When the Vault opened in spring 2019, it was a splashy power lunch and cocktail scene at the base of the 555 California skyscraper in the FiDi (or the former Bank of America Building, as this writer’s old man still calls it). Open for less than a year when pandemic hit, it rose to the crisis with one of the most ambitious outdoor dining setups in the city, surfacing above ground and taking over the entire plaza to debut the Vault Garden in summer 2020. Now, the restaurant that started underground, then clawed above ground, is diving back down once more, and reopening as a different concept. Step downstairs into the Vault Steakhouse, which has a meaty new menu, starring tomahawk steaks and caviar tots.
When it came time to reopen for indoor dining, owner Ryan Cole says the team had to face the cold hard facts that their previous crowd of office workers and convention goers wasn’t coming back, at least not in force, and perhaps not anytime soon. “What does the future of downtown hold?” Cole posed to his team. “And the more we thought about it, to reopen the Vault as it was before just didn’t make sense.”
But diners are still craving comfort and date-night destinations, and there is a remarkable dearth of steakhouses downtown in the FiDi. When Alfred’s, the oldest steakhouse in SF, permanently closed in 2020, it left a porterhouse-shaped hole in the neighborhood. Plus, the Vault’s lux space, which is already tricked out with leather banquettes and private liquor lockers, was the perfect setting. “The space feels like a steakhouse,” Cole says. “It’s sexy, dark, and underground, and literally in a bank vault. And it’s a comforting dining experience. You know what you’re getting.”
The totally new menu, courtesy of chef Ryan Cerizo, stars half a dozen different cuts of Black Angus steaks from Kansas, drowned in bearnaise or bordelaise. There will be carts rolling through the dining room to toss tableside Caesar salads, and other steakhouse classics, such as Parker House rolls and creamed spinach, crab cakes, and truffled mac and cheese. But it’s not too traditional: Beef fat fried rice arrives sizzling in a stonepot, with an egg yolk nestled at the center, ready to pop and stir. And the “Potato Pave ‘Tots’” are like a fancy tater tot topped with caviar, creme fraiche, and chives. Bar vet Nicky Beyries, formerly of Foreign Cinema, is shaking the martinis. Check out that full menu, below.
The Vault Garden isn’t going anywhere, so with the Vault Garden upstairs and the Vault Steakhouse downstairs, diners are now getting two restaurants in one skyscraper. And they’re both part of the Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group, which also includes Trestle and Corridor in San Francisco and the newly merged Mama’s in Oakland. Trestle was in residence in the Vault for six months, but it’s reopening in its original home in Jackson Square on September 28, bringing back the affordable $39 prix fixe. Mama’s is already in action, similarly doing a $35 prix fixe, and just got a smash review from the restaurant critic at the SF Chronicle.
After the steakhouse, the second biggest change for the group will be that Corridor is bowing out. Cole says they plan to flip that location and reopen it as the Madrigal, coming later this winter. It sounds like a fitting name for a restaurant that’s so close to the Opera House and Symphony, but beyond the name, he wouldn’t sing details. Stay tuned for updates.
The Vault Steakhouse opens Friday, October 1. Hours are Tuesday to Thursday, 5 to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m.