By Jacob Bourne
Corridor Restaurant has been on the hospitality scene in San Francisco’s Mid-Market since opening last July, welcoming urbanites with its 20-foot glass facade. The Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group, which focuses on neighborhood-based dining venues, leases the commercial ground-floor of a mainly residential building at 100 Van Ness Avenue, a block away from City Hall and in close proximity to the Theater District. What makes Corridor different from other restaurants in nearby Hayes Valley that cater to theater goers, is its central concept of bridging fine-dining with fast and casual options.
“When we originally decided to do this project we looked to see what was going on in this burgeoning neighborhood and we found a lot of extreme high-end and fast and casual, but not a hybrid of the two,” said Ryan Cole, partner, Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group. “A lot of people going to Mid-Market for theater shows don’t have a lot of time and there are only so many restaurants in close proximity that allow you to make it to a show on time. We wanted to try to provide the same high quality in a hybrid scene with reservations or quick stop options.”
The crux of Corridor’s hybrid model is the placement of a walk-up counter near the restaurant’s entrance where those in a rush or patrons seeking a more casual experience can bypass a more lengthy full service affair. Patrons with reservations are seated in the quieter mezzanine versus the more animated bar and communal areas. Although the two options make for very different experiences, the same fine-dining menu is used for both.
Recent operational changes have endowed the venue with even more flexibility. The Corridor Cafe, which used to have a separate entrance is now physically connected to the restaurant, providing even more options. A name change to Corridor Restaurant & Cafe is being considered in light of the shift.
“This week we rolled the cafe into the restaurant so it’s all one space,” Cole explained. “You can choose to use it how you’d like and everyone gets treated the same. The former cafe space has now morphed into a kitchen and catering area.”
According to Cole, noise from the restaurant isn’t an issue for residents in the 424 units above because it’s a well-built building with a buffer floor in between the commercial and residential uses. The residents actually serve as a core group of repeat customers, many of whom work from home and frequent the main dining area equipped with Wi-Fi to get work done. Cole and colleagues see many regulars ordering their favorite menu options and encourage them to try new dishes.
“The price-point at Corridor is significantly lower than other places in the city but the quality is not,” commented Cole. “Quality is also a core part of our philosophy — we want people coming back.”
The walk-up counter allows for slightly lower staffing than other fine-dining venues and it also gets food out faster, making volume a bit higher. So far this has enabled Corridor to reign in prices for customers. Corridor’s primary goal now is to demystify the experience for the uninitiated. Patron’s with reservations are reportedly confused by the walk-up counter, warranting the need to convey the message that there’s a place at the table for everyone at Corridor, whether it’s those seeking a full service experience, theater enthusiasts in a rush, or City Hall personnel grabbing coffee.