Once closed after nearly a century on 24th Street, Roosevelt Tamale Parlor has been revived. The owners of the old-school Mexican joint reopened quietly late this year after an almost year-long hiatus, and hope that more restricted hours and a changed menu will help the parlor survive.
“We are really happy to be back in the neighborhood,” said Aaron Presbrey, who owns the tamale parlor at 2817 24th St. with Barry Moore. The two bought the restaurant three years ago, but were unable to make it work.
In its new incarnation, the place has been rechristened as the Roosevelt Sip ‘n’ Eat to reflect the addition of an American menu. The staff is smaller and the opening hours are limited to dinner.
When it closed last year, Presbrey and Moore addressed the community with a farewell letter citing personal health reasons, a shrinking labor pool and unsustainable wage expectations as reasons for closing.
But the pair didn’t let go completely. Hanging on to their lease, they rented the space out to different culinary endeavors as they mulled over a new direction for the parlor that had been a fixture in the neighborhood since 1922.
What they knew is that its longevity wasn’t enough to keep it profitable. A swell of upscale eateries had moved into the neighborhood and its blue-collar labor pool was leaving. There was also plenty of competition for diners.
An experimental pop-up headed by two distinguished restaurateurs David Nayfeld and Angela Pinkerton, came and went. Popular elsewhere, the two met mixed feelings in the Mission, said Presbrey.
“It’s not something that the neighborhood responded to enthusiastically,” he said.
Then in mid-November Presbrey and Moore resumed running the place.
“People don’t realize that Barry and myself are operating the place again – they think it’s another pop-up,” said Presbery. “As soon as they find out its us, they are excited.”
Patrons of the tamale parlor agreed.
“We weren’t very interested in the pop-up that followed, though we do frequent more upscale establishments. It just didn’t feel like a proper use of the space,” said Erick Armbrust, a Bernal Heights resident who said he would dine at Roosevelt – when it was the Tamale Parlor – “two to three times a month” with his wife.
“We’re probably more excited than we should be to have them back,” he said.
Roosevelt’s is no longer open for lunch – a cost-saving measure, said Presbrey. The new menu, which features traditional meatloaf and BBQ short ribs next to chile verde and pozole, is meant to give customers more options.
Presbrey said that their initial intention was to reopen Roosevelt’s while “changing the concept entirely to more American homestyle food.”
But unrelenting customer inquiries about the eatery’s popular tamales prompted its owners to put the traditional favorites back on the menu in late December.
“We decided that if that’s something that people are missing and it’s a niche that’s not being filled, we should bring that back,” said Presbrey.
Armbrust says that he and his wife have been reluctant to try Roosevelt’s new American menu. They mostly find themselves reverting to the old options.
“We went back for dinner tonight and it was as if they never left,” said Armbrust. “I think we’ll probably try their new stuff eventually, but for now it’s back to our old favorites.”