Plow Restaurant: Local Dishes, Design

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October 7, 2010

In San Francisco, local food rules. Before seasoned chefs Joel Bleskacek and Maxine Siu opened the doors of their new Potrero Hill restaurant Plow last month, they did more than just source ingredients from nearby farms: They also hired design and construction help all within the 94107 zip code.

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  During a long hiatus from the restaurant business, Bleskacek opened Ruby Wine and Siu founded Stem and Bell and Trunk. After a year off work to stay home with their kids, however, Siu was itching to open an eatery once again. In spring 2010, a retail space previously rented by an architecture firm came on the market. "On a whim, Max and I went to look at it," Bleskacek recalls. "She'd been talking about opening a restaurant and we fell in love with it immediately. Within four days, we signed the lease."  Photo by: Peter BelangerCourtesy of: Peter Belanger Photography
    During a long hiatus from the restaurant business, Bleskacek opened Ruby Wine and Siu founded Stem and Bell and Trunk. After a year off work to stay home with their kids, however, Siu was itching to open an eatery once again. In spring 2010, a retail space previously rented by an architecture firm came on the market. "On a whim, Max and I went to look at it," Bleskacek recalls. "She'd been talking about opening a restaurant and we fell in love with it immediately. Within four days, we signed the lease."

    Photo by: Peter Belanger

    Courtesy of: Peter Belanger Photography

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  With their home down the street and Ruby Wine down the block, the location was perfect for their planned breakfast-and-lunch spot, but it was its interiors that sold the couple on the space. "It has 12- or 13-foot ceilings, seven-foot-tall glass windows, and a tree on the side covered in beautiful foliage," Bleskacek says. "It doesn't feel like you're in the middle of a city when you're inside."  Photo by: Peter BelangerCourtesy of: Peter Belanger Photography
    With their home down the street and Ruby Wine down the block, the location was perfect for their planned breakfast-and-lunch spot, but it was its interiors that sold the couple on the space. "It has 12- or 13-foot ceilings, seven-foot-tall glass windows, and a tree on the side covered in beautiful foliage," Bleskacek says. "It doesn't feel like you're in the middle of a city when you're inside."

    Photo by: Peter Belanger

    Courtesy of: Peter Belanger Photography

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  The design was a collaboration between Bleskacek, Siu, architect Darren McMurtrie, and the couple's contractors. "We took a really leap-and-the-net-will-appear approach," Bleskacek says. "We had a vision based on the existing interior of a lot of wood and also hints of metal." Along the restaurant's 18th Street facade, light pours in through the windows connecting Plow diners with passersby. "It's a neighborhood-centered restaurant," Bleskacek says.  Photo by: Peter BelangerCourtesy of: Peter Belanger Photography
    The design was a collaboration between Bleskacek, Siu, architect Darren McMurtrie, and the couple's contractors. "We took a really leap-and-the-net-will-appear approach," Bleskacek says. "We had a vision based on the existing interior of a lot of wood and also hints of metal." Along the restaurant's 18th Street facade, light pours in through the windows connecting Plow diners with passersby. "It's a neighborhood-centered restaurant," Bleskacek says.

    Photo by: Peter Belanger

    Courtesy of: Peter Belanger Photography

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  With a local sensibility in mind, Bleskacek and Siu struck out to create the space with craftsmen from within their 94107 zip code. Working with general contractor Shane Kitchen of Hive Builds, the couple found the materials for the floor--torn-up Douglas fir from an old barn--at a salvage yard in Petaluma. For the tables (flanked with Tolix chairs), fabricator Peter Doolittle of PDX Design used wood from 11-foot-tall French oak wine barrels also found at the salvage yard.  Photo by: Peter Belanger
    With a local sensibility in mind, Bleskacek and Siu struck out to create the space with craftsmen from within their 94107 zip code. Working with general contractor Shane Kitchen of Hive Builds, the couple found the materials for the floor--torn-up Douglas fir from an old barn--at a salvage yard in Petaluma. For the tables (flanked with Tolix chairs), fabricator Peter Doolittle of PDX Design used wood from 11-foot-tall French oak wine barrels also found at the salvage yard.

    Photo by: Peter Belanger

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  Doolittle used the reclaimed wood from the wine barrels to create custom shelves for the restaurant as well. Though the exact origins of the wood is unknown, some boards bore stamps from nearby Napa Valley vineyards like Rombauer.  Photo by: Peter BelangerCourtesy of: Peter Belanger Photography
    Doolittle used the reclaimed wood from the wine barrels to create custom shelves for the restaurant as well. Though the exact origins of the wood is unknown, some boards bore stamps from nearby Napa Valley vineyards like Rombauer.

    Photo by: Peter Belanger

    Courtesy of: Peter Belanger Photography

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  For the counter, Bleskacek and Siu collaborated with Mark Hamilton, co-founder of Hamilton and Schwarzhoff. "He had, lying around under all this dust, these 16-inch-long pieces of wood used to impart oak flavor into wine aged in stainless steel barrels much like tea sticks," Bleskacek recalls. "They're just throw-away pieces but we had them resurfaced, planed, and tongue and grooved." Hamilton used two-inch-thick marble for the counter (believe to have come from a former U.S. Postal Service office) and slate from an old school house for the sneeze guard. "I guess schools back in the day had really nice chalkboards," Bleskacek says. "It's not just painted on but solid slate."  Photo by: Peter BelangerCourtesy of: Peter Belanger Photography
    For the counter, Bleskacek and Siu collaborated with Mark Hamilton, co-founder of Hamilton and Schwarzhoff. "He had, lying around under all this dust, these 16-inch-long pieces of wood used to impart oak flavor into wine aged in stainless steel barrels much like tea sticks," Bleskacek recalls. "They're just throw-away pieces but we had them resurfaced, planed, and tongue and grooved." Hamilton used two-inch-thick marble for the counter (believe to have come from a former U.S. Postal Service office) and slate from an old school house for the sneeze guard. "I guess schools back in the day had really nice chalkboards," Bleskacek says. "It's not just painted on but solid slate."

    Photo by: Peter Belanger

    Courtesy of: Peter Belanger Photography

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  At the end of the dining room, an image by Kelli Yon hangs above the counter. "She's a local artist we like who traveled around this spring to photograph local farms," Bleskacek says. "We tried to find something with a plow but we loved this beautiful picture of the old, dilapidated, red barn and the flowers in the front."  Photo by: Peter BelangerCourtesy of: Peter Belanger Photography
    At the end of the dining room, an image by Kelli Yon hangs above the counter. "She's a local artist we like who traveled around this spring to photograph local farms," Bleskacek says. "We tried to find something with a plow but we loved this beautiful picture of the old, dilapidated, red barn and the flowers in the front."

    Photo by: Peter Belanger

    Courtesy of: Peter Belanger Photography

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  The food reflects the rural, laid-back atmosphere Bleskacek and Siu attempt to imbue. Buttermilk biscuits, scones, and other baked goods are all made in house with organic ingredients. "It's classic American breakfast that's seasonal, local, and simply prepared," Bleskacek says.  Photo by: Peter Belanger
    The food reflects the rural, laid-back atmosphere Bleskacek and Siu attempt to imbue. Buttermilk biscuits, scones, and other baked goods are all made in house with organic ingredients. "It's classic American breakfast that's seasonal, local, and simply prepared," Bleskacek says.

    Photo by: Peter Belanger

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  Bleskacek and Siu don't plan on opening the restaurant for dinner: "We have two young children and don't want them to divorce us," Bleskacek says. The duo has, however, already sold out three of their first four monthly winemakers dinners, informal family-style gatherings that will feature "platters of food, no menus, lots of food, and lots of wine," Bleskacek says.  Photo by: Peter BelangerCourtesy of: Peter Belanger Photography
    Bleskacek and Siu don't plan on opening the restaurant for dinner: "We have two young children and don't want them to divorce us," Bleskacek says. The duo has, however, already sold out three of their first four monthly winemakers dinners, informal family-style gatherings that will feature "platters of food, no menus, lots of food, and lots of wine," Bleskacek says.

    Photo by: Peter Belanger

    Courtesy of: Peter Belanger Photography

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  The sign outside was fabricated by Iron Maverick's Ron Lester and evokes the setting inside. Plow opened September 22 and serves breakfast and lunch Tuesday-Friday from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.  Photo by: Peter BelangerCourtesy of: Peter Belanger Photography
    The sign outside was fabricated by Iron Maverick's Ron Lester and evokes the setting inside. Plow opened September 22 and serves breakfast and lunch Tuesday-Friday from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.

    Photo by: Peter Belanger

    Courtesy of: Peter Belanger Photography

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