With nearly twenty years of experience owning or operating restaurants throughout San Francisco, Jocelyn Bulow has learned how to spot the City’s next foodie trend. Beginning with his first partnership, Plouf on Belden Place, when he was just 26, Bulow has followed a set formula regardless of restaurant type or neighborhood location. Launch an eatery, ride the popularity wave as long as it lasts, when things aren’t working, bail or change track before the business goes too far south. After attempts in Cow Hollow and Hayes Valley, Bulow found his most sustained success in Potrero Hill.
Bulow isn’t afraid to try new cuisines. He started with seafood, and moved through Italian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, French and almost a sushi spot. His newest 18th Street project, Dat Spot, capitalizes on the popularity of rotisserie and American comfort food.
Bulow is from Nice, France, which is known for its hospitality, cuisine and liberal attitude. He’s called the San Francisco Bay Area home since 1991. “My dream has always been to recreate and share the dining experiences I had as a child in the South of France,” Bulow was quoted as saying in the San Francisco Chronicle.
A scan of his online evaluations suggests that he’s brought the warm hospitality and tasty food he remembers from his youth to San Francisco. According to a Yelp review of Chez Maman, on 18th Street, “There’s no disputing CM is a bona fide gem. Cozy, relaxed, and romantic. Service and food were above par, despite being constantly packed. Props.” Another hungry Chez Maman critic who dined on October 31 stated, “One good thing about Halloween: the lines at popular restaurants are shorter. My party of three waited for 30 minutes, which is less than the usual one to two hours that most people report.”
Bulow seems to have tapped into the Hill’s community-oriented spirit with a series of cozy restaurants, which includes Papito on Connecticut Street. As Molly Ditmore stated last year in The Bold Italic, “Living in Potrero Hill feels like keeping a secret. There are no undiscovered neighborhoods in San Francisco, but residents of the Hill have something special. Perched on the southeast side of the City, it’s on the way to nowhere.”
Yet while Bulow has burrowed deep into the Hill’s food psyche, he hasn’t been particularly community-minded. He’s had disputes with other neighborhood merchants, over such things as sidewalk benches. “None of the Bulow restaurants are members of PDMA,” Keith Goldstein, Potrero-Dogpatch Merchants Association president stated. “Chez Papa joined when they first moved to Potrero Hill, but never renewed despite many efforts on our part to get them to become involved. Papito joined briefly, rather cynically when they needed assistance with a permit for sidewalk tables. They have never attended a PDMA meeting.”
Goldstein was quick to point-out that Bulow isn’t alone in declining to join PDMA; many other local businesses aren’t members either, including Sunflower Vietnamese Restaurant, Umi, and Mochica Peruvian Kitchen & Bar. “Perhaps we should hope for more from the Bulow group with so many locations on the Hill,” he said, noting that rumor has it that Bulow will be opening another eatery on the southeast corner of 18th and Missouri streets, a space that housed The Voice Studio for many years. Bulow declined to comment for this article.
Bulow’s menus often feature items that aren’t in season. Instead, Das Spot’s focus on comfort is exhibited by such offerings as Grandma’s bread pudding, meatloaf and clams casino. As one Yelp reviewer recently stated of the new eatery, “There’s literally something comforting about finding a solid place for “comfort” food.” According to another Yelp review, “The food was excellent, and a terrific value; the husband and I rarely have a date night for less than $100.”