I’m sure I’m not alone in mourning the 2019 closure of Michelin-starred Commonwealth in San Francisco due to a rent dispute. With its laid-back vibe, skillful ingredient-driven cooking, and a tasting menu with a price that didn’t leave you shell-shocked, Commonwealth was the kind of place every city would be glad to have.
Its chef-owner Jason Fox moved on — in a big way. He went from overseeing one restaurant to three when he was scooped up by The Proper Hotel in downtown San Francisco. As its executive chef, he now oversees Villon restaurant, the trendy Charmaine’s rooftop bar, and La Bande, formerly a coffee shop that he’s since turned into a tapas place.
Fox’s arrival was to have been heralded with a big splash. But because it occurred in January 2020 — two months before all restaurants would be forced to shut down due to a worldwide pandemic — that never really came to fruition. Instead, he was left to deal with navigating an ever-changing roster of health mandates.
With the Bay Area in a much better place than it was last year, Fox has now been able to roll out the plans he had all along.
A couple weeks ago, I was invited in as a guest to enjoy an overnight stay at the hotel, as well as dinner at the newly revamped La Bande, a compact yet cozy space resembling a Spanish mercado with a few indoor seats, as well as tables outside, which is where my husband and I dined.
How fortunate is San Francisco to have the only Michelin two-starred Mexican restaurant in the world?
Now, chances are that in your lifetime, you’ve had more than your fill of tacos and tostadas.
But not the way they and other dishes are interpreted at Californios.
This is Mexican cuisine that is elevated, elegant, exhilarating.
Last year, Californios relocated from its snug spot in the Mission District to a roomier property in SoMa, which formerly housed Bar Agricole. Following a remodel and the throes of the pandemic, it opened its doors earlier this spring.
While Bar Agricole didn’t really make use of its sizeable front patio, Californios certainly has. High walls encircle it, painted deep, matte charcoal gray like the restaurant’s interior. Steel beams run across the top, from which large light fixtures dangle. In case of rain, there is a retractable roof, with space between it and the top of the walls to allow for air flow.
My husband and I sat at one of the white tablecloth-draped tables outside, which had heaters both above it and to the side to provide ample warmth, no matter how chilly the evening. Done up with potted plants, the patio has a chic starkness to it.