About 60 days, 73 gallons of paint, and 500 new plants later, there’s life in the Church Street diner space where Chow closed suddenly this March after 22 years in business. The new occupant, called Cook Shoppe, swooped in to save the block from another vacancy (the Castro has been plagued with them), and retained seven employees from Chow, too. Cook Shoppe opens at 215 Church Street next Monday, May 6.
Owner Mark White, a relatively recent transplant from New York, had been busy building out another new restaurant across the street on Church, to be called Gramercy Park, and working as a partner at SF caterer Avocado & Company. But when news of Chow’s closure rocked the neighborhood, White turned his immediate attention to replacing it with Cook Shoppe, delaying his Gramercy Park project, which is still headed to the former Crepevine space
“The goal is to save a neighborhood restaurant that everybody loved,” said White. “We still intend to be very neighborhood and community-focused.”
Several new coats of white and grey paint, improved lighting, and a near forest of plants from Plant Therapy have refreshed the space, including the back patio, where the team installed an entire wall of flora. For more comforts, White also points to improved seating plus a big TV at the bar to screen sporting events — and, this being the Castro, RuPaul’s Drag Race.
White and chef Leo Salazar (Puccini & Pinetti, Mel’s Kitchen) are starting off Cook Shoppe with a dinner menu before adding lunch and brunch. Diners will find a Shoppe Burger (an angus sirloin and brisket blend with cognac aioli, taleggio cheese, onions, lettuce, and tomato on a caramelized onion pain de mie), lots of house-made pastas like Dungeness crab “love letters” (sherry cream, pecorino, herbs), and salads (like a signature made with organic lettuce, cucumbers, grape tomatoes red onions, harissa marinated chickpeas, and buttermilk black peppercorn dressing). The wood-fired oven, a holdover from Chow, will turn out roasted chicken and lasagnas. And pastry chef Janay McCullough, also of Avocado & Company, is on dessert and house-made breads, pastries, and buns.
“Desserts are going to be very pretty,” says White.
One thing customers won’t find (yet) at Cook Shoppe: Beer and wine. In escrow for the business, White learned that Chow on Church owed tens of thousands of dollars in back taxes, meaning the city held their liquor license. He’s applied for a new one, and thanks Castro supervisor Rafael Mandelman’s office for helping him expedite the process.
When it comes through, brunch-goers can expect bottomless mimosas at Cooke Shoppe, as advertised on a painted sign in the window.
Eventually Cook Shoppe will be open Monday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to midnight, Saturday from 10 a.m. to midnight, and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.