Francisco by the city's Small Business Commission.

Ladybug Ladybug's business side is presided over by Musgrave, a Sunset District resident whose background is in customer service (she was also a flight attendant). The shop moved to Noe Valley from its previous location near the Balboa Theater in the Outer Richmond. While successful there, the two co-owners are looking forward to increased foot traffic on 24th Street.

"Our main clientele is probably women ages 20 to 38," notes Sherratt, who lives in the Outer Mission.

She's had her eye on Noe Valley for a couple of years, especially since she hangs out on 24th Street all the time. "I like it a lot here."

Regular hours for Ladybug Ladybug are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.