Tawla, which brought an upscale elegance to Eastern Mediterranean dining in the Mission District, has closed. The restaurant served its final dinner of puffy house pita bread and mezze plates in December, chef/partner Joseph Magidow confirms. The business opened at 206 Valencia Street in 2016.
With Tawla, owner Azhar Hashem, a longtime Google marketer turned restaurateur, sought to challenge San Francisco’s conception of Mediterranean food. Tawla eschewed falafel and hummus, described by Hashem as “Eastern Mediterranean Cuisine 1.0,” in favor of deeper cuts from Greece, Turkey, and the Levant — Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, and Hashem’s native Jordan.
“Our goals were not just to beat the odds on opening a full-service, mid-range restaurant in a dining culture which is increasingly hostile towards that model,” Magidow says, “but to simultaneously provoke a transformation in the SF dining public’s attitudes towards the superlative cuisine of the Eastern Mediterranean.”
That worthy project proved difficult in practice. Magidow calls the closure “death by a thousand cuts,” with no single factor to blame.
“The deck was always stacked against us, and I am proud that we were able to achieve what we did,” says Magidow. After years at Delfina, Locanda, and now Tawla, Magidow will take some time off to pursue pop-ups and consulting. Hashem has not responded to requests for comment.
Update, January 11: In a lengthy post on Medium, Hashem finally addressed the closure of her restaurant, blaming worker turnover and the high cost of living in San Francisco. The former Google worker also pointed a finger at local tech employees who “don’t understand what’s made San Francisco special including not understanding what it means to support small businesses and what it means to offer a high-quality food product.”