Last May, Spices (291 6th Ave., between Clement and Cornwall) closed up shop for a month to undergo a simple but transformative remodel, reopening in June with a new look.
Co-owner Kenny Zhang was tired of the red wallpaper and clunky black lights. He brought in black tables and chairs, painted the walls an industrial gray, and installed hanging incandescent lanterns.
He also added new beer taps behind the bar to accommodate the tastes of a changing neighborhood. “The street has changed a lot,” Zhang said. “There are less Chinese people living here right now. We needed to change.”
The full revamp will wrap up next week, when Spices debuts its new menu. In addition to offering the Szechuan fare Spices is best known for—much of which contains Sichuan peppercorn, which produces a numbing, tingling sensation—the menu will feature a selection of Hunan dry pot options to play into popular demand.
Growing up in China’s Guangdong province, directly south of Hunan, Zhang developed an early appreciation for spicy Hunan cuisine. “Both me and my wife love spicy food,” he said. Their formidable palates are part of the reason Zhang and wife Michelle bought Spices in 2010.
Back then, the restaurant included a location on 8th Avenue as well, but that lease expired in July 2015. The 8th Avenue space was a home for Zhang's more eccentric dishes, which have since migrated to the Spices secret menu (hint: ask for a list of the stinky tofu).
Zhang said that in the last three years, Spices has gone from one of the only Szechuan restaurants in San Francisco to one of nearly ten in the Inner Richmond alone. But when asked about the competition, he keeps the focus on himself and his seven-person team: “I have confidence we are the best in town.”
Test your mettle and see for yourself. Spices is open daily, 11am–11pm, at 291 6th Ave.