Sexing up the triple junction of Sanchez, Market, and 15th Streets is the bombastic, HECHO (briefly known as Bandidos). With its kapow-red outdoor seating, figure-eight-knot light fixtures, and rear wall plastered with close-ups of Mexican currency, it’s definitely one of the more attractive ground-floor spaces in Upper Market’s new construction.
[jump] Since this is the Castro, the bar had better be good, and the cocktail menu by Sipcraft puts the agave plant front and center. For starters, the Bacanora Negroni, made with Cynar and mole bitters, was one of the most innovative variations on that particular classic I’ve had. (Bacanora is an agave liqueur that wasn’t even legal to distill until the '90s.) Thankfully, the Smoke on the Water (Del Meguay Vida mezcal, Ancho Reyes, cane syrup and Angostura bitters) did not come with a gust of liquid nitrogen or something gimmicky; it was a superb balance of smoke and heat.
With respect to the food, something about the menu feels like it stopped short of being truly ambitious. It consists of starters, ten or so tacos, and three proper entrees (one of which, it must be said, is a decidedly non-North American fried whole fish). The duck mole taco was moist and flavorful, but the standout was the prawn and chorizo — of which I was initially suspicious because of the combination of crustaceans and cheese. It worked nicely. Along with a terrific short rib quesadilla, it made for a fine dinner, even if HECHO is a restaurant whose kitchen, in breadth although not in quality, ultimately feels subordinate to its bar. As if they could ever go wrong, Churro doughnut holes with Bi-Rite salted caramel ice cream were the right thing to wrap up with, though. (Honest reckoning: my dinner date and I were treated very well, although both our wallets left our pockets.)
It didn’t have the most auspicious of beginnings, but HECHO is clearly going to find its niche. Since for all its nightlife, there really isn’t that much in the Castro that’s this hip. A glance at a packed house revealed the neighborhood at its most diverse, which is welcome news when we’re talking about $5 tacos. But HECHO’s cocktail selection is so unlike the rest of the Castro that you don’t even need to step away from the bar to have a great night.
HECHO, 2200 Market St., 926-5630.