Sababa, the fast casual Mediterranean concept from Mercer Restaurant Group (Bon Marché, AQ), has secured a Financial District space for their first location. The concept will take over the former Paladar Cafe Cubano space, offering a quick, healthy dining option based on the fresh flavors of Israeli food. Chef/partner Guy Eshel is the driving force behind the concept, which arose out of his "Mediterranean Monday" staff meals as a cook at AQ, where the popularity of his food caught the notice of owner Matt Semmelhack. Now the partners are launching the idea in a full restaurant space, with an opening slated for spring.
The menu will be a "make-your-own pita" bar, allowing diners to choose their fillings (falafel, chicken shawarma, merguez) for pitas that are made to order in a custom oven, which can also be translated to a bowl (sans pita). "This kind of food is hard to find in San Francisco," says Israeli-born Eshel. "Israeli food is a hybrid of all Middle East flavors." Those flavors include a "300 minute egg" (which comes from Spanish Sephardic Jews), that is slow-cooked until the whites are caramelized and served with fried eggplant and a green mango sauce (which originated with Iraqi Jews). There will also be a selection of salads like charred broccoli with pine nuts and tahini, and a moroccan carrot salad, in addition fo an extensive pickle bar. Beverages will include frozen coffee and mint lemonade, beer and wine.
The restaurant is geared towards a quick lunch or to-go order, offering 14 seats inside with the potential for 10 more outside. Construction begins in January, converting the old restaurant space in an airier, sleeker environment with more windows, custom, Morrocan-inspired cement tiles, and hardwood flooring. "It has great bones," said Eshel. "But it needs a full remodel: new floors and everything." The most important feature will be the woodburning pita oven in view of the street, where pitas will be rolled and baked fresh. Given the amount of renovations, Eshel and Semmelhack are aiming for a mid-Spring opening. Stay tuned for more updates along the way.