Marcia Gagliardi — the creative, food-savvy muse behind Tablehopper — is entering a new era with her digital product that’s been a touchstone in San Francisco for years. (Cheers!)
‘San Franciscans We Fuck With’ is our ongoing series that highlights locals who we admire for their tenacity, creativity, talent, and generosity.
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone as active, as hard-working, and as effusively generous as Marcia Gagliardi: the self-described procurer behind all the “cat and food content” on her long-standing newsletter, Tablehopper. The newsletter, which sits in the canon of independent media ownership, features a wide array of insider tips, deep dives, and e-columns that center primarily on San Francisco gastronomy.
Gagliardi was far ahead of the newsletter craze; she sent the first email for tablehopper way back in 2006; it began rolling the proverbial snowball that would collect snowflakes (read: subscribers and fans, alike) with each and every open.
17 years later and with nearly 40,000 followers across Instagram and Twitter — a figure that compliments the thousands who subscribe to her newsletter —Gagliardi’s humanistic content delivers a welcome warmth to the otherwise rigid food writing that has become synonymous with SF’s foodscape since the dawn of the internet era. Reading her works comes across like a rich conversation held with a friend, rather than eavesdropping on bland white noise echoed by large media outlets.
Tablehopper’s content is digestible and pleasant; it doesn’t beat you over the head with heady jargon or descriptions nonnative to most of us San Franciscans… who purchase wine from the very bottom shelves at Trader Joe’s.
Gagliardi’s platform also echoes as a chamber for change and philanthropy. Most notably, Tablehopper’s unique position in the pantheon of SF’s gastronomy lends itself to championing the local underdogs who act as pillars of the city’s restaurant landscape.
That aforenoted notion became uncomfortably clear during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, as eateries and watering holes across San Francisco either shuttered or outright closed.
“While showing indefatigable support to the restaurant industry during the pandemic, I was also grappling with numerous financial vulnerabilities and challenges – akin to what I was reporting on – because being an independent publisher and freelance writer wasn’t already difficult enough,” Gagliardi says of the relaunching of Tablehopper while teasing a new paid subscription model. “In order to stabilize and secure the future of tablehopper – the home of my unique voice, longtime perspective, deep coverage, and signal boosting of San Francisco restaurant industry news – moving to a paid subscription model became the clear path forward. Numerous readers have expressed their excitement for this new format so they can support my work, which feels really good.”
The legacy website’s content remains up; the transition of the years of content to Ghost — an independent, user-supported, and open-source newsletter product service — will take some time; a preview of the new site can be previewed at tablehopper.ghost.io; the local publisher cooperative Outpost is helping spearhead and manage the membership product.
Though Gagliardi poked at the fact people might “recoil” at charging $8.25 a month to access the new newsletter— “while some may balk at having to pay, in a city where people drop $10 on an oat milk matcha latte or $15 on a bagel sandwich – myself included – $8.25 per month seems fair and reasonable” — doing so has become a necessity amid an increasingly expensive world. And subscribing will also help support a local business… “one whose coverage supports many other local and small businesses.”
There, too, will also be a subsidized tier: “No one will be turned away for lack of funds.”
Because we’re endlessly curious more about San Franciscans we fuck with, like Gagliardi, we managed to grab a bit of her time to flesh out her dedication to SF and unwavering draw to the city’s culinary scene.
Matt Charnock: When did you first notice your passion for food and restaurants?
Marcia Gagliardi: Oh, from the first time, my parents took me and my sister to a “fancy” restaurant (Granville’s at Disneyland Resort)! The moment our servers lifted the cloches off of our plates all at once and gently clanged them together (ding!), I was hooked. I would always beg my parents to take me out to dinner for my birthday, and I’d have the place already picked out. It’s fun to fast forward to how I love to play restaurant matchmaker—which was what my book was all about (the tablehopper’s Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco: Find the Right Spot for Every Occasion)!
MC: I know Tablebopper started in 2006 but was the impotence behind saying “fuck it, I want to start this”?
MG: I was obsessed with going out in SF and wanted to start writing about it—my first freelance writing gig was writing about bars for Citysearch back in 2003, and then I got a monthly column for WHERE magazine about new restaurant openings, it was so exciting. I quickly decided to start my own publication because I wanted to write in my own voice for my own audience and make my own editorial decisions—no one was really writing about the food and cocktail scene the way I was experiencing it, so I decided to go for it.
MC: Did you know it would be as successful as it’s become?
MG: Aw, thanks. When I take a moment to look back on where I started, I’m very proud of what I have created and sustained for 17 years. That’s the advantage to doing something yourself — I’m a hard worker, especially for boss of me. I’m grateful for the day I got laid off from my ad agency job 23 years ago, it set me free.
MC: What are you most grateful for about Tablehopper?
MG: Oh, my community! I have the most incredible group of readers. They are so supportive, thoughtful, and kind. Their trust and belief in me and my work is very potent—I take it very seriously. It’s a special relationship to have as a writer because typically you write a piece for some magazine and you never hear back from anyone who read it.
MC: In all these years, any particular Tablehopper memory that sticks out to you?
MG: Oh, yes! When I won the Time Out New York “Win the Ultimate New York City Life” contest and got to live (and work) in New York for six months, rent-free! So crazy. It was a lifetime dream of mine to live in New York, and my amazing community helped me win! My writing got me into the semi-finals, but it was my community who voted the most for my piece and got me there! I felt like I was running for mayor for two weeks. Vote for me! Boy, did they. What an amazing experience. I still shake my head at all that magic. Just wow. But it also made me realize how good I have it here—I really missed Bay Area produce and our lifestyle (and our environmental ethos).
MC: You’ve just refreshed/relaunched the entire process — what can people expect from the new site?
MG: The most exciting part is the updated, easy-to-read, and mobile-friendly layout for the newsletter! I’m just screaming over the large images and gifs! And now that I’ve moved back to a weekly schedule, thanks to the financial support from my subscribers, I’m going to be including additional content, from culture to lifestyle updates. Supporting subscribers are going to be receiving some special new content from me, like my favorite sushi spots. Another new area of focus will be highlights of longtime SF gems—I’ve lived here 28 years, and want to share more of my local favorites, which could use some love right now. I want to help people live their best SF life—and go out on the town! It’s time to #gtf out.
MC: Looking into Tablehopper’s next sixteen years, what do you have in mind for the future of the newsletter and website?
MG: I’m fired up to start working on an insider tablehopper club offering special access and experiences—I just needed to get this newsletter and website overhauled first. I’m also so excited to be able to host tablehopper events again (coming soon!). And I really want my TV show—I love to interview people and hear (and preserve) their unique stories.
MC: Give me a single sentence on why San Francisco is home to you/why it’s such a magical city.
MG: The Bohemian spirit of SF lives on—it’s a privilege and gift to be in the community and build long-lasting relationships with so many interesting and creative and big-hearted and wild folks who love living here.
In closing, Gagliardi that she’s grateful the technology for this paid subscription model now exists, allowing her to build a member-supported community that this helping to secure her future as an independent publication.
“It’s also allowing me to spend more time on creating the content my readers want from me,” she tells. “It’s a new era!”
Tablehopper will have special pricing and incentives during the initial weeks to encourage readers to become supporting subscribers early on; the paywall will begin on Tuesday, February 21st, 2023.