Taking a page from lessons learned by several restaurants that have closed their doors in the last few months, a whole new group of chefs are entering the fray with a strategy that relies not only on food, but on connecting with neighbors.
Some have been sensitive to their price points; others are doing outreach to establish ties with long-standing non-profits. All agree that in today’s competitive market, success is not just about the food.
“We’re looking to be a resource to the community we’re in,” said Michael Mauschbaugh, the chef/owner of the recently opened Sous Beurre Kitchen, once a successful pop up just a few blocks away at Sugarlump.
He envisions Sous Beurre Kitchen working with the Mission Girls Club and offering food education and cooking classes.
Mauschbaugh, a Mission District resident for seven years, said that keeping his loyal customer base from Sugarlump is important to him.
He also hopes the atmosphere of his Southern French restaurant is easy and comfortable. He plans to keep tables available to the neighborhood by reserving 40 percent of the restaurant for walk-ins.
All sales taxes and gratuities are factored into the price of each item, using a “fair-wage business model,” he said. That means entrees range from $20-$50, but it also means paid time of and health care for their employees.
“This creates a sustainable community-driven aspect,” said general manager Oscar Davila.
While the Mission is known for its taquerias, Californios opened earlier this year to offer “fine-dining through a Mexican lens.”
Chef and co-owner Val M. Cantu said he tries to tell a story with food.
“I don’t think anyone treats Mexican food with the respect it deserves,” said Cantu. There is no a-la-carte menu, but instead a seven to 10-course tasting menu. “That’s the way I enjoy eating,” he said.
The tasting menu dinner runs between $50-$60. Cantu said that while the cuisine is a high end, fun interpretation of Mexican, the atmosphere is kept light and enjoyable.
So far he said, it’s going well, he said.
Buttermilk Southern Kitchen, which is set to open by the end of February according to one of the partners Miguel De Ocampo, said the customer base they are aiming for are the families in the immediate neighborhood of 23rd and Bryant.
“We don’t want to price ourselves out of the neighborhood,” said De Ocampo, adding that all menu items will be $16 or under.
What does Buttermilk Southern Kitchen hope to bring to the neighborhood? De Ocampo said they are not looking to change the Mission but rather to support what is already there – a family-centered community.
Buttermilk, which took over an old laundromat, will offer Southern and Creole cooking; a cuisine not yet tapped into in the Mission. Updates on their opening can be found here.
Aaron London’s new restaurant AL’s Place is also offering a less than traditional dining experience with a new concept where vegetables are the main attraction, and proteins are side dishes.
“We believe that meat shouldn’t be the core of every dish but rather this really awesome supporting role to beautiful fruits and veggies,” said London.
AL’s Place, opened on the corner of Valencia and 26th Streets on February 6th. London said their location in the Mission is a “new frontier – an untouched section of the Mission” in terms of dining options. AL’s Place is hoping to conquer that frontier and so far, it appears to be fuller than any of the earlier restaurants that tried that corner spot.
“There are a lot of people [in the neighborhood] who have high expectations and we want to respect the neighborhood,” said London.