After operating the iconic Portfolio Coffeehouse on Retro Row for over 32 years, Kerstin Kansteiner is ready for something new.
Earlier this year, Kansteiner shuttered her two beloved restaurants, Portfolio Coffeehouse and Berlin Bistro, and is now merging those two concepts into a new space she’s calling Alder & Sage. Located in the Bluff Heights neighborhood at 366 Cherry Ave., Alder & Sage will bring the same welcoming, community feel to Retro Row with a brand new look.
Work is currently underway to renovate the space, and Kansteiner is hoping to open Alder & Sage in mid-December.
The story behind the new restaurant is all in the name.
The mid-century building that the new restaurant will now occupy used to be home to a preschool, with ample space on the inside and in the backyard where children used to run around and play. Kansteiner wanted to keep the elements of the old building in her design as well—large windows, exposed alder wood and even an old sand pit in the backyard that will be turned into a ’70s-style conversation pit where customers can lounge.
As for the sage, Kansteiner said it comes from the experience she went through with Portfolio over the past few years.
“I felt like I needed some sage-ing after the process I went through,” said Kansteiner.
Portfolio Coffeehouse closed its doors on July 31 after a lengthy landlord dispute and a four-year legal battle over what she argued were unfair rent increases that ultimately ended up costing both sides more than $200,000 combined in legal fees.
The legal battle ended in June 2021 with Portfolio’s lease being extended for one more year, forcing Kansteiner to say goodbye to her business on the southeast corner of Fourth Street and Junipero Avenue.
Berlin Bistro, which she opened in 2011 with friend and business partner Rand Foster, who owns the neighboring record store Fingerprints, remained open until Oct. 16 as they prepared for the move.
During that time, customers got to sample some of the new offerings that will be available at Alder & Sage, including coffee-rubbed pork belly hash, Jidori chicken lettuce wraps and an all-new breakfast burrito by chef James Wilschke, who will head up the kitchen during breakfast and lunch services.
Of course, Portfolio’s coffee and pastries will also be on the menu.
When it first opens, Alder & Sage will only be open for daytime service as the team works on securing the restaurant’s beer and wine license before introducing a dinner service sometime next year.
Throughout the transition, Kansteiner wanted to ensure that her staff, many of whom had been employed with her for over 20 years, would be well taken care of. After both restaurants closed, some staff chose to move on to other jobs, and others went on unemployment for a few months, but they have all been offered their jobs back at Alder & Sage and will be welcomed with open arms, Kansteiner said. “We’re doing everything that we need to do to get them back on board.”
As for the restaurant itself, natural, organic and eco-friendly elements are reflected all around, something that Kansteiner said was very important to her.
The building’s original ceiling beams have been repurposed as fencing outside, the kitchen will be zero-waste, and herbs and vegetables will be grown on the premises. Along with on-site composting, the restaurant will also have drought-tolerant landscaping and plenty of bike racks to encourage customers to ditch their cars.
“Being mindful of the planet and sourcing responsibly, using sustainable ingredients has always been important to us,” said Kansteiner.
The new place is larger in square footage than both Portfolio and Berlin Bistro combined and will include elements of the old restaurant including Berlin’s large community table in the backyard, ample outdoor seating and two fire pits.
“To me, it feels good. It is really the space that I always wanted to be in,” said Kansteiner. “It feels special going back to Retro Row and being a block away from Portfolio.”