The Mission District space formerly home to Namu Gaji and more recently Namu Stonepot (499 Dolores St.), across the 18th & Dolores intersection from Dolores Park, has gone dark, marking the second closure for Namu Stonepot this summer.
Chef-owner Dennis Lee told the Chronicle Tuesday that the reason for the second closure, which appears not to have been planned, was the inability to negotiate a new lease deal with the landlord due to back rent owed and "other issues."
Namu Gaji has occupied this prime piece of real estate since 2012, bringing Lee's talents from his previous location in the Richmond to the heart of the Mission District. The menu, which combined Korean, Japanese, and American influences and featured an excellent burger, was an evolution from Lee's work at the earlier Namu, which closed in 2012.
Lee and his two brothers went on to expand with Namu Stonepot at 553 Divisadero in 2017, building a menu around Namu Gaji's popular bibimbap stonepot dish as well as favorites like their gamja fries and Korean fried chicken. And then, mid-pandemic, Lee began experimenting with sourdough pizza as well, debuting Sunset Squares first via Instagram — and it now has a permanent home at SSP Beer Hall & NFT Gallery (59 9th St.). That space, formerly home to The Perennial, was originally intended (pre-pandemic) to become a grand and spacious new home for Namu Gaji, but obviously plans have changed.
The Divisadero location closed in early June, and quickly pivoted to become a slice shop and second delivery hub for Sunset Squares. Previously in May, Lee announced that Namu Gaji wouldn't be reopening, and Namu Stonepot briefly reopened in its place.
Thankfully for fans of Namu Stonepot's food, that can still be ordered at SSP, for eat-in or takeout/delivery. It's one of three food options available at the beer hall, including Lee's pizza — in thin and thick-square varieties — and Filipino food from the Uncle Tito pop-up crew. Also, Namu Stonepot food is available at their Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market stand on Saturdays, and both the Clement Street and Outer Sunset markets on Sundays.
While Lee's experimental and often ambitious cooking no longer has a brick-and-mortar home, his creativity and talent are still evident in what he's created at SSP, and there's plenty of time for fresh experiments later.
As he told Eater last month, regarding the public's mood and how he perceives people's tastes right now, "I think that everyone is a little bit traumatized, and also looking for less challenging kinds of experiences."
And as he says to the Chronicle this week, "I hope to one day be in a space where I can cook more freely, but right now I’m having a lot of fun making pizza."