Californios Is Selling Its Mission Space and Relocating to SoMa

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Banquette seating at Californios. Photo: Dana Eastland. © tablehopper.com.

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Chef-owner Val M. Cantu in the open kitchen (and dining counter) at Californios. Photo: Jim Sullivan.

A tablehopper reader spotted and sent me this Craigslist ad listing the ~CALIFORNIOS~ location for sale, and my heart dropped for a moment. But after talking with chef-owner Val M. Cantu, there’s some good news behind it.

The award-winning, upscale, and downright fantastic Californios has been closed since the stay-at-home order in March, and even though the team wrestled with the options of offering a takeout experience or building a parklet for $10k-$20k, they just couldn’t make the numbers work with either or both of those scenarios.

But like a butterfly back in its chrysalis state, it ends up that just prior to the pandemic, Californios was looking at larger locations to move to (in fact, they were close to a deal, and it thankfully fell through—whew, close call). They had outgrown their cozy Mission location, and in order to keep attracting top talent and really be able to grow, they needed more space. They’re close to finalizing a deal on a stylish location in SoMa with a large patio—I can’t share the location just yet, but as soon as the ink is dry, I will update this post.

The hope is to open around December or January—sadly the beer and wine license will take about that much time, and wine director-partner’s Charlotte Randolph’s selections are an integral part of the tasting menu experience. (She has been busy selecting wines for her Coco’s Wine Club in the meantime.) They plan to focus on a comfortable outdoor dining experience to start, giving them time to update the interior.

Cantu is excited for this transformation and maturation of the Californios concept, its ethos, and of their cooks, who will be returning as a “better, stronger version of themselves.” He brought up the Black Lives Matter movement in our conversation, and talks about a new and extensive employee manual he is diligently working on for the kitchen team, which talks about where they were, and where they’re going. While he mentions they have always had an inclusive work environment, he says, “We have all grown, and can be better.” He’s always looking ahead. I have enjoyed following Cantu’s path from the very beginning (I remember a pop-up at Naked Kitchen in 2013!), and am happy to see this next chapter with his team take shape.