San Francisco native Jose Calvo Perez, who grew up on 19th Avenue and Clement Street and owns two Peruvian restaurants in the city, says the Sunset needs more late night eats and drinks. That’s why the chef is ecstatic to bring his signature lomo saltado to 1824 Irving Street, the former Taco Shop at Underdogs space, with the first brick-and-mortar location of his popular food truck Lomo Libre.
Lomo saltado, a stir fry of sorts featuring steak, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, french fries, and white rice, will star on the menu alongside a robust bar program centered on tequila and mezcal, the chef says. “I want to showcase my roots. That’s what I want to do,” Perez says. “I want to bring pisco sours to the neighborhood. And bar food, but done really, really well.”
By the end of March, diners can look for Lomo Libre in the renovated space, which former tenant Doug Marschke vacated to relocate to 1224 9th Avenue, just one block away from Perez’s Fresca restaurant on 9th Avenue. Taking over the original Underdogs location, just off the 19th Avenue and Irving Street thoroughfare, just feels right, Perez says. Brandon Tam, an old friend of Perez’s and the artist who created the 49ers 75th anniversary designs, painted a mural for the new restaurant inspired by the chef’s life and culture. In Spanish, the walls tell customers that Lomo Libre cooks with love, and that they are in their home as well as Perez’s. “I love the city, and I want this to be a neighborhood spot,” Perez says.
The restaurant’s launch comes after Perez’s food truck earned a stalwart fanbase out of Mission Bay’s Spark Social and in various other locations including Zuckerberg General Hospital over the past four years. He’d been watching the trend for a while before launching Lomo Libre in late 2018. In essence, the Lomo Libre food truck was his mobile altar to the Peruvian dish lomo saltado – and lomo quesadillas, lomo sandwiches, and nachos will all make it to the brick-and-mortar menu.
Perez has been opening businesses and cooking food for as long as he’s lived in San Francisco – his entire life — and comes from a family of restaurant folk. He was a senior at Riordan High School, near City College San Francisco in the Ingleside neighborhood, when his father opened his restaurant in 1996, the original Fresca. Perez’s parents had emigrated from Lima, Peru in 1978, and his father had been a chef at Alejandro’s, a Peruvian and Spanish restaurant on 19th and Clement.
Perez continued his father’s intentions by traveling the world, chopping and stewing his way through the European, Central American, and South American culinary worlds. In 2010 Perez opened Pasion, an upscale Latin fusion restaurant in the Sunset which flipped into the aforementioned Fresca location on Irving Street and 9th Avenue. Then, in 2013, Perez launched the enormous Pacifica restaurant Puerto 27 to honor his late brother Julio. Most recently, he moved with his wife and kids to Novato about two years ago, and says he would love to take Lomo Libre to Marin. “I just want to make people happy,” Perez says. “I want to grow from this. I’d love to expand and keep going outside the city.”