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Hibiscus Explains Rocky Restart, Reveals New Game Plan

As you may recall, former Caribbean restaurant Hibiscus recently underwent a big and somewhat tumultuous revamp. They lost chef Sarah Kirnon and the Creole-island vibe she created in January, the new owners hired chef Gregory Leon in February, then reopened in March with a new Southern identity—and no Leon.

Current owner Christian Baker, who also runs Radius in San Francisco explains what happened. "Greg is a great person, and a talented chef," said Baker. "The way he was running the kitchen just wasn't a good fit." Baker spent the past few months smoothing out new kitchen operations. Now it appears he has a solid team on board, with Texas-born, 27-year-old Devin Gonzalez holding down a chef de cuisine role. Importantly, they are ready to talk about the new deal.

The new menu is now visible on the website, brimming with gourmet takes on Southern and comfort foods: hushpuppies, buttermilk-fried chicken, jambalaya, meatloaf terrine, etc. They are aiming to create a value-driven menu for the neighborhood, with refined presentations.

The new owners also totally gutted the interior. "It feels more like a Southern home," Baker says, "it's unpretentious." The rafters in the ceiling have been exposed, pastel blue walls have been re-painted to a soft yellow, white curtains and organic light fixtures (pictured) have been added, and the exterior of the restaurant is now army green. This is now your backdrop for dinner, and a just-launched Southern Sunday brunch, offering biscuits and sausage gravy, eggs benedict, omelets and such, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

There's also a bar bites menu available at the nearby Rock-Steady bar (1745 San Pablo Ave), serving the likes of chicken biscuit sliders, baked mac and cheese, and jalapeno cornbread, Thursday through Saturday until midnight. So that "thorny beginning" has hopefully spawned a needed addition to the block.

Anyone been to Hibiscus lately to experience all this? Do tell in the comments, or drop a line over the EaterWire.

· All Hibiscus Coverage [~ ESF ~]


1745 San Pablo Ave, Oakland, CA