San Francisco, CA

Popular San Francisco restaurant awarded Michelin star is closing after 7 years

Josue Torres
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One of San Francisco’s most celebrated Michelin-starred restaurants, which Bon Appetit previously ranked the greatest new restaurant in the nation, is permanently shutting down.

The owner of AL’s Place, Aaron London, has stated that the restaurant’s final day will be on August 28.

It’s not like AL’s Place is having trouble; in fact, London noted, it’s still crowded every night and lucrative. Also, the lease has not expired.

Instead, London, who has been in the business since he was a teenager and has led the well-known restaurant for seven years, said he is prepared to devote his time to something else outside the kitchen: his young family. He has been separated from his spouse and 1-year-old daughter due to the hectic pace of restaurant life, but he hopes to change that.

Nothing but the restaurant was important when he began AL’s Place in 1499 Valencia St., near 26th Street, in the Mission District, after years in the business he claimed he started wondering late at night more frequently if this is what he wants to be doing right now. He explains it’s been a slowly developing issue.

He ultimately decided to close down AL’s Place due to this sentiment as well as other employment alternatives that would be more suited to a work-life balance, such as producing a cookbook or providing restaurant consulting.

There will be a significant loss to the Bay Area eating scene. London, a former chef at the ground-breaking vegetarian restaurant Ubuntu in Napa Valley, established AL’s Place in 2015 with an almost obsessive concentration on veggies.

Even simple foods like french fries, which are brined for almost a week, much like kimchi,  were taken to the next degree. Seasonal ingredients have long been a staple of the restaurant’s signature dishes, such as lettuces with herbed avocado and a crunchy crumble that are meant to be eaten with your hands. These ingredients come from Blue Dane Garden, a farm in Grass Valley that grows produce exclusively for the establishment. Fish and meat are exclusively offered as sides.

The praise arrived swiftly. After six months of operation, Bon Appetit voted AL’s Place the best new restaurant of the year, praising the revelatory tastes of London. The eatery received a Michelin star. The Mission District’s more informal AL’s Deli, which opened in 2019 and expanded London, shuttered after less than a year.

The bustling eatery served as more than enough for London for a while. The Sonoma native, who began working in restaurants at the age of 14, was used to putting his physical and emotional well-being at risk for his job.

Until he met his girlfriend and they had a kid, he says that nothing really mattered except for working as hard as he could to achieve anything. The rising expense of operating a small business in San Francisco during the last two years added to the thoughts of leaving.

London stated that AL’s Place is a tough place to work, Bon Appetit noted that he even made every cook drink water from a CamelBak thermos to avoid spillage, and that as he got older, his managerial style evolved. But he expects that because of the arduous training they received in the kitchen, the chefs will now be hired by upscale eateries that are in need of staff due to a labor shortage.

London isn’t permanently quitting the sector. For a long time, he had wanted to create a cookbook but lacked the time. Although he stated that nothing is set, he is also thinking about restaurant potential in other cities and regions of the world. He left open the possibility of later creating a different restaurant in San Francisco.

“A huge thanks to all of the guests who have supported us over the years and allowed us to create memorable dining experiences in this funky little restaurant,” the statement concluded.

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