Prolific SF hospitality group Back of the House has swapped their Belgian beers and sausages for vegan dinners and juice-focused cocktails in Cow Hollow. Their new Union Street restaurant, called Wildseed, opens Friday in the former Belga, which they closed after four years at the end August. And while health — both personal and environmental — is the focus of Wildseed, fans of Belga’s popular Belgian frites aren’t out of luck: “Belga fries” with herb aioli, chipotle, and curry ketchup are on the Wildseed menu.
Back of the House founder Adriano Paganini, whose restaurants include meat-heavy spots like Super Duper Burgers and Argentinian steakhouse Lolinda, says Wildseed arrives as part of his own personal health journey. He and others on the Wildseed team, like chef Blair Warsham (who designed the Bird’s popular fried chicken sandwich) have adopted mostly “plant-based,” or loosely vegan, diets that they’ll reflect on the menu at Wildseed. That should suit the health-focused Marina neighborhood, where everyone’s on a personal health journey, even if it’s just to Soul Cycle.
Warsham says he approached Wildseed’s menu “with an omnivore’s palate:” Originally, he wanted to avoid direct substitutes for meat and animal byproducts, but as he tasted through products like Kite Hill’s dairy free ricotta cheese and Just’s substitute for eggs, he was impressed. Impossible’s imitation meat appears in a rigatoni Bolognese, and there’s also an Impossible burger option, as well as a house made Wildseed burger with a mushroom and spinach patty. The menu’s ingredients and vibes are Californian, but with global influences: There’s buckwheat soba in “pho” broth, “Peruvian” Hodo Soy tofu skewers, and a paella for two with Beyond sausage.
“This was a big challenge,” says Warsham. “But what’s fun for us is this ‘uncharted territory’ component.”
To drink, assistant general manager Lauren Fitzgerald designed a cocktail list that’s also got health cred, even if alcohol is involved. It’s focused on beverages with fresh juices, herbs, and homemade tinctures and shrubs. Local beer and organic, biodynamic wines are also available.
To re-enliven the dining room, Back of the House hired frequent design partner ROY. “There are lots of ‘healthy’ restaurants that use green, white, and light wood but we wanted to tweak that a bit and have it feel more special,” says ROY founder Hannah Collins. The 2,790 square-foot-space seats 132 people, and it’s also home to a large variety of plant species, whose green is set off against white walls, brass accents, and a turquoise blue tiled back bar. In keeping with its name and plant heavy decor, the restaurant plans to donate 10 cents from every check to Friends of the Urban Forest, an organization that plants and cares for trees on SF’s streets.
Wildseed is open for dinner to start, Tuesday to Sunday, from 5:30 p.m. 10 p.m., with lunch and brunch to follow.
Disclosure: Carolyn Alburger, Cities Director for Eater, is married to chef Blair Warsham. She has recused herself from involvement in any coverage of Warsham’s projects.