A new North African-inspired supper club with live music, belly dancers, and aerialists is swinging into Russian Hill. Berber Restaurant and Spice Bar, named for the North African indigenous ethnic group, will open at 1516 Broadway (a 4,000-square-foot restaurant space previously occupied by the ill-fated Killer Shrimp and Pasha before it). A grand opening is scheduled for December 15, and reservations are available online through Resy.
“I think the dinner show concept, it’s exciting, it’s something you look forward to,” says co-founder Tony Garnicki. Berber SF is his first foray into restaurants amid a career in real estate. Garnicki’s co-founder, Borhen Hammami, is an alum of Marrakech, a popular Tenderloin restaurant and hookah bar known in part for its more traditional belly dancing performances.
Garnicki observes a lack of dinner theater options in San Francisco, but he might also add that the area boasts just a handful of Moroccan and North African restaurants: Beyond Marrakech, some standouts include El Mansour (with dinner and dancing since 1976 in the Outer Richmond), Michelin-starred Mourad downtown, and newcomers like Khamsa in the Mission.
Berber has held a steady stream of pop-up events and performances to refine its formula, which its founders characterize as a modern, non-traditional variety show. Karolina Lux, who has toured with Beats Antique, is Berber’s entertainment director and resident belly dancer. She’ll create seasonally-changing performances with a goal of attracting repeat customers.
Dinner, served during the performance, is a fixed price menu with Tunisian, Morroccan, Algerian, and Libyan influences. Nick Balla of Duna and Bar Tartine has helped to develop the menu and food program. It’s $85 for the show and five courses, excluding beverage, tax, and tip. In general, the restaurant hopes to arrive at a properly paced meal and a performance that entertains without trampling on conversation between guests.
Berber’s space is divided into a bar with cocktails created by Carlo Splendorini plus a la carte bites. That’s divided off from the restaurant’s main dining room and performance venue, the Souk Room. Decor — Morroccan light fixtures, African textiles, and more work commissioned by Berber artisans — aims to transport diners to a new environment, but not one in which they’re necessarily strangers.
“We want to create a sense of community at Berber... when you come in, you’re going to feel like family,” Garnicki says.
Update, December 11: This post has been altered to reflect changes to the opening date, from December 8 to December 15, and from bar director Saul Ranella to Carlo Spendorini.