LA might be the birthplace of Mendocino Farms, a popular chain of quick-service sandwich and salad spots, but the opening of its first San Francisco location today — it’s largest restaurant to date — makes for a certain kind of homecoming. Its founders grew up in Northern California, and their inspiration and name nod to the area’s farms and food culture. Take a look inside the new SF space, open now for lunch and early evening dinner, with breakfast (a first for the restaurants) to follow.
The SF location at the historic Merchants Exchange building (465 California Street), with interiors designed by Valerio Architects, is ideally positioned to attract FiDi diners, but it’s emotionally resonant, too. It’s right on the cable car line, not far from where Mendocino Farms’ co-founder Mario Del Pero’s great-great grandfather started a butcher shop. His photo in black and white is displayed prominently at the new restaurant. The Del Pero family later owned a meat processing plant in Marysville, CA. Co-owner (and Mario’s spouse) Ellen Chen has local roots, too: She grew up in Lafayette.
At more than a dozen SoCal locations, “Mendo” diners (as fans nickname the business) have warmed to the restaurant’s charms: Those include the “not so fried” Mary’s chicken sandwich, a creation that applies the crispy crunch of fried chicken batter to healthier roasted chicken via crispy bread crumbs. A full menu is below.
But will NorCal buy in, too? With recently opened locations in Campbell, San Jose, and San Mateo, plus forthcoming outposts in Sacramento, San Ramon, and Palo Alto, Chen and Del Pero are betting they will. Hours (for now) are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.