The airy SoMa space occupied by Bar Agricole for much of the last decade will be the new home of Californios — giving the Michelin-starred, Mexican-influenced restaurant from chef Val Cantu more space to breathe (in a pandemic) both indoors and out.
Californios has spent five years in its dark, stylish, masculine space with leather banquettes on 22nd Street, deep in the heart of the Mission District where just a decade ago the idea of a restaurant boasting a Michelin star would have been almost unheard of (Range, on Valencia, held one star for a time). Chef Cantu has wowed diners in that half decade with his precise, refined vision for a California cuisine that does not forget its Mexican roots, earning a second Michelin star in 2017, in addition to a four-star rating from the Chronicle.
As Cantu told Tablehopper a couple of weeks back, the plan had been to move to a bigger space and a deal was even in the works when the pandemic hit. Thankfully, he says, that fell through, and as Eater reports, an even better space came available — the award-winning Bar Agricole digs on 11th Street.
Bar Agricole, pre-pandemic, announced that it would be relocating to the new building at 1550 Mission Street — with a planned closure in April that just happened to occur a month earlier than that. Owner and local bar star Thad Vogler has since announced the permanent closures of his three other properties, Obispo, Trou Normand, and Nommo. As he told the Chronicle in September, "I made mistakes. Classic restaurant mistakes: growing too quickly so you don’t have enough cash, then your places become mediocre because you don’t have the bandwidth to maintain quality. That’s where I was when COVID hit."
But the original Bar Agricole space, which won a 2011 James Beard Award for its design by local firm Aidlin Darling, will be getting a makeover at the hands of Cantu's wife, Carolyn Cantu, who used to work for designer Ken Fulk and who was responsible for Californios' signature look on 22nd Street.
As Chef Cantu tells Eater, "We don’t want people to walk in and think they’re still in Bar Agricole," so the remodel is getting underway with the hope of being open by Christmas — though he admits that may be overly ambitious.
"This is a space that really meshes with our food and our service,” Cantu tells Eater. “We can’t wait to show people this new version of us."
On the plus side for any restaurant in our current moment, the new space comes with that huge front patio that was Bar Agricole's brunch-time bread and butter in the warmer months, as well as 100 seats inside. As Eater notes, the outdoor space alone is bigger than Californios' original, cozy digs, so even with limited capacity indoors they will likely be able to do more covers in a night than they did pre-pandemic.
Also, Cantu’s sister-in-law, Charlotte Randolph, remains on the team as sommelier and beverage director, and will be growing the wine list for this Version 2.0 of Californios.
Stay tuned for updates when they get closer to reopening.
Photo: Serena C./Yelp