As Castro neighborhood restaurant Copas nears its two-year anniversary this fall, founder Jessica Kapoor says she realized it might be time to hit pause. “To take a moment to step back and hit the refresh button,” she says, “and really think about what makes us so unique and special.” So, after Sunday, April 16, the restaurant went dark for a short hiatus and when Copas returns on Thursday, April 27 it’ll be with a new focus inspired by both the vibrant surrounding Castro community and the culinary experience of chef and partner Julio Aguilera. “We really wanted to start paying tribute to his journey as a chef,” Kapoor says, “and really build this bridge from Mexico to California.”
To that end, Copas will now evolve into a causal Mexican restaurant serving an eclectic mix of dishes Aguilera picked up during the four years he spent living and working in the country. Expect Tijuana-style tacos, which the chef describes as “simple,” starring smoky grilled carne asada and served with a dollop of avocado on top. “Ours are going to be more hyper-focused on onions, cilantro, and mesquite,” he says. Other dishes on the menu will represent flavors from across Mexico, plus dishes that have become familiar favorites at Mexican restaurants in the states — think a chicken from the Yucatan but also street food favorites like esquites and a fan-favorite smash burger from the menu’s previous iteration.
A new beverage list spearheaded by lead bartender JJ Martinez similarly puts its roots in Mexico, in this case using imported agave spirits including tequila and mezcal, while also aiming to hit a playful note. Highlights will include a coconut-y pina colada and two versions of the requisite margarita: one classic and one done Tommy’s style, so pared back with just tequila, lime, and agave. A selection of Mexican beers rounds out the beverage list. Weekends will mean brunch, plus drag brunch once a month, and look forward to a daily happy hour with deals like $1 off all tacos, $7 guacamole, and half off rotating cocktails and beers. The team also plans to launch all-you-can-eat taco Thursdays so bring your stretchy pants.
The pivot from a menu of “Mexican- and Spanish-inspired California cuisine” to a more familiar, causal Mexican fare feels natural for the team considering both Kapoor and Aguilera’s histories. For Kapoor’s part, Mexican restaurants are practically in her blood as her family has owned and operated a handful of Mexican restaurants across the Bay Area for decades. Aguilera meanwhile not only spent years living in Mexico but also previously cooked at the now-closed Mexico City-inspired restaurant La Urbana and ran a taco pop-up.
They hope the new version of the restaurant — what they’re calling Copas 2.0 — will be more fun, more family-friendly, and more affordable and approachable for the neighborhood. “At the end of the day, you just want good food and good vibes, right?” Kapoor says. “And I think that has always been our ethos of Copas, so we want to maintain that and build upon it by celebrating where chef Julio comes from and where I grew up. This is a tribute and a celebration of our collective upbringings.”
Copas (2223 Market Street) reopens on Thursday, April 27 and will serve lunch and dinner Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 9 p.m.