Noe Valley Voice February 2011



Store Trek is a regular Voice feature profiling new stores and businesses in Noe Valley. This month, we introduce three new restaurants in the neighborhood: Tataki South, a sushi restaurant that serves sustainably harvested seafood; Patxi’s Chi­cago Pizza, catering to all styles of pizza; and the New Alternatives Cafe, a small but earnest coffee shop on Guerrero Street.


Co-owners Casson Trenor (left) and Kin Lui created Tataki South on Church Street to be a model of seafood sustainability.     Photo by Pamela Gerard

Tataki South
1740 Church Street at Day


Imagine, a sushi restaurant that doesn’t serve certain fish—bluefin tuna, hamachi (Japanese amberjack or yellowtail), farmed shrimp, farmed salmon, or farmed eel—because of the way the seafood was caught, harvested, or grown.

“We won’t sell any seafood that is considered to be unsustainable by the Monterey Bay Aquarium,” says Casson Trenor, co-owner and sustainability expert at Tataki South. “We don’t have anything caught on a long line or on a bottom trawl, because it’s all environmentally questionable at best.”

The higher environmental bar doesn’t mean there are fewer sushi choices on the menu, however. In fact, it’s the opposite. “To replace the experience of eating tuna, we’ll use albacore bellies,” says Trenor. “We bring a lot of misunderstood fish that can’t get no respect: smaller fish, sardines, mackerels, and bivalves: clams, oysters, and mussels.”

The restaurant’s bestselling item, the Green Dragon Roll ($15), for instance, is made with “sustainable and defensible wild shrimp that’s either domestic or Canadian caught,” and sablefish cooked to mimic the texture of eel, plus avocado and wasabi tobiko caviar. “We’re trying to make beautiful plates that really honor the concept of sushi that’s harmonious with the ocean rather than in spite of it,” says Trenor.

Featured as well are “chef’s choice” sashimi and nigiri plates priced from $11 to $35, and tataki-style specials, fish that is briefly seared on the outside, then marinated in rice vinegar and thinly sliced for serving.

Tataki South also caters to the non-fish eater, serving more than a dozen varieties of vegetarian rolls, including pickled burdock, tofu, avocado, and sweet potato ($4 to $12); as well as skewers of grilled, lightly spiced angus beef ($8) or grilled chicken wings with sea salt ($5.50).

Trenor’s knowledge of sustainable seafood practices runs deep. As the author of Sustainable Sushi: A Guide to Saving the Oceans One Bite at a Time, Trenor spends his days as a Greenpeace campaigner educating the public about the global fisheries crisis.

He and co-owners/sushi chefs Kin Lui, Raymond Ho, and Kenny Zhu opened Tataki South, the second of their sustainable sushi restaurants in San Francisco, in early October in the former home of Deep Sushi, at Church and Day streets.

“We’re here [in Noe Valley] for a reason, and it’s not because this is where we thought we’d make the most money. It’s because we thought we’d really connect with the demographics—progressive, family-oriented, in harmony with our principles,” says Trenor, adding, “Noe Valley sushi customers are quite sophisticated. People around here are interested in trying new things.”

The owners’ commitment to the environment also infuses the decor. “Some of the walls used to be the floors,” says Trenor. “Most of the wood in here is reclaimed; the rest is sustainably harvested.”

The dark-stained tables and bar, which together seat 30 in the front and 25 in the back of the restaurant, are made of bamboo, and the warm “rhumba-orange” paint on the walls is free of VOCs (volatile organic compounds).

“Seafood is the first step. We want to prove that a sushi bar can exist in harmony with the ocean. But that’s not the only step,” says Trenor.

He adds that Tataki South now has “happy hours” daily from 5 to 7 p.m. “We offer sushi, an appetizer, and half off beer, hot sake, and specialty drinks.” Lunch will be the next wave, Trenor says.

The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday and Sunday, 5 to 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m.

—Karen Topakian

Manager Rich Burns says the Chicago-style “stuffed” pizza is a top seller at Patxi’s on 24th Street.       Photo by Pamela Gerard 

Patxi’s Chicago Pizza
4042 24th Street


Patxi’s Chicago Pizza caters to every pizza lover’s palate—from the two-inch Chicago-style “stuffed” pizza to the elegant extra-thin crust.

“We fit everyone’s pizza desires, from New York to the Midwest to California,” says Rich Burns, manager of the newest outlet in San Francisco, Patxi’s Noe. The restaurant opened after much renovation in December, in the spot formerly occupied by Mi Lindo Yucatan.

Customers can enjoy their pizza while seated at the dark wood bar in the small, glass-paneled front of the restaurant or dine in the more spacious area with tables and booths at the back. The restaurant seats 65, but if there is a wait for tables, diners can pre-order from the bar or by calling ahead from home (no guarantees on booths, though). They can also watch sports on any of three flat-screen televisions competing for visual interest with paintings by Napa Valley artist Matt Rogers and Tory Belleci of MythBusters fame.

Those who prefer to eat at home can order their pizzas fully cooked, or half-baked—the half-baked ones need 15 to 20 minutes in your home oven. Burns says he once flew a half-baked one to Massachusetts to show his family.  Patxi’s also provides free delivery in the Castro, Noe Valley, and Glen Park neighborhoods.

Regardless of where diners eat, the Chicago “Stuffed” Pizza is “what we’re known for,” says Burns, noting that it’s the bestselling item.

The stuffed pizza is constructed, according to Burns, in a two-inch-deep cake pan. Like a pie, it has a layer of dough on the bottom, layers of cheese and toppings, and then a top crust, which is covered by homemade sauce. Baked in a 500-degree oven, it takes 35 minutes to make from start to finish and serves from two to five people. Prices are $14.45 to $20.95.

Patxi’s Pan Pizza, a deep-dish pie with a cornmeal crust, is gaining its own following, Burns says. Other styles include the classic thin-crust pizza and pizza with “minimalist crust.”

Every size or style of pizza features dough and sauce made fresh daily, and offers a choice of toppings running the gamut from pepperoni to prosciutto to artichoke hearts. The restaurant buys Zoe’s meats, sausage (from a Chicago maker), and local fresh produce that is organic when possible.

Customers can have whole-wheat, vegan cheese, and vegetarian/vegan pizzas. Patxi’s menu also includes six kinds of salads, “snack” pizzas ($5.95), and an antipasto plate.

Patxi’s maintains a commitment to the community by sponsoring a “52 Weeks of Community Giving” campaign. Each Wednesday, the restaurant dedicates a day to an organization that is improving education or children’s health and welfare. Ten percent of all sales, including dine-in, drinks, takeout, and gift cards, goes to the group. On Feb. 9, Patxi’s will raise funds for edMatch, a local nonprofit that matches public and private funds to benefit schools.

Francisco “Patxi” Azpiroz and William Freeman, longtime friends and business partners, opened their first Patxi’s Chicago Pizza in Palo Alto six and half years ago. They chose Noe Valley for their third San Francisco location because, Burns says, “this neighborhood has such a great diverse group of families.”

“Patxi Azpiroz is from Oakland,” says Burns. “But he loves Chicago pizza.”

Patxi’s Chicago Pizza is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.

—Karen Topakian


New Alternatives Cafe
1600 Guerrero Street at 28th Street


On a sunny, chilly January day, Luz Bourne was dashing behind the counter of her cafe, serving up coffee and pastries.

The wall behind the couches in the cafe has been painted a dark maroon color, and Luz hopes that patrons will bring in photos and artwork to hang on the wall and sell.

“I wanted to make it look like somebody’s living room,” she says. Bourne has owned and operated the cafe since Dec. 8. She had been working as a waitress for four or five years at a coffee shop while she attended school to become a dental hygienist. When the Guerrero Street spot opened up, she jumped at the chance to buy it and own her own coffee shop.

“I always thought it would be perfect to work a couple of days a week at the coffee shop and a couple of days a week at the dentist’s office,” says Bourne, who moved to San Francisco from Mexico with her brother and sister when she was 18.

“It’s going well right now. Every day, we get new customers,” she says, mentioning that among the regulars are employees from nearby St. Luke’s Hospital and others who take their coffee and sweets to the minipark across the street, sipping while they shoot baskets or sit on logs to chat with friends.

Bourne is adding huevos rancheros, chicken salad, and guacamole to the menu of sandwiches, smoothies, and fresh soups that change every day. She is considering getting a liquor license so that customers can have a glass of wine or beer when they come in in the evening.

Cafe hours are 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. Early birds (6 to 7:30 a.m) should take advantage of the morning special: a large coffee and a muffin, for $2.

—Jan Goben