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Sake-Braised Pork Belly in the Mission? Yes, Please.

Carolyn Alburger | February 1, 2013 | Story Restaurants

Yesterday, San Francisco magazine popped in for a sneak peek at the near-finished interior of Hi-Lo (3416 19th Street), the new “Northern California barbecue” counter-service restaurant officially slated to open on Monday in the Mission. Owners Scott Youkilis and Dave Esler and chef Ryan Ostler had been preparing friends and family test dinners all weekend long. Neighbor Ravi Kapur (Liholiho Yacht Club) popped in to say hello and take a look around. Neyah White (Suntory Japanese Whisky) was in for a test meal on Wednesday night. Needless to say, the joint is primed to be an industry hang.

So check it out: the d├ęcor—designed in collaboration with Abueg Morris and Zarin Gollogly—is airy, light-filled, and much less dude-ish than the team’s other spot, Hog & Rocks, across the way. To that point, Esler showed off the atmospheric sunset photography that will be blown up to cover the right interior wall, while Youkilis gushed about the butterscotch cookies coming out of the kitchen. As you can see, the back wall’s eggshell blue paintjob softens all the wood. Walls are lined with cedar burnt in the attractive, Japanese shou sugi ban fashion. White oak communal tables are set on an angle under the unfinished rafters overhead, giving the whole room an upscale country hofbrau feel.

Esler filled us in on the lights still on the way: one giant custom rectangular fixture, made from 1100 amber tinted apothecary bottles and four Edison bulbs, is set to adorn the mezzanine upstairs, and four halo chandeliers made from plywood and black chain will hang from the ceiling over the main dining area.

As has been noted earlier, the fare at Hi-Lo is not going to be your average slow-cooked pork belly and macaroni n’ cheese serving barbecue. There will be pork belly, but it will be smoked and “sake-braised” in the restaurant’s mammoth J & R smoker. The kitchen continually will weave seasonal ingredients, as well as Asian and global touches onto the dishes: See the pho made with smoky barbecue brisket that will probably rear its head down the road. And the uniforms? Denim aprons, designed for the staff by local company Cayson. A barbecue restaurant that boldly accepts its San Francisco birthright is about to touch down.

Watch for the website: to go live some time today.

Photos by Blair Sneddon.

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