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Betelnut Chef Already Moving On With Seafood and Craft Beer Pop-Up Series

Mario Tolentino’s testing out his Bait & Barley concept for a potential restaurant.

Mario Tolentino
Mario Tolentino

After news broke earlier this week that Betelnut in Cow Hollow is closing after 20 years, people were predictably disappointed. "For me it’s very bittersweet," Betelnut's latest chef Mario Tolentino told Eater. "I took over Betelnut at a time when everyone had written it off after the Hutong debacle. We turned the entire business around and we’re busier than we’ve ever been. To go through that process and then the rent goes to an astronomical amount ... I don’t see how any establishment will afford what the landlord is asking."

But the bright spot is that Tolentino is already moving on — and fast. He’s teaming up with Feastly to host a series of "Bait & Barley" pop-ups in honor of Oktoberfest with a seafood and craft beer focus. "The pop up really is just to kind of test the waters of an actual restaurant that I’m trying to see how people will receive it," Tolentino told Eater. The concept is a quick-service seafood restaurant with lots of craft beer — think crab sandwiches, lobster rolls and tuna tartare sliders all paired with West Coast brews. "It’s like a seafood market and oyster bar that focuses on craft beer. Counter service only with dine-in at counter and communal tables, takeaway, happy hour and all the seafood also for sale by the pound," Tolentino explained.

To introduce the concept to the city, he’ll be doing a four-course tasting menu with beer pairings at the Feastly pop-ups. He envisions the signature sandwich being a "Crab Crunch," a roll with dungeness crab, pepperoncini, calabrian chile oil and emmental cheese. He’s pulling from his experience cooking on the East Coast for a lobster roll with cajun butter and pulling in his Asian Betelnut experience for baked barbecue oysters with kimchi butter. The pop-ups will be October 8, 12 and 22 in the Mission. Head here to peek menus and buy tickets.

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