It’s a warm Tuesday night in the Mission and Trish Tracey, the owner and chef at Myriad, a new restaurant on 21st and Mission, says that if she had a blank check she knows what she would spend it on: air conditioning.
The leather seats are sticking and the fans are on full blast. No matter. Guests talk and food fills the space on Mission Street. Tracey walks through it as if she’s hosting a party filled with friends.
“Who ordered these little eggies?” asks Tracey, carrying a plate filled with her “sinfully delicious” deviled eggs. She knows the answer and slips it in front of three women sitting on steel stools at the bar. They smile and Tracey blitzes back to the kitchen to help run out other orders.
Her day began at 8 a.m. when she arrived to prep and it won’t end until after midnight, but the exchanges continue through the night – it’s an attentive casualness that Tracey believes brings customers back. She’s right. Myriad opened at the end of June, six weeks after moving in, and mid-week, the place is full. Already, the restaurant has nearly 50 five-star reviews on Yelp.
“This is a place where people need to feel warm, welcome and relaxed,” she says. “There’s no pretense here, they should feel like they came to my house for dinner and I gave them a great meal and some wine, and that it’s okay to spill.”
The restaurant is Tracey’s first — the next big step in a career that began shortly after graduating from culinary school in Connecticut in 1989. In 1992, she moved to San Francisco, where she’s worked with various Bay Area restaurants, cooking, consulting and redesigning menus.
All the while, she says, she was mapping out a business plan for Myriad, a gastro-pub with a globally inspired twist.
“I love foods with big, bold flavors,” says Tracey. “I eat that way, so I cook that way, too.”
From bacalaitos and roasted halibut with clams, to fried chicken sammies with creamy Mexican cole slaw and a roasted lamb sandwich, the menu brims with bold flavors. Tracey picked up her love of ethnic foods from traveling the world — and the Mission continues to offer inspiration.
“On this block there is a nice juxtaposition of the old and new. I definitely take flavors and thoughts and influences from just walking around,” says Tracey, referring to the fish and meat market about a block away from Myriad and El Techo de Lolinda, a nearby rooftop bar and restaurant.
She frequently runs to the meat market for quick buys and checks to see if there’s any new type of meat she’s never seen before, so she can later jimmy a way to use it.
Although new businesses in the area are subject to scrutiny from long standing businesses, she understands the adversity toward newcomers.
“I get the negativity, because, you know, people have been displaced from their homes, and people cannot afford to live here, where they have lived for over 30 years, and small businesses are getting shut down because their leases are coming to an end,” she says.
“There’s new restaurants next to old taquerias and I think that’s how it should be. It’s normal progress,” she adds.
Tracey says she’s rarely been affected by sexism in the male-dominated restaurant business.
But it has happened.
During her externship after culinary school, she was told that she couldn’t work in the main kitchen area with the head chef anymore. She was astounded.
“Woah, that’s really wrong,” was her thought at the time.
She discovered that the male chef did not want or like women in his kitchen. Tracey stood up for herself and was soon back in the kitchen.
The impulse to fight back, she says, came from watching her mother – a single mom – put herself through school and become an entrepreneur, all while raising six kids.
“I do think that there are barriers and that they are there, but I feel like I just ignore them,” she says. Also, she adds, she’s always told herself that she’s not a female chef, “I’m a chef.”
Still, she would like to see more female business owners.
After Myriad runs like a “well-oiled machine,” the next step will be to begin looking for a location for restaurant number two. It would be a different concept, says Tracey, who is “not looking to build a huge empire.”
“I would probably like to have three,” she says. “I like to keep things interesting and keep things fresh.”
For now, Myriad is on her mind. The doors have been open since 5 p.m. and at 10:45 p.m. Tracey thanks some diners for coming. It’s been a good night — meaning it will also be a late night.
Tracey and her brother Randy, who lives with and also bartends for Tracey, will leave around midnight.
“You have to earn people’s love for you and respect for what you’re doing. It’s time consuming, but I think we are doing okay,” says Tracey.