AQ (1085 Mission St.) In a lengthy, eminently read-able treatise on the end of the Golden Age of Restaurants, Thrillist tracks the rise and fall of profit margins at SoMa’s five-year-old AQ. Run by Mark Liberman and Matt Semmelhack, it will cease operations by the end of January in spite of winning accolades from local media, as well as Esquire, Bon Appetit, and the James Beard Foundation. While rising health-care costs are largely to blame, Thrillist sees an underlying trend that’s gobbling everybody up, nationwide.
To put AQ’s closure into context, it’s only the latest in a string of high-profile restaurant closures throughout SoMa and Mid-Market, of which Bon Marché — also owned by Liberman and Semmelhack’s Mercer Restaurant Group — was one. (They still own Fénix, next door to AQ.) And not for nothing, this Thrillist story is also a handy primer for restaurant patrons in need of a little background in how much sweat equity it takes to keep even a successful operation going.
Sushi Boat (389 Geary St.) After 31 years, the Union Square sushi emporium closed on New Year’s Eve. Hoodline says that the cause of it no longer being seaworthy was the rent, which was tripled, and notes that the original locations of nearby Lori’s Diner and the Gold Dust Lounge met similar fates.
Almanac Taproom (2704 24th St.) Having taken over what was Sous Beurre Kitchen, Jesse Friedman and Damian Fagan of Almanac Beer opened Almanac Taproom, with plenty of beer — including two brews available only here — plus draft wine, charcuterie, and spam musubi. Weather, schmeather, you got to check out the rear beer garden, which is quite capacious.
Luke’s Local (960 Cole St.) Hoodline reports that the transition from Alpha Market to the first brick-and-mortar location of meal-delivery service Luke’s Local went swimmingly. The setup is largely the same, only with a greater selection of meat and seafood, a coffee station, and grab-and-go food from Luke’s commissary kitchen across town.
Souvla (758 Valencia St.) The third location of Charles Bililies’ casual Greek restaurant will open on Jan. 16 in the Mission, with 100 percent of sales going to the Women’s Building around the block. Note: the original Hayes Valley location is undergoing renovation through Jan. 11, so right now your only option is the one at 531 Divisadero, or by Caviar.
Calle 11/Del Encanto (1501 Folsom St.). Bringing further revival to what was, not long ago, a curiously moribund corner of a lively entertainment district, the former Paradise Lounge is set to become a salsa club and Puerto Rican restaurant called Calle 11 and Del Encanto, respectively. Inside Scoop reports that the dining room will be on the building’s third floor, while one floor down there will be a piano bar, and on the ground floor, a club with space for 500 people. San Francisco definitely needs some more Puerto Rican food, and Calle 11’s team is full of East Bay nightlife pros, so fingers crossed for this one.
Cafe Flore (2298 Market St.) The Bay Area Reporter wrote that the 43-year-old Castro icon Cafe Flore has been sold to new owners to plan to maintain business as usual. When it went up for sale last summer at price reported to be between $450,000 and $495,000, there were fears the building would be demolished. This is good news for the LGBT community, which uses the unique indoor-outdoor venue for fundraisers and as a casual gathering spot.
Hecho (2200 Market St.) Now closed for renovations, Hecho will reopen as Hecho Cantina. It’ll be less of a restaurant and more of a bar and “hangout area,” according to SFist, which notes that the pinche picante margaritas aren’t going anywhere — although weekend brunch is. This comes six months or so after a kitchen fire temporarily closed the restaurant, as well as Brewcade, next door.
Mr. Bing’s (201 Columbus Ave.) A very, very predictable brouhaha has resulted from the renovation of North Beach/Chinatown dive Mr. Bing’s — which hasn’t even re-opened yet — at the hands of its new owners, who apparently gutted the place and ripped out the triangular bar, leaving on the pic of the lady playing tennis with her butt exposed. We’ll get drunk there ASAP and let you know.