“You don’t have to be a vegetarian to make great vegetable dishes,” asserts Stuart Brioza, half of the husband-and-wife team behind State Bird Provisions and the Progress, two farm-driven restaurants that have garnered national attention. He and wife Nicole Krasinski are planning on putting that hypothesis to the test in the near future, as they’re set to open an all-vegetarian restaurant inside a former corner store in the Lower Haight.
Brioza and Krasinski have yet to decide a name on the new spot, which has already been in the works for “about a year” at the corner of Haight and Scott Streets, Brioza tells Eater SF. The 799 Haight Street spot was a convenience store for many years, and most recently served as a bike shop called San Francyclo, a business that closed in 2017. The address has been vacant ever since. Brioza, who lives within walking distance of the spot, says that the head of the neighborhood association nudged him to look at the property, and after some discussions with the landlord, they were in.
Right now they’re in the change-of-use phase of the project, a city-mandated process that requires neighborhood notification of plans to transform the space from retail to a restaurant. This isn’t their first time dealing with that bureaucratic hurdle, as the Progress, their Fillmore Street restaurant inside the 108-year-old Progress Theater, faced similar permitting barriers before opening in 2014. They’re also old hands at the remodeling game, as in addition to the work necessary to open the Progress, State Bird Provisions (which occupies the same block as The Progress) has been expanded and remodeled at least three times since its opening in 2011.
All of those renovations have been handled by Wylie Price, a design firm that also counts Trick Dog and Nommo in its portfolio. Price is also on the docket for Brioza and Krasinski’s Haight venture, though it’s a while before that work can begin — this is San Francisco, after all.
City Hall doesn’t have any rules about getting started on a menu, though, so that’s where Brioza is right now. State Bird and the Progress are “whole animal” venues, as opposed to just buying and serving cuts of meat, and Brioza says that they love to work with “very small farms” for their meat, and are “able to use every bit and bobble” of the beasts they serve. But as he started to think about their next venture, he realized that they also “spend so much time on produce and vegetables every day.” He started to wonder, “How could we put our own stamp on vegetarian cooking?”
Unlike 2019-era vegan restaurants like Wildseed, which is totally plant-based, Brioza says that their spot will use cheese, dairy and eggs in preparations that require it — but that “many things will be vegan by definition.” That said, overall he’s planning “vegetarian cooking from a carnivore palate... something based in a love of good food.” And good drinks, it appears, as Brioza says the new venue will have a full liquor license, with a focus on cocktails.
If all goes well, Brioza says he hopes to open the as-yet-unnamed restaurant in the autumn of 2020. In the interim, Brioza and Krasinski have another project in the works (stay tuned for more on that venture — which, not to be a tease, sounds wildly fun — in the new year), as well as menu development for the Haight Street spot.
“It’s not my goal to make the ‘ultimate’ vegetarian restaurant,” Brioza says, but “I like the idea of limiting the palate. I think people will eat there and not notice that it’s vegetarian. Or maybe they do notice, and that turns into a conversation. That might be interesting, too.”