Pair of restaurants set to make history

Two restaurants will make history this weekend when they open their doors.

Epic Roasthouse and Waterbar are the first free-standing structures to be built solely for culinary purposes in The City in more than 100 years, said Pat Kuleto, the chief restaurateur behind both buildings.

“I think these will be two of the best restaurants of their kind in America,” Kuleto said. “We’re at the best location in San Francisco and we have some of the very best chefs in the country.”

Erecting the buildings adjacent to each other at 369 and 399 Embarcadero did not come cheap. According to Kuleto, construction costs for the structures totaled $8 million, while interior work alone cost an additional $12 million.

In total, 75 backers helped finance the project, Kuleto said. Despite the high costs, Kuleto said the buildings, located near Rincon Park, were worth the price.

The menu at Epic Roasthouse will feature classic steakhouse staples, while Waterbar is based around seafood.

Kuleto said he has known the primary chefs involved with the restaurants — Mark Franz and Parke Ulrich at Waterbar, and Jan Birnbaum at Epic — for 15 years. He said the idea of bringing two free-standing buildings to The Embarcadero has been in the works for five years.

“It seemed like there was an endless amount of red tape,” Kuleto said. “I can’t tell you how excited I am to get started.”

The two restaurants will co-host a private party Saturday, before jointly opening their doors to the public Tuesday, according to Kuleto.

Located near Pier 38 on the southern stretch of The Embarcadero, the restaurants will share a 6,500-square-foot patio. The diversity in their menus made them a natural fit for their side-by-side location, said Franz, the Waterbar chef.

“It’s kind of daunting to be here, so it was nice to have input on who would be next to us,” Franz said. “To have a great chef like Jan Birnbaum working right next door is amazing, and it’s a brother-sister competition between the two places because we offer such different types of food.”

Kevin Westlye, executive president of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, said he was confident the restaurants will be successful.

“It shows that they’re truly willing to put it all on the line,” Westlye said. “I believe they’re going to be a big hit. Pat’s designs are always outstanding, and he has some really talented chefs working with him.”

wreisman@examiner.com

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