The latest player in the rush to San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood is a massive restaurant, event space and distillery.
Portland restaurateur Kurt Huffman is joining forces with cleantech financier Adam Mendelson to open a 12,300-square-foot project at Third and 19th Streets. The news follows the recent openings of Magnolia and Smokestack in that neighborhood, and the announcement of the Warriors’ arena moving to Third and 16th Streets.
The venue will be able to host events for roughly 400 people and will have a catering program run by Sam Mogannam of Bi-Rite Markets. Huffman and Mendelson hope Napa Valley Distillery will produce and serve spirits there. However, that deal — which would be a sublease to the booze-producers — isn’t set.
The restaurant is still unnamed, but Huffman said it will seat about 100 and be split almost evenly between dining space and bar space. He wants it to be casual eatery with “mid-range” prices, he said.
“We're very much focused on product first, vibe second,” Huffman said. “That’s the commitment we've made and the way that we source, and the products are a reflection of this.”
Huffman founded Portland restaurant group ChefStable, operating restaurants including Ox, Lardo, Oven & Shaker, Ración, and others. This restaurant would be his second venture outside of Portland, having opened Seattle steakhouse Miller’s Guild last year. He spent 2006 through 2008 in the Bay Area, and says the Dogpatch’s surge in development since then was an attractive pull for his and Mendelson’s project. The announcement of the Warriors arena, which came a week before the pair signed a lease, came as a “welcome surprise” Huffman and Mendelson said.
“To see something like the Warriors come in, to see all these artisans, breweries, creameries, urban wineries and butchers speak to the potential of the neighborhood ... it's lucky for us,” Huffman said. “It’s the kind of environment we want to be in with interesting activities and good products where people can walk around.”
The Warriors arena will likely have a significant impact on the restaurant’s business, Huffman said, and he’s hopeful that with proper planning, it’ll be a positive one.
“If you do it poorly like in Portland, you get slammed during game nights. They haven't successfully created an interesting consumer experience surrounding the stadium there,” Huffman said, but the Giants stadium, for instance, is different. “I've been impressed with how the newer stadiums have been designed — that area around ballpark is very dynamic.”
It was a long process to get the lease signed, said Laura Sagues of CBRE, who, along with Matt Kroger, brokered the deal.
“That area has already become highly sought-after,” Sagues said. “The neighborhood has a great character, which surprises some people from outside the market.”
Mendelson, who has been in the Bay Area for the last seven years, was eager to find an event space close to public transportation, accessible from downtown, with great weather, and in a great neighborhood to support a thriving restaurant, he said. And with what he calls an over-demand for event venues in a market with little supply, he’s thrilled to nab the Dogpatch space.
Still in the permitting and planning process, Mendelson and Huffman hope to open in spring 2015. With the long lead time, Mendelson said he can focus on building out details that will set the event space apart from others — including things like a bridal suite, or a custom-built catering kitchen designed by Bi-Rite, the caterers.
Designed by Alexis Laurent of Laurent Studios and architect Rebecca Amato (architect for Serpentine, AQ and Magnolia), the whole venue, Mendelson said, will be open and transparent. Windows will provide a glimpse into the distillery workspace on the ground floor, and an upstairs private-events room will boast sliding window and door panels that make it open to the air and views of the Bay.
“It's supposed to be something very “neighborhoody” — very much a space we're hoping there will be a lot of interaction,” Huffman said. “As a restaurant, event space and distillery, this would be the only space like this.”