In fall 2020, when the world was quiet, Andrew Paul Nelson opened a micro wine bar with his friends inside Bacchus on Hyde, cable cars rolling by outside with fewer passengers than ever. But the riesling lover already had a penchant for making merry in zany places, such as at midnight poetry readings on 16th and Mission streets or at the bookstore where his wife worked in North Beach. That’s why his newest venture makes total sense, not only for him but for his partner and the city at large.
Nelson and wife Caitlyn Skye Wild will open a wine bar, bottle and tinned fish shop, and poetry bookstore called Golden Sardine at 362 Columbus Avenue, in the former home of Family Cafe. Nelson comes to the project having helped open Fool’s Errand wine bar on Divisadero Street and the ultra-popular pop-up Habibi on Russian Hill. Wild, meanwhile, works at the world-famous City Lights Bookstore as an assistant manager, down the street from Golden Sardine’s new home. In that spirit, Golden Sardine will host readings and art shows. Habibi will keep running on Hyde Street — though without Nelson as he’s ready to jump into this new project, which is set to open in the coming months. “I’ve had a lot of success with Fool’s Errand and Habibi,” Nelson says. “But I’ve been trying to open my own thing.”
There’s a full kitchen on-site, but the duo will start with mostly prepared food options including tinned fish, cheeses, and meats before looking to expand the menu down the road with potential pop-ups and residencies. Upstairs, the business will sell bottles of wine and books. Coffee on the weekends and in the mornings is on the horizon, too, as the owners hope Golden Sardine can be the rare San Francisco option for both caffeine and alcohol.
But, importantly, the wine selection: Golden Sardine will focus on riesling above all else. Nelson is an unabashed riesling fan; he was heavily involved with the West Coast Riesling Society for years, and just got back from a winery in the Moselle Valley in Germany. “It’s a huge part of what I do,” Nelson says. “It’ll be an unreasonable amount of riesling, mostly from Germany. I’ve been collecting this shit for years.”
This opening joins the so-called North Beach renaissance, with Flour + Water Pizzeria opening in June and Cassava moving to the neighborhood last fall. Still, Family Cafe closed in January 2022 after a much-hyped debut in late 2019, opening not long before the pandemic-induced shutdowns of early 2020. The space has sat vacant in the nearly two years since; Nelson says finding new tenants in North Beach is an unnecessarily arduous process. In the meantime, Golden Sardine will pop up throughout the city to test out menus and generate hype, making tracks at Nelson’s old haunt Fool’s Errand in September. Both he and Wild are invested in the local literary community and will make appearances throughout the fall at their own poetry show Coit Tower Poetry Club and San Francisco’s festival LitQuake in October; the bar’s proceeds will fund a new magazine, run by the two, as well. Their relationships in the city, and in North Beach, run deep. “We’re all super excited about the upcoming generation of poets,” Nelson says. “It’s not a place to read Dante or something.”
Golden Sardine (362 Columbus Avenue) will open in the coming months.