Cheap Eats Gloomy economic forecasts haven't stopped dining rooms from opening. On Sept. 21, Spoon, at 2209 Polk St., kicked off its "California comfort food" menu, with all items priced at $20 or less. Chef Erik Hopfinger, formerly of Butterfly, presides over the iceberg salads and double-cut pork chops, serving dinner until 11 p.m. and the bar menu until 1 a.m. You may have noticed the big wheat sculpture at 312 Divisadero, which marks 2-month-old Maurice. The restaurant, conceived by former caterer Maurice Mogannam, is another good bet for diners who are counting pennies. Chef David Zimmerman, previously of Stars and LuLu, oversees the Mediterranean-influenced American menu, which has a $15 price cap. Former Starbucks employees Brian Brown, Bob Hemmer, and Katie Solinger have put their coffee tips together and purchased Port Cafe on the corner of Sanchez and 16th streets. Their new spot, dubbed Grub, is due to open on Nov. 1. Solinger says that the look of the remodel will be "organic industrial," to match the "California suburban" menu (comfort foods made with fresher ingredients), which she'll oversee. Brown and Hemmer will play hosts, introducing guests to the new wine bar and lounge area. The team promises that prices will top out at $13 and that the restaurant's popular weekend brunch -- including the famed transvestite hostess -- will continue.
Latin Lovers All things south of the border are apparently as hot as the drink-of-the-moment, the Brazilian caipirinha. Earlier this month, Alma opened at 16th and Guerrero streets, and now we can dust off our castanets for Andalu, at 3198 16th St. Both restaurants are all about international cuisine and sharing small plates, a trend begun by the likes of Peruvian hot spot Destino (at 1815 Market) and the Marina's French-inspired Isa. Andalu has an impressive opening team: chef Ben deVries from Ristorante Ecco, East Coast restaurant vet and new general manager Craig Demko, and founder Calvin Schneiter, a Foreign Cinema alumnus. Main dishes run $15 or less; other highlights include an elaborate, affordable wine list, an 8-by-18-foot mural overlooking 120 seats, and a private dining space for 45.
Shut Down and Out While most dining rooms have weathered the slow times and business has picked up at both small neighborhood restaurants and bars, the downturn has proved too much for 12-year-old Splendido, which closed its Embarcadero Center dining room on Sept. 20, citing weak business and unsuccessful lease negotiations. Splendido's closure follows that of neighboring Scott's Seafood, which said sayonara last month. In addition, the 9,000-square-foot Montage at the Metreon Center bid farewell on Sept. 19, and 3-month-new Harvey's on Polk also called it quits during the first week of September, though its sister locations in the Castro and SOMA are still going strong.