Ten years ago, when the speakeasy Bourbon and Branch opened on a dirty corner of the Tenderloin district, everyone thought it would lead to an explosion of development in San Francisco’s no-man’s land. However, in a neighborhood whose streets are occupied by a significant portion of the city’s homeless population, this sort of transition didn’t occur overnight.
In fact, not much happened until 2011, when Chambers, a luxe and stylish poolside restaurant at the Phoenix Hotel, gave San Franciscans a new reason to visit the district. With its masculine, moody vibe and marquee lights that spell out “Be Amazing,” the bar at Chambers quickly became a hot spot for everyone’s parties — from startup techies to San Francisco State students.
A year later, interior designer Jay Jeffers opened JayJeffers – The Store, a wildly chic showroom jam-packed with high-end home goods. In 2014, the neighborhood even started to attract foodies. The opening of Mr. Holmes Bakehouse and its crazy good cruffins (croissants baked in muffin tins, rolled in sugar and filled with pastry cream) had food lovers lining up around the block. Jane, a beloved Fillmore Street café, opened a second location in the Tenderloin, offering a delicious assortment of salads, soups, sandwiches, juices and coffee.
While these openings had a positive effect on the community, only within the past six months has the troubled area seen a more dramatic commercial renaissance. In July, Emily Holt, a former Vogue editor, opened Hero Shop. The stylish boutique has brick walls, exposed beams and a high ceiling. Holt has curated a unique selection of clothing from brands preferred by fashionistas like Adam Lippes, Suno and Creatures of the Wind. It’s a high/low mixture of items with denim by Levi’s and Mother, shoes by Vans, $5,000 Myriam Schaefer handbags and accessories from Edie Parker and Delfina Delettrez. Holt hopes to make Hero Shop a destination fashion store, much like Colette in Paris or Chicago’s Ikram.
Black Cat, a jazz lounge and supper club, also opened in July. On the entry floor, there is a small L-shaped bar, communal table and gothic-inspired chandelier, but it’s downstairs where the fun really happens. The brick walls are painted black and lined with red velvet banquettes. A large bar, accessible on all sides, sits in the middle of the space, while a stage, where nightly performances take place, fills up one side of the room. Chef Ryan Cantwell serves a menu of classic supper-club fare — think deviled eggs, potpies, patty melts and homemade lasagna. Sommelier Eugenio Jardim, who was the wine director at Jardinière for 11 years, hand-selected Black Cat’s excellent and unusual wine list.
Pacific Cocktail Haven, or PCH, a new bar from one of the city’s most beloved bartenders, Kevin Diedrich, also opened this summer. Diedrich oversaw the beverage programs at several Kimpton Hotels before finally opening his own watering hole. His cocktails are incredibly innovative — he’s known for his use of unusual and savory ingredients. On the menu at PCH, you’ll find cocktails with snap peas, saffron, pistachio, tzatziki, red bell pepper and miso. Of course, if you’re looking for a concoction that’s more on the classic side, Diedrich makes a sensational Manhattan or Hemingway daiquiri, too.
Next month, Onsen, a Japanese-inspired urban bathhouse, will open its doors. The holistic spa is from husband-and-wife duo Sunny Simmons and Caroline Smith. Smith is an acupuncturist and Simmons is a construction expert. Together they’ve transformed an old automotive garage into a luxe redwood panel-lined bathhouse. Six treatment rooms will offer an assortment of massages, facials and body work. Onsen also features a steam room, showers and soaking pool. In the front of the space, there will be a small, 20-seat café with a raw bar, tea sake and beer. Simmons and Smith hope that the space will become an urban oasis.
Other coming attractions to the Tenderloin include The Saratoga, a (likely) blockbuster new bar and restaurant from the team behind the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Spruce. And we can’t forget about Meraki, a small but sophisticated grocery market from event-planning guru Stanlee Gatti.