Local drag sensation and party host extraordinaire Juanita MORE! is putting on an exciting new outfit tonight: A chef’s apron at Jones, the sizable Tenderloin restaurant, bar, and event-ready patio space (620 Jones at Geary). With chef Cory Armenta (Hecho, Hi Tops, The Catamount) and food stylist Cole Church (Boulettes Larder, Zuni Café), MORE! is taking permanent charge of the kitchen, launching as MORE!Jones with a serious party tonight and regular dinner service starting tomorrow.
“Food has always been my first art and gift in life,” MORE! tells Eater. “I’ve worked professionally in kitchens all the way until I started doing drag professionally.”
As one of San Francisco’s best known drag queens with a career spanning over 20 years, MORE! has also long aspired to open a restaurant of her own, operating pop-ups and catering events in the meantime. She’s hosted her Pride party at Jones for seven years, drawing massive crowds. After the restaurant’s owners — whom MORE! counts as friends — learned of her restaurant aspirations, they stuck a deal on a long-term collaboration.
The food at MORE!Jones (menus are online here) takes Latin American and Mediterranean inspiration. Full-service dinner options include MORE!’s “famous chicken livers,” her “French-style” carnitas (with homemade ricotta, chicories, and salsa verde) and several pizzas. A pièce de résistance will be the MORE!burger, a chile relleño burger from her aunt Hope’s recipe.
“It’s the thing I want after I’ve had a few drinks,” says MORE!.
In that vein is a Sunday brunch with an open-faced chilaquiles sandwich and “Juanita’s magical hangover pizza cure.” At that brunch, expect drag performances from MORE!’s large coterie, the House of MORE! And on Wednesday nights, MORE! will host a family-style supper, a $35 prix-fixe with a rotating menu. First up, on September 12, is fried chicken with “honey goo,” followed by pozole rojo on September 19th, and so on.
Tonight’s party doubles as MORE!’s birthday — happy 33rd, yet again — with performances, cocktails, and free passed hors d’oeuvres. But “in order to make this work, people have to come out and support — and not just tonight,” MORE! says.
In historically queer San Francisco, many LGBT bars have struggled to survive amid rising rents and changing nightlife behavior — a situation of which MORE! is acutely aware.
“This is something I’ve talked to a lot of friends about — I grew up and came out in San Francisco... and I’ve seen a lot of things change. I know how to accept change; I can handle change. But queer-owned and run establishments need our support.”
MORE!Jones opens for dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. with a late night menu available, and Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.