On August 20th, the casual Latin American restaurant, The New Spot, closed its doors after ten years of operating from 632 20th Street. According to co-owner, Gilberth Cab, he was unable to renegotiate his lease with the property’s landlord.
Months after The New Spot’s 2006 opening, a San Francisco Chronicle reviewer described the establishment as a “small restaurant” that offered a “mix of Mexican and Salvadoran cuisine” with some “surprisingly exotic” and “harder-to-find dishes.” At the time, a menu item cost less than ten dollars. Prices remained affordable until the end; when the restaurant closed in August the most expensive entrée cost $15.
Cab, a former pig farmer from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, learned to cook from his grandmother. After moving to San Francisco, he worked at the American Industrial Center’s Jolt ‘n Bolt Cafe for a decade before launching The New Spot with his wife, Julia Rivera Posada. Their restaurant was a longtime lunch favorite among Dogpatch workers and, later, with the neighborhood’s residential growth, found success as a dinner destination.
Growing more ambitious, the couple opened the nearby sandwich shop, Oralia’s, in 2009—a victim, in Cab’s view, of the Great Recession—and then, in 2012, on the same Third Street business corridor, the full service restaurant Gilberth’s Rotisserie and Grill, which prompted a critic from the San Francisco Examiner to proclaim that she “had never eaten a finer $10 lunch.”
Operations continue at Gilberth’s, which, in the wake of The New Spot’s shuttering, has absorbed portions of the earlier endeavor’s menu. “We’ve started to see a lot more familiar faces from The New Spot coming into Gilberth’s,” Cab noted.
Rebranded Gilberth’s Latin Fusion Restaurant, Cab’s new vision for the eatery at 2427 Third Street reflects a merger between the chic, seasonal pan-Latin American cuisine that has characterized his eponymous restaurant since its opening and The New Spot’s simpler fare. “We’ve still got the burritos, tacos, and all of the goodies from The New Spot here at Gilberth’s Latin Fusion,” he said. “We’re not gone. We’re still here in the neighborhood.”
The New Spot will survive, additionally, as a catering company, but according to Cab, its fate on 20th Street was sealed when its landlord decided that “they had different plans for the building.”
“We were willing to pay the amount they were asking. It’s just that they wanted someone else in the building,” Cab explained. “We offered everything they wanted. They just didn’t want us there.”
The new 632 20th Street tenants will be another husband-and-wife team, Michael and Stephanie Gaines, who plan to open the taco shop and margarita bar, Glena’s, in early 2017. Mr. Gaines cooked for the fine-dining landmarks Manresa and Central Kitchen before winning acclaim as the opening chef for the Michelin-starred Thai restaurant Kin Khao.
The couple resides in Potrero Hill and commented that they “love the neighborhood,” the restaurants in Dogpatch, and especially Olivier’s, the Illinois Street butchery from which The New Spot often sourced its meat, as Gilberth’s still does.
For their part, Cab and Posada plan to continue honing their restaurant concept at Gilberth’s, with a goal to create “a business model that works for us and for our customers.” They could conceivably open a second location in the future. For now, however, they simply hope to build “a business that is successful; it’s busy, and it’s for everyone, not just owners of companies; it’s for everyone.”