In a city full of destination restaurants (at least they used being pre-shelter-in-place destinations), the true locals-only neighborhood gems started to feel fewer and fewer. In Hayes Valley, Arlequin Wine Merchant and sister Arlequin Cafe have long checked that box, but when the cafe closed last summer, it gave way to something new to fill the void.
Now mid-pandemic, The Absinthe Group, which owns Arlequin as well as its namesake restaurant Absinthe and others, has transformed this former coffee shop space into a new neighborhood spot: Arbor, an iteration of Cal-American fast food and casual, serves juicy burgers, honkin’ salads and curly fries that look just-for-age take-out.
(Photograph by Sarah Chorey)
Cobb salad is a thing of beauty and almost enough to feed two. Little Gem Lettuces are topped with generous portions of grilled chicken, thick chunks of bacon, crumbled blue cheese, halved grape tomatoes, avocado, ranch dressing and a sneaky surprise: a runny egg from six minutes.
Chefs Ryan McIlwraith (Bellota, Coqueta) and Kaili Hill (Barcino), ArborThe menu is a study in comfort food with an organic twist, and it all travels well.
Dive into fresh and hearty Cobb or Italian chopped salads; the double cheeseburger; or a crispy fried chicken sandwich. Along with those curly fries (which also come in a chili-cheese version) and creamy mac and cheese, there’s grilled broccoli with green dressing for anyone who wants something healthier on the side.
Speaking of healthy, non-meat eaters will find a vegan burger, seed falafel and stone fruit bowl, as well as vegan desserts. If drinking is the order of the day (and these days, when isn’t it?), you have wines like Avinyo cava, local beers (think Almanac and Fort Point) and Lillet Rosé spritz.
When the restaurant reopens for indoor dining, you’ll notice a major overhaul with bold colors, woven wicker and ribbed wood arches, and collages of fabric wall art. The interior was designed by Absinthe Group Development Director Jonny Raglin and the local firm Piechota architecturewho also designed Bellota.
“Arbor is reminiscent of a backyard barbecue in Wine Country,” McIlwraith says. “We wanted to create a place where everyone feels comfortable, whether on their way to a show or just hanging out in the neighborhood.”
If you’re wondering about those backyard vibes, yes, the Hidden Patio Garden, known almost exclusively to locals, still remains and will open up for sips and swirls…one day soon…we will. hope.