Restaurant opening dates are often a matter of best-case scenarios and PR spin, but not for Straw, the Hayes Valley eatery opening in the former J's Pots of Soul at 203 Octavia. For just about a month now, the owners have been taking guesses from the public about the eatery's precise launch date, both online and through the mail slot on the tricked-out front door. Get it right and you'll win a free entrée every day for a month.
Actually, says co-owner Ari Feingold, the guessing game is the first of what he says will be regular carny games at Straw, which is organizing around the theme of carnivals.
Yep ― though that's not to be confused with circuses. "Think less big top and clowns, more old-time Americana," says Feingold, who worked as vendor liaison for this year's Outside Lands festival. He and partners Naomi Beck (she's the chef) and Greg Kaye are remaking the 30-seat restaurant with vintage artifacts of American fun. A tilt-a-whirl-like carnival ride becomes a booth, check presenters are embellished with images of carny freaks from the '40s and '50s, signage recalls a ring-toss game.
"Every year San Francisco hosts a bunch of eclectic street fairs and fests," Feingold says, referencing everything from the Union Street Fair to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, "and all bring a unique vibe into the city." Beck's food promises things like a chicken and waffle Monte Cristo (a sandwich, with waffles taking the place of bread), a Jenga stack of French toast, lavender-lemonade popsicles, and sangria slushees. (Beck is also co-owner of 3 Foods Café in Arcata.) La Copa Loca in the Mission has been enlisted to develop Straw's corn-on-the-cob gelato.
Lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch should all kick off when Straw opens. Happy hour, too, (a beer and wine license is in the works), featuring daily games, with prizes for the winners. The fun begins when, exactly? Tender a guess at Straw's homepage, or slip it through the monster's mouth on the front door.