It’s been over two years since La Cocina broke ground on its ambitious food hall in the Tenderloin, and almost five years since the project was announced. Now, it’s preparing to open its doors to the dining public on April 5, just weeks after San Francisco has allowed indoor dining at a higher capacity. It’s been a long wait for vendors and would-be diners: construction was almost completed when the lockdowns began in March 2020.
La Cocina is one of San Francisco’s most prolific and loved nonprofit incubators, helping women of color develop and launch their food businesses. Superstars like Reem’s California, El Buen Comer, Nyum Bai, and Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas have all passed through its kitchen in the Mission, with dozens more opening brick-and-mortar restaurants around the Bay Area. Its new 7,000-square-foot marketplace has taken over the vacant post office, previously owned by the Federal government, at 101 Hyde Street, on a block that former Supervisor Jane Kim has called “one of the toughest intersections in the Tenderloin.” For the next four years, it will operate in the space in an interim capacity before a planned low-income housing development breaks ground.
Who’s behind it?
La Cocina opened the Marketplace in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD), plus the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD), and the Real Estate Department, as well as Tenderloin Housing Clinic and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Combined with La Cocina’s community-led development, the Marketplace will aim to provide careers for residents of the neighborhood, in addition to its continued work to provide economic opportunities for low-income, immigrant, and women-of-color entrepreneurs.
What’s in it?
There are seven woman-owned businesses in total, though only six will be available at opening. (Bini’s Kitchen will open when indoor dining is introduced.) There will also be a bar, La Paloma, that will serve as a revenue driver for La Cocina.
There is community space with a lending library, computer access that doesn’t require a purchase for use, open areas for community meetings, and an extra space that can be used for pop-ups or other temporary opportunities.
Chef Tiffany Carter is bringing a taste of the Bayview to the Tenderloin. Poboys filled with golden fried shrimp and andouille sausage, jerk tacos, red beans and rice, and more are on the menu here.
It’s pupusas all day long at Estrellita’s snacks. Chef Estrella Gonzalez offers a variety of different fillings, from refried beans and cheese to stewed lamb, as well as tamales stuffed with pork in guajillo sauce, and more.
Wafa and Mounir Bahloul
North African food from chefs Wafa and Mounir Bahloul combine Bedouin, Berber, and French flavors in dishes like shorbat, a thick soup of freekah, lamb, beef, tomato and celery, and seasoned with ras al hanout. Sandwiches are served on housemade bread and filled merguez sausage and other items.
This is the second location for chef Dilsa Lugo, whose South Berkeley restaurant is a neighborhood staple. Many favorite can be found at the Marketplace, including her excellent tostadas de tinga.
A resident of the Tenderloin for twenty years, chef Guadalupe Moreno is offering her Mexico City-street-style guisados tacos to the neighborhood. Her handmade corn tortillas filled braised and grilled meats like pastor or bistec en chile pasilla. Order ready-to-eat plates or take a kit with everyone you need to assemble a meal.
First known for her business selling baobab juice, chef Nafy Flatley has expanded her offerings to include African cusine like her maafe bowl, a spicy Senegalese peanut stew with tomatoes, cassava, carrots, turnips over rice. She’s also selling her healthy bars, juices, and marinades here.
When it opens, Bini’s will be offering her delicious Nepalese dumplings, called momos. For now, grab them (and more of Bini’s flavorful fare) to go at her Howard street location.
How were vendors chosen?
Selecting seven vendors out of dozens of La Cocina entrepreneurs was a long, tough process, says La Cocina’s Deputy Director, Leticia Landa. Any La Cocina business or graduate could apply to join the Marketplace, which is a long list of talented people. “You have to keep a balance of what’s right for that business, what makes sense for them on their journey,” says Landa. “And the other factor is the mix of types of food, so that they can all thrive.”
When can I eat there?
Takeout will be available when it opens, April 5. Indoor dining will open to the public in summer 2021, if all goes well. Diners can order online and pick up their orders at the front entrance; currently the inside of the Marketplace is closed until indoor dining is an option.
When it opens April 5, it will be open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Pickup at the 332 Golden Gate Ave. entrance. More information can be found here.