The total transformation of a Mission District McDonald’s into a chic, health-focused restaurant called Kitava might inspire diners to make some changes of their own, perhaps starting with a gluten-free or paleo diet. Kitava, which is also a delivery food startup formerly known as Mealmade, will have plenty of choices for them.
“We didn’t specifically say, ‘let’s take over this dying McDonald’s location’, but when we saw the space, it was too good to pass up,” Kitava co-owner Bryan Tublin explains. “It’s absolutely symbolic of what’s happening in the food ecosystem.”
The McDonald’s at 2011 Mission Street, a dodgy, BART-adjacent destination for super-sized meals, closed suddenly in 2015. It sat vacant until this spring when Tublin moved in after his food startup, Simmer, joined forces with Mealmade founder Jeff Nobbs.
The team started by using the large kitchen space as its Mealdmade/Kitava headquarters, delivering via Grubhub, Uber Eats, and Door Dash. Then, about six weeks ago, they began renovating the standard-issue McDonald’s dining room, remodeling it with blonde wood flooring and bright new light fixtures. It opened to the public for counter service late last week.
“The locals that have stopped in are shocked,” says Tublin. “Number one at the way the space looks, number two, at the food, and number three, at the price point.” Those range from cups of bone broth for $5 to wild-caught salmon tacos for $19, though most items average around $12-14. All of Kitava’s food is free from dairy, corn, soy, peanuts, refined sugar and oils, which Tublin learned to limit while attending the nutritionist training program at Bauman College in Berkeley. Kitava chef Todd Preston (San Francisco Soup Company) designed the menu of “recognizable, and comforting” food, and cooks with oils considered healthier than standard vegetable or canola oil: Extra virgin olive oil cooked at low heat, coconut oil, or palm oil in a few cases.
Through delivery, Kitava already reaches an audience of keto-diet adherents and health-conscious eaters, but with its storefront, it could convert a new group of diners. “There are people walking by our location all the time that haven’t necessarily had access to the food we serve, and we think we can reach a new audience,” says Tublin. “We want to serve delicious food that’s nourishing for the people — and community — we serve.”
Kitava is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.