A report by Dana Eastland. We’ve been tracking the former Rock Nation Café space in the Mission for a few months now, and I finally had a chance to sit down with the team and get some details this week. The new restaurant moving in is a French place called BISTRO L’AVIATEUR, and it is very much a family affair. The owners are husband-and-wife team Maha and Vincent Laforge; she’s a French-Tunisian chef who previously owned a restaurant in Quebec, and he’s a former pilot for Air France. Maha will run the kitchen here, along with her son, Joseph Steinacher, who worked in restaurants in France for five years and has a strong background in pastry.
The space is small and is intended to be intimate and comfortable, with food to match. There won’t be a fixed menu; instead, you’ll find one salad, one soup, two appetizers, and two entrées (one meat or fish, one vegetarian), which will change every day. The food will be global, with a focus on the flavors of the Mediterranean, especially North Africa, but grounded in French bistro technique and style. Some days you might see a couscous or a tagine, another day, perhaps a Greek item or a French bistro classic, like moules frites. They’re still deciding what to start with, but are excited to keep the dishes seasonal and changing regularly. They will also have a small selection of wine, with two whites and two reds by the glass (one of each from California and France).
To start, they’ll be open for lunch and into the afternoon for a salon de thé with Parisian- and Tunisian-influenced tea service. Folks will be encouraged to sit, linger, and relax over a pot of tea and pastries from 2:30pm until about 6:30pm. Any of the lunch items remaining will be sold by weight as a ready-made dinner or late-afternoon lunch. While the space will generally encourage diners to slow down and take their time, they also plan to do a brisk to-go business, which should be a good fit in the neighborhood, which is a mix of commercial and residential buildings. They plan to add dinner service later, depending on what serves the neighborhood best.
L’Aviateur means “the aviator,” a nod not only to Vincent’s background as a pilot, but also to the global nature of the menu. The decor will reflect the theme, as will the food. As Maha puts it, “we will be traveling every day, with the food.” They’ve already got an Art Deco-style light fixture partially installed, and Vincent has some other decorative flairs tucked up his sleeve. Right now, he’s still overseeing a lot of the build-out, but they’ve started to wrap up a lot of the initial construction. The space is bright and sunny, with bright touches of yellow. It seats 25, including spots right at the window, with additional sidewalk seating for 20. They’re still waiting on some inspections and their liquor license, but are hoping to open at the end of April. We’ll be sure to let you know when they do! 2850 21st St. at Alabama, 415-757-0272.
The interior of L’Aviateur, still under construction. Photo: Dana Eastland. © tablehopper.com.