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Little Gem Brings Chic, Casual Dining Sensibility to Cow Hollow on Tuesday

It’s the second location of the gluten-free, dairy-free restaurant

Little Gem Patricia Chang

It’s almost dinner time at Little Gem in Cow Hollow, a second location of the casual but still chic Hayes Valley spot with healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. The new Little Gem opens at 2184 Union Street (at Fillmore) in a former Umami Burger space for evening service on Tuesday, with lunch, breakfast, and weekend brunch to come. Like in Hayes Valley, dinner will be table service — and while lunch and breakfast are quicker, order-at-the-counter affairs at the original location, Little Gem’s new outpost will be full-service for lunch and breakfast.

Partners Eric Lilavois and Dave Cruz opened the first Little Gem in a bright, airy space on Grove in 2015. Their emphasis: Everyday food that’s also dairy-free, gluten-free, and free from refined sugar. But Little Gem’s menu is meant to be inclusive, not proscriptive, Lilavois and Cruz say.

Customer favorites include bibimbap with seasonal veggies and optional salmon tartare, fish tacos, and Catalan salad (with oil poached chicken, arugula, chickpeas, sultanas, pine nuts, olives, piquillos, and sweet potatoes). It doesn’t all read as “health food” — there’s fried chicken (with aioli and green onions), and spaghetti and meatballs with sorrel pesto — but it’s all still gluten-free (the spaghetti is made with rusticella corn) and not too heavy (the meatballs are turkey).

To drink, there are 32 wines from California and France, with 10 available by the glass, eight beers and ciders, and low ABV cocktails like a blood orange spritz. The new Little Gem also stocks pantry items, like bacon coconut crumble, cashew butter, and seasonal jams for customers to take home.

The new restaurant space is slightly smaller than the first, with seating for 70. Like its predecessor, it was designed by Studio BBA (The Mill, Tartine Manufactory LA, Stonemill Matcha), with light colors and Douglas fir tables and shelves (though this time, chef/partner Cruz built those himself).

“We had been — and still are — canvassing the Bay Area for great locations,” Lilavois told Eater SF in November, announcing news of the expansion. He and Cruz are alums of Thomas Keller’s restaurant group: Cruz was chef de cuisine at Ad Hoc, and co-wrote the cookbook Ad Hoc at Home, while Lilavois was the group’s chief operating officer.

“This [location] made a lot of sense for a multitude of reasons: First, we love the neighborhood. The idea that we can be flanked by Pac Heights and the Marina and located in Cow Hollow really positions us to be surround by a lot of our existing clientele.”

And with the Marina’s notoriously health conscious crowd (and sometimes stagnant dining scene), the love could be mutual. Initially, hours will be Tuesday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and eventually hours will be Tuesday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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