About two-and-a-half years after the Hayes Valley Creole restaurant Boxing Room pivoted to a Catalan menu and a new name — Barcino — its owners have decided to shut the whole thing down, all to better focus on a fast-casual restaurant a few blocks away.
The Absinthe Group — which also owns Jackson Square’s Comstock Saloon, SoMa Spanish spot Bellota, and Barcino neighbors Arlequin Wine Merchant and Absinthe Brasserie & Bar — took over Barcino’s 399 Grove Street spot back in 2011, transforming the former venue from celebrity chef Elizabeth Falkner’s Citizen Cake into the Boxing Room, a Louisiana-inspired restaurant helmed by chef Justin Simoneaux.
By mid-2017, the Boxing Room — which Eater restaurant critic Rachel Levin said “was the kind of restaurant you’d book because it had availability on OpenTable, not necessarily because you were in the mood for fried alligator” — had closed, and its owners announced that after a swift remodel, it would reopen with Bellota executive chef Joel Erhlich at the helm and a menu of Spanish seafood share plates, Catalan-style tomato bread, and raw bar dishes.
Reviews following Barcino’s July opening were mixed, with Levin praising its patatas and raw bar, but declaring its other offerings “middle of the pack.” Chron critic Michael Bauer was slightly warmer, saying that the paella was hit or miss but that the restaurant was “a good addition to Hayes Valley’s ever-expanding dining scene.”
By 2018, it appeared that Absinthe Group was seeking additional revenue streams for Barcino, partnering with co-working startup Spacious to act as a makeshift office for remote workers during the day, then opening for dinner service at night. Spacious closed in December 2019, cutting off that source of income for Barcino.
Given the Absinthe Group’s recent pivots at Barcino’s space, one might wonder if its owners have a new plan for 399 Grove. But according to a spokesperson, after ten years in the location, they have “made the decision to let go of the space and focus on other ventures.” (Many commercial space landlords require a decade-long lease, making the ten-year mark for the venue especially significant.)
According to the Absinthe Group, Barcino’s chef de cuisine Kaili Hill and and its general manager, Michael Goss, will be redeployed to Arbor, a new fast-casual restaurant the group is planning at 384 Hayes Street, the former location of the restaurant group’s Arlequin Cafe, which closed in spring of 2019. Not unlike Arlequin, Arbor will be fast casual, and will have Arlequin’s great back patio. Other than that, details are scarce: A spokesperson said that “menu development is well underway,” and via statement the Absinthe Group said that it would have “a new menu that will bring an array of delicious and convenient options to the Hayes Valley neighborhood.” Again, not unlike Arlequin.
While Arbor’s opening date is unclear, with a spokesperson saying only that “we’ll have more to share this spring,” Barcino’s closure has been set for February 15. Until then, the restaurant will continue to serve dinner, so fans of Barcino’s well-regarded mandonguilles (meatballs made of beef, pork, and veal) still have two weeks to get their fill.