For proof that when ladies collaborate, great things happen, look no further than The Riddler. Opening this Sunday, January 15 in Hayes Valley, The Riddler is a Champagne bar from first-time restaurateur Jen Pelka, who also owns Magnum PR, which represents many high-profile spots in the city (Rich Table, Mister Jiu’s, AL’s Place, all of Daniel Patterson’s restaurants, and many more). Her latest client, though, is herself, and all that experience helping other restaurants succeed has been distilled into the very chic The Riddler.
You may have heard that the champagne bar is entirely backed by ladies, and Pelka is going hard on that theme. Most of the team is female, the name comes from a female-created process of “riddling” Champagne, the space has overtly feminine vibes, and many of the collaborators are women. “I wanted something that is both celebratory and approachable, to make this a really fun place to go,” Pelka told Eater SF. “I want to build a place that’s sexy, where people feel great rolling in or going on an occasion.”
To that end, Pelka created a warm, chic room with playful elements like a free popcorn machine and a beverage menu with chambongs, “joans” (glasses filled to the top for “when you’ve had a hard day”), bumps of caviar with shots of Champagne, Miller High Life ponies (served in a Champagne bucket if you order six), and sparkling wines by the glass starting at $12.
Former Aatxe chef de cuisine Shannon Waters (Pilot Light Consulting) consulted on the food menu that chef de cuisine Zoe Deeg (Locanda) will execute, while beverage director and general manager Marissa Payne (Luce) focuses on all that bubbly. The longer beverage menu contains over 100 Champagnes with a focus on grower-producers and vintage wines from traditional houses, plus hard-to-find brands, available by the glass all the way up to jeroboams (three-liter bottles).
As for the food, the slim menu has tater tot waffles, caviar, cheese, charcuterie, and more. Female-owned vendors like California Caviar, Water 2 Table, Inna Jam, McVicker Pickles, Thoroughbread Bakery, and Guittard Chocolate are all featured — you can see the full food and drink offerings below.
That feminine spirit is likewise alive and well in the gold details, luxe black leather booths, marble tabletops, gold leaf ceiling, oversized badass female posters, and lush greenery draping the 500-square-foot, 40-seat space. Hannah Collins did the design, Danielle Moore took charge of branding and graphic design, Eleanor Gerber-Siff creates custom floral arrangements, and Megan Stevens painted the large Champagne bottle mural on Linden Alley.
The Riddler will be open Tuesdays through Thursdays and Sundays from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m.