Just this past Monday, Pacific Cocktail Haven, the pioneering bar from bartender Kevin Diedrich and publican Andrew Chun, caught on fire. It’s the kind of setback that might send most of us back to bed for the rest of the month (or longer). But for Deidrich and Chun, it was just another twist in the long road to open their new bar, Kona’s Street Market. The business opens on Thursday, February 25, with food from Francis Ang’s Filipino pop-up Pinoy Heritage, a menu of cocktails classified by region of origin, and to-go or seated outdoor service.
It’s been a year of highs and lows for Diedrich. In addition to this week’s fire, there’s the global pandemic, which prompted a shutdown of bars across California. To reopen for takeout or delivery service, booze-focused spots were allowed to partner with chefs like Ang to prepared “bona fide meals” that must be sold with drink orders, which Diedrich and Chun did for PCH and Kona’s. Unlike PCH, “we always planned on having a little food at Kona’s,” Chun says, “after all, our original name for the place was Night Market,” so street food was always in the cards.
Sound familiar? Night Market’s move into a former Quiznos at Third and Market Streets was announced in 2019, with a plan to open later that year. Since then, an LA bar with the same name asked them to rebrand, so they named the spot after Diedrich’s rescue hound, who goes with him “everywhere.” And now, Chun says, “she has her own bar” (and is featured, slightly frowning and with a shaker on her head, in its logo).
And then there was the pandemic and lockdown, which made the prospect of a SoMa bar intended for large parties seem impossible. “We’ve got four wells at Kona’s so we can serve complicated cocktails fast,” Chun says, “even if we’ve got a full house of 100 people or more.” A crowded bar? Indoor cocktails? Did we live like that, once?
Chun admits that the idea of a packed bar with loud music and free-flowing drinks “feels surreal” right now. but that didn’t dissuade Diedrich or him from opening the place up now. “I believe in downtown,” Chun says. “This is a boom-and-bust town, and people will be back. If you put anything I said in your story, put that.”
Chun doesn’t just believe in San Francisco, though. He also believes in Deidrich. The day PCH burned, he called Eater SF to remind us that Deidrich is a “homegrown star,” as PCH received one of the industry’s highest honors, named best American cocktail bar at the 2020 Spirited Awards. And Deidrich, Chun pointed out, was named American bartender of the year. “What a year to win that,” Chun says, “when we’re all basically shut down.”
So, almost a year after San Francisco shut down, Kona’s is opening up, with a few outdoor tables (reservations must be made in advance), and a to-go menu of drinks like the “Milk was a bad choice” (Bombay sapphire gin, calvados, Italicus, sumac, makrut, lime, cold brew, and kefir) from the “Africa + Middle East” part of the menu, or the “Silence is Golden” (Iichiko saiten shochu, gin, Sakura vermouth, white bean, strawberry, citrus, and egg white) from the “Asia + Pacific” section. Each cocktail is “globally inspired,” Chun says, “just like a street market has influences from all over.” (You can see the full cocktail menu below.)
It’s an “unfussy theme” that the team hopes will resonate with office workers and tourists, as they return to the city. “This isn’t forever,” Chun says. “Hang in there, we’re going to be vaccinated and able to hang out together soon.” And when we are, Chun says, “even if the bar is completely packed, you’ll be able to get a great, high-quality cocktail and you won’t have to wait.”
Kona’s Street Market is open Tuesdays-Saturdays from 3-7 p.m. at 32 Third Street. Reservations and takeout are available via Tock.