Little Gem in Hayes Valley is a big, bright neighborhood gem. They’ve only been open since December 2015, but it’s one of those places that makes me wish I lived even closer. I’d be there all the time – breakfast, lunch, dinner. It’s just the kind of vibe that makes you feel welcomed at “home”.
During the day, the contemporary space’s expansive windows shine a glowing natural light upon the entire restaurant interior. You order at the counter and are given a number on a pastel ombré piece of reclaimed wood before choosing a seat at a barstool or table.
The menu is gluten, dairy and sugar free. I tend to mostly cook this way at home, so even before my visit, many friends and colleagues asked me if I had tried Little Gem yet. They knew it was a place that mixed in well with my daily at-home lifestyle and I was pleased when I finally visited. The people and space had a sincere, warm energy and the menu ingredients are all mindfully sourced from local farmers and artisans. It’s always refreshing to have a place that shows healthy, high quality dining options can also be affordable and satisfying.
Founders Eric Lilavois, John DiFazio and Chef Dave Cruz were all physically and presently working at the restaurant behind the counter and in the kitchen during my lunch visit. Lilavois was most recently the Chief Operating Officer for the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group so it’s no surprise that Little Gem, although approachable and casual, had a clear and polished professionalism about it.
Napa Valley Honey Lemonade prepared with local Marshall’s Farm Honey
Window view of Chef Dave Cruz in the Little Gem kitchen. Before this new endeavor, Chef Cruz worked at several restaurants in New York and California including serving as the opening chef for Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc in Yountville.
Grilled Trumpet Mushrooms on Beans & Rice w Rancho Gordo beans, Tuscan kale, tomato-bacon stew.
Mixed Vegetable Flatbread with caramelized carrots, cauliflower, broccolini, kale, almond-onion puree
Asparagus & Radish Salad with pea shoots, soft boiled egg, romaine lettuce, celery, green goddess dressing and addition of King Salmon