News today of bar Jules closing after brunch this Sunday is a sad thing for Hayes Valley. It’s been my favorite burger spot for lunch for years. Here is an interview I did with Jessica for Apartamento Magazine.
I’ve always loved a neighborhood restaurant. I’ve actually met some great friends at local eating establishments – you know you’ll at least have one thing in common, and thats the food.
When you eat out in Hayes Valley it feels more neighborly than almost any other district in San Francisco. Many restaurants here have seemed to find their niche and become great staples in our city, garnering cultish obsession and faithful followers in the devoted eaters that call this neighborhood home. A great example is Hayes Street Grill which has been serving opera, symphony and ballet patrons for more than 30 years and continues to stay true to its clientele with its passionate staff and their signature dishes.
Resting on the western edge of Hayes Valley at the end of the strip, bar Jules is six years old. To the uninitiated, this little 38-seat restaurant may be just another in a burgeoning atmosphere of San Francisco institutions committed to serving sustainable fish, meats, and produce from the best small farmers in the area but for all of the years that I’ve been dining and shopping on Hayes Street bar Jules has managed to virtually redefine the lines of what is considered to be Hayes Valley. The location offers a feeling that is both edgy and sophisticated.
Owner Jessica Boncutter has worked at Zuni Cafe and as the chef at Hog Island Oyster Co, two of my favorite places to eat in San Francisco. Here she spends her time working the restaurant as a mother would in her own home. The menu at bar Jules isn’t fancy or punched with tons of trendy ideals – in fact they don’t even bother printing one out for you, it’s written on a blackboard.
The wonderful thing about bar Jules is that it feels so much like an integral part of the community, you’d think it had been where it is longer than it has.
How long have you been in Hayes Valley?
Bar Jules opened in November of 2007.
What attracted you to open your business in Hayes Valley?
I loved that it felt both edgy and sophisticated at the same time.
More than any other Hayes Valley restaurant, Bar Jules appears to be a classic model for a neighborhood institution. Was this your intention when you opened it?
Thank you! Yes that was my intention above everything else!
Your menu changes so often – what have your regulars made you keep on it?
I think the regulars like that the menu changes. It feels like going over to a friend’s house for dinner.
What have the challenges been in basing your restaurant around a menu that changes daily?
Writing menus everyday can be hard. Sometimes you think dang it would be much easier if I had opened a Houston’s.
Hayes Valley seems to be in a constant state of evolution. Would you say the ever-shifting menu is reflective of this?
I hope so. I feel very proud that Bar Jules still feels fresh and unique after being open for 6 years.
Who are some of your culinary heroes?
Some of my culinary heroes include Julia Child, Rose Gray and Ruthie Rogers from the River Cafe, Judy Rodgers from Zuni Cafe, Carol Bever from Zuni Cafe, Diana Kennedy and Margot and Fergus Henderson from St John, and Rochelle Canteen respectively.
Is the menu at bar Jules reflective of what you actually eat on a day to day basis? Describe your ideal lunch or dinner.
Yes it is. I usually eat very simply with a lot of vegetables.
Do you have any aspirations on opening up another restaurant in San Francisco?
I do and I don’t. Sometimes your personal touch can be lost if you are running more than one restaurant at a time.
Is there or has there ever been something you love that has been unsuccessful on the menu?
Beef tongue for obvious reasons. It is so delicious and anyone brave enough to order it is solo happy.
Many of my good friends are frequent diners at the restaurant and all of them talk about it as though it is there second home. What has inspired you to create that atmosphere at bar Jules?
I have always loved the idea of a canteen or a neighborhood restaurant. Nothing makes me happier than to have regular customers.
You have worked at two other local San Francisco restaurants that are staples for me – Zuni Cafe and Hog Island Oyster Company. What did you take away from those experiences?
Zuni Cafe and Hog Island Oyster Company were very different from each other. What was similar about the two of them was the dedication to the best quality ingredients.
I’ve been toying with the idea of opening a cafe / restaurant in San Francisco for years. Can you give me a sage piece of advice?
Don’t do it! Ha ha just joking. Like anything that is worth something in life, it’s a ton of hard work.
I have a blog titled Juanita Eats Out and I like to ask friends a few questions about their eating habits. What is the strangest or most inspiring thing you’ve ever eaten?
Casu marzu – it is a sheep cheese that has worms (live insect larvae) in it from Sardinia.
What was your favorite breakfast cereal as a kid?
We had to eat grape nuts growing up – but I loved Lucky Charms.
What is your favorite dessert?
My favorite dessert is simple – cheese.
What is your favorite food to pig-out on after a late night?
I love to grab Chinese food after a late night.
What is always in your refrigerator at home?
I always have Champagne in my refrigerator.
Where did the name bar Jules come from?
Bar Jules is named after my old lady dog Jules. She is an 18 year old basset hound that I have had since she was three months old. She is the love of my life.