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What went wrong at Noosh?

It was on top of the world, but then Noosh, at 2001 Fillmore, went dark.

FILLMORE BEAT | CHRIS BARNETT

Noosh, the hot new California-inspired Mediterranean restaurant at Fillmore and Pine, rocketed off the launch pad in February and soared to great heights, only to explode the week before Thanksgiving when the money partner suddenly announced he was firing and suing his two highly lauded chef partners.

CEO John Litz on November 21 locked out the chefs and staff and posted a sign on Noosh’s front door saying the restaurant was “cooking up something new” and would be “closed for a couple of days.” By early December, he was still trying to re-open, now with a new “culinary advisor” — prominent pastry chef Emily Luchetti.

Chefs Sayat and Laura Ozyilmaz, the husband and wife team who have cooked in five of the world’s top 50 restaurants and were christened “rising stars” by the Chronicle in September, declared themselves “devastated to have been separated from their fans, customers and the family they have built with the employee team at Noosh.”

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Frank Lloyd Wright tiles created here

ARCHITECT Aaron Green, who lived in a neighborhood apartment overlooking Lafayette Park for many years, helped Frank Lloyd Wright establish a San Francisco office in 1951 at 319 Grant Avenue.

Green’s mother-in-law, Jeannette Pauson Haber, lived at 2510 Jackson Street, on Alta Plaza Park, with her sister, Rose Pauson, who was a former client of Wright’s. In 1940 she had built the Pauson House in Arizona, which had been destroyed by fire in 1943. 

Rose was a painter, and Jeannette a ceramicist. When Wright decided to create red tiles, inscribed with his initials, to be affixed to a select number of his buildings, he asked Jeannette to fabricate them. Wright provided a drawing of what he wanted; Jeannette formed the tiles; Aaron Green inscribed the initials — FLLW — into each one; and Jeannette produced the “Taliesin red” glazed surface that Wright specified. 

Among the Bay Area buildings that Wright designated as worthy of bearing the tiles were the V.C. Morris shop on Maiden Lane — his only building in San Francisco and a precursor to the circular Guggenheim Museum in New York — and the Marin County Civic Center, which was completed by Aaron Green after Wright’s death.

— From Frank Lloyd Wright and San Francisco, by Paul V. Turner, published by Yale University Press.

Inside the Palace Cafe

LOCAL HISTORY | THOMAS REYNOLDS

For decades local residents have walked down the block of Fillmore between Bush and Sutter and wondered about the sign hanging out over the sidewalk: Palace Cafe, it says, above a bright red Dr Pepper logo.

The cafe has been closed at least 30 years. For many of those years the sign was mostly obscured by the overgrown ficus trees that lined the block. After the trees came down a few months ago, the question came more frequently: “What’s up with the Palace Cafe?” It was said to be set up just as it was when it was last open for business back in the 1970s. But nobody seemed to know for sure.

Then one recent Saturday morning, while walking up the street from the Fillmore Farmers Market, a neighbor noticed the door to the long-shuttered cafe ajar. He knocked while pushing it open. Inside he met Dr. Jan Dickey, one of the grandchildren of the couple who bought the building back in the 1940s when they were part of the wave of black migration from the South. Some of their descendants still live in the flats upstairs. 

Dickey had come over from his home in the East Bay to the building where he grew up to finally start clearing out the cafe. He said his family had decided, with encouragement from the city’s new crackdown on vacant storefronts, they should empty the space and offer it for rent, perhaps as an office or a shop. They wanted to honor his grandfather, he said, and his grandmother, who willed — and prayed — the building into the family’s fold as its home in the heart of the Fillmore.

“May I take photos?” the visitor asked. They offer a glimpse of the old Fillmore untouched by time.

EARLIER: “Frozen in time

An opera star on the fast track

Countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen at Glaze on Fillmore Street.

CULTURE BEAT | PAMELA FEINSILBER

At only 25, opera singer and neighborhood resident Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen has already had a head-spinning career. 

Cohen graduated from Princeton in 2015. Just two years later, he was one of 12 artists to join S.F. Opera’s prestigious two-year, performance-oriented Adler Fellowship Program, which is what brought him to San Francisco. 

He made his S.F. Opera debut this summer in a major supporting role in Handel’s Orlando. By then, he’d already held the limelight in an important tryout for future stars: the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions Grand Finals, in March 2017. New York Times critic Zachary Woolfe saw several good singers onstage, but “only one complete artist,” noting that Cohen “stood clearly apart from the pack.” He was one of six winners.

Cohen is a countertenor. Singing above the vocal terrain of a tenor, he and the other 50-some quality countertenors working today perform music written in the 17th and 18th centuries for castrati — men castrated before puberty so their voices would remain high. After the practice was banned, much of that music lay dormant for a couple of centuries. When Baroque music made a comeback, the high, pure, sonorous countertenor tradition was born.

Among its most lauded practitioners, Cohen will be performing here early this month in two programs: “The Future Is Now,” his final Adler Fellows concert, with the S.F. Opera orchestra, at Herbst Theatre on December 6; and as a soloist in Handel’s Messiah, with the S.F. Symphony, at Davies Hall on December 13 and 14.

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Yet Another Hole in the Head

FILM | ANDREA CHASE

The 16th Annual Another Hole in the Head Film Festival, brought to you by the fine people at SFIndieFest, gathers a scintillating collection of the best of the genres of sci-fi, horror, fantasy and just plain odd films currently out there, along with the now traditional rescoring of a classic.

The fest is running now through December 15 at the New People Cinema in Japantown, and there’s not a dud in the program.

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Watching San Francisco burn

Watching the fire after the 1906 earthquake from Lafayette Square.

LOCAL HISTORY | BRIDGET MALEY

A series of photographs taken during and just after the 1906 earthquake and fire reveals the sense of the fear and dread neighborhood residents must have felt at the time. The fire, which crossed to the west side of Van Ness Avenue between Sutter and Clay Streets, was halted by the U.S. Army’s defensive dynamiting, which included purposefully destroying some of the city’s most elaborate mansions. 

The photographs illustrate just how the marching fire must have raised the alarm near Lafayette Square. The images, all in the collection of the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, and taken by either Frank or Gregory Padilla. The Padillas apparently had a studio on Washington Street, but not much is known about the family of photographers. 

Looking east on Washington Street after the 1906 earthquake.

When the earthquake hit, there were only three houses facing the square on the block of Gough Street between Washington and Clay. One image, looking east down Washington Street, shows a mishmash of fencing and billboard advertising at the corner of Washington and Gough. A portion of the three houses peek out from behind the park’s hilly terrain. While all three dwellings survived the earthquake, only two remain; the third was replaced in 1912.

The remarkable images taken from Lafayette Square during those fateful days in April of 1906 provide a glimpse of events as they were happening. The photographers captured spectators watching the fire consume the city. The images hold the event frozen in time with a backdrop of what the blocks around the square would have looked like as it all unfolded.

Watching the fire from Lafayette Square. Bancroft Library photographs.

Bidding wars and other myths

REAL ESTATE | NINA HATVANY

There are many myths about the San Francisco real estate market — many of them not true.

MYTH #1: Homes are still going for 10 to 15 percent above asking in bidding wars.

The truth is, the competition for San Francisco condominiums and homes has drastically slowed down as inventory has increased. “Bidding wars,” while they still exist, are less common, and if there is competition, it is more likely two or three other offers rather than 10. The market in the fall tends to dip slightly in prices because of the glut of inventory that hits right after Labor Day and then is slow to get absorbed as the holidays approach.

There is still a good amount of inventory sitting, and buyers become less motivated over the holidays to deal with finding a home between their travels and hosting family. In the spring, prices historically tend to rise again as the market picks up. While we can’t predict what will happen next year, the current combination of low interest rates, higher inventory and economic uncertainty makes this a great time to jump into the usually hyper-competitive San Francisco market.

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Fillmore Street: Retail Mecca?

The new boutique ADAY has just opened at 2011 Fillmore Street. 

FILLMORE BEAT | CHRIS BARNETT

Despite the fierce turnover among well-heeled retailers, is Fillmore Street still Mecca for merchants? Jon Levy, an exec with Leap — a New York-based firm that creates and launches traditional retail stores for web-based digital brands — is convinced of it. He just snapped up a second storefront on the street for a client and is gunning for a third — all in the same block.

Leap just soft-opened the women’s fashion shop ADAY at 2011 Fillmore, after the cosmetic emporium MAC vanished suddenly last month. A few months earlier, Leap opened Koio, a hip sneaker company, a few doors north at 2029 Fillmore in what was previously the Lilith women’s boutique. Now Leap has its sights on the space nearby at 2033 Fillmore being vacated by Modcloth, the Walmart-owned apparel startup that flopped as a brick-and-mortar venture but lives on online. 

Leap is neither an angel investor nor a venture capitalist. Its gig: Match online retail concepts with hot locations nationwide and get them off the brick and mortar launching pad. And even with the high casualty rates on Fillmore among solidly financed, often globally owned retailers, Levy feels the street has an irresistible appeal to tech-smart, savvy-spending millennials who aren’t afraid to disrupt rules and flout traditions.

Levy maintains that ADAY is aimed at the “fashion forward yet practical” woman who looks for simplicity and versatility in her wardrobe. “This is comfortable yet technical apparel — think high-end fabrics made of recycled materials,” he says. The premise is that customers can wear the same outfit to work, a party, a job interview and a club.

“These buyers are found in cities like San Francisco, L.A. and New York,” Levy says. “The place to be for retailers targeting those buyers is on Fillmore. Just look at Noosh. Filled. That’s our market.”

Levy, who kicks off all his new store grand openings with a music, food and drink party and invites the neighborhood — none of those “friends and family” insider-only private bashes — is doing the same with ADAY. A do-good shopping incentive: 10 percent of all proceeds will be donated to the California Fire Foundation to aid in wildfire relief.

A tiny plant store on tony Fillmore

Organic forms and abundant greenery mark Plants and Friends at 1906 Fillmore.

A NEIGHBOR, out for a walk one night soon after Plants and Friends opened its new shop at 1906 Fillmore in early October, stopped to admire the greenery in the window.

“It’s fun,” she said to another neighbor walking by. “It makes you smile.”

And so it does. Who would think — in the age of international fashion boutiques and cosmetics salons — that a tiny plant store could sprout on tony Fillmore Street?

Owner Nick Forland, that’s who. Suggest to him that he’s a dreamer for opening a petite plant store in a high-rent district and he seems completely surprised anyone could think he’s taking a risk.

“We’ve made a plant store work for two years in Hayes Valley,” he says with a toothy grin. “We had a test run.”

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More than a few of her favorite things

Chandler Tang’s new shop Post Script has just opened at 2413 California.

CHANDLER TANG is living her dream — curating and stocking what she describes as “very fun things” for Post Script, a new shop she’s just opened in a neighborhood she knows and loves. 

Tang describes her new endeavor at 2413 California Street, near Fillmore — most recently habited by the women’s clothing boutique De Novo — as a “lifestyle store” that focuses on small goods.

The offerings are an eclectic mix of mostly handcrafted items including pillows, throws, soap, candles, planners, bowls, art books, towels and jewelry, along with greeting cards ranging from nice to naughty. Somehow the mix seems unified, no doubt due to Tang’s buying philosophy: “I really just look for a sense of colors and designs that can enrich your every day,” she says. 

Days before opening, Tang wanders about the space, newly brightened by refinished floors and a coat of white paint on the walls, one of them adorned with a mural by local artist Katie Benn. 

It’s also clear there’s another unifying force: She’s stocked the shop with more than a few of her favorite things.  

“Just look at this!” she marvels, plucking a stylized toothbrush with aqua bristles off one of the newly constructed shelves. “It’s by an amazing brand called Hay. They just strip everything and focus on great design.”

Post Script is slated to be open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tang plans to be on site most of the time. “For now, I want to be the face of the store — to meet my customers, to get that personal touch,” she says.