After just seven months open in the Castro, Criolla Kitchen's original owners have sold the business, and the new owners (and new chef?) have quietly installed an abbreviated, Louisiana-influenced menu that is nonetheless very different, and pricier, than the original one created by chef-partner Randy Lewis. The restaurant's not answering its phone at this time, despite the fact that they should be open for lunch, and we've been unable to confirm Lewis's departure, however the menu change (see below) and some less-than-stellar fried chicken (according to a tipster) leads us to believe he may be out of the picture.
A server mentioned that the previous owners, which included Stephen Weber, Stephen H. White, and Michael Patterson, had run into some financial trouble. The situation remains somewhat curious, and the once extensive menu has been reduced to just a few appetizers and main courses. Chicken and waffles remain on the menu, but not with the various gravy options, and in place of the "soul food plates" are now things like braised lamb shoulder, and Liberty Farm duck with root veggies and herb dumplings (both recently featured specials). Prices are notably steeper, which may not fly with the clientele who have already warmed to the place as it was.
Solid reviews from Patty Unterman and Paul Reidinger remain posted outside, and the hush-hush nature of the switch may be designed (however misguidedly) to avoid the perception that the place has changed at all. As of December 18, Lewis was still twittering about his cochon de lait, and we're attempting to get a hold of him to find out what we can. His name remains all over the Facebook page, and the restaurant's website hasn't been updated since its "coming soon" days last May. Note they are no longer open for weekday lunch, and their newly posted hours are 5:30 to 10 p.m., with weekend brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Prior to relocating to San Francisco, Lewis was named one of Food & Wine's Best New Chefs in 2001 for his work at New Orleans restaurant Indigo. He's since done stints at Mecca and the Tavern at Lark Creek.
File under: Developing.
Update: Chef Randy Lewis remains on board at the restaurant, and is responsible for the menu shift. Here's the current, interim menu, and after a brief remodel there will be a new, slightly more upscale menu coming down the pike.