The exterior, with LED artwork from Mexico-based artists Héctor Falcón and Fernando Llanos. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.
The dining room, facing the bar. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.
The back bar area, with a live tree. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.
The crab and rib-eye “Tierra y Mar.” Photo by Eric Wolfinger.
A report by Dana Massey-Todd. Back in July, we did a hardhat preview of ~LA URBANA~, the modern cantina and mezcaleria on Divisadero. The new spot officially opens on Wednesday September 4th, after several nights of test runs and friends and family dinners. I had a chance to check it out on Friday night, mezcal and all.
The project comes from local Eduardo Rallo and his business partner Juan Garduño, an architect and restaurateur from Mexico. Garduño’s architecture firm designed the space as a modern take on the classic cantina. There were tons of design details in the previous piece, and those elements have definitely come together. The space is large and airy, with large windows looking out onto the busy intersection, skylights, and a high ceiling with exposed beams (which unfortunately makes it quite loud, be warned). The zinc bar accommodates 20, and behind it you’ll find old furniture from Puebla, Oaxaca, and Toluca, all lit up and arranged as an eclectic shelving unit. The overall effect is effective, if very much on the reclaimed trend.
There is a lounge area for 10 adjacent to the bar, and a back bar wrapped around a tree (a nice nod to the previous tenants, Plant It Earth). The lounge area is covered in colorful tiles from Mérida, which feature prominently and give the space some pop. The dining room seats 60, and a walled-off glass room is for private groups, though it is very visible from the dining room (no throwing stones in there!).
As for the food, executive chef Ben Klein and chef de cuisine Julio Aguilera are serving modern takes on traditional Mexican fare. The menu is organized into categories, with smaller dishes and snacks populating the left side of the menu, and entrée-size dishes and sides on the right. On the snack side, instead of chips and salsa, you’ll find their chicharrón de arroz with guacamole, made with rice flour but with the texture of the porky bites. A favorite at our table was the egg with chorizo, a runny yolk with crispy cooked chorizo, potato purée, and lime crema that combines textures quite well. The “Tierra y Mar” is a take on surf and turf, with crab and rib-eye with pineapple purée that balances the two proteins without overwhelming the crab. A red snapper dish came with a savory huitlacoche sauce and nicely caramelized cauliflower, and it was good to taste a vegetable accompaniment that wasn’t an afterthought but stood up on its own. Take a look at the opening menu here.
The bar’s focus is on mezcal, and is headed up by Lucas Ranzuglia. They’ve got a margarita, of course, with a bacon salt rim, and a mezcal-based martini called the Acapulco-Manila, with Agave de Cortés mezcal and sake (yeah, it packs a wallop). Take a look at the drink list here. For wines, they are offering some Mexican pours, plus other options from the Spanish-speaking world, including Argentina and Spain, and a selection of cavas and beer. Those looking to explore mezcal will find a broad selection, many from small-batch and hard-to-find producers.
La Urbana is officially opening tomorrow, Wednesday September 4th, and serving dinner nightly from 5pm-1am (although right now they are softly open, with a limited menu). In the coming months, the garage next door will become a mercado where you can order casual street food during the day, and drinks and bar bites at night. 661 Divisadero St. at Grove, 415-440-4500.