Giving a big presentation tomorrow? Have an important exam? That can wait—we’re going out on a school night.
You could call it an ingenious marketing move. Or perhaps it’s just scratching an itch. But Traci Des Jardins’ new bar solves the age-old problem: Where are we supposed to drink when it’s only Monday or Tuesday night? At School Night, obvi.
Des Jardins (Jardinière, The Commissary, Arguello, etc) has partnered up with Adam Mendelson, cofounder of the Dogpatch events space The Pearl, and Enrique Sanchez, her bar manager of Arguello, to open an exclusively weeknight spot serving up weekend-festive Peruvian and Mexican flavors.
But if you weren’t in the know, you’d miss out on this new cool kids hot spot: Only a small sign above the dark door—somewhat hidden on 19th Street, around the corner from the main action on Third—announces the entrance to School Night; and if you show up on a Thursday through Saturday night, you can expect to find the doors locked.
But people are catching on, thanks both to Des Jardins’ fame and the bustle happening at The Pearl, which has been hosting A+ events over the past two years (we’ve been for wine awards, whiskey tastings, and weddings). Once you tug through the heavy opaque doors, you’ll find the 87-seat restaurant packed on a Wednesday night; the industrial-chic space, designed by artist Alexis Laurent, reflects a mixed crowd and moody ambience in a wall of massive mirrors. Two-story ceilings and skylights further open up the room.
With one of the country’s best chefs at the helm, you’ll expect the menu to raise the bar for drinking snacks: It delivers, with perfectly prepared dishes such as a Mexican chopped salad; an addictive cebiche; and an array of items from the Bertha (the wood-burning oven)—including baby back ribs in tomatillo barbecue sauce; tacos al pastor; and queso fundido with chorizo. Des Jardins has even managed to rework the Impossible meat (of the famous vegetarian burger, which she serves versions of both at Jardinière and Public House) in the form of crispy meatballs. More adventurous eaters can snack on skewered duck hearts and gizzards.
Of course, it’s Monday night and you’re here to drink. And since it’s tough to choose from Sanchez’s hand-crafted pisco, agave, and whiskey cocktails—we’re fans of the Spring Break (mezcal, hibiscus, pineapple gum, lime, and soda)—no one will blame you for enjoying more than one, school night be damned.
Don’t care to advertise that you’re out drinking on a school night? Traci Des Jardins’ new bar is discreetly tucked on 19th Street.
The interior feels like a hidden drinking den, filled with hardwood high tops and booths for getting cozy.
Twelve specialty cocktails make up the drinks menu and highlight the team’s own favorite spirits: pisco, agave, and whiskey (Des Jardins is a tequila drinker). Bar manager Sanchez shows his Peruvian roots in concoctions such as tart-sweet Maracuyá Sour and the Principal’s Punch. Fancy a trip to Mexico? The mezcal-infused Spring Break is refreshingly light, while Pancho’s Martini will hit the spot every time.
Many of the dishes are perfectly sized for sharing. The crispy confit potatoes, fried in duck fat and topped with guajillo mojo and crema, are a must.
Ooey gooey melty cheese? You don’t have to ask us twice. If you’ve ever been to Des Jardins’ Mijita, you know the chef makes magic with her Mexican heritage in the kitchen. Grab a warm tortilla and dip into the queso fundido, a savory blend of Oaxaca, provola, and fontal cheeses topped with crumbles of chorizo and poblano peppers.
Nothing says Peruvian cuisine quite like a classic ceviche. Des Jardins sources fresh, local fish, “cooks” it in leche de tigre marinade, and tops with a handful of crunchy hominy and corn nuts.
Meat lovers will find their tastebuds tantalized by multiple dishes here: Order up the achiote-marinated quail breast and the baby back ribs smothered in tomatillo barbecue sauce (pictured here).
// School Night, 601 19th St. (Dogpatch), schoolnightsf.com