There’s a new parklet on Valencia where guests can shamelessly down a bloody mary and a shrimp cocktail in the middle of the afternoon. A bar where you don’t have to feel bad about posting up to people watch over a glass of grüner and a plate of creamy burrata, or for asking the bartender to shake up an espresso martini. It’s a place where you can pull up a stool and sip a boozy slushie under the gentle flicker of a disco ball and not a single person will think you don’t take your cocktails seriously. Because at Chezchez, the newest bar from Trick Dog mastermind Josh Harris and the BV Hospitality team, it’s all about approachability. “The word that we kept coming back to was ‘familiar,’” Harris says. “I happily serve a classic Negroni. On the menu.”
Chezchez, which opened its doors on Tuesday, August 17, is hard to sum up. But the most accurate description might be a wine bar with a killer cocktail list and truly worthwhile food. Harris and the team, which includes operating partner and sommelier Drew Record and beverage director Jennifer Colliau, say the theme is simply “aperitivo stuff.” There’s an intentionally uncomplicated drink menu with a focus on aperitifs, those refreshing and often-bubbly cocktails that typically serve to whet your appetite before a meal. And there’s a food menu that’s designed to feel familiar, even if you could never anticipate that the tender vegetables in the fritto misto come encased in tempura-style batter that’s gently infused with the yeasty flavor of Champagne.
If one thing is crystal clear, it’s that Chezchez is not Trick Dog 2.0. “We don’t feel like we need to be in competition with ourselves,” Harris says. “We want places to exist on the merits of their own personalities, of their own concept, and so Trick Dog is in the conversation a lot when we talk about the opening of Chezchez but it was important that Chezchez had its own identity and also that it was wanted and what we liked.”
That means the Chezchez beverage list encompasses six broad categories of cocktails, all of which should be familiar to almost anyone of legal drinking age, plus more than 50 wines of just about any color you could possibly crave. There are six iterations of bloody marys guests can order (“you have our permission” the menu chides) including a classic variety built on a base of the bar’s proprietary bloody mary mix and a Baltic version starring aquavit. Spritzes — which Chezchez defines as any beverage that combines a spirit with something carbonated and wine — range from the eponymous Chezchez Spritz made with Martini Fiero, a splash of red pet-nat, and tonic water to the Mojito Royale, a combo of rum, mint, and sparkling wine. Then there are negronis (a classic and a slushy), five kinds of Old Fashioneds, and martinis galore.
If you’re going to meander through all those options, you’d probably benefit from some food and chef de cuisine Timmy Malloy is ready with an elegant and simple spread. The core offerings include six options of tinned fish — Spanish sardines for those just wading into the waters and tiny baby squids packed with paprika, olive oil, onion, and salt for the more experienced swimmers. Each comes with a petit salad of ever-changing fresh herbs, a side of Acme bread, and a heaping of sea salt and chile flakes. Meanwhile, plates of meat and cheese are edited to highlight the appeal of one or two ingredients; for example, a platter of thinly sliced prosciutto di parma dusted with pistachios, chile, and a light spray of saba. And there are plenty of vegetables, from a raw market crudite to fried potato puffs with dip.
As for the space, which formerly housed the escapist cocktail refuge Bon Voyage, the biggest change is obvious and upfront. The frosted windows at the front of the bar have been replaced with ones that open up and offer a view of Valencia and the Chezchez parklet. Harris says he wanted energy to flow between the two spaces and to make the bar feel more integrated with the street. Other design elements will be familiar — the giant leather giraffes are gone but the twin lions still guard the back bar — with the ultimate effect being a comfortable space that’d be a perfect setting for passing an afternoon downing daiquiris with Patti Smith and SZA playing in the background. Which is precisely what Harris hopes you’ll do.
Chezchez is located at 584 Valencia Street and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 4:30 to 10:00 p.m. For reservations call 415-658-7878.