It’s the first project outside of Lazy Bear for Barzelay, who teamed up with Torres in order to showcase Torres’ cocktails in a more casual, accessible environment. And that environment is a unique one, filled with personal touches from the partners.
“I think that the design of the place looks unlike any other SF bar or restaurant anyone has ever been in,” Barzelay told Eater SF. In creating True Laurel, Barzelay and Torres leaned into their shared interest in mid-century artists like Isamu Noguchi, Man Ray, and photographer Irving Penn. Almost everything was custom-designed and fabricated for the space, from the booths and tables to the chairs and inlaid Bay Laurel bar.
It’s also bar that deviates from the typical style, adding a unique (and separate) cocktail tasting menu with accompanying snacks to the lineup. While not available at opening — it will be added in the coming weeks — the reservation-only experience will take place at a smaller bar-within-a-bar, offering substantial snacks alongside the drinks.
Barzelay and Torres, also an artist, collaborated with designer Nicholas Roberto on the interior, starting with sketches that turned into prototypes, and eventually custom-fabricated elements.
The sculpture wall is the most distinctive (and enormous) design element, inspired by Noguchi’s playground designs. Roberto created it from hard plaster, bringing touchable and abstract monochromatic shapes to life, inserting themselves into the energy of the room.
The bars — both the larger main bar and the smaller tasting bar — were built out of quartzite. The main bar features a large piece of old growth Bay Laurel inlaid into the front corner; the tables, trim, and other wooden surfaces are also old growth Bay Laurel.
The kitchen will be lead by Geoff Davis (Kronnerburger, Cyrus), serving a menu filled with tongue-in-cheek plays on comfort food, like a loaded baked potato with miso butter, bacon, and bonito, and a patty melt with dry aged beef, and special sauce. Barzelay says that though the men is still “quite refined” it’s going for a little less artistry. That includes homey dishes like a bone broth that is a “cross between ramen, gumbo z’herbes, and chicken noodle soup” with ramen noodles, sausage made from Benton’s country ham, a marinated eggs, ham hocks, and greens like collards, stining nettles, and bok choy.
Cocktails from Torres will lean heavily on produce and fresh ingredients, like the Late Bloomer made with fermented Black Kat pluots, fortified wine, and pisco moscatel, and the Stalk Market, with dry gin, Manzanilla, blanc vermouth, rhubarb pickling liquid, celery, and chamomile.
True Laurel will open December 22 (then close for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). After that, it will open seven days a week from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.; the kitchen opens at 5 p.m. and will close around 1 a.m.
Eventually outdoor seating will join the 48 seats inside, which include both bars and lounge seating, plus drink rails for standing. Brunch is on the horizon, too, so stay tuned.