San Franciscans are a nostalgic folk, and boy do we love our local institutions. But, just like us, restaurants age and need the occasional makeover. Recently, a handful of chefs have come to the rescue, revamping their spaces and updating menus with mouthwatering additions. (Don’t worry, Alfred’s dared not do away with its classic martinis.) Here are five refreshes worth checking out—think of them as restaurants 2.0.
Dogpatch staple Serpentine turns ten this year, and it’s celebrating with a bang. To ring in the anniversary, new executive chef and owner Tommy Halvorson reconfigured the space, expanded the bar, opened up the kitchen and added a street-facing window, while keeping nods to its former life as a tin can factory in the form of exposed concrete, steel hooks and rivets. Hints of the gray-green rock that the restaurant is named for also show up throughout. The refreshed menu has subtle Southern undertones (think fried okra, corn bread and spicy honey-vinegar sauce) and a do-not-miss sweet-and-savory brunch dish called P.B. & J—pork belly confit, battered brioche, white-chocolate blackberry preserves and syrup. OMG.
2495 Third St.; 415-252-2000 or serpentinesf.com
STATE BIRD PROVISIONS
Jaws dropped when SF institution State Bird Provisions closed its doors for two weeks this summer, but it’s back in business and looking more polished than ever. The space has been brightened with custom light fixtures in a peachy pink, plus light stone surfaces instead of wood. The back wall got a colorful refresh with a cheery installation of rainbow acrylic blocks by artist Leah Rosenberg (of Color Factory fame). Look for past favorites—duck liver mousse and the eponymous state bird—rolling by on one of three dim-sum-style carts, along with new mouthwatering additions like lamb tartare with kimchi.
1529 Fillmore St.; 415-795-1272 or statebirdsf.com
The nearly 90-year-old steak house is old-world San Francisco at its best, but the classic restaurant almost went kaput earlier this year when a basement fire threatened its reopening. Luckily, the recent remodel by Daniel Patterson Group was largely unharmed. DPG kept the historic restaurant mostly intact—the red leather booths, crimson walls and crystal chandeliers remain—and added in dramatic black-and-white photos by local photographer John Ricca. They didn’t dare touch iconic drinks like martinis and Manhattans, but added seasonal cocktails to the menu of dry-aged steaks, modernized with sides like smoked trout roe and crème fraîche tater tots, plus an offering of house-made pastas.
659 Merchant St.; 415-781-7058 or alfredssf.com
Fans, rejoice. The uptown Oakland favorite beloved for its creative comfort fare is still around—it just moved a few blocks downtown. The restaurant made the move after it discovered a tricky clause in its former lease banning alcohol sales. The new spot (with drinks back on the menu) is industrial chic with Douglas-fir flooring, exposed brick walls, massive metal beams and the requisite Edison-bulb lighting, plus three huge Rick Oginz paintings depicting Oakland landmarks. Oh, and Mockingbird’s signature dishes—overnight pork sugo, fried brussels sprouts, Kennebec fries and bread pudding—are just as good.
416 13th St., Oakland; 510-290-0331 or mockingbirdoakland.com
Now you can get Belcampo’s famous burgers all day long. It’s all thanks to the Russian Hill location’s recent remodel, which includes an expanded menu focusing on all sorts of deliciously dressed-up beef patties, plus a bigger butcher shop selling more grab-and-go items like stocks, ready-to-cook meats and meal kits made for backyard barbecues.
1998 Polk St.; 415-660-5573 or belcampo.com