Exclusive: First Look Inside Central Kitchen, Opening Thursday
The tables are set…

The most anticipated restaurant opening of the year so far comes this Thursday, May 10, and it’s called Central Kitchen. As we’ve told you many times previously over the last year, the restaurant is the slightly more upscale spinoff of Flour + Water, and it’s just up the street at the corner of 20th and Florida. The dining room is half indoors, and half outdoors, with a patio that will be heated from both above and below, with radiant heat beneath the concrete. And the concept is all Northern California, but with the added refinement of executive chef Thomas McNaughton’s deft hand, and chef de cuisine Michael Gaines experience as a sous chef at Manresa. We’ve got a first glimpse inside the finished restaurant just as the crew was being trained and the kitchen was preparing for their first test dinner.

Patio seating was still not set up when we visited, so we’ll hopefully add a couple of shots of that later. But suffice it to say it’s a pretty space that will ultimately be covered to protect diners from the elements. The indoor-outdoor design lends a Californian feel, and the cloistered patio area, with built-in plantings and a small water feature, will make for a cozy dining experience.

The menu, which you can see below, is a tight eleven dishes, with only one meat dish, a couple of fish and poultry dishes, and an emphasis on seasonal spring vegetables. As McNaughton told Grub Street earlier, the inspiration for the food is the ongoing evolution of Northern Californian cuisine, including contemporary restaurants at the forefront like Saison, Coi, and Manresa. “We want to be part of that conversation,” he said, but obviously with a lower price point. The menu will be evolving as the restaurant grows, and changing seasonally, of course. All the dishes are under $30, but it’s separated into three savory sections, not unlike Frances’s menu, encouraging you perhaps to sample from each. There’s also a five-course tasting menu option for the whole table for $79 per person, with a $40 optional beverage pairing. And as we mentioned previously, desserts will be done by former Jardinière pastry chef Lisa Lu.

Check out the photos below, and reservations should be available by phone or via the website starting Thursday.

Opening Dinner Menu

Central Kitchen - 782 Florida Street at 20th - 415.565.7003 - Opening May 10 for dinner only.

Earlier: Mission Blow-Up: Central Kitchen to Open Thursday; West of Pecos Delayed Until Next Week
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It’s fitting, given the name, that the open kitchen and pass are the focus of the room. The rear of the building and upstairs also contain large prep kitchen facilities and a whole-animal butchery facility which will be shared by Flour + Water.
There is a dining counter and beverage station at one end of the main dining room.
And yes, there will be wine on tap.
The tension was rising as the hours counted down to opening.
McNaughton coaches the crew, including Gaines (right).
Candle labels were made using pages from a vintage California cookbook.
The front entrance, off of 20th Street, will look like a non-descript steel door when the restaurant’s closed. The door folds open to the right and you enter through the patio.
Exclusive: First Look Inside Central Kitchen, Opening Thursday