Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Kate's Kitchen for Dinner–Southern Food meets Californian

To your right as you enter Kate’s Kitchen, a landmark brunch restaurant on Haight Street in San Francisco, a painted message on the wall begins with, “LO2UL, hello to you all” and spans the length of the dining area. When decoded, it offers a note of welcome that whets the appetite. That most patrons don’t know the entire meaning matters little. Indeed, Kate’s d├ęcor is quirky, classic, and original, but it was the food that first brought patrons in the door twenty years ago. It’s what keeps them coming back.

Kate’s Kitchen, owned and managed by Hasan Khader, is the second-oldest traditional restaurant on the block. And it’s just reinvented itself. 

On any given day, tourists and locals alike congregate outside the front door, patiently waiting to drink the restaurant’s signature coffee with chicory, to taste the homemade fennel sausage, to soak their French toast orgy–topped with granola, fruit, and yogurt–in maple syrup. Not long ago, a man who was visiting from Maine said that the corned beef hash at Kate’s was the best he’d ever had. His friend later agreed.

Since the lunch and breakfast are so affordable and satisfying, it was as if on a dare to top his own daytime operation that Khader launched a dinner service last month. The locals I spoke with said they’re glad he did.

The new offerings include dishes like fried chicken, pan-seared halibut, shrimp and grits, roasted lamb, and kale salad with cranberries and bacon. The theme is a unique marriage of Southern and Californian cuisines. It offers something for the meat girl, the salad guy, and all foodies in between.

Mary's Fried Chicken
Roasted Lamb 
Shrimp and Grits
Khader and his family designed the menu, and if he happens to be on-hand when you’re visiting he’ll be glad to chat about the  new food items as well as the many changes Kate's has undergone in recent months.

The only regular day the restaurant closes is on Christmas. But in 2013, for the first time in twenty years, it closed an additional day so that an interior wall could be knocked down. Soon thereafter, a kitchen-view bar was built, which increased seating capacity and made it easier to serve beer and wine. 

Kate’s now offers draft beer and three types of mimosas, making the bar an ideal place to sit and eat before watching sports at your neighborhood watering hole. Or after–since dinner is now served from 5:00 to 9:30 Tuesday through Saturday.

What's more, the restaurant sources organic wine from California vineyards.

“Come in and let us know what you think!” Khader says. In the mornings when he stirs and cools his homemade jam, he sometimes asks his servers to taste it and tell him if something is missing.

He has the same philosophy for all food he serves. If something needs tweaking, he wants to know about it.

Kate’s Kitchen is, after all, a restaurant for the people. Whether they live around the corner or have just arrived from Europe, patrons will likely agree that the dinner entrees are spot-on.

Then they’ll come back the next morning for breakfast.

Kates Kitchen
471 Haight Street @ Fillmore 
San Francisco
(415) 626-3984

Breakfast and lunch served everyday

Dinner: Tuesday - Saturday

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Farewell to Mills College

As published by the Mills College newspaper, the Campanil:

My Mills education hasn’t been books only. Around this time two years ago, I’d already paid a tuition deposit for another local MFA program. But when I first drove onto Richards Road, I knew this would be my next academic home. It just felt right; Richards was my grandfather’s last name. He was a great writer, a word enthusiast, one of my earliest influences. As a young girl, I used to do homework at his house while he studied foreign languages and swiftly completed the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle, the hardest of the week. For him, words weren’t just an assembly of letters; they had histories, origins. He insisted I consider such things.
Most important for me at Mills has been the word community. By way of context, to be close to campus I moved to Oakland from San Francisco where I’d lived since 2005. I loved my new neighborhood and apartment, but shortly after settling there I started to feel unsafe. My car was stolen twice; I was threatened while walking my bike through the park. The news of more dangerous crime nearby felt stymieing.
At the same time, here at school I began studying prose and poetry that grappled with questions about community. Is our natural state one of peace or are we more war-prone? What, if anything, should we consider shared space? The entire Earth or nothing at all? Every piece we read in the Commons Class, offered by the English Department, provoked deep thought, new imaginings. We read Leslie Marmon Silko’s novel Ceremony about land rights and war trauma, about who owns the storytelling of oppressed communities. What was theoretical was also very real for us.
From the poetry of the Occupy Movement to Emily Dickinson on death and the grave to John Milton against government censorship of thought (Aeropagitica, 1644), every week enlightened me.
The readings also worked in tandem with Mills as an institution by encouraging, even demanding, an attention to one’s community. There is the hectic outside world, yes, but there’s also the welcome of Mills, the teaching of the Millsians.
I’ve been lucky to attend talks by inspired scholars and activists, to hear writers share their work–humorous, political, elegiac–on Tuesday nights in the Bender Room. I’ve also enjoyed blogging for The Campanil, reviewing fiction submissions for 580 Split. And helping other students has made me a better writer and mentor.
My first few months here, I used to get nervous when I read my work aloud. Now when this happens, I think about our clock tower, the oldest concrete structure west of the Mississippi. And I calmly finish reading in a way my grandfather, who lived to almost 100 years old, would be proud.
Long after I graduate, I will continue to think about all I gained from my time here. Thank you, Mills College, for the past two years. I look forward to many more.

Megan D. Brown 

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