Chef Justin Simoneaux Reflects on First Year at Boxing Room

Can you believe it's been a year since Boxing Room took over the old Citizen Cake space?

This upcoming weekend marks the one year anniversary for our neighborhood's cajun/creole restaurant at Grove & Gough.

We got the opportunity to sit down and chat with their chef, Justin Simoneaux, about his first year. And his favorite meal. And his love for the Saints.

Hayeswire (H): So this week marks your one year anniversary as the chef at Boxing Room. What's the year been like?

Justin Simoneaux (JS): There's ups and downs with opening any restaurant. Before this, I worked at Absinthe so I got a feel for the neighborhood to know that it gets crowded from 5-8pm because of the arts crowd then picks up again at 10pm. I've been shocked to see how well received our food has been. People wanted the real deal... and not just a California version of it. It's been a great experience and I've been surrounded with a great team that's made the first year fun.

H: What would you say your favorite memory of the first year has been?

JS: Oh man, that's hard. I'd have to say being voted one of the best new restaurants by 7x7. It was a huge surprise when we found out, but luckily they gave us a heads up before they printed the story. And I'd also say a handful of nights when it's balls to the wall busy and we just crush the service because we're surrounded by such a talented team.

H: We hear a new menu is being introduced soon. Can you tell us about it?

JS: We're going to mix some California in with Louisiana ingredients. The first year was kind of confusing, and in some ways, the opposite of what we wanted. From now on, our day-to-day will be 100% Louisiana classics. And then we'll have a few California specials on a daily basis. But our main staples will be food like gumbo, jambalaya and po' boys.

H: You have a pretty stellar and diverse beer list. Who picks the beers?

JS: Starting recently, I'm now in charge of the beer list. You'll see there are 4 bottled ones from Louisiana and one on draft (Dixie).

H: You only serve beer and wine. Did you consider applying for a liquor license when you got started?

JS: We did. But we didn't want to delay things any further so we went with the beer and wine license and it's worked out well. If you want a cocktail, you can head to our sister down the block.

tattoo to celebrate the Saints Super Bowl win

H: One of the coolest parts of Boxing Room is the really long two-tiered bar. Was that always in the plans?

JS: By the time I joined the team, the architect and contractor had designed the place with a long bar. But I really wanted an oyster bar so we added on to the additional design and made it a little closer to the ground. I wanted to create a neighborhood space for locals to cozy up by themselves and have a beer and hang out.

H: What's it been like working in Hayes Valley?

JS: I've been in SF for about 7 years and have seen how different the neighborhood has changed over the years. I really like the community of people and that when I walk or ride my bike to work, people wave and say hi.

H: When you're not gumbo-ing it up here, where do you like to eat?

JS: Magnolia and Alembic near where I live. Alembic makes some mean cocktails. Comstock Saloon is great too. And Izakaya Sozai in the Sunset.

H: And what would your last meal be?

JS: 5lbs of crawfish, gumbo, a shrimp po' boy and beer.

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Chef justin simoneaux reflects on first year at boxing room