Restaurant Review: The Shop/Nightshift

The Shop Turns Into Nightshift On Friday And Saturday Nights

Robin Babb
6 min read
BBQ red chile ribs
(The Shop)
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I have yet to eat something bad at The Shop. In fact, I’ve yet to eat something that’s just OK there—the place has pared down their menu to nothing but the greatest hits, and their brunch crowd on weekends can attest. So when I first heard that they were doing dinner service, I knew I had to come see if it stood up to their legendary breakfast and lunch dishes like the duck confit hash.

There is something unshakably punk and unpretentious about The Shop’s demeanor, despite all the critical praise and popularity. Of course, there’s the music—lots of Black Flag and Sonic Youth gets played in the mornings here. The concrete floors and almost nonexistent decor make you feel like you’re eating in somebody’s garage. And there’s the highly tattooed waitstaff, who can often be seen dancing in the kitchen. And then there’s Chef Israel Rivera himself, the most tattooed of all, who has found such wild success without a culinary school degree or any deference given to orthodoxy. Everything he’s done with his little restaurant on Monte Vista has been as DIY as it gets.

Of course, the vibe is a little bit different at night. From 5:30 to 9:30pm on Friday and Saturday nights, The Shop becomes nightshift, a sort of pop-up permanent dinner service with a constantly changing menu. The music has turned a little softer, the crowds are smaller and the counter service has changed to table service, but otherwise it’s still definitely The Shop, with all the comfort that implies. There might be Nina Simone playing, but you could roll up here on a Saturday night in your sweatpants and I doubt anybody would give you the stink eye.

The menu changes week by week, with a few dishes that hang around for several weeks or months based on popularity and seasonality. The buttermilk brined fried chicken wings have hung around for quite a while, and likely aren’t going anywhere. There are usually only two or three big plates: a pasta, a meat dish and a burger or sandwich is the usual breakdown. Chef Rivera, ever an experimenter, draws inspiration from far and wide for each of these dishes, throwing together traditional New Mexican ingredients with creole, barbecue and other Southern elements. All this is informed by his many years of working in professional kitchens, including two years as the sous chef at Artichoke Cafe, where he first got the inspiration to open his own restaurant.

Just like on The Shop’s brunch menu, everything served at nightshift shows Rivera’s deep understanding of contrast. Every restaurant seems to have a version of the crispy Brussels sprouts in balsamic reduction dish, but Rivera’s brings some interesting elements: barely roasted fresh grape halves and Marcona almonds. The freshness of the grapes and the crunch of the almonds are so perfectly balanced with the tender fried sprouts, and the balsamic glaze is replaced with a maple-mustard vinaigrette that adds a subtle sweetness. This dish is on the daytime menu too, and it’s become one of their most popular.

Another dish that won’t be leaving the menu anytime soon is the red chile BBQ pork ribs ($10 for 5 pieces, $16 for 8 pieces). The sweet and smoky marinade is cut with a little vinegar tang, and toasted pecans and fresh green onions on top add texture and a pop of color. These are fall-off-the-bone tender—I suggest ordering the full plate.

The bucatini pasta with truffle and mushroom cream sauce ($17) likely won’t be on the menu when you go visit, because it’s a rotating special. But just in case it comes back into the rotation at a later date, you’ll want to know how good it is, right? Bucatini pasta is a thick-cut spaghetti-like noodle with a hole down the length that’s made for soaking up thin sauces. It does this admirably in the decadent mushroom sauce this dish is swimming in, with doubled-up umami goodness from the truffles and the crispy fried romesco that accompanies on top like meatballs. A warning: The Shop is not known for small portions.

On a recent visit to nightshift I was getting over a cold (aren’t we all?) and feeling kind of beaten down after a long week, with a real need to treat myself well. My server, Sarah, who seems to work every nightshift, recommended an herbal tea from Midnight Blue (a local tea company) when I asked. Although it’s probably not a get-healthy dish, I ordered the Mexican poutine: hand-cut fries in chorizo gravy with cheddar, chipotle mayo,
queso fresco and pickled jalapeños and red onions ($12). Decadent is certainly a fair descriptor of most of the dishes here. It’s not for the faint of heart, but a perfect dish for the aforementioned purposes of treating oneself. The fries are crispy and cut super thick, and the pickled onions and jalapeños add an acidity and crunch to the otherwise creamy layer on top. The chipotle mayo gives just the slightest hint of smoky heat, too. Like I said, the guy knows about contrast.

There is a hidden gem quality to the nightshift—besides signage at The Shop itself, it’s not that widely publicized. This means that it’s never super packed, and it’s mostly regulars and Nob Hill locals who frequent the dinner service, which adds a coziness and neighborhood vibe that one usually finds at bars or coffee shops, but not restaurants. They even give a 20 percent discount to other Nob Hill business owners who dine in—a truly neighborly move, if you ask me.

Like I always fear when I write about these restaurants and bars and cafés I love, I worry that the added press will bring swarms into the place and “ruin” it. I really don’t want that to happen here, because the neighborhood crowd is such a lovely, integral part of what makes The Shop and nightshift unique. So, to assuage my conscience, can we all just agree that this is a “no terrible people allowed” zone? Much appreciated.
Where the Neighborhood Goes for Dinner

The BBQ red chile ribs are always on the menu

Image courtesy of The Shop

Where the Neighborhood Goes for Dinner

The signature black and green hole in the wall now serves dinner, too

Robin Babb

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