Specialty Food Magazine


Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Page 101 of 139

Although their initial response was "No, thanks," Esopenko and Gugni relented when the developers kept up the pursuit. Last September, Union Larder debuted—and validated the landlords' instincts. "We haven't had an empty seat since we opened," says Esopenko, one month in. Creating a New Concept The couple's hybrid enterprise is a combination restaurant, wine bar, specialty food shop, and grocery, and it seems to be just what the high-end neighborhood wanted. Esopenko admits that he has never seen another concept quite like it but cites a favorite cava bar in Barcelona as the inspiration. That Spanish establishment had hams hanging overhead, a wine list that did not extend beyond cava, and a variety of tinned and jarred foods to take home. "I always wanted to open that place," Esopenko muses. "Not the Spanish food, but the concept: unpretentious, no reservations, counter seating. You can grab everything you need for dinner and take it away, or sit and eat it there." To stay within their $100,000 opening budget—which they did, barely—the couple tapped their own skills and resources. After getting a breathtaking quote to fabricate and install the zinc countertops, Esopenko did it himself. He built all the counters and draped them with inexpensive sheets of zinc, saving almost $35,000. "I was building right up until the day we opened," the merchant recalls. (He even broke his leg on the job, but that's another story.) A seamstress friend in North Beach crafted the 30 stool covers from vintage leather. The stools' cast-iron bases, forged by a local blacksmith, echo the industrial-chic look of the exposed structural supports. Esopenko purchased the tall, glass-fronted cabinets on the kitchen's back wall at an architectural salvage yard for $20 each, then stripped and refinished them himself. Fifteen-foot ceilings create a roomy feeling in the small space, and wide-plank, white-oak f loors add a touch of barn chic. The enormous arched openings are remnants of the service sta- tion, now glassed in and framing a scene of the passing Hyde Street cable cars. The view works both ways. Cable-car passengers, largely tourists, spot the lively crowd inside and the backlit wall of specialty foods, and many disembark for a closer look. UNION LARDER 1945 Hyde Street San Francisco, CA 415.272.7567 unionlarder.com Owners: Jay Esopenko and Melissa Gugni Opened: September 16, 2014 Total square footage: 850 Staff: 6 Check average (per table) in the restaurant: $55 Popular selections: Marcona almonds with smoked paprika and Maldon salt ($4); Red Hawk BLT ($14); Raclette ($15); 4-item meat or cheese platter ($29) Seats: 30 (all stools) Wines: 175, priced for on-site consumption; customers get a 25 percent discount on bottles to go From cheese to charcuterie, jam to wine, if you like what you had at the restaurant, you can bring the exact same experience home or for a party. PHOTO: EWELINA OLESKY WINTER 2015 99

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