Bluestem is reopening today, Wednesday, November 10, after a long pandemic closure that stretched the past year and a half. With plenty of time to step back and reevaluate the restaurant, the owners are making some notable changes: The restaurant is reopening with a slightly different name, changing from Bluestem Brasserie to Bluestem Restaurant & Market, dropping any associations with rich French food, and focusing on fresh Californian fare. And it’s debuting a slightly different service style, as both a restaurant and a retail market, with more grab-and-go takeout options. But regulars can rest assured, Bluestem will still have the same fun seasonal cakes and cocktails, just in time for holiday shopping to return downtown, should you require a treat after seeing the lights and tree this season.
Owners Stacy and Adam Jed say Bluestem stayed dark for so long because of its location, tucked away on Yerba Buena Lane at Market Street. They quietly reopened this week in advance of a Slack pop-up event on the lane, but it’s going to be a gradual reopen, starting with takeout, before bringing back lunch before the end of the month, and dinner a few weeks after that. “Consumer behavior has changed,” Stacy says. “The pandemic has had a permanent impact on how we dine and gather. We hibernated right away, and kept an eye on the downtown market, which has been a quieter part of the city.” But with people returning to the office, tech workers to conferences, and holiday shoppers to downtown, the Jeds see this is a “turning point.” They keep in touch with the hotel concierges, who are anecdotally reporting that holiday bookings are up. “Leisure travel is up,” Adam says. “People are choosing to go out and make it a weekend excursion.”
The market reopened first today with breakfast and lunch options, if you need to grab a latte and a sandwich en route to the office or while wandering downtown. Step through the door and turn to the right and that entire front lounge area is now the market, with a new espresso machine installed on the bar and shelves for pantry items. In the morning, there will be coffee, smoothies, juices, and pastries, including a cinnamon crunch babka muffin from star pastry chef Lori Baker. By lunch, they’ll be setting out sandwiches and salads, including roast beef with red onion jam, tarragon aioli, arugula, and melted gouda on ciabatta. And now always on display, there will be rubs, spices, sauces, and other pantry items to take home.
The restaurant will reopen the day after Thanksgiving on Black Friday, November 26, starting with lunch; dinner will be coming soon. So step to the left, and that’s still the full restaurant, with the bar, dining room, mezzanine, and rooftop, which got a fresh coat of paint, a new big communal table, and lots of lush green ferns. The pre-pandemic menu was meaty with tartare, a burger, and four different types of steak. Now the reopening menu is lightening up with harvest salads and shrimp and crab rolls, although they will keep some comfort food favorites, including the roast chicken and cornbread. In pastry news, fans will be relieved to hear that star pastry chef Lori Baker, of the late Baker & Banker, is coming back to consult on “tall cakes,” as she likes to call them, which means at least 8 inches of layered cheesecake, cake cake, and seasonal flavors. The Honolulu Hangover Cake is back, with devil’s food cake soaked in rum, marshmallow meringue, and toasted coconut; the Gingerbread Cake and Eggnog Cake are seasonal highlights; and a dozen “mammoth, big honking cookies” will be on rotation; as well as vegan soft serve.
Seasonal cocktails have also always been a treat at Bluestem, and Jed is back behind the bar and crafting the reopening drinks list. That includes an intriguing cioppino cocktail, riffing on the SF holiday classic with tequila, mezcal, tomato water, serrano, lime, and a splash of clam juice, and served with a breadstick balanced on the rim. But if a clammy cocktail sounds too wild for you, there’s also a sweet clementine cocktail with rosemary and juniper for the season, as well as a grapefruit cocktail with milk thistle and dandelion tea. He’s also very into honey at the moment, and Bluestem is featuring a number of different local beekeepers, with wild honey and raw comb is glowing in the drinks, desserts, and retail shop.
Bluestem reopened on November 8, starting with the market, with hours from Tuesday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; followed by lunch on Black Friday, November 26, with hours from Tuesday to Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m; and dinner will be coming soon.