For those who have somehow not yet encountered the term “doom loop” as it pertains to San Francisco’s downtown, consider yourself lucky. That said, there’s no denying a fascination with the city’s perils; even city officials are cashing in on the city’s “squalor” by organizing “Downtown Doom Loop Walking Tours.” But there is hope out there. Sometimes it’s a pizza parlor owner showing love to local businesses, sometimes it’s coffee shops opening steps from City Hall. Sometimes it’s celebrity chefs joining forces with the city.
Tyler Florence, best known for 27 years on the Food Network and for his FiDi restaurant Wayfare Tavern, has been named “preferred operator” by the city of San Francisco to revitalize two cafe spaces in Union Square Plaza. The titan of industry will open both businesses under the same name, Miller & Lux Provisions, but these will be two distinct operations, one sweet and one savory, one on the east and one on the west complex of the destination plaza in San Francisco’s urban core. The goal is to open both projects in November 2023. Each will have approximately 70 seats.
According to a press release, San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department released the request for proposals in April 2023, hoping to bring in a partner to operate the spaces in Union Square. They found their man in Florence who will open the sweet Miller & Lux Provisions on the Powell Street side of the plaza, though really it’ll be pastry chef Karla Marro at the helm. Marro cut her teeth at Acquerello and currently leads the dessert department at Chase Center steakhouse Miller & Lux. She’ll bring petits gâteaux, croissants, and pain au chocolat alongside craft coffee into the space formerly held by Bancarella Cafe.
The second cafe, currently McCalls, will keep things savory. More or less identical to Tyler Florence Fresh in SFO’s Terminal 2, the menu will stick to rotisserie chicken, charcuterie boards, beer and wine on tap, and, down the road, an outdoor oyster bar. “Union Square is an iconic part of our city and we are excited to partner with chef Tyler Florence to make it even better,” Mayor London Breed said in the press release. “I’m proud of the progress we have made toward our economic recovery and excited to continue to promote San Francisco as a world-class food destination.”
The city itself is ignoring the haters as things turn around slowly but surely. Lori Lincoln, a vice president at San Francisco’s official tourism marketing agency San Francisco Travel, told CNN SFO deplanements from Asia — San Francisco’s largest travel market — are way up in 2023 compared to 2022, an important indicator for downtown tourism. The San Francisco Business Times reports Oxford Hotels & Resorts will renovate and reopen four luxury hotels in the greater downtown area. That said, downtown has indeed been hit the hardest by COVID’s impacts. CNN reports just shy of 40 retail businesses have fled Union Square’s zip code since 2020.