Thanks to a confluence of events, prices on restaurant menus everywhere are going up — but at Mr. Pollo, the tiny tasting menu restaurant on Mission just south of 24th Street, you can still get a four-course meal for just $40. Yes, that’s more than a meal at the restaurant cost before Mr. Pollo closed in the early days of the pandemic, but it nevertheless remains one of the most affordable prix-fixe menus in San Francisco. And since the restaurant reopened on December 28, owner Will McGuire says customers, old and new, are pleased to fill the 20-seat dining room. “The vibe has been great,” McGuire says. “Everyone has been super enthusiastic. The people who know us are super happy we’re back, and people who are new are like, this is a cool new discovery.”
Founded in 2010 by chef Manny Torres Gimenez (who brought experience cooking at high-end restaurants including Coi, A16, and Quince to the endeavor), Mr. Pollo now plays host to chef Graham Bellefeuille. McGuire says he connected with Bellefeuille after his former chef-partner Jonny Becklund decided to move on to Oregon during the restaurant’s extended closure. Bellefeuille previously spent five years as head chef at Contigo, the now-closed Spanish restaurant in Noe Valley. His joining the team marks a fresh start for the restaurant. “Jonny and I had a great run for along time, and Manny,” McGuire says. “But it’s nice to have something new — the new chapter of Mr. Pollo.”
The loosely South American menu, which changes every week or so, typically starts with a soup or appetizer, followed by the restaurant’s signature second-course arepa, a nod to the building’s former life as a Colombian restaurant. Then comes a main dish — perhaps a braised duck leg with roasted sunchokes, sauteed kale, and soubise — and dessert. Historically, McGuire says Mr. Pollo has always done a chicken arepas, but he says Bellefeuille will soon begin offering some different meat options. And while the sweet course has often been limited to sorbet or ice cream, Bellefeuille brings some pastry experience to the table, so diners can look forward to more variety there.
As for the space, McGuire says they made cosmetic updates, including painting the walls, redoing the floors, and improving the lights, but nothing significant. Reservations are available through Yelp — and McGuire says diners who can’t find a table in advance might want to try checking back on the day they want to dine-in since he’s seeing a more same-day cancellations due to the omicron surge. Still, despite the challenges on the road to reopening, McGuire says he’s happy to be welcoming diners back into the space once more. “At the end of the day I’m just excited to be back and all the other stuff is kind of in the rear view,” he says. “It was definitely a struggle for a long time, but we made it, luckily.”