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A Reuben sandwich cut in half with a layer of sauerkraut on thick slices of pumpernickel. Dan Robles

Inside Juniper, the Consistently Unpredictable Pop-Up at the Mill

From Reuben sandwiches on freshly-baked rye to tacos with naturally-leavened tortillas, the sky’s the limit for John Shaver and David X. Torres’ pop-up

The Mill was born out of two teams coming together to make something greater than the sum of its parts: Four Barrel Coffee and Josey Baker Bread combined forces to create the cafe that the Mill is today, a coffee shop featuring bread made with flour milled in-house, with an impressive toast menu, to boot.

The collaborative spirit of the cafe has led to additional events and culinary experimentations, including bread-making classes and pizza nights complete with garlic knots. The latest to emerge from the cafe’s creative staff is Juniper. Led by former baker John Shaver and current manager David X. Torres, the pop-up analyzes classic dishes and reimagines its components from the ground up, with Shaver and Torres making as much as possible from scratch.

The idea for Shaver and Torres’ pop-up came out of a joint surfing trip the two took in January 2021. Echoing the Mill’s theme of collaboration and partnership, the two realized that with their combined restaurant and baking experience, they could create something special.

Originally from Pittsburgh, Shaver started as a restaurant cook before moving to the Bay Area in 2016. He worked as a butcher at Avedano’s Meats in Bernal Heights and whet his appetite for baking when he started making his own pita bread for his pop-ups out of the butchery. In 2019, he joined Josey Baker Bread, but has since left to focus on Juniper and his private chef business.

Torres, originally from Michigan, went to culinary school with a focus on pastry and bread, but ended up starting out in restaurant kitchens due to a shortage of available bakery positions. His time at a Rhode Island deli gave him ample knowledge about sandwiches, and he was able to finally work as a baker when he moved to Colorado to join Grateful Bread. After a few years in Colorado, he made the move from Boulder to join the Josey Baker Bread team, where he serves as manager today.

“I’ve always dreamed of meeting someone that I can combine forces with to make amazing combos with,” Torres says. “My dream has been to make sandwiches or tacos with really special bread in addition to really amazing fillings. It helps considerably that I have a couple years of cooking experience and John has some baking experience as well.”

David X. Torres smiles in a striped shirt and John Shaver looks left with his arm around his partner. He wears a yellow shirt and beige hat.
David X. Torres (left) and John Shaver (right)
Paulina Barrack

For Juniper’s first pop-up in March, Shaver and Torres took on the classic Reuben sandwich. The pair admired Reubens so much that it also inspired the name of their pop-up.

“[Juniper] is a framing ingredient that transforms flavor, often in combination with other spices. I love the intoxicating aroma and how it is typically used in slow process cooking,” Shaver says. Torres also notes the versatile aspect of the name, and said one of the things they loved about using the word juniper was that it “doesn’t tie us down to any particular cuisine or style of food.”

Together, Shaver and Torres developed the juniper-spiced rub and pickling brine for the corned beef, fermented their own sauerkraut, mixed their own Russian dressing, and baked loaves of pumpernickel rye to create Juniper’s Reuben. The preorders for both pop-up dates sold out shortly after the menu was uploaded to their website.

For their second pop-up in June, the pair tackled tacos, a true labor of love: braised lamb smothered in guajillo adobo and escabeche topped Torres’ shallow-fried whole wheat tortilla enriched with chicken fat, and roasted chicken mole decorated white corn tortillas made from their own masa.

David X. Torres, wearing a mask, places whole red and yellow bell peppers on a sheet tray in a kitchen. Paulina Barrack

“It’s all about the process for us. We made gallons of [guajillo adobo and mole], and learned so much doing it,” Shaver says. “This is what we love about Juniper. Doing our research, finding the best and most sustainable ingredients and figuring out how to make the best possible version of each component.”

For their third pop-up this month, Shaver and Torres will feature tuna confit sandwiches. The tuna will be poached in herbed, fruity olive oil and served on Torres’ ciabatta with black olive tapenade, roasted Jimmy Nardello pepper mayonnaise, blistered tomatoes, and marinated cucumbers. The ciabatta is a recipe that incorporates what Torres learned from Grateful Bread in Colorado, who favors a very traditional ciabatta, and the sourdough starter he works with at Josey Baker Bread.

Shaver and Torres always use local ingredients whenever possible; For this month’s pop-up, the tuna is sourced from Monterey Fish Market, the olives from Nash in Corning, and the peppers and tomatoes from Blue House and Tomatero farms, respectively. And each pop-up includes a vegetarian option; for the Rueben sandwiches that meant sliced roasted beets dressed in the same pickling brine they used for the corned beef, while for the tacos, they fried Baja-style cauliflower. For the upcoming tuna confit pop-up, they’ll substitute fromage blanc from Cowgirl Creamery for tuna upon request.

“Collaboration is what Juniper is all about,” Shaver says. “Of course, the collaboration between David and I, but also the relationships we are building within the local farmers, ranchers, fisherman, delivery drivers, farmers market attendants, everyone involved down the line of our very special food landscape here in Northern California.”

When asked about Juniper’s future, both Shaver and Torres say they’re more than happy to continue the events at The Mill — crediting Josey and The Mill staff for their unending support — but have toyed with the idea of expanding.

“I’d love to be able to sell our bread or tortillas with the dish that uses it [at the farmer’s market],” Torres says. Shaver adds, “We have talked about selling our sandwiches along with loaves of the bread and components from the menu, like jarred pickles or guajillo adobo. As of now, we plan to continue with the pop-up model for the foreseeable future.”

John Shaver preps vegetables in a restaurant kitchen. Paulina Barrack

Juniper’s next pop-up will take place at The Mill, 736 Divisadero St., on Sunday, October 10th from 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. (or until sold out). The event is walk-up only, with no pre-orders being taken. For more information about Juniper, visit their website and follow Juniper on Instagram.

The Mill

736 Divisadero Street, , CA 94117 (415) 345-1953 Visit Website

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