First Look: Glena's in San Francisco's Dogpatch

Tacos and margaritas from chef Michael Gaines in his solo debut
February 16, 2017
by Trevor Felch

The gist: Tacos and margaritas headline this highly anticipated Dogpatch Mexican newcomer from chef/co-owner Michael Gaines, who comes with an enviable résumé. He was sous-chef at Manresa and opening chef de cuisine at Central Kitchen and Kin Khao. For his solo debut, Gaines chose loosely interpreted Mexican as it’s the food he loves to cook and eat.

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Gaines teamed up with his wife Stephanie (a front-of-house industry veteran from Manresa and most recently Plow), who will serve as general manager. And, as for the namesake? Glena's is named for Gaines’ grandmother who inspired him to become a chef.

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The food: Starting with chips, homemade salsas and made-to-order guacamole is all but mandatory. Then comes the heart of the compact menu: tacos ($5 each), led by al pastor with marinated and grilled pork shoulder and pineapple. Other tacos include tofu–black bean for vegetarians, grilled fish and carne asada.

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"Platos" head towards larger share plates like prawn and avocado ceviche tostadas and a fried chicken and chipotle mayonnaise torta (served lengthwise like a torpedo roll, not the traditional stacked variety), which continues the citywide fried chicken sandwich trend. Brunch doesn't get its own menu, but Stephy's pozole and huevos and chorizo cooked in a cazuela allow diners to indulge anytime. Dessert means fresh, hot churros or sweet-savory fried plantains offered as a side dish. Diners can order at the host stand by the front door and have food delivered to their table, or they can sit at the bar for full service. As of now, no dish is more than $15.

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The drinks: Once its liquor license is approved, Glena's will be all about tequila and mezcal, served primarily as margaritas on the rocks. As well, expect a handful of wines, and bottles and cans of Mexican beer. Right now, diners can choose among a selection of sodas, limeade or agua de jamaica.

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The space: Glena’s, sandwiched between Dogpatch Cafe and Third Rail on a side street, replaces The New Spot, a Mexican-Salvadorean restaurant. Evergreen tiles wrapping from the tables to the bar add to the breezy coastal feel, which seems appropriate with the Bay just a few steps away. Stark white walls, a window peeking at the kitchen and distressed wood that evokes the exterior of a weathered tropical beach cabin complete the look.

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Twenty diners can sit at the bar and at the handful of smooth-edged wood tables in the 500-square-foot space designed by Wiley Price (State Bird Provisions, The Progress, Trick Dog). Those seeking a quick taco or three can stand at two communal high-tops by the entrance with room for 10. Price cleverly plays with height levels in the three dining setups, making the compact space seem spacious (a banquette rises to become a dining counter, for example).

Glena's doesn't accept reservations and is currently open for lunch weekdays 11 AM–3 PM. Hours will expand to 11 AM–11 PM soon.

>Check out more new restaurants around San Francisco.

632 20th St.; 415-800-7415

tacos al pastor
opening preview
fried chicken sandwiches