San Francisco

Photos by Liz Barclay, courtesy of Copas

The RundownSan Francisco

Everything You Need to Know About Copas, Open in The Castro

By

Before you go to a restaurant, what do you want — or need — to know most? In our series, The Rundown, we’re sharing all the essentials about newly opened (as well as some of your favorite) restaurants.

As we get into high gear for this year, we’re looking at the Spanish-inspired Copas, which opened at the end of September on Market St in The Castro. Here’s everything you need to know about this fun addition to San Francisco’s dining scene. Right this way.

1. It’s a space for art, edible and otherwise.

Copas in an all-day restaurant from Jessica Kapoor, who works with the Saison Hospitality Group. The concept specifically comes from Kapoor’s desire to make a gathering space that merged visual art with the culinary arts.

As such, the walls are decorated with paintings from a featured artist that will change quarterly. Now through March of next year, you can see the works of Mexico City born painter Marco Razo.

2. The name suggests good things to drink – but it’s also “all heart.”

Kapoor tells us the significance behind the name Copas is twofold. First, a copa is a drinking vessel in Spanish—something you can fill with cocktails (more on those in a moment), or even just coffee in the morning.

But also, in a Spanish card deck, Copas is the equivalent of the Hearts suit, which symbolizes what Kapoor is trying to bring with her restaurant: it’s all heart, meant to inspire the warm feeling of gathering around a table, whether for a meal or playing a few rounds of cards with family or friends.

3. The chefs know when to bend the rules.

In the kitchen, the team includes executive chef Julio Aguilera, CDC Glen Schwartz, and Selasie Dotse, who doubles as both the sous and the pastry chef. These seasoned chefs have experience working in fine dining restaurants, spending significant time in the kitchens of Michelin-starred restaurants like Saison, Lazy Bear, and Campton Place.
Collectively and collaboratively, they’re executing a Spanish-inspired menu using the best NorCal produce in season at the moment. Aguilera, who previously ran the kitchen at El Destilado in Oaxaca, will also often take liberties with Mexican ingredients, such as the chilhuacle negro chile for the padron pepper dish or chile pasilla with the octopus dish.

4. Let’s talk food!

Copas does brunch during the day, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. As such, you’ll find things like runny egg sandwiches with smoked brisket and avocado, and farmers market toasts with smashed avocado as a creamy base for whatever vegetable is in season.

But to see the true cooking shine, come in for dinner. Start with chicharron dip, which comes dusted with spices to dip into a whipped yogurt with peanut chile oil.  Oysters are also always a good start, particularly when accompanied by grilled scallions, pickled ginger, and jalapeno citrus vin.

Plump mussels come with charred bread in a fennel tomato sauce — tear the bread, let it soak up the sauce, then top with a bivalve for a beautiful bite. Padron peppers are uniquely dressed up with a black chile emulsion along with an aioli of sorts — a squeeze of lime is a welcome addition.

For the main event, the Cheesy Pillows should not be missed: little potato gnocchi smothered with cheesy, creamy mushroom-based “queso” and topped with crispy kale, sliced winter mushrooms, and umami porcini dust.

Arroz con pollo is a nice move too, featuring a citrusy glaze, along with garlicky avocado leaf rice, all served in a nice homey Corning Cornflower dish.

Finish with all the desserts — Dotse’s churros, creamsicles, and mamay ice cream are worth it.

5. The drinks menu features bubbly “Copas,” of course.

Considering the restaurant’s name, you’ll want to give the Copas some attention. Besides beer and wine, cocktails come in two sections: California Copas a bit more effervescent, featuring either sparkling wine or soda, along with a base spirit and seasonal herbs, fruits, or vegetables. Consider the Copa Chinchon, its mezcal base enlivened with berry, pink peppercorn, lime, and club soda.

Among other inventive drinks the Ombre Renegado features two types of tequila, fresh lime, agave, and blue Spirulina, for a striking aqua hue. It  looks like the AMF’s of college days, but much more delicious.