One of the most anticipated openings in San Francisco this year, is the re-opening of the historic Cafe du Nord.
Located between Church and Sánchez, in the Castro neighborhood. The 108 year old building proudly stands boasting a below street-level music venue and prohibition-era speakeasy. With a healthy remodel, brand new bar program from the Bon Vivant‘s and late night food menu, this is a great addition to the strong cocktail bars by the bay.
We caught up with Morgan Schick of the Bon Vivant’s to get the scoop on their latest project.
How did Bon Vivant’s become part of this project?
“This project came to the BV’s through the Ne Timeas Restaurant Group. They’d been talking with Cordarounds co-founder Enrique Landa and restaurateur Dylan MacNiven about running the space (Enrique and Dylan lease the place from the Swedish American Society and we sublease). They approached us when they were talking about doing a bar and thought, hey, we know some bar guys. There was a lot of action on it before we got involved, so I can’t speak to the machinations.”
How did you approach creation of this menu? Similar process to menus you have created in the past?
“My process for this menu was similar to others I’ve done, in that I ended up creating something that I think is conceptually right without having started out to do that. Generally my process is to start with an idea for a drink, and then go about making the ingredients and building it. Often this involves a layering on of flavors: in this case it was a pairing down.”
“The original conception, which is still there, but less overtly than when it started, was to celebrate the history of Cafe du Nord by having a drink inspired by each decade roughly that the bar has been active.”
“The drinks all became simpler as I worked on them.”
This menu has personality similar to Trick Dog menus in terms of creativity and enthusiasm, with the obvious suspects, Martini, Manhattan and Old Fashioned standing out. Do the other cocktails share your vision of classic cocktails?
“I wanted this menu to feel more classic than Trick Dog’s, though still with the creativity, unexpected flavors and attention to detail. The room is so classic that doing something terribly modern or edgy seemed wrong. As I was working on the drinks, I started to realize the classics that they were closest to, and let that drive final decisions. For instance, I realized the Armory and Arsenal was similar in style and profile to an Army Navy cocktail, so when I was at a sticking point I stripped it to its essentials and made it as an Army Navy, albeit with different ingredients, and it fixed the issues. But generally, the range of drinks is a similar approach to Trick Dog, in that I wanted there to be something that any kind of drinker would want to try.”
Can you describe the vision for this project and the re-opening for people who have yet to experience Cafe du Nord, past or Present?
“The vision for Cafe du Nord is to have it be a bar and restaurant that serves the neighborhood, and brings back a bit of the bygone era of nightlife. With a great restaurant space in the back, called the Viking Room, with music every night and a bar space in the front, it can be a place for an entire evening. The vision is to honor and celebrate the century of fun and eating and drinking that has happened in that space.”
Is there a standout creation on this menu you think guests must try?
“The drinks that I am most proud of are the Laffing Sal, because I think the fermented apricot syrup is one of the coolest things I’ve ever made, and the Stern Grove, just cause it’s delicious. But hopefully guests will find the thing that hits them.”
“The apricot syrup started out as an idea for an apricot lambic syrup, but apparently I made up the concept of an apricot lambic. I take really ripe apricots and let them sit with a little salt for about five days. The juice seeps out and ferments, and you end up with this salty, sour, fruity juice. Then it’s combined with sugar.”
Fun Fact: New Trick Dog cocktail list is due out on the 8th of July