San Mateo’s dining scene is about to get a boost from one of the internet’s most prolific food technicians: J. Kenji López-Alt, Serious Eats culinary director and author of The Food Lab. The project is Wursthall, a German/Austrian-style beer hall that López-Alt is planning with partners Adam Simpson and Tyson Mao (owners of nearby craft beer/wine bar Grape and Grain). López-Alt is designing the kitchen, working out operations, and creating the menu, and will continue to oversee the kitchen after opening, while Simpson will serve as general manager.
The restaurant will go into a historic 14,000-square-foot building in the heart of downtown (310 Baldwin Ave.), formerly occupied by Italian restaurant Ristorante Capellini before a short stint as a sports bar. López-Alt says that part of his interest in the project, which was conceived by Simpson and Mao, is to improve the local dining scene. Though possessing of two Michelin-starred restaurants (Sushi Yoshizumi, Wakuriya) the dining scene in the area isn’t as booming as some of its neighboring, moneyed tech towns. “I’ve always wanted to get involved in my community because San Mateo is underserved in nice, casual restaurants,” said López-Alt. “I want to help it catch up a little bit, become more modern.”
To that end, Wursthall will have two destinations within it: a beer hall upstairs, and a cocktail bar downstairs. The beer hall will be full-service, serving semi-classic German fare with California influences, like beer and mustard-braised pulled pork sandwiches, Rancho Gordo bean salad with pumpkinseed oil, pretzels from Backhaus Bakery served with beer cheese, and sauerkraut. Rotating sausages won’t strictly stick to European styles, with potential takes on kosher hot dogs, and other Americanized versions. There’s also talk of a burnt caramel apple strudel with smoked sea salt. 30 taps of German and local craft beers, curated by Simpson, will be on offer, alongside a few wines. Downstairs, the cocktail bar will serve mixed drinks and spirits, no food.
“We don’t want it to be a place to go to Instagram and leave, we want it to be a neighborhood hangout,” said López-Alt. “Lots of younger people are moving there who are pushed out of more expensive places further North and South. We want to be on the forefront of modern San Mateo, and make it a good neighborhood spot.”
The team hopes to open Wursthall by the end of the year. In the meantime, they’ll host pop-up dinners at a San Mateo kitchen spaceto test out menu items. Stay tuned for more details closer to opening.