Living in a city where new hot restaurants pop up almost daily, keeping up with them all can be hard. Those who live here are the lucky ones always with somewhere new to try, but we are tough on those that are good but not mindblowing. Cala is already making a mark quickly in the SF eating scene, with a soft opening in late September and a grand opening on Monday, October 5th. I’m lucky to have a boyfriend on top of the restaurant reservation game here in SF, gaining us access to an unbeatable experience.
Within moments of stepping into Cala, you are welcomed with twisting vines reaching the rafters, shadow play from the multiple pendants on the white walls and warm leather seats waiting for you to embark on a food journey, designed by, Charles Hemminger Architects (State Bird Provisions).
When Gabriela Cámara (of Contramar and Merotoro fame) decided to open up an 85-seat restaurant in Hayes Valley, in one of the most expensive cities in the US, she will not only have the challenge to stand out against the rest but to challenge what we in California think of as Mexican food. No burritos will be found here! The menu is filled with tantalizing options: sea bass, squid, halibut, clams, black cod and, of course, a few meat items, as well as vegetarian options. With a house cocktail list to compliment a seafood menu, you will have a hard time selecting which one to start with – mostly tequila and mezcal based.
Another reason to love Gabriela is not just for the food and flavor she brings to Hayes Valley, but her staffing philosophy brought to her by the Cala manager, Emma Rosenbush. With 70 percent of the staff holding a conviction history, together they bring individuals into the service industry who were struggling to find options for work. Cala’s new staff, which had a test run during the restaurant’s soft opening over the weekend, seems to be living up to the challenge.
What we did notice, at the bottom of the menu – all prices include tip. Different for SF, but a practice we like. The staff was informative and above all else, pleased to be there and to guide you along your journey.
What We Drank:
amaraca mezcal, citrus cone syrup, lime, orange bitters.
Paloma: always a go-to for me.
Tequila blanco, grapefruit, lime, aperol, soda – simply fantastic
Dinner: shared between two
Sopes con pescado adobado ($12) – four rounds that are filling and a second favorite
Squid and halibut frito mixto ($15) – pretty much the same as calamari (not a go-to for me but still good)
Trout tostada with chipotle, avocado, and fried leeks ($12) – This alone is going to have me running back!
Camaronillas a la veracruzana ($12) – These were amazing, they were what I would recognize as an empanada and filled with shrimp. While I’m not a shrimp fan, these caught me off guard.
What We Drank Next: Trust me you will want a second!
capurro pisco, cardamaro, aperol, ver jus, cava
A la Antiguita:
sotol reposado, piloncillo, chocolate bitters, orange, brandied cherry
I’m not a food critic, just a food and drink admirer, but I can’t wait to return for more.
We made a reservation for our next visit before all of our food arrived.
Image Via: Julia Goodwin Design
Trust me when I say you will not be disappointed with Cala and the journey Gabriela Cámara has invited you on.
I hope you too get to enjoy a remarkable manicured journey at Cala!