Obispo, a long-awaited rum bar from one of the spirit’s great champions, Thad Vogler, is finally open on 24th Street. The owner of Bar Agricole and Trou Normand and author of By the Smoke and the Smell: My Search for the Rare and Sublime on the Spirits Trail, Vogler calls Obispo the simplest and clearest expression of his vision — which is, roughly, that spirits should taste like the places they’re from.
In its simplicity — with spare but elegant decor, typical food from rum-producing regions, and a concise but meaningful list of cocktails and independently produced rums — Obispo is the bar Vogler was trying to open when he conceived of Bar Agricole, his first but ultimately more elaborate operation, which opened in 2010.
“This is what I wanted to do in the first place,” says Vogler. Nine years after Bar Agricole and five with Obispo in development (the project has been beset with delays), “It’s a relief that it’s real and in operation.”
Obispo, Spanish for bishop, is named for a street in Havana where Vogler once lived. And one focus of the bar’s cocktail list is a sometimes maligned Cuban classic, the Mojito.
“We’re trying to bring it back, it’s a beautiful and historically significant drink,” says Vogler. At Obispo, several version are available. “When it’s made the right way, as in Cuba, it’s a great long drink. If you’re gonna eat something spicy, it’s perfect.”
At Obispo, you might. Executive chef Seth Stowaway (Bar Agricole, Trou Normand) and Vogler designed the menu of empanadas, Jamaican oxtail curry, and tostones (in full below). And on top of cocktails, Obispo serves beer, wine, and a list of specialty rums, many from distilleries Vogler has visited.
“We’re not trying to have the wall of everything, but we want 10 to 15 really beautiful things,” says Vogler.
Architect Wylie Price (Ramen Shop, The Progress, State Bird Provisions) designed Obispo. Behind the bar, New Bohemia signs installed a mural reproduced from historic folk artist Bill Traylor in collaboration with SF’s Museum of the African Diaspora. Obispo formed a partnership with MoAD in an effort to honor the roots of Caribbean culture in Africa; The bar will make donations to the museum and lease art for display.
Obispo also partnered with the Calle 24 Community Council, an often protective Mission District group that aims to preserve the corridor’s character. The group wanted to ensure Obispo’s prices would be approachable for the Mission’s longtime neighbors — at $9 to $12 for cocktails, drinks are affordable by today’s standards.
Obispo is open daily from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Obispo Menu by on Scribd