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Puttin' the Squeeze on South Park 

The boom-and-bust backlash

Wednesday, Apr 18 2001
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SLO-MA Word is out: The economic downturn has hit our beloved industry harder than a mallet on a veal cutlet. Nightly totals indicate customers are cutting back on dining out. Sales reps for wine and spirits are hard-selling -- which shouldn't be too difficult for them since we could all use a little nip to numb the boom-and-bust backlash. Harry thinks media hype is much to blame for the recent empty seats. But that means little to SOMA's restaurant scene, which is feeling the squeeze more than ever since the area flatlined. Eric Vreede, partner/GM at Cafe Monk, tells Harry that due to a lame daytime business he's closing for lunch to focus on dinner five nights a week. South Park's Ristorante Ecco had its own reaction to the market drop: On Monday, April 9, owners and management announced that after 10 years in business they're closing on April 14 due to their inability to renegotiate a favorable lease. How very dot-com of them to let the staff in on its fate a mere five days before shutdown. With 12 commercial spaces vacant on the South Park loop alone, Harry wonders what landlords are thinking.

Fish Out of Water Local restaurants may be bracing themselves for the economic big one, but it's fiesta time for San Diego's Rubio's Baja Grill, which has been a SoCal mainstay for 17 years. On Friday, March 23, Rubio's opened its first branch in the immediate Bay Area (the others are in Santa Rosa and Vallejo). Though its location at the San Francisco Centre is not exactly prime real estate, the amazing quality of Rubio's San Felipe-style fish tacos means boldly going where Harry has not gone before (that would be the food court downstairs). An added bonus for the late night/early morning reveler: Opening hours are 9:30 a.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. on Sunday. Hangover food, anyone?

Life After Wait Service Harry is always encouraged when he hears stories of people in the service industry launching careers outside of food and beverage. Take, for example, Derek Peck, who has been waiting tables locally for more than six years (most recently at Bruno's) and who recently launched a magazine/Web site on planet-mag.com. Or Tim Dale, restaurateur and operations manager at Le Colonial, who is opening his second Yoga Tree location at 1234 Valencia. Of course, those who leave the biz miss out on all those thrilling star sightings: Most recently it was Keanu Reeves and Lawrence Fishburne at Boulevard and Barbra Streisand at Postrio. Harry will stick with the glamour of the local foodie life -- for now. Next move: pro wrestling.

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Harry Coverte

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Slideshows

  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.

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