The Carnival Comes to Hayes Valley

by Jessie Allen-Young

At 203 Octavia, a neighborhood restaurant space under new ownership has a remod- eled look with new festive food. Naomi Beck (executive chef), Ari Feingold (restaurant consultant) and Greg Kaye (marketing guru) co-own Straw, a restaurant that serves up fancy California-style sandwiches and salads with carnival flair. Each month they feature a special menu with food themed on famous carnivals. Through February, you’ll find fare inspired by the New Orleans Jazz Heritage festival.

The partnership and sweat equity of Naomi, Ari and Greg pulled together a restaurant with a creative physical space and menu. They recruited friends and family to sculpt the restaurant’s look and feel. Their help ranged from Karl Langer, the contractor and Naomi’s husband, to a friend who took haunting photographs of Coney Island which are displayed on one wall. They’ve used classic book covers to house their menus and their collection of yard-sale-type finds were transformed into light fixtures and bar decor. The owners even hunted down and trucked across country a salvaged Tilt-a-Whirl booth which a few lucky diners get to sit in. They commissioned local artist Hugh Leeman to hand-paint their exterior sign.

For the community, Straw is donating ten percent of their food sales from Mondays to local non-profits. For the first four Mondays they will be supporting Hayes Valley Farm, with the second non-profit being Spark. The owners also partnered with the Gethsemane Church on Page Street. They donated cooking equipment that they wouldn’t need for Straw to the Church’s kitchen, and Naomi and the kitchen staff cooked up a Thanksgiving turkey dinner that fed over one hundred people at the Church.

Straw serves dinner every night, with weekend brunch and lunch. If you can’t get a table inside the carnival themed restaurant right away, they encourage patrons to stop next door at Mercury Cafe. Straw provides take-out, delivery and catering. Visit them at Octavia and Page or on the web at