San Francisco music lovers may already have the jump on this new spot: Serving concertgoers at The Chapel, as well as Missionites looking for a drink on a patio, Curio has quietly slipped into the spot that was once home to The Vestry.
And the change is welcome: The new concept from Chapel owner Jack Knowles is intended to spark the imagination.
With a design refresh care of Michael Brennan (Jardinière, Trademark & Copyright, Harry’s), the interior is intended to be playful and mysterious, with a rather quirky nod to the location’s past life as a mortuary. Vintage Italian chandeliers, neon signs tucked away in dark corners, golden skulls, grandfather clocks, and wood from the old mortuary come together for a quasi-edgy, morose vibe that conjures thoughts on life and time.
While you’re pondering your mortality, you’ll want a drink, and the seasonal cocktails here—designed by mixologist Darren Crawford (Bourbon & Branch)—pick up on the theme, named after such mythical creatures as the Phoenix and Chupacabra.
Chef Mario Tolentino (from the Food Network’s 2010 season of Chopped) leads the kitchen in a menu of share plates and mains that blend American flavor with a Californian farm-to-table ethos. Dig into a shellfish tower of oysters, shrimp, lobster, and clams, or play it safe with the Holy Grail burger topped with cremini mushrooms, tomato jam, fried onions, and raclette cheese. Southern-inspired classics—think fried chicken Benedicts and shrimp and grits—rule at brunch.
If dark-and-creepy is not your jam, take a seat on the spacious, sunny patio and order up a frosty glass of frosé.
A new restaurant named Curio has taken over the marquee at The Chapel.
But happily, there’s still a patio that opens onto Valencia Street.
The courtyard is a pleasant spot for after-work drinks or, better yet, leisurely weekend brunch.
Dark, rock-and-roll vibes still dominate at Curio’s two bars.
Peculiar yet captivating, the revamped interior by Michael Brennen hinges upon themes of life and time.
From left: The Mermaid (vodka, grapefruit, raspberry, mint, lime, seltzer, and peach aperitif), and the Unicorn (vodka, pisco, strawberry, szechuan, lemon, amaro, Benedictine, rainbow bitters, and egg whites).
Look for the restaurant’s daily special, such as this fresh heap of tuna tartare.
We never say no to a plate of burrata. Curio’s is fried—we repeat, fried. A cluster of smoked tomatoes and fresh wild arugula help balance out the salty goodness.
Something for the table? Go for a platter of cauliflower, eggplant, and white corn dips, served with crispy flatbread and sheets of lavash crackers.
Shhh…You’ll want to keep these hush puppies, studded with small chunks of wild Gulf shrimp and served with sweet chili butter, to yourself.
Find a few choice salads under the Healthy-ish section of Curio’s menu, such as this baby kale number topped with yellow wax beans and shavings of Brussels sprouts.
Entrees include riffs on comfort favorites such as smoked beer can chicken, a sirloin strip, and lightly battered fish-and-chips (pictured).
Big night out? Be prepared and order the a fried chicken sandwich. This crispy morsel comes with a pickled relish slaw of green tomatoes, cabbage, and onions, and is topped with a slather of sweet pepper jelly.
// Curio,775 Valencia Street, curiobarsf.com
This article was originally written and photographed by me for 7×7 and can be viewed here.
Looking for another fun, cool bar opening? Check out Violet’s Tavern!