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Former AQ Chef Plans to Step Out on His Own, Starting With a Pop-Up

The end-goal is a restaurant called Mago

AQ Restaurant/Facebook

Mark Liberman, former chef and co-owner of AQ, which abruptly closed in January, has set his sights on a new restaurant in the East Bay. He’s still looking for a space, but appears to have a name for the venture: MÄGO. For the moment, Liberman will host MÄGO pop-up dinners, the first one on September 8th in Temescal.

When AQ closed, Liberman and his co-owner Matt Semmelhack blamed rising costs in San Francisco, and the chef seems down on the city generally. He’s moved to Oakland and professes to prefer the community vibes there. Back in San Francisco, the duo’s Mercer Restaurant Group closed several restaurants in relatively quick succession, most recently the Mexican-inspired Fenix in SoMa, which ceased service in June. Before that, a fire closed the live-fire cooking restaurant TBD, and the ambitious Bon Marché on Market Street was one in a slew of closings on the mid-Market corridor.

Targeting Temescal, Uptown, Downtown or Old Oakland, Liberman hopes to find a restaurant space for MÄGO by the end of the year, in which case he’ll open in the Spring. The idea for the restaurant appears to be highly seasonal food — what’s available today or this week rather than this month — that’s served in a lighthearted “dinner party” atmosphere. The vibes at MÄGO’s pop-ups might not be so different from the final product, then.

Stay tuned for more details as Liberman nails them down.