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100 Brannan St - kiss of death location

Benny Choi Sep 9, 2007 11:47 AM

We talked about this before and I wanted to see if others had more opinions about this.


100 Brannan Street is along the South Beach waterfront, near the AT&T ball park. There have been a long list of restaurants which have set up shop and then closed down, with one exception being Slanted Door. As posted by others in the previous thread (plus some web sleuthing), this location has housed:

Embarko (late '80s, early '90s) - thrived before '89 earthquake, then suffered from freeway changes

Short lived Italian place called something like "Prego, Pizza, Pasta & More"

Pickled Ginger (1997) - pan Asian by chef Andrew Toy and Bayside Restaurant Resources (a Bulow connection?), including Chinese, Korean, and Filipino influences. There may have also been a "Ginger Express" at this location, based on some obscure web listings.

Live Fire (2000) - chef Fred Halpert's attempt for an SF location of his Yountville restaurant serving steak and wood fired pizza.

The Slanted Door (2002) - the only restaurant in the past decade to make this location successful, due in large part to the existing fan base of chef Charles Pham's trendy Vietnamese food. This was essentially a temporary location, first to wait out the earthquake retrofitting and refurbishment of their original Valencia St location, and then later to wait for the eventual Ferry Building facility to finish remodeling.

La Suite (2004) - Jocelyn Bulow's attempt at a larger restaurant (sibling to Chez Papa and Chez Mama), starting with chef Bruno Chemel, and later chef David Bazirgan, featuring French brasserie cuisine

Sutra (2006) - Bulow's makeover attempt at French-Asian Fusion, starting with chef Mike Yakura (previously of Le Colonial) and later chef Yo Matsuzaki (previously of Ozumo). Recently closed.

On the bright side for this location, there are even more condos in the neighborhood, Beale Street under the Bay Bridge has been reopened which alleviates some afternoon traffic, and the parking lot next door got a minor makeover.

Discouraging for this location, the Giants are terrible this year. The nearby planned cruise ship terminal development is indefinitely delayed due to the withdrawal of the private developer from the city's partnership deal. Nearby Java House may get shut down from jacked up rents by the Port.

I really think this location can only work for a place with a price point that neighboring residents can afford to eat at frequently, and is welcoming in atmosphere and space configuration to Giants fans who walk by on game days.

)100 Brannan St, San Francisco, CA 94107

Java House
40 Pier 45, San Francisco, CA 94133

  1. Robert Lauriston Sep 9, 2007 11:54 AM

    I don't think the freeway changes had anything to do with Embarko closing. It was popular when I worked in the neighborhood in the early 90s and didn't close until 1995.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston
      Rapini Sep 9, 2007 12:10 PM

      I liked Embarko while it was there...

      As noted, Slanted Door used the space as a temporary location...La Suite deserved to close...

      1. re: Robert Lauriston
        bdl Sep 9, 2007 04:14 PM

        Popular, maybe, but not profitable after '89 (I knew an investor). Big overhead and not enough business to justify its existence.

      2. d
        dinnerout Sep 9, 2007 01:46 PM

        We went to Embarko fairly often when I worked in that neighborhood - I loved their salmon croquettes. I understood that they closed rather abruptly due to some sort of tax problem. It certainly does seem to be a doomed location!

        1. m
          ML8000 Sep 9, 2007 01:47 PM

          There's a few "cursed" locations in SF. The NE corner of 9th St and Folsom, the NW corner of 19th Ave and Lincoln.

          4 Replies
          1. re: ML8000
            wally Sep 9, 2007 02:16 PM

            I don't live there so I may be confused, but isn't the NW corner of 19th Ave. and Lincoln in Golden Gate Park?

            1. re: wally
              chipman Sep 9, 2007 03:14 PM

              I think she meant the SW corner which has had more changes than Carter has pills.

              1. re: wally
                ML8000 Sep 9, 2007 04:55 PM

                Indeed, my bad, SW corner. It's been a bunch of different restros and other things. BTW, I'm a he.

                1. re: ML8000
                  chipman Sep 9, 2007 04:57 PM

                  Now it's my bad. My apologies.

            2. susancinsf Sep 9, 2007 01:59 PM

              The Giants continue to sell out their games on a regular basis (including at least some of the games this weekend, well after Barry broke the record.) Their lack of success in the standings is NOT reflected in their box office and thus they can't be blamed even in part for the location's lack of success (unless it is a general curse on the neighborhood.....)

              Seems like the good restaurants were succesful in that location, based on your list and description.

              1. w
                Waterboy Sep 9, 2007 02:37 PM

                La Suite was frequently not so good; Sutro never lived up to its price, and those extra long seats were uncomfortable - so was the looped techno pop.

                But there we have it - really a pretty good location but overpriced. Difficult to buy top drawer ingredients when rent's eating your lunch.

                I enjoyed the view from the bar.

                1. rworange Sep 9, 2007 06:56 PM

                  This was a neighborhood that changed a lot in the years I lived there (mid-80's to mid-2000). Embarko was ahead of its time. Slanted Door, besides coming in with its own rep, was perfect for the current denizens. La Suite was too much. Slanted Door proves this can be a sucessfull location with the correct price-point and good food.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: rworange
                    Robert Lauriston Sep 10, 2007 08:41 AM

                    La Suite was inconsistent.

                    Slanted Door established its reputation elsewhere, and we don't know that it was turning a profit there. Not good enough to skip the move to the Ferry Building, apparently.

                    Maybe the rent's just too high.

                    1. re: Benny Choi
                      Robert Lauriston Sep 11, 2007 09:43 AM

                      That space is pretty huge. Might be more viable if the landlord subdivided it into two spaces.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        ML8000 Sep 11, 2007 09:56 AM

                        The space is not only huge...it's oddly shaped. People tend to get lost at the entry. Cutting it into 2 space could be a good solution.

                        1. re: ML8000
                          Benny Choi Sep 12, 2007 01:10 PM

                          Agreed splitting the space might help keep the rent down for future tenants, but since the shape is so odd, I'm having a hard time imagining where a second entrance would be, since so little of the current space juts out towards the sidewalk.

                  2. j
                    jungleboy Sep 11, 2007 03:11 PM

                    Robert is absolutely correct about Embarko...it opened in 1989 and lasted until 1995 when the owners overextended themselves by opening Trudy's in Berkeley. I ran the line at night there from somewhere in early 1990 until spring of '91. The place was good and quite successful for at least four years.

                    1. j
                      jidoughe Sep 11, 2007 04:40 PM

                      Not sorry to see Sutra go -- although I was hugely disappointed when they decided to close La Suite. LS was always consistent on my numerous visits -- from the tartar to the moules. Hope something that wonderful opens there in the future.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: jidoughe
                        Robert Lauriston Sep 12, 2007 10:21 AM

                        Not many reports here of consistently good food at La Suite.

                      2. Chuckles the Clone Sep 13, 2007 12:48 AM

                        All the while the revolving door has been spinning at 100 Brannan, right across the way
                        Delancey Street has been doing just fine. Whatever the problem is, it's *very* localized.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Chuckles the Clone
                          bdl Sep 13, 2007 06:53 AM

                          I believe delancies streets economics are very different, since they employ only delancy street members and have substantial tax breaks as well.

                          1. re: bdl
                            Robert Lauriston Sep 13, 2007 08:47 AM

                            Yeah, Delancey Street Restaurant is a nonprofit, basically a sort of collective.


                            1. re: bdl
                              Chuckles the Clone Sep 13, 2007 09:50 AM

                              Right, I was just thinking that whenever I'm in Delancey Street it's bustling while 100 Brannan has cobwebs across the doors.

                              Come to think of it, could Delancey Street be part of the problem? Since they're a training program with, essentially, subsidized (albeit self-subsidized) wages and lease, which are reflected in relatively low prices, and since they're actually pretty tasty, could they just be sucking up all the restaurant dollars from that end of the neighborhood?

                              1. re: Chuckles the Clone
                                bdl Sep 13, 2007 09:57 AM

                                Well, Town's End has been there since about 1990, hasn't it? I can't imagine that there overhead is much different than 100 Brannan.

                                1. re: bdl
                                  Benny Choi Sep 13, 2007 11:24 AM

                                  Some how the next door deli store, which sells pretty good sandwiches, salad bar, and chilled deli salads, but fairly awful hot food, stays in business.

                                  There must have been really high rent for 100 Brannan. We'll see how the landlord does in opening their own restaurant.

                                  1. re: bdl
                                    Chuckles the Clone Sep 13, 2007 01:36 PM

                                    OK, I'll retract that theory. How about, it's built on the site of an ancient Ohlone burial ground?

                            2. l
                              LostinMN Oct 30, 2007 11:48 PM

                              When I lived there I used to eat at Pickled Ginger quite often. I still miss the Poke salad, Salmon Tartare, and the desserts. Pickled Ginger Express was a mistake for them that may have lost them too much money. Tough location to succeed at I guess.

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