ON CLOSING LOCAL MISSION EATERY
“And then there are places like Local Mission Eatery…which emerge from their plywood wombs eager and coltish, gangly joints pointing in all directions, bleating their existence to the treetops. If starvation or confusion doesn't kill the place while it's still finding its feet, it may grow into something quite wonderful.”
In May 2010, in his SF Weekly Review, Jonathan Kauffman saw our potential and presciently laid out our challenges.
We were a sandwich shop by day, with a set menu and communal dinners by night. We offered cooking classes and a lending cookbook and food reference library. Knead Patisserie shared the space, and out of its ovens came superlative pastries and treats. When times demanded change, we became a restaurant of a more traditional kind—less confusing, you could say. In that form, we lived quite fully, and over these years, we grew into something quite wonderful.
For nearly six years, we have bleated our existence and, more so, our values to the treetops. Committed to direct, local sourcing and longstanding relationships, we have been the rare, true, farm-to-table restaurant. Committed to integrity and the value of hard work well done, we have operated with honest and law-abiding labor practices. Committed to renewal and progress, we have shifted hours and service styles, menu structures and layouts.
And over these nearly six years, Miriam and I brought two children into world, to add to the one who was there at opening, and Jake and Shauna had their first, and moved near family in Lodi.
With their move to Lodi, Knead Patisserie closed, and we lost a necessary source of income. And for the first time in nearly six years, we did not have the diners we needed to survive.
We are no longer colts. Our voice and joints are strong and mature, our feet firmly planted in the realness of operations and business, yet our bleating is lost in the din of restaurant openings and food delivery apps, of mail-order meal subscriptions and offices filled with free food. San Francisco’s “stomach share” (to use Michael Pollan’s phrase) nor its labor force has kept pace with new restaurants and the march of the aspiring unicorns of food-startups. And so, we cannot go on.
On December 19, Local Mission Eatery will serve its last meal.
In its remaining days, we hope Local Mission Eatery will be filled with the crush and thrill of a busy service, the quiet murmurs of delight as diners savor a bite of deliciousness, the trust as regulars set into their favored seat, the choreography of committed and happy employees engaged in meaningful labor. And on December 19, Jake and I will sit in the quiet of an empty restaurant, with a glass of wine, filled to overflowing with melancholy and old dreams and new visions and, I hope, the satisfaction of having done something real and important.
The real is often ephemeral. And so it is with Local Mission Eatery.
Yet we persevere. At the Market, we pioneer a place in which our food is made with craft and integrity, with real and wholesome ingredients, nourishing the bodies and minds of our community and beloved growers in this region that we call home.
With our undivided focus, Local Mission Market and Local Cellar will provide an ever-improving and unique experience. We will continue to support the phenomenal farmers and ranchers with whom we have partnered all along. And we will remain wholly committed to a sustaining and sustainable food system.
I hope, down the long path, at the end of a busy day at the Market and in the quiet calm that comes from having tried and failed, tried again and learned, to raise a glass of wine with my grown children and share with them the story of having, all along, even when I did not see it, been engaged in something quite wonderful.
Over the next nine days, please join me at Local Mission Eatery to eat and drink phenomenal fare and toast the bleating colt that found its feet, and soon will be no longer.
- Yaron Milgrom