There’s been a lot of buzz around the plans for La Urbana, a full-scale mezcaleria and restaurant opening in San Francisco’s Western Addition, or NOPA, neighborhood. The owners have completely gutted an old hydroponics store and surrounded it with plywood painted with a stunning black and white piece of street art by Zio Zeigler. It’s an ambitious project and Max and I had an opportunity to see the progress the other night.
We met with bar manager and mezcal project lead Lucas Ranzuglia, an Argentinean who has spent the past several years living in Mexico City. A long time spirit industry person, he is overseeing the bar program, and working with project lead/architect/designer Juan Garduno. The Mexican artists Hector Falcon and Fernando Llanos are working away on stencils that are working their way across furniture and mounted work.
The scope of the project is huge and will open in waves. Lucas is aiming to open the main corner restaurant space first sometime in August. It’s a huge space embracing a full restaurant, bar, and a private tasting room lit by skylights and walls of windows. The entrance is grand – two leaded, glass doors imported from Mexico; a Yucatecan tiled floor is taking shape and there’s a hole in the floor that awaits a tree. The centeral focus is the long bar backed by suspended wood cabinets and dressers all imported from Mexico. It would be fair to say just about everything – chairs, tables, plant holders – is coming from Mexico.
When done, Lucas says they are hoping to have almost 30 mezcals (be still my beating heart!) and 20 tequilas at the bar. He’s promising an extensive training regimen for the staff with hopes to bring mezcaleros and experts (Ulises Torrentera!) from Mexico for special events and tastings. I did mention huge in scope, right?
Initially the dining room will be open for dinner, and then ultimately brunch. They’re trying to inject the high end approach El Pujol from Mexico City into the more traditional Mexican food most Estado Unidenses are used to finding in the Bay Area (Lolo aside) so expect surprises. The second phase will be the opening of a casual dining space – think a typical mercado fondo feel – in the space next door. Down the road they play to open their second story space to private parties, tastings, and special events. When completed it will be the largest Mexican restaurant in San Francisco.
Cocktails will of course be a focus, with unique recipes developed by Lucas. Since he knows his mezcals we are most interested to see what the final list will be – especially given that San Francisco is a third tier market for mezcal brands introduced to the US market (New York and Texas remain first and second). After an extensive conversation with Lucas it’s clear that there’s a keen dedication to quality and education. Perhaps San Francisco’s mezcal moment has finally arrived. We’re certainly looking forward to it, we’ll see you there opening night.
Here’s to a smooth final inspection process and an opening in August!