As previously reported on tablehopper, things are gearing up for LA URBANA in the former Plant It Earth space. Everyone who walks or drives by the eye-catching mural by Zio Ziegler can’t help but get excited to see what will be contained within (I know I am). The project comes from local entrepreneur Eduardo Rallo and Mexican architect and restaurateur Juan Garduño, and will be a modern Mexican restaurant with an attached mezcaleria.
Chef Benjamin Klein, who previously worked in restaurants in Hawaii, will head the kitchen (his chef de cuisine is Julio Aguilera). The menu will offer modern takes on traditional regional Mexican dishes, like Manila clam menudo with cabbage tostadas and hominy, or a carnitas torta on freshly baked brioche. Northern California ingredients will figure prominently. Think contemporary cantina by way of Mexico, D.F.
The mezcal-centric bar is helmed by Lucas Ranzuglia. He’ll be shaking up an Urbana Margarita, of course, plus a mezcal-based take on the dry martini called an Acapulco-Manila. There will also be wine and beer, though no word yet on the focus of those lists, plus more than 30 different mezcals.
The space is designed by partner Garduño’s architecture firm, and will be a mix of old and new, the urban and the rustic. We got a hardhat tour of the space, which is currently gunning for an August 14th opening. The heart of the space is the spacious bar, which will be topped with aged zinc and room for 20. Behind the bar is a collection of colorful, rural furniture from Puebla, Oaxaca, and Toluca affixed to the wall like an art piece, and will be custom-lit, plus there’s an open kitchen.
Adjoining the bar is a lounge area with seating for about 10, and a patio area to the right of the main entrance, where guests will be able to stand around a tree surrounded by a high table. (You can look at a rendering here.)
The day we toured the space, they were putting down the gorgeous tile in the patio area, which is from a fourth-generation tile-maker in Mérida. La Urbana is featuring tiles from many different decades—just wait until you see the massively tiled bathrooms! The beautifully curved glass doors for the main entrance were salvaged and shipped from Mexico as well.
The dining room (with room for 60) will feel more like a contemporary cantina, with a charcoal-tiled floor, but there will still be a few colorful tiles strategically placed throughout. The room will have plenty of light from the large windows (peek here). Eventually a portion of the space will become the Mezcaleria, with more than 30 mezcals for sale and an entrance onto Divisadero.
The design team worked with an extensive list of Mexico-based artisans and artists to handcraft all elements of the restaurant: the custom-made tables are very ingenious, inspired by Mexican domino-playing tables with room for your mezcal bottle (or beer) on the table leg. The midcentury-looking chairs also feature woven leather backs. You’ll notice handmade pottery on the tables, and colorful cups—there will be many bright touches throughout.
The exterior façade of the building will feature a 10-by-6-foot mural by Mexico-based artists Héctor Falcón and Fernando Llanos (and get this: it will be lit with LED!). Look for more pieces of contemporary art within as well.
Sometime in the early fall, the Mercado Urbano will open in the adjoining garage, which will offer casual street food during the day (whatever the employees are cooking), and a lounge area in the evenings for cocktails and bar bites. The stunning external mural that Zio Ziegler painted on the plywood will be reinstalled on the walls of the Mercado, and look some t-shirts to be for sale with his designs. Other items will include some limited Oaxacan Pujol pottery and other unique items sourced in Mexico. There are plans to have a parklet outside, and a partnership with a La Cocina vendor in the Mercado (TBA). One more biggie: there are plans to open a roof deck later on as well. Yowzers.
To start, the La Urbana space will be open for dinner daily from 5pm-1am, with additional daytime hours in the bar added in the fall. We’ll keep you posted on the opening, you can also follow along on Facebook and Twitter. 661 Divisadero St. at Grove.
A corner of the dining room (the Mezcaleria will eventually be nestled where the red panel is). Photo: © tablehopper.com.