New Restaurant Alert: Trou Normand
By: Marcia Gagliardi
Marcia Gagliardi writes a popular insider weekly e-column about the SF dining scene, subscribe for free at www.tablehopper.com. Out now is her first book, The Tablehopper’s Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco: Find the Right Spot for Every Occasion, a groundbreaking new style of guidebook. And check out her new app, Tablehopper’s Top Late-Night Eats, which highlights 95 SF spots serving food past 11pm!
As mentioned on tablehopper more than a year ago (back when it had a different name, even), Thad Vogler of Bar Agricole has a new spot in the works. It’s called Trou Normand and is now open in the beautiful Pacific Telephone Building at 140 New Montgomery. It’s an all-day bar and restaurant, serving breakfast in the morning straight through until dinner, with drinks and food available anytime. The idea is a little old-fashioned, not unlike old-school establishments from a bygone era that encouraged lingering at any hour of the day.
The space is a looker for sure, with soaring ceilings and windows to match. Boor Bridges (The Mill, Sightglass on 20th) designed the space, and they’ve kept the feeling contemporary without sacrificing or hiding the building’s great bones. The floor and all the cabinetry is dark oak, and all the tables as well as the impressive bar were made with reclaimed marble that was pulled out of the building’s elevator lobbies and honed to a matte finish. The walls were plastered and painted a clean white, and the ceiling was left unfinished, giving the space the feeling of an artist’s loft. Angular steel light fixtures (that match the bar’s foot rail and purse hooks) keep the space feeling tailored, and soft, tufted leather banquettes in a rich brown hue prevent it all from feeling too cold and hard.
A back room adjacent to the kitchen has a huge walnut butcher’s table, and the space can be used either as an additional prep space for the kitchen (it’s been used to butcher whole hogs recently), or as a private dining room for large groups. That’s not the only space that does double duty: the back of the entry has a sliding wall panel that opens to reveal some additional handicapped seating and a café counter for morning coffee.
Off the back is a huge outdoor patio that will feature a glass and steel canopy with integrated heaters, making the outdoor space usable year-round, rain or shine. Seth Boor, the architect on the project, reports that the building lit up at night is dramatic and quite gorgeous, and hopes that the patio will be installed in two months.
A great deal of attention has been paid to the interior design of the space, as well. Two graphic artists from New York, Erin Knutson and Grace Robinson-Leo of Study Studio, did all the art direction for the restaurant. That means that they’ve essentially “curated” a selection of art for the walls, all of it by women artists. They wanted to look at the cliché of the female nude in old-school bars through a contemporary lens. Particularly, they were looking to reexamine the 1960s bar culture, especially in France. To that end, they commissioned artist Ebecho Muslimova to design a female nude for behind the bar. It was painted by local New Bohemia Signs from a specially mixed paint made from raw milk, which gives it a more aged, matte look. Muslimova also created some humorous nude line drawings for the entryway (be sure to take a look at them) that offer a sassy take on the female nude (and charcuterie, wink).
There are also works from Allison Katz, Lizzy Marshall, Heidi Hahn, and a collective called Fort Makers. The art feels more considered than that found in many restaurants, and gives the space an almost gallery-like feeling. Fortunately, the art is playful enough that you won’t feel the need to whisper, but it does lend a cosmopolitan sophistication to the handsome space.
Knutson and Robinson-Leo were also thorough in their graphic design. The pair was responsible for crafting the menus, which are printed in classic type and then secured to slabs of glossy white acrylic and blond wood. They also created postcards that evoke a 1960s photographic pastiche, including a childhood photo of Thad Vogler. In the back, a walnut communal table can also be used for large parties (the room doubles as a private dining room).
As for the food and beverages, the cocktail list includes Armagnac, Cognac, and Calvados, much of it sourced directly from Europe. The name, Trou Normand, was inspired by a buying trip Vogler took to Normandy—it’s a tradition to throw back a shot of Calvados in preparation for or during a big meal to make room (“a Norman hole”).
You’ll see it all over the cocktail menu (all drinks $11), from the Bombay (brandy, sweet and dry vermouth, curacao, absinthe) to the Zamboanaga (Armagnac, pineapple gum, lime, maraschino). The house old-fashioned is made with Cognac, along with two types of bitters. There is also a wine list, dominated primarily by French and Italian selections. Two sparklers are available by the glass, as well as a rosé, four whites, and five reds.
The food is grounded in the charcuterie offerings, from chef Salvatore Cracco. His résumé includes Adesso and the butchery at Bar Agricole, and he’s apparently got quite the operation going on here too. He’s using Mangalitsa pigs from Devil’s Gulch Ranch to create at least 40 different varieties of cured meat, which will be available all day.
As for the rest of the menu, you’ll find breakfast items including sandwiches in the morning, while in the evening the menu focuses on larger entrées intended for sharing, like a red wine-braised pork shank ($50) or a halibut with salsa verde ($45). Sides are available as well, including choices like grilled spring onions ($7) and asparagus with brown butter and lemon ($9). For dessert, it’s ice cream ($7) only, or of course you could opt for another cocktail. Here’s the menu.
Hours will be 8am–1am eventually, but right now they’re opening at 5pm for dinner only.
140 New Montgomery St. at Natoma.
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