Noe Valley Voice February 2009

Store Trek

By Lorraine Sanders

Store Trek is a regular feature of the Noe Valley Voice, profiling new stores and businesses in Noe Valley. This month, we introduce a Chinese restaurant on Church and a 24th Street store whose racks are filled with discounted designer clothes for men, women, and children.

Henry's Hunan Restaurant
1708 Church Street (between Day and 29th streets)

The next time you need living proof that families can, in fact, work harmoniously together, make a visit to Upper Noe, where Henry's Hunan has become the latest destination for hungry seekers of Hunan-style Chinese fare.

Opened Nov. 22 in the space formerly occupied by the short-lived Pescheria, the Church Street outpost of the locally owned chain is run by brothers Jeff and Eddie Zhu. They are the grandsons of Henry and Diana Chung, who opened the first Henry's Hunan location in 1974 at 853 Kearny Street. (Just three years later, the Chungs had earned an official proclamation of praise from former Mayor George Moscone for serving food "distinguished by its consistent excellence, its unique combination of seasonings, and its sturdy, robust character.")

Today, there are a total of four Henry's Hunan restaurants doling out fast, inexpensive Chinese fare in downtown San Francisco. Each is run by one of the Zhu brothers' immediate family members or cousins. The Noe Valley eatery is the family's fifth venture.

"Working with family, you work harder because you consider it family. On the other hand, you have more control, you can be more open," Jeff says.

After working for years at the downtown restaurants, brothers Jeff and Eddie welcomed the opportunity to venture out into the neighborhoods.

"Noe Valley is a very nice place," Jeff explains.

Before opening, the Zhus made minor adjustments to the restaurant's kitchen, but did little to change the dining room. There are new red, pendant lights above the bar, but Pescheria patrons will notice that the bar's tiling and the dining room's wooden tables, silver chairs, and seating scheme remain unaltered.

The menu, featuring the highly spiced dishes rooted in China's northern Hunan province, offers 81 items, ranging from appetizers, like onion cakes ($2.50) and dumplings ($5.50), to such entrees as Kung Pao Tofu ($8) and Beef with Broccoli ($8.95).

What makes the cuisine stand out?

According to Eddie, "Nice healthy food for people, lots of good ingredients. It's nothing really fancy. It's fast-cooked and fresh ingredients."

Adds Jeff, "We don't use any preservatives or coloring."

The most popular items, Eddie testifies, are numbers 59, 53 and 56 (Chicken and String Beans, $8.95; Henry's Special Seafood, $10.50; and Curry Chicken, $8.95). Henry's also offers soups like won-ton and hot-and-sour (both $6), and three cold Hunan salads--bean sprout, eggplant, and chicken--for $6 to $7.75.

In mid-January, the restaurant added a lunch menu with rice plates ($6.95 to $7.25), noodle dishes ($6 to $8.50), and fried rice varieties ($6.50 to $8.25).

In the coming months, the restaurant is pondering the addition of local delivery. It also plans to have the back patio open for dining by summer.

Henry's Hunan is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Cary Lane
3813 24th Street (at Church)

In recent years, the ladies have pretty much cornered the market on fashion along 24th Street. Guys seeking items other than bikes, glasses, or the odd pair of shoes have had to leave the neighborhood to satisfy their wardrobe needs.

All that changed on Nov. 28, when a boutique called Cary Lane opened on 24th near Church, in the storefront where Noe Valley Natural Foods (and Jim and Son's Produce) once stood. Carrying designer labels at deep discounts 20 to 60 percent off the original retail price, the shop stocks an ever-changing array of men's apparel, from names like Addict, Ted Baker, and Zegna, to Hyden Yoo and Artificial Flavor.

"Everything is [priced at] wholesale or way below wholesale," notes co-owner Cary LaScala, whose middle name is Lane.

Women and kids shouldn't feel left out, though. Along with the menswear, the store has children's clothing by Japanese label Evisu and an array of women's labels, including Quail, Joie, Paige Denim, Chip & Pepper, and Loeffler Randall. Shoes, hats, scarves, and personal care products like Claus Porto soaps and Jack Black Beard Lube are displayed throughout the store.

"I'm going to be carrying a lot of basics for guys and girls. The inventory is always changing, new inventory is always coming in and out. I try to make it very easy to shop. I don't like clutter," says LaScala, who has transformed the former market by laying down bamboo flooring, constructing racks from pipes, building fitting rooms, and painting the walls a pale robin's-egg blue.

A former buyer for several major department stores--and a serious drummer who has played with numerous bands including members of the Foo Fighters--LaScala co-owns the store with Jeff Saltzman, a record producer whose credits include recording and co-producing the Hot Fuss album for the popular band the Killers and ongoing work with the band Fischerspooner.

On Tuesdays, the two owners shut down the store and record music in a back studio space. Every other day of the week, LaScala opens the store for its intended purpose: selling clothes on the cheap.

"You can get great quality clothes for practically pennies on the dollar," he says.

The store has regular sales, which residents can find out about by signing up online for the e-mail list. During a recent sale, LaScala priced men's Apolis Activism T-shirts that normally retail for $60 at $26, further discounted them to $19, and then offered another 40 percent off, bringing the final tag to $11.60.

"The concept here is that we're buying samples and past-season items, so we're able to sell [them] really cheap," LaScala explains.

And while the prices may be cheap, don't expect the aesthetic to follow suit.

"I handpick everything in here. It's basically like my taste," he says.

The store is open Monday, and Wednesday through Friday, from noon to 7 p.m.; on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.