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Bay Area-Born Señor Sisig Takes it Back to the Town With a New Filipino-American Cantina

Señor Sisig started as a roving food truck but the company’s new Oakland restaurant feels like a homecoming

Dianne de Guzman is a deputy editor at Eater SF writing about Bay Area restaurant and bar trends, upcoming openings, and pop-ups.

The cantina vibes are strong — or at least as strong as they get with a downtown location — at the new Oakland location of Señor Sisig. Huge roll-up garage doors welcome in the breeze on the Town’s sunniest days, plus there’s an airy interior, sisig burritos, and refreshing margaritas, highballs, and Ube Hennchatas at the ready. It’s not your typical Señor Sisig location, although it contains the hit dishes the up-and-coming restaurant chain for which has become well-known. But this space comes with new food items, a full liquor license, and TVs mounted above the bar, creating a group-friendly space to grab food and a drink. “We don’t put TVs in any of the other spots,” co-founder Evan Kidera says. “We’re gonna be able to encourage you to chill and hang out for a while, watch the game, have a drink or two, and share a dish or three or four or five.”

Daniel Beck

In keeping with that vibe, the new menu items skew more toward pulutan, or snacks typically eaten with beer or cocktails. There are, of course, the sisig and tosilog burritos, the Crunch-A-Dilla wrap, fries and nachos, plus the option to turn most things vegan. But with cocktails and beer on the menu, co-founders Kidera and Gil Payumo say they wanted to introduce shareable items that would be specific to this location. With that in mind, the Lechon Kawali Plato is made for groups: a half-pound of chopped, crispy pork belly comes with chili-lime shrimp chips and corn tortillas, along with sides of sisig barbecue sauce, creamy habanero salsa, pickled red onions, and lime wedges for a bit of citrus.

Meanwhile, the other new food item on the menu comes through a partnership with another Filipino-owned business. Local collabs have long been a part of the Señor Sisig business model, from the Whole Barnyard Burrito — a meat-centric burrito dreamed up by artist Jeremy Fish — to a limited edition Humphry Slocombe “churron” ice cream that combined banana ice cream with bits of churro inside for the restaurant’s Ferry Building location. This new location is no different; this time the Señor Sisig team tapped Alex Retodo of Oakland’s the Lumpia Company to create sisig-filled lumpias. “We want to be able to collaborate with our folks from Oakland that have been here for a long time already,” Kidera says. “That’s really where our inspiration comes from, or where it really starts; when we think about the creative process we look at where we’re at with our location and let’s tell a story based on that.”

The sisig lumpia comes topped with pico de gallo, and a sprinkling of queso fresco, cheddar, and jack cheese, along with a side of tomatillo salsa for dipping (a changeup from the sweet chili sauce typically served with lumpia). “It’’s not just sisig lumpias, it’s something that you can’t get it anywhere else,” Payumo says. “You look at that dish and it makes sense, and it’s gonna be complimentary with our cocktails and our beers.”

Although Señor Sisig grew as a business in food trucks across San Francisco, this Oakland location is all Town business. One graphic inside the space is styled after Oakland’s Fox Theater, with the city’s tree logo front and center along with outlines of downtown, the Bay Bridge, and the Port of Oakland cranes. But the real eye-catching art piece is a mural from artist Aaron Kai depicting Oakland icons such as Shock G, Ricky Henderson, boxer Andre Ward, Steph Curry, and more — already, passersby have asked to take photos.

With a new array of cocktails and slushies expanding Señor Sisig’s beverage offerings, Kidera and Payumo want to make this a chill spot for Oakland, with food at its center but with on-brand drinks to accompany. “We decided to make it more of a cantina vibe, less of a bar — because it is,” Kidera says. “It’s food first, alcohol second. It’s not a bar with food.” That’s not to say the drinks aren’t bar quality. New general manager David Upton, formerly of the Tipsy Pig, is fresh off a stint in Mexico, where he dove into the world of tequila and mezcals, and he’s pouring that experience into the drinks. He’s infused the cocktails with some inventive takes that incorporate Filipino and Mexican flavors with small batch and women-owned tequila and mezcal brands.

Four glasses with drinks of different colors, in front of a mural depicting heroes of Oakland at Senor Sisig.

While customers won’t be able to order off-menu items like a martini or negroni, there are margaritas, highballs, and local beers on tap to whet your whistle. A tamarind and chili margarita combines mezcal with chile, tamarind, lemon, and honey, while a pandan and pineapple margarita combines creamy pandan with pineapple, a touch of lime, and notes of smoky corn from Mezcal Vago Elote. For highballs, there’s a tequila soda that incorporates Topo Chico as a mixer, and the Cuba Libre made with rum from Michoacán, Mexico, plus amaro, Mexican Coke, and lime. There’s also slushy machines for an Ube Colada made with rum and mezcal; then, if anyone wants to get Bay with it, there’s an Ube Hennchata that combines the house ube horchata with — you guessed it — Hennessy.

The new Señor Sisig location is just around the corner from its Webster Street location, which will wind down after this opening; that space started up during the pandemic and became an East Bay outlet for the restaurant and a comfort to locals who missed their fix of tosilog burritos. The staff at Webster is moving over to the new location, but this new opening has the feel of finally moving on from those pandemic beginnings into something fresh and exciting. “For the staff, it’s a great new feeling and it’s a restart,” Payumo says. “It’s a brand new car, like I always tell everybody.”

Señor Sisig (330 17th Street, Oakland) debuts Friday, April 14, and is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

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