Talking Mezcal and Mexican With Divisadero's La Urbana

Last week, SFist brought word that a new Mexican restaurant called La Urbana was being planned for 661 Divisadero, most recently the home of Plant It Earth. Yesterday we chatted with one of the partners behind La Urbana, and found out more about the project.

La Urbana is the brainchild of Eduardo Rallo and Juan Antonio Garduño, who met via a mutual friend in the restaurant industry. Eduardo and his wife own ColibrĂ­ on Geary, while Juan owns a number of restaurants in Mexico and moved to San Francisco about a year and a half ago. Eduardo and Juan had long talked about working together on a restaurant project — they only needed a space.

Eduardo and his wife live at Fell and Clayton, and as such, they've witnessed the changes to the Divisadero corridor in recent years.

"I've been a very big fan of how the area has developed," Eduardo told us, "with the quality and talent that's going in... but also in terms of keeping its integrity." So when it came to opening a new restaurant, he knew where he wanted to focus.

Eduardo said another factor in choosing the location was the current boom in the Divisadero restaurant scene.

"There's an over-demand, because you have to wait everywhere you go right now. So we had been looking at the area for a long, long time, waiting for the right location to come together... When Plant It Earth came available, we finally found a structure that we thought was a good opportunity for us."

As SFist reported, La Urbana is envisioned as an authentic Mexican restaurant and mezcal mecca. It would have seating for about 110 total customers, but that would be divided between a dining room and a more casual space for quicker, "lunch-style" meals.

The name "La Urbana", Eduardo told us, simply refers to the "great urban experience" that they envision for the restaurant. It would join an area that already features a few standout Mexican options, including Nopalito and Little Chihuahua.

"I love and respect both of them," Eduardo said of the two restaurants, though he sees a unique role for La Urbana. "Ours is a little bit more of a... dining experience than what Nopalito is." (He was reluctant to use the word "formal," but that was the gist.) "And I love Little Chihuahua, which is a little more of a casual, quick experience."

La Urbana would also be unique in having a full bar, including an extensive emphasis on mezcal. Eduardo told us they want to draw on "some of the new trends in Mexico," like a focus on using local and organic ingredients. That translates to the mezcal menu as well.

"Mezcal was always a more local organic experience that we felt was a good match with what we're trying to do with the food... We're trying to provide an experience that brings together the flavors of original Mexican cuisine, with the passion for quality ingredients, but at the same time mixing it with a really fun mixology program, and bringing the cocktails and food together."

Eduardo and Juan have already pulled together a team for the front-of-house, bar, and food programs. In fact, when we spoke yesterday, the entire team of nine was about to head to Mexico to finalize concepts for the cuisine.

Still, La Urbana has a long way to go before becoming reality. There's the permitting processes — first to turn the former plant store into a restaurant, and then to procure a full liquor license for the address. Eduardo didn't want to speculate on a timeline, except to say that they're eager to move things forward quickly.

If and when it opens, La Urbana would be open seven days a week for dinner, with a simple lunch menu on weekdays and a brunch menu on weekends. Needless to say, all of this is contigent on how things progress in the months ahead.

We will, of course, keep you posted.