Barely 24 hours after Mission Pie announced that it will wind down its operations by Labor Day, San Francisco was hit with the news of two more closures: fellow Mission restaurant Southpaw BBQ and Dogpatch Hawaiian gem ‘aina. The latter had been in limbo for quite some time, so this is not entirely out of left field.
But left-handed Southpaw’s disappearance sure is. Founded in 2011, the Carolina-specific Southpaw had become a staple of regional Southern cuisine in a neighborhood with surprisingly little of it. Two Cajun restaurants — Bayou, which came and went quickly in 2017, and the remarkable Alba Ray’s, which ditched regular dinner service earlier this year to focus on brunch — embody the struggle such niche eateries face. And in spite of its respectable beer-and-whiskey component, after eight years, chef Elizabeth Wells and co-owner Zack Smith have decided to focus on barbecue, just not with the same grounded operation as before.
Since it’s Pride and every corporation and brand under the sun is slapping up dumb rainbow shit on everything, let’s also note that Southpaw had always had a Pride flag in its window.
The closure of ‘aina has even sadder reasons behind it. Jordan Keao‘s modern Hawaiian restaurant had been known to draw substantial lines for brunch — which sounds like S.O.P. for the Bay Area until you remember that it was in Dogpatch, which is a lovely neighborhood but hardly overflowing with foot traffic on weekends. In an Instagram post, Keao and wife Cheryl Liew said the “will not go into the well-known challenges of running a business in S.F.” except to say that “running a small restaurant is HARD.”
They’re apparently relocating to Singapore for family-related reasons, but the restaurant had been dark for several months now as that family situation went from temporary to permanent. The liquor license was terminated, and as Eater notes, former chef de cuisine Chris Yang had already moved elsewhere in the Dogpatch — to Harmonic Brewing for his pop-up El Chino Grande. SF Weekly had followed ‘aina closely, ever since its 2013 origins as a pop-up of its own in Bernal Heights, before the 2016 transition to a brick-and-mortar full of wonders like malasadas (Portuguese filled doughnuts) and shoyu-cured pipikaula (thin-sliced beef with focaccia and heirloom tomatoes). ” ‘Aina” is Hawaiian for “land,” though, and hopefully it’ll land somewhere that fits its creators well.