Routier officially unlocks doors tonight for opening weekend, debuting a trim takeout menu filled with swordfish rillettes, lobster grand aioli, and caramelized brisket. The new French restaurant from the B. Patisserie team is a labor of love two years in the making. Even if diners can’t sit down and settle into a banquette just yet, take an exclusive first look inside the burnished space — proof that sometimes the most satisfying transformations come back to old character.
“We’re not trying to be a traditional bistro or brasserie,” says chef John Paul Carmona. “Like the name, we wanted everything to be very approachable, all about satisfaction and enjoyment.” Routier literally means a roadside restaurant, but don’t imagine a truck stop. The team is putting out nourishing family meals, and that warmth radiates through the dining room.
Routier is a three-way partnership between star pastry chef Belinda Leong of B. Patisserie, business partner Michel Suas of SFBI and Thorough Bread and Pastry, and savory chef John Paul Carmona, formerly of Manresa. The trio did not hire a designer; they dug in and did the reno themselves. But it certainly helped that Suas’s daughter is a local artist, guiding the vision and contributing a mural. It took two long years of dusty work, interrupted by a pandemic, to get here. Carmona says he spent much of shelter in place painting and waiting on inspectors.
It’s a sweet corner location, with big windows on both sides, soaking in the natural light from Divisadero and California streets. The dark green exterior gleams with gold script in the glass windows. The landlord insisted they keep the rounded metallic door, an unusual entrance.
Inside, the restaurant has two levels, with a tall dining room sweeping up to a mezzanine overlooking the bar. Originally a jazz club, it’s morphed into many bars over the years, most recently Wild Hare, a dark tavern in black and red. The Routier team stripped back and restored the hardwood floors and added brass details. They laid black-and-white tiles into the bar area, and topped it off with richly veined marble. And they polished up the original brass light fixtures, adding curtain rods and railings to the top of banquettes.
But a bustling roadside restaurant seems like a distant dream at the moment. The team has no intention of trying outdoor dining. They’re starting with takeout and focusing on affordable comforts: Seasonal salads keep it light. Rillettes are perfect picnic fare, irresistible for smashing on a sweet demi baguette. Braises reheat beautifully, but are balanced with plenty of pickle and preserved lemon. And “obviously the desserts” were always going to be good, beginning with custards and cookies that carry out well, without threatening to melt. Check out the full menu here.
“It’s a happy time. We’re glad to finally be open. It’s been so long coming,” says Carmona. “But obviously, while it’s been a long road, there’s an even longer road ahead.”