The Perennial opened three years ago as the city’s most sustainable restaurant, bringing the fight against climate change to the dinner table. Owners Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz, founders of Mission Street Food and Mission Chinese Food, created a restaurant platform that they hoped would serve as a model for other restaurants in that fight, but without sacrificing taste and hospitality.
Its final day of service will be February 9, giving diners a few more days to stop by the SoMa restaurant, the latest to close in a crop of restaurants that opened in the shadow of the Twitter building — the likes of Cadence, Bon Marché, Dirty Water, Alta (now Kaya), and Oro.
“The neighborhood has been pretty challenging,” says Myint. “We were never really able to get to that point where we were really busy. We kept it open a long time trying to find a way to do that, and realizing in the process of running the restaurant just how much potential there is for either us or someone else to really improve the food system.”
“At some point we started to feel like we could do more work on that if we could devote all our time and energy to it and not be losing money also,” says Myint.
Following the restaurant’s impending closure, the fight will continue. The duo now plans to focus on their non-profit, the Perennial Farming Initiative (PFI). In addition, Myint and Leibowitz, who also have a young daughter, continue to run Mission Chinese Food, where Myint plans to spend more time.
PFI combats climate change “from a culinary perspective,” working to “minimize the negative environmental impacts associated with farming and ranching, while actively using agriculture as a tool for sequestering greenhouse gases and fighting climate change.”
ZeroFoodprint, the non-profit Myint started with Chris Ying and Peter Freed, is now under that umbrella as well, with over 25 restaurants committed to being carbon neutral in SF and beyond.
“I think it’ll be interesting to see moving forward how that neighborhood develops,” says Myint. “For us, we’re pretty excited to work on the advocacy side full time and work with carbon neutral restaurants.”
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Closing Time // The Perennial opened its doors with the message that we can address climate change with delicious food; three years later, we have decided to close The Perennial, while continuing to pursue the mission that it represents. So much has happened at The Perennial to give us hope and make us grateful to everyone who made this mission-driven restaurant a reality--and we have witnessed a real shift toward food and agriculture in the conversation around sustainability, which we are proud to have been part of. Meanwhile, during the same years we have run The Perennial, we were also building another labor of love: a non-profit sister organization we named The Perennial Farming Initiative, which is dedicated to the same mission as The Perennial. We have learned so much from toggling between the two projects, but as founders we have come to the conclusion that we can be more effective advocates for a renewable food system through PFI. As people, as parents, as partners, we recognize that it is time to close. Our final day of service will be February 9, and we hope that you will come in for a visit and a chance to say goodbye--or if you've never been before, a chance to taste our amazing food, meet our incredible staff, and taste what we've been talking about. We will miss The Perennial, but we look forward to sharing the next chapter with you soon. Thanks and best wishes, Karen and Anthony
There’s no word yet on what might take the Perennial’s place, though Myint still thinks a food business could work there, “something that could better capture a lunch crowd, basically fast casual with delivery options and a more lively bar scene.”
Regardless of how many covers the restaurant served per night, Myint says it wasn’t ultimately enough to make a big enough impact on food systems.
“Part of our learning process after opening the restaurant is that learning that one restaurant sourcing well, even if it inspires two more to do that, that’s not changing the system fast enough.”
“If we just continued to serve tasty food, I don’t know if the restaurant was creating the necessary system changes,” says Myint. “It was just walking the walk in a lot of ways. If we were in a different location we would have kept it going longer.”