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Friday, September 27, 2013

The Vestry on Valencia, More Macabre than the Chapel Next Door

Posted By on Fri, Sep 27, 2013 at 8:00 AM

click to enlarge Late afternoon sun reveals the Vestry as the funeral parlor it once was. - PETE KANE
  • Pete Kane
  • Late afternoon sun reveals the Vestry as the funeral parlor it once was.


The San Francisco Album Project at the Chapel on Valencia Street has garnered national attention for amazing monthly drag performances set to seminal pop music albums, performed start to finish. (November is Roxy Music's Roxy Music. Huzzah!)

Of course, for everything happening on Valencia that you can't physically ingest, a new restaurant must open, lest the laws of physics be violated. So the Chapel -- where you can already eat casually -- has expanded, opening the somewhat more formal Vestry. As the entire space was a funeral home from 1914 until the 1970s (and later, an experimental college), there is a macabre atmosphere throughout.

See Also: Preservation Hall West at the Chapel, New Mission Venue, Announces Opening Concerts

click to enlarge The Vestry's patio - PETE KANE
  • Pete Kane
  • The Vestry's patio

Stepping in just as the sun goes down, one feels a vibe pleasantly unlike the airy joints that have mushroomed around the neighborhood in the past couple years. The Vestry is kind of the anti-Craftsman & Wolves, but you can also have brunch al fresco and breathe all the living air you want, because the patio's now open.

The Vestry's kitchen looks to New Orleans for inspiration, with a grilled Toulouse sausage, duck liver plate and crispy squash blossoms. An ice cream dessert called the "IT IS IT" nods to an S.F. classic without beggaring a cease-and-desist, and there are also brioche donuts. You can envision foodies stipulating in their wills that their wakes are to be held here.

click to enlarge The Crown of Thorns - PETE KANE
  • Pete Kane
  • The Crown of Thorns

On a drink menu full of allusions to death and Christian iconography, the Crown of Thorns (with gin, of course) stands out. The perfect sweet drink for people who profess to hate sweet drinks, there's a lot going on once the initial sugary note passes over your palate. It's like a lapsed Catholic cocktail, made for tippling in the pews.

And the elevator that used to transport bodies was where the restrooms now are, but the gears are still intact. So... is the place haunted? "Well," says the hostess, "the printers in the office do act funny sometimes." Good enough!

The Vestry at the Chapel, 777 Valencia St., (415) 551-7306.

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About The Author

Pete Kane

Pete Kane

Bio:
Pete Kane is a total gaylord who is trying to get to every national park before age 40

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