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Dying Dining: Peninsula Struggling More Than the City?

One of the hottest topics of the 2008 restaurant industry thus far has been the myriad rising costs that have descended upon San Francisco. It's a well-known trope at this point: between health care mandates, rents, recessions, a hefty minimum wage and even smaller issues like Gav's new water crusade, city restaurants are dealing with more costs than ever. For most intents and purposes though, the dining scene remains relatively healthy (if a little whiny), unlike say, the floundering restaurants down the Peninsula:

Many restaurants on the Peninsula are feeling the bite of an uncertain economy.... area residents are spending less eating out, restaurant owners say.

"People are very insecure with the country, and they're keeping tight with their money," said Carmelo Iacolino, one of the owners of Buon Gusto Italian restaurant in South San Francisco. "We're paying the bills, but it could be much better."

Dimitrios Papas, an owner of the high-end, longtime favorite Iron Gate restaurant in Belmont, said it's "getting harder and harder."

A lot of people are losing their homes and jobs, and they have cut back," Papas said. "The last thing on their mind is going out to dinner."

Instead of getting lobster, abalone or steak, they might be going for some pizza or spaghetti, Papas said. And customers who usually come in two or three times a month are appearing less frequently, he said.

While we have to snicker at the "lobster, abalone or steak" laments, the article goes on to quote other denizens of the Peninsula—including several restaurateurs who would probably be placed on Deathwatch were they in the city—and the general consensus is that, despite some big openings (e.g., Red Lantern, pictured) and some successes, it's a dying scene, so do count your blessings, SF. That's what happens when people stop ordering lobster, abalone and steak. The lone naysayers in the article? San Mateo's Viognier, which is flourishing, reportedly because it is popular among "the high-tech crowd 'that's doing groundbreaking work.'"
· Peninsula restaurants troll for patrons in lean times [SMCT]

[Red Lantern photo: Chris Schmauch]