An Afro-Caribbean restaurant with ties to the popular Tenderloin soul food spot Farmerbrown is fundraising the final steps of its move into the Fillmore District. The new black and woman-owned business, Isla Vida, will take its place in the historic African American neighborhood at 1325 Fillmore Street, occupying the space where Black Bark BBQ closed this spring after two years in business (with hopes to relocate elsewhere in the neighborhood).
“Farmer Brown has been serving Soul Since 2006,” Isla Vida and Farmerbrown co-owner Jay Foster explains in a video for the new business on Indiegogo. “We’d like to continue that legacy but bring it closer to the root of that.... for u fs, this is the next chapter of what is soul food.”
To create their restaurant, Foster and co-owners Matthew Washington and Erin Traylor researched cuisine of the African diaspora in New York, Miami and Cuba. At Isla Vida, “expect wood-fired meats, tostones, Cubanos, great music, and a good vibes,” they write.
“Isla Vida is island life,” Washington says, “not just picture perfect sand, white sand beaches, clear blue water, palm trees, but the people, the heart and soul of the island, the culture, the art, the food.”
In just a few days, Isla Vida’s Indiegogo campaign has taken off: They’re at 20 percent of their $30,000 goal. Funds will go toward outdoor seating, better signage and bar equipment, and electric cargo bikes so the team can make its own deliveries.
The Fillmore District, once dubbed the Harlem of the West, has long been a bastion of black businesses in San Francisco. But in recent years, it’s been hit with retail vacancies, especially following the closure of jazz club Yoshi’s in 2014, which left a big hole in the neighborhood. Businesses like chef David Lawrence and Monetta White’s 1300 Fillmore closed after ten years in business, citing Yoshi’s departure, with Black Bark following.
That said, a newcomer like Isla Vida could be just what the neighborhood needs. Stay tuned for more as the campaign continues and the project moves forward.