Almost two years after the 23-year-old Zapata Mexican Grill in the Castro closed following a mystifying and protracted battle with its landlord, the still-vacant space keeps raising hackles. Why? Because the sign in the window advertises it as great for a taqueria — like the one that was unceremoniously dumped in 2017.
The battle over the fate of the Elbo Room and the condos that were to replace it was harrowing and strangely long, although nowhere near as infuriating as the Zapata saga. (Bay Area writer Emma Silvers once tweeted something to the effect that the Elbo Room had a tendency to outlive the publications that had chronicled its supposedly imminent demise.) And now it’s back, as The Valencia Room with a spiffy blue-neon sign advertising it as such.
Saturday night’s soft open was a tad crowded, so SF Weekly stopped in on Sunday afternoon to snoop around, and we can report that the changes downstairs are mostly cosmetic, if incrementally more upscale. The pew-like benches and pinball zone remain intact, the beer selection passes muster, and the cash-only policy is kaput. (The cocktail menu is still in beta mode.) Upstairs, the venue half of the space looks quite different, with relocated restrooms and a couch-filled area with a VIP-ish vibe that one of the owners confessed she was skeptical about. She dislikes bottle service, she said. Separating people doesn’t make a night feel like a party. Time will tell if they hold the line on that.
Feelings are understandably vehement about change of any kind in the Mission, so people are grumbling about the new sign, the velvet ropiness, and about what in hindsight appears to be the pointlessness of this whole fracas. But the Valencia Room’s new owner-operators navigated that tricky path well, wisely choosing not to render the joint unrecognizable.
Now, can Lucky 13 win a similar reprieve?
The Valencia Room, 647 Valencia St., 415-598-8862 or valenciarm.com