The sudden closure of Dogpatch Hawaiian restaurant Aina in December, originally billed as temporary, will be permanent. Co-owner Cheryl Liew tells Eater SF that she and her husband, chef Jordan Keao, have relocated to Singapore for the foreseeable future. “It was a tough decision, but one that’s right for our family as we rebuild,” writes Liew.
Known in particular for its strong brunch of taro French toast, spam musubi, and malasadas, Aina began as a pop-up before moving into its permanent home in 2016. Eventually, it expanded to include dinner and a Hawaiian tasting menu, and at one point ranked as a Michelin Bib Gourmand selection for its good value.
But shortly after chef de cuisine Chris Yang departed the restaurant, Aina owners Liew and Keao were called away to Singapore for a family emergency. They originally hoped to return to run Aina, but have changed their plans, as Liew explains somewhat in a statement on Instagram.
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Aloha. It’s been a while since we posted. We are sad to let you all know that we have decided to permanently close ‘Aina restaurant in San Francisco. Personal & family reasons have made a relocation to Singapore the next step for us. It is a very tough and heartwrenching decision to let go of a business that we have been building from our hearts since 2013, from our days as a tiny popup in Bernal Heights, to hectic street food festivals and then eventually a beautiful brick and mortar space in the lovely Dogpatch neighborhood. Aina was a very beautiful and special place for us with our toddler son spending his weekends at our Popup, and our daughter born a month after we opened the restaurant. We also believe that change is growth. And as much as we hate disappointing our regulars and all of you who have come through our doors to eat with us, become friends, and sent us such heartwarming messages in the last 6 months; we also know we are making the right decision for our extended family and our little ones. We will miss Dogpatch dearly and are grateful to all of the support we have received over the years and to the team that worked so tirelessly. We won’t go into the well known challenges of doing business in SF here; we will say that running a small restaurant is HARD. We’ll still post here selectively on ways to support Hawaiian food and heritage and small businesses. Follow Hilo-raised chef @jordankeao for continued culinary adventures in Southeast Asia and possibly Aina 2.0. and our Stories... Much love, Jordan & Cheryl @cherylliew13
The business’ liquor license at 900 22nd Street was canceled this month, and the future of the space isn’t clear. But for a taste of former chef Chris Yang’s cooking, customers needn’t travel far: He’s busy popping up at Dogpatch beer hotspot Harmonic Brewing and elsewhere.