Say Goodbye to Hawthorne Lane
Just read in the Food section of today's Chronicle, Hawthorne Lane will be closing on Christmas and re-opening in 2007 as Two, a lighter-hearted, more casual and cheaper place... The chef/owner David Gingrass will remain and has designed the new menu after the advice of Yelpers, in an effort to reach a younger crowd.
I've nber been there, though I was always meaning to go for Happy Hour. Should I make a plan to go before it closes? Is anything especially excellent there?
I went about 2 months ago.
My disclaimer though is that I only wanted to go because it was on my list of top 100 restaurants in San Francisco to go to (from the Chronicle's website) so therefore, I made reservations and went before it was too late. (I'm new to SF so I'm trying to get a handle on the dining scene, and the top 100 list is the beginning of my quest.)
Nothing spectacular. There is easy parking, which is a must for me. Food was good, but not particularly memorable. The restaurant is pretty enough, but kinda loud. We were seated pretty close to the bar and there was an after work crowd there that was getting sloshed.
To me, Hawthorne Lane was sitting on the fence about being a nice quiet white table cloth restaurant or being an after work, lets get drinks and have some fun kind of restaurant. I see that have chosen the later.
Its for the best anyways.
They have the BEST happy hour:
However, the dinners we've had were not worth the time or expense when Town Hall, Ame and other terrific places are so close by. The dining room ambiance and reception is a little cold and standoffish, as opposed to the wonderful service and attention we usually get in the bar.
From that Chronicle article
"Gingrass says that group is actually "too young for our menu," but believes that every menu ... offer some choices at $25 for two courses and wine. The Yelpers, says Batson, hated marrow bones on the menu -- too bizarre -- but found other items too boring"
Yikes. It is not that SF menus aren't dumbed down enough already. One wonders which Yelpers he selected. There are lots of good ones that would know a marrow bone is good eats.
Other interesting restaurant news in that link ...
- EOS has been sold
- Chef from 5th Floor is leaving
- Fork has yet ANOTHER new chef
- Andalu will probably be sold. Negotiations going on.
Speaking of Gingrass, does anyone know what the other Gingrass (Annie of former Desiree) is up to? She was supposed to open a new restaurant this summer. Anyone know if that is still in the works?
A while back someone from Hawthorne lane wrote to me via Yelp. They asked me what I thought about Hawthorne Lane and that they were going to try to make it hipper. I actually wrote back saying that I liked the way they are and they shouldn't try to be hip. Isn't that the opposite of hip? Anyway, I was a fan of their happy hour cocktails and snacks. The make a terrific version of a sazerac. I hope it stays on the menu.
Here's a thread about the phenomenon of the internet and Yelp-like reviews changing the restaurant biz via instant reviews. There's a link to article from the Chron about it.
Given the location it does make sense to change the menu and HL was getting a little dated. That said, not sure of the wisdom behind going w/ Yelpsters feedback. Could prove to be fickle and trendy.
HL invited anyone on their mailing list (not just Yelpers) to the Dinners in the Kitchen where they were fine-tuning their new menu. The night I went, the other diners were frequent guests, some friends of the chef, and some Yelpers (but pretty experienced ones, who knew the chef from HIS Yelp postings).
In fact, I was so inspired by their rendition of butternut squash risotto (probably still the best I've ever had) that I've tried to match its greatness at home several times over the years....as recently as a month ago for a dinner party (efforts paid off, I got close finally to my memory of theirs).
I find it interesting that they are changing the restaurant, and completely understand. When I ate there I found the surroundings very boring and business like. A great restaurant but not a place I really wanted to go back to. With this new change the owners are following other examples like 'Home'. They used to be a high end restaurant but weren't making any money. They re-did their menu, made the restaurant more relaxed and most importantly lowered their prices, BOOM, Instant hit!!!
Update: I just received an email from Rebecca Gingrass, the Maitre'd. She said there is no firm date for re-opening, since they plan to do construction and timetable can change, but probably the 3rd week of January. Christmas Eve is its last night as Hawthorne Lane. Also, when it reopens as TWO, they'll still have signature cocktails and house-infused spirits. The happy hour deal will also continue from 4 - 6 weekdays with bar food specials.
Honestly I can't say that I'm surprised. While it was once my favorite fine dining outing in the last two years it has slid downhill. IMHO there was a huge shift in attitude and quality once the husband and wife became Xs. Just interesting to see the influence each had on the other. I could go on but won't. I've lived to long in this city and it's a natural cycle I suppose. I'm going to go recollect myself.