Once the San Francisco Bay area’s best kept culinary secret, Lazy Bear is now the hottest ticket in the Mission District. What began as a series of underground dinner parties in 2009 became a legitimate dining establishment in August of 2014. Far from a traditional restaurant setting, Lazy Bear offers a “communal dining experience,” where diners sit together at long tables, all enjoying the same tasting menu of about 12 courses plus extras.
Twice per night, 40 lucky ticket-holders file into the chic gastropub-style venue for an exclusive dinner party like no other. The festivities begin in the cozy upstairs mezzanine, where diners lounge on couches, enjoying drinks and snacks. Dinner is served downstairs at two communal tables. Each course is explained in detail before a team of waiters quickly pass around plates at designated times. Lazy Bear’s FAQ explains that the dinner party setting means that the pacing of the meal may be different from what diners expect, and that the course explanations “might interrupt your conversation a bit.”
Lazy Bear’s communal style dining is designed to foster a more social, energetic atmosphere, where guests share stories while enjoying the modern American menu. Purchasing tickets in advance makes dining less of a transaction and more of a relaxing experience. Each ticket includes the tasting menu and snacks, as well as an option to purchase a beverage pairing. Beverages are selected to complement each course in the meal, and typically include five or six wines and a few cocktails, punches, spirits, sake or beer.
If you’re thinking of visiting Lazy Bear, be prepared to purchase your ticket well in advance. Tickets are sold once per month, usually in the middle of the previous month. So if you purchase a ticket in March, you’ll be dining in April. Occasionally, extra ticket sale dates are announced through Lazy Bear’s Twitter account. Tickets are non-refundable, but may be transferred to other diners, so they’re sometimes available on Craigslist or other local classifieds. Parties larger than six are not accommodated without paying a “premium” ticket price.
If you’re lucky enough to score a ticket, be prepared to enjoy a unique dinner party experience with a refined menu featuring delicacies prepared by the owner, Chef David Barzelay. Past dishes include snacks like Shigoku oyster in tomato with water consommé, and plums stuffed with chicken-liver mousse; courses like chilled lettuce soup with summer squash and fresh anchovy, and soft-shell crab tempura with ramp butter sauce; and desserts like pluot gelee with ginger curd, and peach pate de fruit with aged balsamic and Genovese basil.