Talk about a public caning. Amid the trumpets and fireworks and cherubs and whatever else Pat Kuleto has thrown money at to celebrate the opening of Waterbar and Epic Roasthouse on the Embarcadero, San Francisco Chronicle urban design writer John King took him and his new restaurants to the mat in an A-1 story that rips into the new buildings like massive, inky fingers popping a zit on the city’s forehead:
It’s all grand atmospheric fun, especially if you can afford a $45 strip steak or a $75 dish of Maine lobster. But drop these stage sets into Rincon Park on San Francisco’s downtown waterfront, and they become something else: incongruous impositions on a landscape that doesn’t need to be gussied up.
Whatever knee-jerk reaction you may have to the NIMBY-ism that prevents a lot of development from taking place in this city, you have to admit that these two buildings–reportedly the first newly constructed restaurant-only buildings in the city in more than 100 years, really are in your backyard. They were built in a public park along a public waterfront, so their interaction with the public–and not just the high-end dining public–should come to the fore of the discussion. For all the inane discussion it will spur, King has done the city a service by walking up to the elephant in the room and yanking on its trunk.
There will likely be some formal reviews of the restaurants’ food in the coming weeks, after which we can start to get a more fully fleshed impression of how the press likes them. So far, the public has chimed in with mixed reviews of both, mostly enjoying the food and views but griping about the service.
Meanwhile, King makes some pretty solid and easily implementable suggestions on how to improve the relationship between the new private space and existing public space. If Mr. Kuleto doesn’t want his new babies to be relegated to a grudgingly received tourist trap, he should probably take note.