Located in the heart of downtown San Francisco, Bluestem Restaurant and Market celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, bringing it past the peak of the pandemic and re-emerging as a strong, all-inclusive one-stop-shop for hungry restaurant-seeking guests. experience, whether it’s a quick lunch at noon or a five-course dinner.
With a menu focused on using the highest quality ingredients Northern California has to offer, combined with the global diversity of cultures and tastes that San Francisco is known for, Bluestem offers diners a unique selection of shared plates. The new menu draws inspiration from the many culinary traditions and techniques that were brought to the city by waves of immigration that spanned more than two centuries.
“Bluestem has always been committed to local and sustainable cuisine,” says Adam Jed, co-founder of Bluestem Restaurant & Market. “When reopening, we chose to focus on California’s coastal cuisine, the ingredients that grow here, and the cultural impact of the many waves of immigration that have shaped the region today.”
On the other side of the restaurant is the Bluestem craft market. The market’s products are inspired by their chef’s pantry, offering a carefully curated snapshot of the Bay Area’s incredible community of local artisans. Guests can look forward to freshly baked Cinnamon Crunch Babka muffins by Pastry Chef Laurie Baker, made in limited quantities each morning, Nespresso coffee, cold-pressed juices and health drinks, sandwiches, salads, appetizers, prepared foods, pantry staples including handmade coffee and seafood. salt, as well as a vegan soft serve.
We caught up with Adam Jed, co-founder of Bluestem Restaurant & Market, to talk about restaurants that are 10 years old, new menus and market offerings, and more. That’s what he had to say.
Last year, Bluestem celebrated its 10th anniversary – how has the institution changed since the opening? How has it grown and changed over the last decade?
The core spirit of Bluestem has remained unchanged over the years. We are focused on farmers and ranchers who practice sustainable practices, focusing on those that bring only the highest quality ingredients and share our spirit at the forefront of our culinary vision.
Over the past decade, Bluestem has continued to improve not only its menu, but also the way we offer our products.
Tell us about the new market and offers.
The canteen consumer has changed a lot over the years and our mission remains to welcome these guests wherever they are. We recently introduced a marketplace featuring the ingredients we use to create our seasonal menu, giving our guests the opportunity to take home (or donate) unique ingredients that can enhance any cuisine. We’ve also added a “deli” section with fresh takeaways and side dishes for takeaway or delivery.
At the restaurant, we’ve added upgraded features, an oyster bar, and BAOninis, our fresh take on San Francisco street food. We have “opened” the space; the addition of live plants and the new layout provide a more spacious and comfortable floor plan. We have also added the ability for our guests to order and pay at the table by implementing QR technology and order when ready.
Many of our menu items are now lighter, with more emphasis on vegetables, nuts and seeds than ever before; because it is a diet that supports a more resilient ecosystem. We have also redesigned our menu so we can serve guests faster and cross-use ingredients in our restaurant and market so we can help reduce food waste.
Bluestem has been hit hard, like most restaurants during the pandemic. How did you overcome this period of time and what did you need to turn around in order to stay afloat?
During the pandemic, the entire San Francisco Bay Area was affected. Many of the changes we’ve seen over the past two years are no different from those many other businesses have experienced in that time, and it’s up to us to figure out how to meet the new demand.
Due to the pandemic, we have had the opportunity to take a deep dive into the many challenges we face in the hospitality industry and use it as an opportunity to challenge our beliefs and explore ways to improve the industry. We have changed our pay model from tipping to an on-menu pricing structure that includes tips and implementing a Bluestem profit sharing split among all employees.
We also guarantee our teammates full time, 40 hours a week, with healthcare, dental, vision, 401K, financial planning services, and programs such as AFLAC to help in case of such unforeseen situations. We train our employees to take on more responsibility and learn important tasks to prepare them for the future (wherever they go), additionally making everyone stronger teammates.
It costs the business more financially, but we know that everyone needs the opportunity to actively develop their own personal growth plans, and everyone helps make the restaurant even better.
What was the inspiration for the menu? Menu highlights? Tell us about your new daily brunch menu – why brunch and why change?
We focus on Northern California coastal food, working with local organic farmers, ranchers and producers to showcase local products and recognizing how many different waves of immigration have shaped our food system.
We realized that with so many people working from home, mealtimes aren’t as regimented as they used to be, so we switched to an all-day menu. Given that brunch has always been a favorite mealtime and people love our brunch options, we wanted to make a selection of products available all day – every day.
Menu highlights include our signature BAOnini, which we created to offer delicious and portable food that can be enjoyed on the go, tailoring the tastes we know and love. Others include a crispy pork belly sandwich, decadent truffle grilled cheese, and kimchi corn pancakes; and, of course, the two items we couldn’t take off our menu were our brown butter honey butter cornbread and our Honolulu hangover cake.
What can guests expect when dining here, unlike other eateries in the city center?
By putting the ability to order in the hands of each guest, we can now tailor experiences to meet exactly when our visitors are looking for, when they are ready for it. By loosening up the traditional approach to table reservations, we were able to offer a more family-friendly style of service.
We’re selling a crazy amount of oysters right now. But what really sets us apart is that we are open all day and you can customize your own experience, you can come and go in 10 minutes or you can order a 3 course lunch to pair with drinks. Here you can eat or take something with you. You can stop by for drinks and desserts after your visit to the museum, or grab a bite to eat in front of the theater before a performance or ballet.
Tell us about the cocktail list and popular snacks
Like our food, our cocktails use local, seasonal ingredients inspired by California cuisine and the people who settled here. One of the popular drinks is Bravocado with rum, avocado, citrus, mint and fine herbs.
Another option is Cioppino, inspired by San Francisco’s iconic seafood stew. It’s like a lighter, clarified bloody mary with tequila, mezcal, salted tomato water, lime, clam juice, and hot serrano peppers.
Is there anything new in the works for the rest of the season?
Our menu is seasonal, so we are working on new dishes. We are also working on introducing new items for our retail market, especially as we head into the summer we want to offer more takeaways that you can enjoy outside, whether it’s spending time at Crissy Field or having a picnic in the local park. We will have marinated grilled meats, our own barbecue sauce, a collection of salads, side dishes and hot sauces, as well as cookies and cakes to take away.