The long-rumored next phase for the ever-evolving, multi-faceted space in the heart of Tam Junction that’s anchored by the 15-year-old Proof Lab surf and skate shop, is almost here.
On Saturday, Nov. 2, Proof Lab founders Will Hutchinson and Nate McCarthy, along with Christian Morabito and Beau Caillouette, the duo behind Hook Fish Co., the sustainably caught fish market/restaurant in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset, officially open a new indoor-outdoor hybrid of an integrated Hook Fish Co. food trailer with a beer garden and plenty of outside space for events like film screenings. There’s also an indoor bar with a 15-plus beer menu of mostly local brews, as well as wine, cider, kombucha and other nonalcoholic drinks.
The menu mirrors that of Hook Fish Co. in SF, centering on recipes created by Hook Fish Co. chef Luke Johnson for burritos, tacos and sandwiches featuring the fresh fish of the day or poke or pibil, as well as salads, fish and chips and starters like ceviche, crab cakes and poke + chips. There’s also soft serve ice cream.
To hear Hutchinson and Morabito tell it, the partnership blossomed in a similarly organic way as did past arrivals like the Mill Valley Potter’s Studio, Magic West Music School, skate and surf camps, Studio4Art and the CNL Native Plant Nursery, not to mention Equator Coffees at Proof Lab, whose arrival in 2013 made the space even more of a community gathering spot, as well as vital services like a biodiesel station and styrofoam recycling.
That is, collaborating with friends who have great ideas and the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit to make it happen.
For Morabito, a visit to Proof Lab to buy a new skateboard turned into much more than that.
Hutchinson walked with him over to the space that George Kim, whose family owns the entire property that includes Proof Lab and its partners and subtenants, had offered to have Hutchinson and McCarthy lease after Martha Pearl moved her Alpha Dog Lodging facility down the street on Shoreline Highway in 2018.
“We didn’t have any plans to do a restaurant – it was more about how to use and how to tie it into what we have going,” Hutchinson says.
The potential fit they sought was two-fold. One was the parking-driven, practical component of something that would complement Equator’s busy mornings and Proof Lab’s retail-centric days. Second was the social: Owners and employees of all those like-minded businesses often sought a place to hang out together after work with co-workers, friends and family.
“Those two plans lined up,” Hutchinson says.
Hutchinson and Morabito spoke about what could be done with the space and how. The conversation continued. Before they opened Hook Fish Co. as a caterer in 2014 and a restaurant in 2017, Morabito and Caillouette had been refining the concept for a long time, including hosting pop-ups in places like Proof Lab’s parking lot.
“It’s been an amazing experience to push beyond the typical restaurant,” Morabito says, pointing to their focus on customer education on fish industry buzzword misnomers that lack transparency, like “the freshest fish you can buy.”
“We’ve always admired that Proof Lab has had the approach of being community-driven business owners and filling a need that adds features that improve the community,” he adds. “When the opportunity came to be part of their space amongst a lot of other like-minded business owners, that was a really attractive opportunity for us.”
Hutchinson says he and McCarthy wanted no part of running a restaurant, having watched the learning curve of friends who’d done it. “We saw Hook Fish Co. go through the process of creating an incredible restaurant, and their focus on quality seafood is something different and it aligns with our sustainability mission and they’re a partner we know and trust. Their design aesthetic and community orientation is also a great fit. And they’re just friends we like working with and spending time with.”
The 411: On Saturday, Nov. 2, Proof Lab and Hook Fish Co. will officially open a new indoor-outdoor hybrid of an integrated Hook Fish Co. food trailer with a beer garden and plenty of outside space for events. MORE INFO.
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