10/23/2012 12:00:00 PM

Q&A: Nicole Krasinski of Top Newcomer State Bird Provisions

Nicole Krasinski (right) with her husband Stuart Brioza (left)
Together with her kitchen and life partner Stuart Brioza, Nicole Krasinski’s first indie restaurant State Bird Provisions was voted #1 Top Newcomer in the just-released 2013 Zagat Survey San Francisco Bay Area Restaurant Guide. We caught up with Krasinski to see how she and her team are feeling after being recognized by our surveyors and hear what she thinks about the evolution of the San Francisco dining scene. Check out our chat with her below.

Zagat: You and Stuart are hardly newcomers to the restaurant industry. You’ve both worked in the business for over twenty years so this is not your first rodeo. Has there been something different about opening your very own restaurant?

Nicole Krasinski: Stuart and I always knew that someday we’d have our own place but we didn’t want to do it early in our careers. We wanted to get a solid foundation of working in restaurants before we opened our own, even if it meant cooking in a way that wasn't our hardcore passion. For instance, when we took over Tapawingo in Michigan, it had already been open for 15 years and we had to work within certain parameters. Again at Rubicon, it was such a wine-driven place and the food needed to be a certain way to fit the wine, the room and the clientele. There’s so much non-cooking related stuff to learn about running a place.

Zagat: In what way is State Bird Provisions more a mirror of your personal vision?

Krasinski: We love interacting with customers. A lot of chefs don’t. But because of the way the restaurant in set up, you have to walk by the kitchen to get to the dining room so we get to say hi to you on the way in and the way out. It’s really a thrill for us.

Zagat: You worked at Rubicon back in its heyday, from 2004 until it closed in 2008. Do you think the San Francisco dining scene changed since then?

Krasinski: There’s been an enormous amount of change. The biggest one is the media - the whole rise of the Internet, blogs, Twitter, etc. None of that was around back then. We don’t read the reviews (someone else does that for us) but we really enjoy engaging with our community online by taking pictures of new dishes and tweeting about them. We love to follow other chefs doing that too.  

Zagat: What do you see is the biggest dining trend in San Francisco right now?

Krasinski: These days, whether it’s fine dining or casual, everything chefs are doing is personal. Whether it’s James Syhabout at Commis or Evan and Sarah Rich at Rich Table, it feels more grassroots. It used to be all about fine-dining establishments owned by a high-profile restaurateur or a big restaurant group. But young chefs are feeling more empowered to do their own personal thing, to find their own niche.

Zagat: The stretch of Fillmore Street where State Bird is located hasn’t traditionally been a hot neighborhood for dining out. What attracted you to open a place in this neck of the woods versus Downtown where Rubicon was located?

Krasinski: We were excited to be part of an area that is changing and expanding and we’re happy to help bring more life into it. And of course, the rent is cheaper too. So there is a practical reason as well as a philosophical one. Plus, it’s really on the border of other popular neighborhoods as well such as Pacific Heights. But the neighborhood has really embraced us. 

Zagat: Did you ever imagine that you and Stuart would open a dim-sum style restaurant? 

Krasinski: No, back then you could never imagine an idea like that working. Stuart did his externship at the Park Ave Cafe in Chicago in 1996 where David Burke did a dim sum brunch. We always thought that it would be a fun idea for a bar someday. What happened was that we originally signed a lease for The Progress, which is a much larger space but we realized that it was going to take a lot more time to build out because it requires a change of use. (It’s a historic theater). Since we knew that was going to take at least 1.5 years and we could get right into this tiny spot, we decided to go for something more playful and casual.  

Zagat: How has winning all these newcomer accolades affected State Bird Provisions? 

Krasinski: We were already busy. Then that happened and it changed the game entirely. 

Zagat: So once guests do manage get in, what’s required eating?

Krasinski: The menu changes all the time but I’d say any of the pancakes, the fried quail, curry lamb, peanut milk and the ice cream sandwich.

For more on not-to-be-missed State Bird Provisions dishes, check out this recent blog post. And don't forget to follow all of our SF Bay Area guide launch coverage on social media using hashtag #ZagatSF2013.


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