After six years of pop-ups and private catering, S + M Vegan is making a play for the big time, with a new vegan restaurant focused on Singaporean flavors to open in Oakland’s Dimond District next year.
The Chronicle reports that S + M founders Marie Chia and Shane Stanbridge will open a restaurant called Lion Dance Cafe at 3525 Fruitvale Avenue, in a spot that once housed a (long-shuttered) print shop. Chia and Stanbridge’s provocatively-named pop-up is an East Bay standby, with a long-term Tuesday night stand inside the punk bar Eli’s Mile High Club.
That’s where the duo caught the eye of Chron food critic Soleil Ho, who earlier this month declared an iteration of S + M’s shaobing (there are eight, she tapped number seven) her favorite sandwich in the Bay Area. Lengthy lines ensued, S + M said in the Instagram announcement of their restaurant plans, and at its last Eli’s dinner S + M sold out completely.
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Huge thanks to all who came out to our pop up at @elismilehighclub last night, and our sincere apologies to anyone who came by after we sold out! We had a line out the door the whole time and though we expected (and prepped for) an increase especially in sandwich demand, we were blown away. (Shoutout to our team for holding it down!) With few exceptions everything we cook is made from scratch by the two of us, which is something we take pride in but also comes with its limitations, and we appreciate your understanding. We’re so grateful for your incredible support and the opportunities you all give us to grow. This is why we’re officially announcing that we have a restaurant in the works! @liondancecafe is to open next year in Oakland’s Dimond district. We’re aiming for spring/early summer, but we all know how these things go -stay tuned for updates. In the meantime we’ll see you again at @elismilehighclub on 10/29, and starting November we’ll be there every Tuesday presenting Lion Dance Cafe by S+M Vegan. We’ll also be adding on more pop ups including at @the_double_standard closer to 2020. (Thanks to @opendaily for designing our rad logo!)
The new spot, which S + M says should open by “spring/early summer, but we all know how these things go,” will be a departure from its current format, with a focus on meatless versions of the Singaporean foods Chia ate as a child as well as flavors from the Chinese-American diaspora, including Kung Pao mushrooms and General Tso’s fried vegetables, the Chron reports. Coffee drinks, vegan milkshakes, and noodle dishes will also be on the new menu as will a version of Ho’s favorite sandwich. Other than that, specific menu details are thin at this point, but at past pop-ups, Chia and Stanbridge have served vegan versions of classic Singaporean street-hawker noodle dishes such as laksa and char kway teow.
With that new menu comes a new name, even for its ongoing Eli’s events. From now on, the pop-up will be known as “Lion Dance Cafe by S + M Vegan,” which is quite a (meatless) mouthful. That, too, is a nod to the new restaurant’s Singaporean leanings.
The arrival of any Singaporean restaurant, much less a vegan one, is big news in the laksa- and kaya toast-starved Bay Area. San Francisco proper only has a small handful of restaurants that serve Singaporean dishes — perhaps most notably Lime Tree in the Inner Richmond. But recently, perhaps as a sign of things to come, a number of new-school chefs are putting their own California-influenced twists on the cuisine: Breadbelly with its kaya toast, Nora Haron with her forthcoming Singaporean-Indonesian-Californian bakery, and now Lion Dance Cafe.
S + M Vegan’s next pop-up is planned for 5-10 p.m. on October 29 at Eli’s, with additional events at other spots planned for 2020. Lion Dance, when it opens, will begin with dinner served “most nights” and an eventual brunch service.