San francisco restaurants

San Francisco restaurants gear up for the Super Bowl

With an estimated 1 million people expected to descend on the Bay Area this week ahead of the Super Bowl, San Francisco restaurants are preparing for what some in the industry have described as a culinary apocalypse.

Product deliveries have been missed or changed due to street closures. The size of staff has doubled at many downtown restaurants and opening hours are extended. Tons of extra food was ordered. And nondisclosure agreements have been signed by truckloads, as celebrities, professional athletes and other big spenders commandeer the city’s hotspots for a slew of private events.

“It’s going to be crazy,” said Doug Washington, whose Salt House, Town Hall and Anchor & Hope restaurants are located on the outskirts of the temporary fan village, which occupies the stretch of the Embarcadero that houses the Ferry Building and the first two blocks from Market Street. “The whole week is going to be absolutely crazy.”

And while some chefs and restaurateurs aren’t thrilled about the event, the overall energy — at least for Super Bowl week — is mostly positive in the restaurant industry.

“It’s a really big boom,” said Gwyneth Borden, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. “It’s usually a very slow time for us, especially this year when you consider the rain. It will make a big difference.”

This is especially true for some of the smaller spots and cafes downtown. Philz Coffee opened just two months ago on the first block of Market Street, and shift manager Courtney Clemons said it was already crazy; the coffee shop, which normally closes at 6 p.m., will remain open this week until 10:45 p.m.

And at Red’s Java House on the Embarcadero, the Super Bowl means the busy season starts early.

“We usually hire new staff in April when baseball starts,” Red manager Rafael Porras said. Now the restaurant – which the NFL Network called a “must-visit” landmark – has hired additional workers, placed bartenders on call and extended its hours. “Whatever happens, we are ready for it.”

Not so ready for the onslaught are the local diners, most of whom avoid the action.

“Locals are definitely staying away,” said Charles Phan, whose angled doorway into the Ferry Building normally sees a mix of tourists and active residents. “Businessmen think it’s a mess.”

The upcoming tourist week will make up for the slowdown, he said, but not all restaurateurs feel the same.

“Business is down 50%,” said Nancy Oakes, owner of Boulevard and Prospect, both a few blocks from Super Bowl City.

“I don’t think we’ve been this slow since 9/11,” she said last week. People avoid the neighborhood like the plague.


Oakes said a lot of that has to do with San Franciscans being spooked by talk of poor traffic and street closures. The process of construction, then dismantling, of the village will disrupt more than three weeks of activity in the region.

“It’s hard to make up for that no matter how busy we are during the Super Bowl,” Oakes said.

Restaurants in particular have made up for their losses with buyouts and reservations for large private parties, as VIPs seek spaces conducive to entertainment.

“We are closing to the public starting on the 31st and will reopen on the 9th,” said Larry Bouchard, general manager of One Market, Super Bowl City’s most central restaurant. “We have events almost every day.”

But One Market couldn’t resist the chance to get in the mood with the locals last week. With Super Bowl City erected outside their windows, the kitchen decided to have some fun with the opposing teams, serving up a Carolina pulled pork sandwich and a Denver omelet.

Bouchard, like most restaurant workers in the area, was prohibited from discussing what those events might be.

According to Mourad Lahlou, chef-owner of Mourad on New Montgomery Street and Aziza in the Richmond district, big names are being let down trying to secure hard-to-get reservations.

“These small groups of people want to come in and buy the whole restaurant,” Lahlou said. He chooses to organize large parties without closing the entire restaurant so that he can still serve his usual clientele. “I prefer to do the right thing in the long run.”

Super Bowl City’s main sponsor, Verizon, bought Epic Steak and Waterbar — and the patio in between — for a big party the day before the big game. And all the Super Bowl officials will be at the Waterbar a few nights early.

Best Restaurant City

Pete Sittnick, managing partner of Waterbar, said the ability to welcome tourists was a good thing, helping San Francisco promote itself as the best restaurant city in the country.

And while most Bay Area residents — at least those who aren’t chasing celebrities or athletes — will likely stay away from the hive of activity, it won’t necessarily be easy to find reservations elsewhere in the week before the game. .

“I think the whole town is going to explode,” said Lahlou, who expects business to pick up even in Aziza, miles away in Outer Richmond. “Because the few downtown restaurants can’t accommodate everyone here.”

As for the day of the game, however, that’s another story. At the end of last week, there were a lot of dinner reservations at hot spots around town.

It seems that even hardcore restaurateurs would prefer to eat wings and chili on a Sunday afternoon.

Amanda Gold is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: Twitter: @AmandaGold