San Francisco’s First Craft Grocer/Fine Dining Combo Arrives With Fillmore’s Merchant RootsAuthor:Michelle Konstantinovsky
By day, the quaint new shop on lower Fillmore Street tempts customers with the kind of freshly made fare San Francisco foodies drool over: House made pastries, sandwiches, salads, fresh pasta, cheese, charcuterie, and more. The shelves inside are lined with eye-catching gourmet pantry items like specialty salts, jam, chocolate, and a jaw-dropping selection of wine. But this sweet shop know has an alter ego yet to be unveiled: A fine dining restaurant that comes alive three nights per week, featuring a themed tasting menu that rotates every four to six weeks. Meet Merchant Roots: San Francisco’s very first one-two punch of craft goods and high-quality dining that encompasses aspects of a specialty food and wine shop, casual eatery, and fine-dining restaurant.
Opening its doors in early May, the small but mighty 1,000-square-foot space is infused with a “new nostalgia” vibe, incorporating clean and modern finishes juxtaposed with salvaged pieces (like a circa 1900 vintage sausage stuffer and a Torchio hand press pasta maker). Local artist Ken Davis added a wholly unique touch to the store’s oversized windows with a hand painted Merchant Roots logo, and local weaver Meghan Bogden Shimek contributed the store’s anchor piece: A 30’ x 5’ custom-made woven wool fiber wall hanging that frames live-edge café tables and copper wire chairs.
Framed by the floor to ceiling wine wall, the shop’s centerpiece is the eight-seat Table, a custom-made, live-edge Monkey Pod wood table fashioned by woodworker Ian Avidan of Berkeley-based Z&E Slabs. The Table will be set with one-of-a-kind, hand-thrown pottery by Berkeley based ceramicist Kiyomi Kiode. Selected wines are to be served in handmade Sophienwald glassware from Austria.
Merchant Roots is the brainchild of operations director and sommelier Madison Michael and fiance chef Ryan Shelton, whose resume includes a turn as chef de cuisine of Baume’ (Palo Alto, Calif.) where he helped the restaurant earn a two-star Michelin rating before celebrating its first anniversary. Shelton also served as the executive chef of Reverb Kitchen & Bar fka Verbena (San Francisco); pastry chef at Michelin-starred Chez TJ (Mountain View, Calif.), and executive chef at Bonny Doon winemaker Randall Grahm’s Le Cigare Volant (Santa Cruz, Calif.).
Currently, Merchant Roots serves as a daytime eatery, grocer, and wine shop, offering prepared foods ready for guests to take away or eat in. Options include sandwiches and salads ($9 each) like smoked carrot with shaved carrot, Point Reyes Toma, and raisin jam on focaccia, and chilled gnocchietti with pesto, roasted red peppers, and red onion. On the sweet side, Merchant Roots features a rotating menu of fresh-baked pastry selections including cookies, muffins, biscotti, donuts, tarts, cannoli, and scones. The shop’s larder lineup includes seasonal jams and jellies, as well as three house made salt blends. There’s also ethically-sourced, single origin craft chocolate in both bar and drinking form by award-winning Mutari Chocolate, as well as hand-crafted herbal tea from Berkeley-based tea company Leaves and Flowers.
Meat and cheese expert Eric Miller (Maker’s Common, Mission Cheese) curates Merchant Roots’ Italian-leaning charcuterie and cheese program with a selection process paying homage to the European classics, including products from both domestic and international sources. An in-house charcuterie program – with signature personal touches – is currently in the works. Chef Shelton has a penchant for pasta, which passersby can witness via the shop’s Fillmore Street-facing pasta counter, where Shelton and his team will roll, fold, and pinch flour and water into perfection. Merchant Roots’ rotating selection includes dried pastas like acorn orecchiette, kale spaghetti chitarra, and gnochetti sardi ($7 serves 2) as well as fresh pastas like carrot cappelletti, ricotta cavatelli, and beet campanelle (AQ).
And of course, then there’s the wine. Merchant Roots offers a well-edited selection of wine, curated by Michael. The evolving collection features over 80 bottles, with an emphasis on rare finds, natural wines, and lesser-known grapes. Wine highlights include exciting North American producers like Favia, Broc Cellars, and Iapetus, notable European producers such as Guy Breton, E. Guigal, Peter Later, and Le Macchiole, and South American wines from small, family-run operations. Wine will be available for purchase ($10-$50/bottle), with a selection offered daily by the glass.
Once the space introduces its dinner program called The Table at Merchant Roots, Shelton and Michael will challenge palettes with an unconventional culinary experience three nights a week. The Table will accommodate just eight guests per meal, which is served in a tasting menu format and bears a distinctive theme that will rotate every four to six weeks. The inaugural menu will be an “Elements” theme involving nine courses that run the gamut from “moon” (yuzu sorbet rock) to “comet” (cotton candy meteor). Merchant Roots promises that the menu themes will be abstract and always exciting. The Table experience will be $110 per person, and the option to add a wine pairing ($70) or sip by the glass. The Table will be a ticketed experience available via Tock.
Merchant Roots is located at 1365 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115.
Hours of Operation:
The Shop: Tues-Sat from 9am-5pm
The Table: Launch date TBD, Thurs-Fri-Sat
Visit www.merchantroots.com for more information.
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