"Change or die!" This axiom-turned-aphorism of 1960s and 70s entrepreneurs has become the imminent reality of businesses across the city (and across the world) since the start of the pandemic. Restaurants and bars have had an especially hard time, with consistently inconsistent shifts in regulations and mandates around indoor/outdoor dining, liquor sales, and capacity restraints in what used to be boisterous and thriving spaces.
Many haven't survived, but others are doing their best to roll with the punches and continue coming up with new and gernerative ways to stay in business and serve San Francisco citizens. Curio is one such survivor. Located in the heart of the Mission, the founders and staff of this free-spirited space have leaned into their unconventional creativity to keep life alive.
Like many SF eateries, Curio's bar has spilled onto the streets with a parklet out front and a spacious back garden allowing for year-round outdoor imbibing. They've also taken a creative expanse into the parking lot, transforming the space into an outdoor concert venue as their neighboring indoor venue (The Chapel) took a mandatory hiatus for much of the pandemic. The converted parking lot has featured shows that have been branded as "psychedelic and safe" and may continue even after the Chapel re-opens in September.
This summer Curio was able to fully re-open their indoor dining space, a cozy hall with a rich eclectic vibe that's difficult to parity outdoors. In order to enter the establishment you must show proof of vaccination or a recent (within 72 hours) negative Covid test, a trend you may be seeing more and more across the city. It's a stance the owners have taken to protect staff and patrons alike, but applies only to indoor diners.
The restaurant features a creative menu rooted in regional American dishes, such as decadent Dungeness crab-stuffed mushrooms, Coco-Cola braised ribs, and truffled vegan mac and cheese. They also serve satisfying sandwiches and lighter bites with an Asian influence, such as green papaya salad and gorgeous fresh spring rolls. The kitchen is open for dinner Thursday-Sunday, with beautiful brunch offerings on the weekend.
Curio really hits their stride with a curated array of unique craft cocktails. The signature Chupacabra blends tequila and mezcal with passion fruit juice and herbaceous yellow chartreuse; add a dash of cinnamon and grapefruit bitters, a squeeze of lime and a kick of habanero and you've got a smooth spicy sipper that surprisingly balanced. A refreshing Mermaid offers notes of grapefruit, raspberry, peach, lime, and fresh muddled mint, while the Sphinx brings rich deep flavors of bourbon and black applejack mellowed with pear liquor and sweet vermouth.
If you're feeling daring, order the seasonal special or ask for something on the secret menu, like the sparkly fresh Cam Girl. Inspired bartenders equipped with everything from Pisco and fresh mint to passionfruit juice and thyme sprigs are sure to help you find a fit for your palate. You'll also find a modest yet solid selection of wines and beers, both local and imported.
If you're itching for indoor entertainment, fear not. The Chapel is slated to re-open September 2nd with the Milk Carton Kids and has a full schedule of shows planned for the fall. Vaccinations (or recent Covid test) are required for entry and masks must be worn while indoors. Consider a visit to show some support to a community staple that prides itself on serving San Francisco.
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