A favorite Mission hangout is swinging back open this Friday, January 7, after going dark for nearly two years. Dalva, that beloved neighborhood bar that’s not quite a dive, was admittedly in desperate need of a renovation after a couple of hard-drinking decades. Longtime owner Erik Reichborn-Kjennerud (Dalva, ABV) and new partner Eric Ochoa (Elda) took on the “gut job,” so they say, and are debuting a new look while hoping to preserve the same feel. The space now has more style and warmth, the bar has racked up fresh cocktails, and friends are already peering in with anticipation.
“It feels really, really rewarding, having been here almost 20 years,” Reichborn-Kjennerud says. And even after months of work, he says he’s still looking around in disbelief. “We always thought it would look great, but honestly, we couldn’t be happier. I hope people will find it beautiful … like ‘wow, holy shit, that’s Dalva?’” Ochoa is also a longtime regular, as a Mission resident who kicked it with industry friends over the years, enjoying everything from Obama presidential debates to DJ karaoke nights at Dalva. He says he can’t wait for the crowd to come back, before or after catching a flick at the Roxie. “It’s really beautiful,” Ochoa says. “But it won’t be soulful until the characters are back in the space.”
Erik and Eric didn’t hire a fancy firm, but ripped into the redesign themselves, with trusted contractors and craftsmen. At the front, they replaced the octagonal window with a rectangle, which opens to bring in fresh air. The two heavy wooden doors became one inviting glass door to see and entice passersby to step inside. The exterior metal is gone, replaced with blue and white tiles that flow into the space and fill an archway along the right wall. They preserved the Art Deco back bar, but literally elevated it 20 inches to give it an even grander presence, and painted it a moody blue with the original wooden inlay peeking through. The bar counter itself is now a lighter white oak, and the beer taps moved to the back, so it’s comfier to chat with your bartender.
At the back, a wooden arch floats down into a bench and defines a lounge area, so you’re not staring straight into the bathroom. Up top a wavy orange mural from artist Schuyler Beecroft radiates over the whole space. Drinkers can pick a seat from four stools at the front window, perfect for good people watching; eight seats at the bar to chat over drinks; high tables running down the right side; and low tables at the back. “The old Dalva was a dark bar,” Erik says. “But with the way it lights up now, it’s not bright, it’s not dark — it’s warm. There’s a great kind of glow to it.”
Still to come: The team is planning to build a parklet, so outdoor seating is in the works in the next month or so. The Hideout, that back bar-within-a-bar, will reopen at a later date this spring, as will the area upstairs. Erik and Eric say they’ve received the most concerned texts regarding the Hideout, and want to reassure friends they don’t plan to change it too much, but they may take more creative liberties upstairs. Both hideaways will offer options for private parties and gatherings or overflow seating on weekends.
Ochoa took the lead on crafting the new cocktails, although of course Reichborn-Kjennerud was in the mix. Pandemic delays gave them even more time to nerd out over the new menu, which stars a dozen cocktails and a few high balls. Ochoa fears the fan favorite may be the most laborious — Friend of the Devil, as in the Grateful Dead song, is a clarified milk punch laced with rye, chocolate stout, and cherry, served over an engraved ice cube. The Garibaldi Sunrise mashes up tequila, Campari, and fresh orange juice, with aerated fluff on top and an orange wedge sprinkled with Tajin. The New Wave Fix was an accidental creation of funky and refreshing Italian gin, French wine, pineapple, and coconut chartreuse. La Mala Vida combines mezcal with refreshing cucumber shrub and numbing Sichuan pepper syrup.
There’s not just local craft beer on tap, but also cider and vermouth. Artemis Botanical makes the vermouth with locally foraged botanicals, and the bar is serving it “Spanish style,” meaning on the rocks with a big-ass olive. Glasses of natural wine hit orange and sparkling options, and a nonalcoholic negroni carries a whiff of charred grapefruit tonic. The deep list of spirits reflects Ochoa’s expertise in agave, with special bottles of tequila and mezcal, available in one and two ounce pours so drinker can taste a few, and Reichborn-Kjennerud threw in a stash of whiskey that he’s been “squirreling away.” Dalva does not have a full kitchen, but there is exciting snack action, featuring chef friends: Mister Jiu’s spicy peanuts, Lolo chips and salsa, and Aurora Alimentari pork pate are up first, and more may rotate through.
Dalva reopens Friday, January 7, and it’s open every day of the week, from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.