The Pinnacle Guide

True Laurel

San Francisco, USA

A modern hidden-gem, True Laurel serves elegant cocktails that champion local and seasonal Bay Area produce. 

Reservations recommended
Walk-ins welcome
Accessible venue

AREAS OF EXCELLENCE

AREAS OF EXCELLENCE

 The Pinnacle Guide assesses bars against eight areas of excellence, following a rigorous self-application process and anonymous in-bar reviews. Find out more about this process and apply as a bar here.

ENVIRONMENTAL ENDEAVOURS

True Laurel’s cocktail programme sees the bar hero locally-sourced ingredients in line with the seasons and the team work hard to ensure little, if anything, goes to waste. As a certified SuperGreen business by cleanpowersf.org, all of their energy is renewable, and the team have worked alongside a local organisation – Literacy for Environmental Justice which focuses on native habitat restoration along the south basins of San Francisco.

DETAILS OF NOTE

Look out for the featured artists in the bar, from the bas-relief plaster wall sculpture by Nicholas Roberto, to the steel back bar inspired by Maria Freire’s “Formas en rojo, amarillo, y negra” or the tasting bar shelving inspired by Josef Albers, the Irving Penn still-life inspired cocktail photos by bar owners Barzelay and Torres to the custom art by Greg Ito.

The Pinnacle Guide

1

Despite being open and well-loved since 2017, True Laurel’s guests still feel this Bay Area bar is a hidden-gem where the service is personable and engaging and the drinks are always exceptional. Finding its home in an old industrial complex, the bar makes use of its blank canvas and has been designed with unique artistry across the space, including its large bas-relief plaster wall sculpture, the steel bottle shelving welded to resemble María Freire’s painting Untitled and the cross-section of a fallen laurel tree that makes up part of the bartop. 

Despite its decorative flair, True Laurel has none of the coldness of a gallery, creating warmth with natural elements, lighting and large skylights that throw sunlight and shade throughout the room during daylight hours. Reservations are encouraged, but the venue holds space for walk-ins and the staff here are notably welcoming, ensuring guests both enjoy their time and receive meaningful and genuine interactions without being intrusive. Beyond hospitality, both the bar and service team are extremely qualified in their ability to discuss drinks, ingredients, spirits and wine. In fact, some of the elements found on the menu have been grown, picked, foraged and made by the team with an off-site cocktail lab used to create and regulate these house-made products. 

True Laurel’s team do all this to show off and harness the flavours in their locally-sourced and seasonal produce. In fact the ever-changing cocktail menu aims to explore California and America’s west coast – its sense of place and terroir. Ingredients come from local gardens, tended by the team, are found wild or are sourced directly from farmers in the area. This extends to some of the spirits on the back bar, with smaller distilleries and vintage bottles jostling for space among well-known names, and a wine list which puts a focus on natural options. Cocktails here aren’t theatrical but come over bespoke ice with delicate and intentionally minimal garnishes.

Clarification methods play a huge role ensuring stability of ingredients and so most of the drinks programme is pre-batched and already slightly diluted – for optimum speed of service, ready to be poured over specialty ice from local company Abstract (who have 100% clean power for their facility). When it comes to the cocktail menu – they are wholly committed to a digital QR code to reduce the paper and plastic wastage, though the spirits list is printed – as this is less used. 

Depending on the time and day a guest visits, they’ll either experience a relaxed and more casual venue – vinyl Sundays, outdoor seating and plenty of sunlight at quieter times – to an upbeat and busy evening atmosphere. Service flows through the space well, even on a bustling Friday evening, thanks in part to custom banquettes, seating and bar stools that have been designed for the venue. 

Aside from providing this space to the local area that is reflective of its cultivated and wild produce and producers, True Laurel’s team have made significant effort to be an active part of their community. Be it through memberships in the hospitality industry to support neighbouring venues all the way through to charity work and staff being able to visit and work with the growers they use in the bar. Their local ethos feels authentically considered and executed and is a valuable celebration of the best the Bay Area has to offer.

The team are encouraged to share the direction they see their career going and the owners take care to ensure they support this through training and education. They practice an open-book management style, allowing staff to schedule office hours to learn more about the business side of bars and restaurants if they choose.

“Our bartender told us he had worked there for 2.5 years and that "this is where I want to be". His work certainly reflected that feeling in his precision and knowledge. The bar menu is certainly true to the aim of its team to honour San Francisco's history and bounty of local ingredients.”

The Pinnacle Guide Anonymous Reviewer

DO YOU THINK YOU COULD BECOME AN ANONYMOUS REVIEWER FOR
THE PINNACLE GUIDE? CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE…