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.

Litz, a neighborhood resident who has built and sold successful restaurants in Chicago and Mexico, managed rock bands and musical venues, turned around the money-losing House of Blues in San Diego and quietly made the star-crossed Yoshi’s on Fillmore temporarily profitable before it went bust, isn’t giving away many details about the plans for the new spot.

“All I can say is that we will be casual fine dining — very good, delicious food with quick, friendly service,” he says. “And we’ll be open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night.”

Litz says his two chef-partners, who have no involvement in Lazy Bear, have cooked in Michelin-starred restaurants locally and abroad. “If I told you their names, it would likely give away the concept, and while it’s 99.9 percent fully baked, we’re just not ready at this moment to disclose it,” he says.

He doesn’t see a massive restructuring of the interior, but promises a redesign is coming. The long bar will remain in its present spot. “We want to take advantage of the great corner location, the big windows and the natural sunlight,” Litz says. “We will probably add outdoor seating.”

He contends that whatever the restaurant is called or offers on its menu, the heart of the place will be hospitality.

“Hospitality is the most critical feature in a restaurant today,” Litz says. “You have to have great food — that’s a given. If you have decent food and excellent service, people will come back. But if you have fantastic food and the service is rude or indifferent, people won’t go back — and they’ll spread the word.”

He adds: “It’s all about the human connection. Being genuine. Being real.”

Litz says he thinks the neighborhood and its discerning, well-traveled locals have been waiting for the kind of restaurant and bar he plans to create.

“We feel confident our interpretation of fine dining will appeal to both Gen Z and food-savvy folks who’ve dined around the globe,” he says. “It has to be exciting and different, yet feel comfortable for everyone.”

It’s clear he’s not afraid of shaking things up, based on his track record. Litz seems to have an uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time. In 2014, he was flying home from the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, when he struck up a conversation with his seatmate, Derek Dukes, who was employee No. 6 at Yahoo. By the end of the flight, Dukes said: “Man, you know a lot about food and music. Let’s talk some more.”

Dukes introduced him to a lawyer-turned-chef named David Barzelay and the trio, Litz says, brought “a lot of weird ideas together to disrupt — ah, create change — in the fine dining game. Fine dining to us isn’t how to fold a napkin or unfurl a white tablecloth.”

That partnership and their brainstorming became the hot dining concept called Lazy Bear, where the main ingredients, he says, are “food, socializing and learning,” not necessarily in that order. At Lazy Bear, you buy a ticket in advance as if you’re going to a rock concert. The average tab for 15-plus courses is $280 per person.

Asked if his so-far unnamed new culinary creation on Fillmore will be a similar  pay-upfront triple-digit dining experience, Litz says: “No, no, not at all. Menu items will range from $8 to $20. And you will get a bill.”