San Francisco’s answer to the Alps, The Salzburg, is now open for Austrian-inspired food and 45 wines by the glass in North Beach. The new bar, a picture-perfect chalet with an outdoor patio warmed by a fire pit, comes from the owners of Union Larder and Little Vine, Jay Esopenko and Melissa Gugni.
Before they the duo started in on their third business, Esopenko recalls standing outside of the former Cinecittà space (663 Union Street at Columbus Avenue), looking at a “For Lease” sign with a cold fog billowing around him. “I thought, I would love to have a glass of Grüner and a sausage and sit by the fire right now.”
Esopenko grew up in Alberta, Canada with fond memories of trips to the Rockies and après-ski coziness. To create the Salzburg, he and designers 8inc completely overhauled the space. The co-owner did much of the construction himself, even building the fire pit. Michael Bermosk, a woodworker who honed his craft under Peter Doolittle (Nopa, Tartine Manufactory, Little Gem) created the intricate woodwork at the Salzburg, notably the redwood facade and the walnut bar.
Gugni and Esopenko aren’t the only Californians inspired by the Alps ,and their wine list is full of Golden State winemakers like Tatomer of Santa Barbara who are known for refined Austrian-style wines.
“I wanted to showcase the California and Oregon winemakers doing dramatic varietals,” says Esopenko, and so far, the reaction among customers has been encouraging. “It’s been neat to see someone at every table drinking a glass of Riesling and being surprised that it’s not sweet, for one, and that it’s textured and has aromatics.”
To go with the wine, the Salzburg serves a full menu (below) including pretzels, schnitzel, and sausages. There’s also fondue for groups in vintage ’70s fondue pots and in smaller portions for two. Larger format dishes include beef goulash and a “Salzburger,” with house ground wagyu beef.
As wine merchants with close ties to California vintners who are suffering in the North Bay fires, Gugni and Esopenko are also trying to support their friends in need. “It’s gutting, I know so many people that are hurting so bad up there,” says Esopenko.
To help, Little Vine is currently accepting fire relief donations and matching them up to $1,00 dollars. They’ll also donate a dollar from every glass of wine sold at Union Larder and the Salzburg.
The Salzburg is now open Tuesday and Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m., and Sunday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.