Al's place, San Francisco -01/4/2017

AL’s Place is a quirky restaurant with an unassuming 46-seat, the facade is painted in bright blue which brightens up an otherwise sleepy corner of 26th and Valencia in the Mission District.

In August 2105, Bon Appetit declared Al’s Place, the then 6-month-old restaurant, the best new restaurant in America.  Al's place received their first 1 Michelin star in 2016 and kept their status in 2017.

Tables are booked two months in advance so plan ahead. I called 3 weeks ahead and the only table available was for 2 people at 5:30PM (the first seating of the night).


On December 1, 2014, Chef Aaron London got the keys to this location and he did almost everything himself, from designing the crab logo on the door to putting tape on the floor so the contractors would know where to install each wall, outlet, and piece of kitchen equipment. No detail was left to chance. On February 4, 2015, a crazy-quick two months later, AL’s Place, note the capital A and L for the chef’s initials (Aaron London) opened.


The restaurant opens at 5:30PM and there is long line already at 5:10PM.

The restaurant is not open yet and here I am just taking a picture from the outside looking in.

Staff members are gathered before opening their doors and some of them are exercising their arms and legs so they are ready to serve all the customers.


The shoestring-budget interiors, designed by London himself are bright and very simple with blue-painted tile floor, stark white walls, with orange bursts of color.

Pendant lights on the ceiling added a cozy and welcoming atmosphere.

The door opened at exactly 5:30Pm and the place is totally sold out for the 1st seating. In the back ground, the hostess is checking in all the customers as fast as they can.

The menu is divided into five categories:“Snackles,” a goofy term that London made up, “Cold/Cool,” “Warm/Hot,” “Limited Availability,” and “Sides”.

In addition to a la carte they also have a fixed price family style dinner for $65. This was described as about 8 courses, with 4 from the "Snackles" section, 2 from the "Cold/Cool" section and 2 from the "Warm/Hot" section, and a dessert in addition.


The bar can seat 6 people and it will be saved for walk-ins, first come first serve, no reservation is needed. Next to the bar is an open kitchen where Chef London is making sure all the dishes that are coming out of the kitchen will meet his standard.

Whitin 5 minutes the bar was full of people.  These people did not have a reservation, they came early to stay in line in the hope to be seated  at the bar.  They were the lucky ones...the next opening at the bar will be in 90 minutes or more.


Aaron London grew up in Sonoma County, got his start washing dishes at a local Mexican restaurant, and eventually fell under the spell of Thomas Keller (via The French Laundry Cookbook), which inspired him to enroll in the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. He did an externship at the 3 Michelin start Daniel in New york, he was the opening line chef at the now-legendary Au Pied de Cochon. Two years later he returned to school, graduating into a gig at Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns. There, he not only learned to “taste terroir in the vegetables,” he made the conceptual leap from cook to chef. “The blinders came off and I could see the whole kitchen,” he says. “I was ready to run a restaurant.”

Fast forward a few years and London, who now presides over the kitchen at Al’s Place restaurant specializing in vegetables in all their glory, is the talk of the town. 

Chef London with long hair and pulled back into a bun is at work..

The no fuss table is minimalist with a simple wooden table, gray plate with folded kitchn towel napkins, and plain silverware.


The menu is the reverse-steakhouse: entrees will be mostly vegetable-focused, while meats will be on the side and stay under $20.

Our waitress recomended that we ordered about 3 dishes per person as the portion is on the small side.


Brine pickled french fries with smoked apple sauce and poached fram egg, olive oil.

Consider the french fries: first, large new potatoes, grown for the restaurant, are passed through a fry cutter. Then they are brined for 96 hours in 68-degree water that has been inoculated with salt and cabbage leaves to accelerate fermentation. Next, they’re fried for about five minutes at 325 degrees in rice bran oil. Finally, when an order comes in, they are fried again at 375 degrees for exactly one minute. They are served with a smoked apple barbecue sauce whose creation is equally involved.


 I read about the unique French fries at Al's place and they were like no other fries I’d ever tasted: the texture is totally different, slightly pickled, creamy in the middle, crunchy on the outside-cost $8 for the fries + $3 for poached egg.  The poached egg was very lovely with the runny egg yolk and perfect with the fries.


Foie Gras, peach Al's pastor sauce

Simply delicious!  The Al's pastor sauce is really amazing with layers of flavors.

Bread is not served unless it is requested.

The bread was toasted and tasted like artisan bread.  I opted for olive oil instead of butter.

Lightly cured trout, crispy potato, bashed turnips, bagna cauda -$17

Eye candy-so beautfilly presented.

Nice contrast in textures from the trout, the potato, turnips, and the rich salty bagna cauda sauce.




Baby lettuces, herbed avocado, pistachio crumble -$16

Gorgeous presentation, looked like a flower centerpiece, but with lettuce. The herbed avocado sauce was on the bottom of the bowl, and you use it as a dip for the lettuces.

Very clean taste, very delicious!  We ordered this salad so we can eat it with the duck and the ribeye.


Duck with peach Al's pastor sauce- $17

The skin was crispy, the meat was rich, juicy and went really well with the Peach sauce which was sweet and smokey.

I noticed that the sauce was the same as the Foie gras dish so I asked our waitress how the sauce was prepared.  She told me it is a lenghty preparation sauce.  First they the peach were dried and then rehydrated for hours.  Next the peach was slow cooked with 5 different type of chilis as each chile has a different flavor which resulted in a fantastic sauce.


5 dot ranch 35 day dry aged ribeye.

Check out the marbeling on the meat!  We like our meat "rare" and that's what we got.

Very tender, so flavorful, and simply delicious.


our we are enjoying the duck, the ribeye, and the salad.


Lemon tart with Ice Cream - $10


The tart was good nothing special about it.

Coffee with dessert the only way to end a meal!


Al's place is known for their fresh, seasonal vegetables and seafood where Chef Aaron London has managed to deftly recast proteins in a supporting role. 

Chef London is now sourcing the majority of his produce from Rose Becker of Blue Dane Garden, a biodynamic gardener and the quality shows.

The service staff is friendly, attentive, knowledable but delightfully unfussy. The restaurant's mix-and-match menu is easily shared, and dishes are light, incredibly flavorful and informal in all the right ways. We enjoyed our meal here and will be back to try the chef menu in the future.


Al's Place

1499 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

Phone: (415) 416-6136


Filed under: Restaurants



Our house


Photo Gallery

 Mon  petit coin