Lazy Bear founder taking over Thai Stick

“We want to take advantage of the great corner location,” says new owner John Litz.


Ending months of rumors and speculation, new owners have confirmed they are taking over the former Thai Stick — once the site of the legendary Pacific Heights Bar and Grill, and before that a hippie plant store — on the choice corner of Fillmore and Pine.

Three partners — one of them John Litz, co-owner and co-creator of the Michelin two-star Lazy Bear in the Mission — have signed a lease and hired an architect for the space at 2001 Fillmore and hope to open their new restaurant in the fall.

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The Elite Asia Lincoln Grill Cafe

Inside the Lincoln Grill, circa 1940s.

BEFORE IT WAS the Elite Cafe, it was the Asia Cafe. And before it was the Asia Cafe, it was the Lincoln Grill.

The building at 2049 Fillmore that now houses the Elite Cafe was built in 1932 in exuberant Jazz Age style, with no shortage of Art Deco detailing, as the home of the Lincoln Grill, which had first opened across the street in 1928.

Inside the Asia Cafe in the 1970s.

The neon sign out front originally announced the Lincoln Grill. Then, in the 1950s, the name — and the marquee — were changed to the Asia Cafe.

In 1981, when serial restaurateur Sam DuVall beat out fast-rising chef Jeremiah Tower for the space and created the Elite Cafe, the sign was reworked and reworded again.

The dining room and booths in the Elite Cafe in 2008.

Peter Snyderman took over the Elite Cafe in 2005 and had the neon sign refurbished, but kept the interior largely as it had always been. In 2016, Snyderman passed the Elite on to current owner Andy Chun, who made it modern, removing the historic Deco fixtures and painting the woodwork shades of black and battleship gray. Exterior details also were cloaked under a coat of black paint.

The Elite Cafe made modern in 2017.

But the vintage neon sign remained a brilliant beacon of Fillmore Street. Then one morning last February the sign caught fire. Flames shot out of the top, and the neon went dark for almost a year.

Now, at last, it again lights up the night sky.

Still no one has come up with photographs of the sign when it fronted the Lincoln Grill or the Asia Cafe. But once again it has been rewired, repainted and re-lit, proudly proclaiming the Elite Cafe.

EARLIER: “An Art Deco treasure is diminished


A new top cop


The new commanding officer at SFPD’s Northern Station, Captain Joseph Engler, is a fifth-generation San Franciscan and a fourth-generation cop who has known the neighborhood since day one. He was born at Presbyterian Hospital on Webster, now California Pacific Medical Center. His first job was as a business banker at Wells Fargo’s Fillmore branch. And today, after 25 years on the force, he’s at the helm of the 140-person Northern Station, policing an area with the second highest felony crime rate in the city.

Capt. Joseph Engler

Engler has jumped right in. He says he’s been meeting with two or three community groups a day. “I love the level of engagement that our community brings with it,” he says.

Huge concern: car break-ins. D.A. George Gascon asked City Hall for $1 million to staff a team to crack down on auto burglaries and beef up arrests of serial offenders. Engler says his marching orders are: “Be out of the cars, on the block, visible, talking to folks, solving the little problems on the spot, not driving by them.”

His policing philosophy is more than a show of force. “We have an excellent undercover unit at Northern,” Engler says. “We know where the public cameras are. Now we want to know where the privately owned and maintained cameras are. We’ll use facial recognition technology and if we can read license plates, we can identify people, do stops on vehicles, work criminals coming into the city.”

Engler is aiming to form a local coalition of residents, private individuals, merchants and other local businesspeople to step up, get involved and communicate. “We need to get everyone involved in the solution,” he says. “We’ve got some real pros here at the station and they’re really committed. I’m just joining the fight.”

Icon of the ‘Mo

Frank Jackson played and sang in the Fillmore for seven decades.

ONE OF THE enduring musical careers of Fillmore’s jazz era ended on February 5 when pianist and vocalist Frank Jackson died at age 92 of complications of the flu.

He was playing almost until the very end. His last gig was on January 25 at Pier 23, with Al Obidinski on bass and Vince Lateano on drums. Jackson started sneezing on the way home, and within a few days had a cold that kept getting worse. On February 4, he was admitted to the V.A. Hospital in Palo Alto and diagnosed with the flu. He died the next day.

“He was so full of life, wonderful memories and compassion for all,” said his wife and No. 1 fan Kathy Jackson in announcing his death. “His talent and repertoire were unparalleled.”

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‘Don’t you think I owe her?’

Photograph of Nancy and David Conte at the Carlisle by Frank Wing


“MOM!” the pianist says with some concern as he launches into their favorite song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and a photographer begins to click away. “You can’t cry on camera.”

Though not usually with a photographer in tow, composer David Conte often drops by the Carlisle, the retirement community at 1450 Post, to visit his mother, Carlisle resident Nancy Conte. He often plays her favorite classics or show tunes before or after he goes to work at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he is a professor of composition and head of the composition department. Other Carlisle residents are treated to regular impromptu mini-concerts.

Performing and composing are nothing new for David Conte. At 7, he and a friend wrote songs and gave concerts in their suburban Cleveland neighborhood. Music education in the public schools was at its zenith, and his father played the trumpet. By 8, he had started piano lessons, and by the time he reached 13, he knew music would be his life. At 19, he moved to Paris for three years, where he became one of the last pupils of world-renowned teacher Nadia Boulanger.

Conte, the eldest of his mother’s three children, has composed more than 100 published works, including six operas and works for orchestra, chamber groups and chorus. His work has drawn critical praise, and aspiring composers arrive at the conservatory to study with him.

But to Nancy Conte — herself a former choral conductor and an encyclopedia of musical texts and tunes — he’s still the son she started driving to piano lessons back in Ohio when he was 8 years old. “It was a lot of schlepping around for a lot of years,” she says. Her son smiles as he launches into a Schubert sonata and says: “Don’t you think I owe her?”

A police station with a past — and a future

Photographs of the renovated North End Police Station by Shayne Watson


The original North End Police Station was located on Washington Street near Polk. It burned, as did several other police stations and San Francisco’s Hall of Justice, during the earthquake and fire in 1906.

A May 1908 bond issue funded a new Hall of Justice and police headquarters and the replacement of burned out neighborhood stations. The temporary North End Station was housed at 3118 Fillmore, near Pixley Street.

North End Station was to serve both the immediate north side neighborhoods and the nearby Panama-Pacific International Exposition that rose in what is now the Marina — financed, promoted and designed to celebrate both the opening of the Panama Canal and the rebirth of the city. A site was selected that was conveniently located near the exposition grounds on the south side of Greenwich between Pierce and Scott Streets, nestled along a residential street.

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Drew School keeps it real

“We value the individual voice,” says David Frankenberg, Head of School at Drew School.


When learning extends beyond the classroom, it becomes real,” says David Frankenberg, who aims to make learning real for every student at the Drew School campus at 2901 California Street.

Now settled into his second year as Head of School, Frankenberg brings an international background to the job that underlies his passion for extending learning beyond the schoolroom.

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A bar on par with Tokyo

Photograph of The Bar at Hotel Kabuki by Aubrie Pick


In a city of grand, gilded, pricey hotels, the 225-room Hotel Kabuki at 1625 Post Street in Japantown is a serene temple of hospitality, owned by a powerhouse Wall Street investment fund that has quietly spent $32 million re-imagining the hotel.

The Kabuki’s low profile is about to change.

Wall Street’s muscular Blackstone Group emptied the vault on design and details in the long makeover. Blackstone doubled the lobby ceiling height to 19 feet, added 13,000 square feet of meeting space to entice business travelers and the conference crowd, and created outdoor Japanese gardens, ponds and a lounge. The rooms are roomy. A 3,000-square-foot lavishly equipped fitness center, which includes a 400-square-foot yoga studio, is exclusively for guests and without charge.

Drinks in the spacious, just-opened bar and lobby lounge have the same creativity and Japanese authenticity in the glass — and are on a libational par — with what’s poured in Tokyo’s most stylish and priciest watering holes.

Five unusual combinations of spirits and sodas are offered during a weekday
4 to 6 p.m. happy hour at $7, almost half the normal $13 tariff. The Nikka G&T is a refreshing twist on the English classic cooler, using imported Japan-distilled Nikka Coffey gin and Suze, a Japanese take on a French fruit liqueur and dandelion tonic. The Natsu Soda mixes vodka, sake and a watermelon flavor. Madame Chou mates tequila with pea flower tea. Imaginative tea and “luxury” cocktails, a sheet of sakes and some 20 Japanese whiskeys float above the $20 range. Plus, there’s a list of beguiling bar bites.

A destination restaurant is in the works, being created by what’s said to be a big name San Francisco chef.


Photograph of Carlo Middione at Vivande by Daniel Bahmani


“Smell this!”

Carlo Middione said, as he thrust two handfuls of fresh, limp, uncooked spinach fettucine in my face.

I was the newest hire in the spring of 1985 at his gastronomical time machine, Vivande Porte Via, which masqueraded as a restaurant on Fillmore Street. I inhaled deeply and was shocked at the sweet, earthy smell of the uncooked strands. “It smells like…” Dare I say it? Am I crazy? Was this a test? “It smells like…” I looked at Carlo, unable to speak — and he burst out laughing.

He smiled at me with his bristling salt and peppered cheeks. It smelled like that vital life force, that injection of sweetly salted humanity from which all humanity is spun, betraying the true nature of my new place of employment: Vivande comes from the Latin vita, meaning life.

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Historic Roos House finds its new family

Inside the Roos House, designed by revered Bay Area architect Bernard Maybeck.


In the dwindling days of December, an historic Presidio Heights Tudor sold for the first time — ever — making it the biggest single-family home sale of 2017 in San Francisco.

The home at 3500 Jackson Street, known as the Roos House, sold for $11 million, down from its original asking price of $16 million. Designed by acclaimed Bay Area architect Bernard Maybeck, who also designed the Palace of Fine Arts and many other important buildings, the seven-bedroom home offers more than 10,000 square feet of living space. In addition to spectacular views of the bay, it features a stunning great room with 20-foot ceilings and is situated on a coveted corner location just one block from the Presidio. Since its construction in 1909, the home had been passed down through family members, making this its first-ever sale.

The Roos House at 3500 Jackson Street in San Francisco.

At $1,067 per square foot, the home represents an excellent deal for its location, but it took more than five months to find a buyer. One reason, in addition to its eight-digit asking price, is because it is on the National Register of Historic Places, meaning there are restrictions on the renovations the new owners are permitted to make. The unnamed buyers, said listing agent Nina Hatvany, “are a family who will treasure it as it has been treasured by the Rooses.”

Patrick Barber is president of Pacific Union.