Fusion restaurants have a mixed track-record, but Nick Floulis would like you to give Doors Open, his Austrian-Mexican-Thai spot in North Beach a chance.
“We did a few preview nights with friends and neighbors to give the staff a little practice,” he tells SF Weekly. “The tacos and the burger by far were the most popular.”
Those tacos, by the way, come with larb, a spicy Lao-Thai ground-pork preparation found in its standard salad form at Tuk Tuk Thai — or it was, anyway, until a fire on St. Patrick’s Day destroyed the restaurant along with four other businesses on the 600 block of Union Street.
Coit Liquors, The Salzburg, Rogue Ales Public House, and Ferry Plaza Seafood were all essentially obliterated.
Floulis, who with his partners owns the former Square space at 1707 Powell St., immediately leapt into action. While working toward the permitting required to open their forthcoming bar-and-restaurant, Lillie Coit’s — named after the patron of volunteer firefighters of hilltop tower fame — they approached owners from the burnt-out businesses to gauge interest in a 90-day collective pop-up meant to generate revenue to be shared among everyone. This proposal got “immediate buy-in,” Floulis says.
So, as of April 19, you can eat bratwurst, shrimp pad thai, Fernet cheesecake, and more — while helping more than 40 displaced workers from the five businesses stay afloat while they put their lives in order. It’s open nightly for dinner with weekend brunch set to debut soon.
“We went from St. Patrick’s Day to opening in pretty much five weeks, on the dot,” Floulis says.
That’s exceptionally fast, but still an eternity if you’re suddenly jobless and need to keep paying your bills. North Beach is the kind of place where it “takes you 20 minutes to walk down the street because you keep running into everybody,” and Floulis didn’t want to do a one-night benefit that would inevitably have distributed 40 checks for less than $100 plus some sympathy hugs. So he and his team took a risk, pushing Lillie Coit’s eventual opening to December or January, and tracking everybody down to see if they wanted or needed temporary work. (Whether they’ve already found a new gig or not, employees of the displaced entities will still receive a portion of the proceeds.)
Floulis won’t speak definitively on behalf of any of the displaced businesses, but notes that the desire to rebuild seems strong. Coit Liquors had endured a previous fire in 2013, yet owner Shadi Zughaya is undeterred about staying put.
It’s not the first temporary use of the Doors Open space, either, which had been the holiday-themed cocktail bar Deck the Halls in late 2017. But plans to move the future Lillie’s Coit’s bar to the center and reconfigure its mezzanine have been postponed until at least late summer.
“Hell, look at the trees in the dining room made out of PVC pipe,” Floulis says of Doors Open. “But if we take a two- or three-month pivot, that’s OK for the greater good.”
Hopefully, the larb tacos stay on the menu.
Doors Open, 1707 Powell St., doorsopenproject.com