Find Creative Cocktails & Innovative Cuisine At True Laurel

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The bar at True Laurel
The bar at True Laurel

Photo Credit: Wes Rowe Photography

Bacanora. Pistachio orgeat. Rancio wine. Clarified grapefruit. Honey ferment. Pine tips. The menu at the Mission District’s hottest new bar—True Laurel—is filled with lesser known and unusual-sounding ingredients, but the cocktails are phenomenal. In the Pines, Under the Palms, a caramel-colored drink that comes in a chilled miniature flask-shaped bottle, is a mixture of toasted coconut rye, Terroir gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino, absinthe, and the aforementioned pine tips. It’s a wonderful elixir that’s incredibly well-balanced. The pine provides a lovely herbal quality that is not at all medicinal or toothpaste-y. Despite the head-scratching that comes with a first glance at the menu, the drink makes perfect sense and most importantly, tastes amazing.

The Mai O Mai cocktail
The Mai O Mai cocktail

Photo Credit: Wes Rowe Photography

For industry insiders, this is no surprise. True Laurel is the brainchild of David Barzelay and Nicolas Torres, the critically-acclaimed duo behind Lazy Bear, the beloved Mission restaurant known for its dinner party-like style and modern American food. Obsessive attention to detail and over-the-top showmanship are two hallmarks of Lazy Bear that can now be found at True Laurel. Those pine tips? Barzelay foraged for them—maybe in Golden Gate Park—himself.

Crispy hen of the woods mushrooms
Crispy hen of the woods mushrooms

Photo Credit: Wes Rowe Photography

One of them is always at the bar, mingling with the crowd and quality controlling everything from wait staff service to the aged beef in the patty melt. Although True Laurel is a bar, food is Barzelay’s forte and there is an expertly curated selection of shareable snacks. Torres was hesitant about operating a bar with upscale menu items, but has since embraced it. “Most of the places I’ve helped open have been bars with food. I used to hate it, now I don’t mind it all,” he says.

The art wall at True Laurel
The art wall at True Laurel

Photo Credit: Wes Rowe Photography

The food is as much a draw as the drinks. It’s fancy diner food —bar nuts, trout crudo, fried mushrooms—that is both comforting and innovative at the same time. Broiled oysters are topped with green garlic and cream reduction. It’s a divine take on classic oysters Rockefeller. Chunks of Dungeness crab are folded into rich cheddar fondue and served alongside crisp vegetables and crunchy toast. A luxurious baked potato is stuffed with miso butter, bacon, scallions, and piled high with flaky melt-in-your mouth bonito.

The loaded baked potato covered in shaved bonito
The loaded baked potato covered in shaved bonito

Photo Credit: Wes Rowe PhotographySince no detail was overlooked, Barzelay and Torres placed as much energy on the decadent menu as they did on the wildly modern decor. “David, our designer, Nick Roberto, and I all geeked out. We bounced art we liked off each other, and came to have a few artists that we used as inspiration,” Torres explains. “Anni and Josef Albers, Isamu Noguchi, and Irving Penn to name a few. There is a strong sense of angularity and diminishing points. It came together and feels unique.”

The Top Dawg cocktail at True Laurel
The Top Dawg cocktail at True Laurel

Photo Credit: Wes Rowe Photography

Many of the elements Roberto and Torres built themselves. The main bar is made from a cross section of a laurel tree that is inlaid with white-green quartzite. Like the other-worldly ingredients on the menu and Barzelay and Torres themselves, the contemporary bar is a conversation starter.  With innovative cocktails and cuisine in a thought-provoking setting, True Laurel has reimagined the present-day bar.

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