As was shown by the Gold Rush, the Dot-Com Boom and further emphasized by the Property Boom, San Francisco has always been in a constant state of entrepreneurial flux. Over 15 years ago, this kind of spirit must have been the reason for the vision a couple of people had when they looked upon Belden Place. It was for all purposes, an alley. The kind of place you prefer not to walk through and only frequented regularly by garbage collectors. Not the kind of setting people would take friends for an evening of Epicurean delight. But, Eric Klein and Olivier Azancot saw a place to open Cafe Bastille in 1990.
Following Bastille’s slow, but inevitably popular growth, Cafe Tiramisu opened a year later and then Plouf five years after that. With so many places in such a small area, Belden was quickly filling up. Don’t forget that Sam’s had already claimed the Bush corner spot 40 years previous, anchoring the Continental flights of fancy with great American favorites. Catalan contender B44 opened in 1999 and Voda starting mixing drinks in 2003 to close in 2009 and be replaced by Sauce.
Brindisi Cucina di Mare was one of the last to open in 2004. It anchored the other end of Belden on Pine and mockingly posed the question as to whether this was French or Italian territory. Of course the simple answer in that there’s no mistake about it being French. You can see that every July 14th when they have their annual Bastille Day celebration.
And so here we are, a long way from a dank service road to a strip of restaurants that light the palate with creation, feed the soul with wine, and make the San Francisco sky come alive, fog or not, with a net of playful lights over the 300 outdoor seats. But don’t be confused if people call it Belden Alley, Belden Lane, or Belden Street, because they are all talking about the same delicious spot: Belden Place.