The Marina’s Balboa Cafe is ready to add a new chapter to its long history — it opened in 1913 as a butcher shop and grill, giving its popular burger some serious gravitas. A new chef, Goran Basarov, is in the kitchen, and he’s overhauled the menus for lunch, dinner and brunch (below) — though he’s still serving the burger on a baguette in what’s become a classic preparation.
Basarov comes from within the PlumpJack Group, the hospitality group founded by Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and run by his sister Hillary Newsom and Jeremy Scherer. PlumpJack took over the Balboa in 1994, two years after Newsom opened his first PlumpJack wine shop nearby.
Basarov came to the group in 2016 and helped open two Colorado hotel restaurants for the company. But his career in food goes back farther than that: Born and raised in Macedonia, his family there still owns a bakery founded by his grandfather, and at Balboa, he’ll oversee all the baking and pastry operations.
“This place is and has been an institution,” Basarov says of Balboa Cafe — and making changes to it presents a challenge. “We had to move forward with something that doesn’t just appease current customers, but wows them and attracts a new crowd, too,” he says.
After all, every institution needs a younger clientele to make up the next generation of regulars. Some fresh new items on Basarov’s menu include a simple tomato salad with house made ricotta. “Everyone around the Marina loves heirloom tomatoes,” the chef suggests.
Certainly everyone in the Marina loves tomatoes in the form of Balboa Cafe’s beloved Balboa Mary (Absolut Elyx vodka, lemon, tomato juice, horseradish, Pickapeppa, Worcestershire, Tabasco, and a celery salt rim). Like the burger, that’s not going anywhere.