Last October Alex Lauritzen went from “person who works at restaurants” to Gumby-look-alike wizard who stacks mushrooms like a fungus-based Jenga tower. His pop-up the Mushroom is his latest and greatest adventure in cooking after gigs with restaurants including Cotogna and Verjus. Now he and co-owner Frank Valdez are bringing the scrappy and surreal vegan dinner party to Dalva on 16th Street. This isn’t the first time the pop-up takes over a bar, but it’s the first time they will commit to a monthly series. “We’ve done the Bar Mushroom concept before, but we wanted more space and infrastructure,” Lauritzen says.
He says popping up at Dalva came about because of his predilection to drink at the Mission District bar quite often. He met co-owners Erik Reichborn-Kjennerud and Eric Ochoa through mutual friends and always chatted about what working together could look like. They offered the space to Lauritzen as the two want to do a series of events, starting with Mushroom, and especially in their back bar the Hideout, which re-opened on August 19. Ergo, this is a prelude trial run for a monthly bistro event at Dalva — all in the Hideout. The inaugural event will be held on August 28 from 3-8 p.m.
The menu won’t be terribly different from others in the past, but it won’t be as wine-focused. Dalva will spearhead the front of the house and alcohol offerings, but Lauritzen will pour custom martinis. A tomato martini (which Lauritzen is particularly excited about as it will be run through a centrifuge, a first for him as far as preparation goes), a strawberry amaro drink, and a vegetable michelada will be all featured at the event. Food-wise, the menu will be more casual. Expect eight plates a la carte or a full prix-fixe menu — though it’ll be all cold dishes and small, shareable bar food in addition to the gazpacho (Lauritzen’s favorite food) as there’s no oven on-site. A cheese company from Philadelphia, Bandit, which makes coconut and cashew cave-aged products, will provide a cheese board, as well. A mixed vegetable plate, something a bit more bar-ish, will be available, too.
Working in a bar, and what the future at Dalva could look like, is invigorating to the young chef. “With my cooking I want to highlight vegetables and fruits in an exciting way,” Lauritzen says. “Dalva, where there are actual bartenders who know the tricks and tips, is so exciting for us.” It’s the first time popping up at a proper bar for the team — the last Bar Mushroom was hosted in the same space before the renovated Dalva was fully operational.
Regarding a future physical location, Lauritzen says he’s not cutting any corners. The last few dinners have stabilized the team, and the focus is pulling in the right people to balance out the mania of the general vibe. Pricing is ever on his mind, too; he points out their dinner at Tahona Mercado, which cost $125 a person, brought in a more casual crowd; In the pop-up’s early stages at places like Yo Tambien Cantina, dinners cost $200. At the Dalva event, nothing will cost more than $20. He’s hoping to find a space in Nob Hill, Lower Nob Hill, or North Beach. Sutter and Bush, where the galleries are trickling open, is an area that excites everyone on board. They’re taking an inspiration trip to hone in on where they see themselves. “We’re looking at spaces, but it’s still a ways off,” Lauritzen says. “It’ll be bigger than I anticipated, and I’m trying not to rush.”