How Mad Men Inspired the Design of Leo’s Oyster Bar
Get the insiders' scoop on the vintage-inspired and exotically-decked San Francisco restaurant!
Published Nov 1, 2016 5:00 AM
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Chances are, you’ve seen the signature wallpaper that sets the backdrop of San Francisco hotspot Leo’s Oyster Bar. The vintage 1950’s Hawaiiana take on the classic palm print inspires a dreamy escape complete with hand-waxed mahogany paneling, mother-of -pearl chandeliers, and a salmon onyx cocktail bar. The mid-century-sleek space features a touch of the exotic, as evident in the Moroccan tiles and whimsical floral patterns, thoughtfully dispersed throughout the restaurant.
Designed by Ken Fulk alum Jon de la Cruz, the chic 40-seat restaurant manages to pack in major style into a relatively small space. “It’s the kind of place you can sneak in for a late lunch and indulge in a drink, and by the time you leave, you realize it’s suddenly dark outside”, says de la Cruz.
We caught up with designer Ken Fulk and Anna Weinberg, managing partner and creative concepter at Big Night Restaurant Group, to get the inside scoop on designing Leo’s Oyster Bar. (Oh, and we snagged a recipe or two as well!)
What was the inspiration behind the decor of Leo’s Oyster Bar?
Mad Men meets The Golden Girls.
We wanted to create what we fondly called a daytime drinking establishment. In my mind it was Mad Men goes to Palm Beach. A masculine core with a colorful feminine counterpoint.
The colorful custom floral wallpaper was designed by Big Night’s own Creative Director Jake Mogelson!
Tell us about your thrift store adventures in efforts to decorate the space, which of the pieces were a steal?
We found so much of the artwork on Chairish at really good prices – most were under $20. In the Tiki Lounge, which we like to refer to as “Anna & Jake’s Mistake,” we actually scrounged up every piece of artwork that had been ordered for one of our other restaurants. We just put it all up together – regardless of the color. The bamboo in that room is from Home Depot so that was a steal as well!
There’s a great kooky lamp on the back bar in The Hideaway that is totally whackadoodle and wonderful. It was sort of an ugly duckling in the shop – but it really shines in the space.
What did you splurge on when it came to the decor? Scrimp?
There’s one piece of artwork that we did splurge on – James* and I picked it up in a gallery in Hawaii when we were on vacation there. Another pricey element was the beautiful 1940s etched gold glassware we got on One Kings Lane. It doesn’t last forever because people end up breaking pieces, but it’s worth it for that “wow” factor.
We splurged on the glowing onyx top bar and scrimped on the wood paneling throughout.
*James Nicholas is Co-Owner and Managing General Partner at Big Night Restaurant Group
What is your advice for the small-space decorator looking to bring in a burst of style into their space?
Don’t be afraid to go crazy. Sometimes more is better and pattern is always fantastic – it shows real commitment. For a small space, I think a dark ceiling works well because it almost seems to disappear. We used Wrought Iron by Benjamin Moore for the ceilings at Park Tavern and it’s perfect.
Don’t be afraid of color and pattern. Bold statements make a room impactful and memorable.
What is your favorite element of the restaurant’s design?
The cane sconces in the Hideaway because James and I actually made and painted those ourselves! The glowing onyx bar and the scallop shell sconces are a tie for my second favorite.
I think everyone would agree it’s the custom Leo’s wallpaper. It really is the space-maker.
How would one go about creating a Leo’s-inspired
tablescape, at home?
I’d start with some tropical print tablecloths that you can get on Amazon for about $5 each. Add some tiki glasses of course, and colored water glasses are always fun. To keep it from looking too “tacky tropo,” you want to mix and match those tropical elements with some sleeker midcentury pieces so, I would opt for simple, streamlined plates. Hang some ferns over the table to bring in that greenery.
It’s really the mix of timeless pieces with a few whimsical finds. The core pieces should be dandy and a bit dressed up like Don Draper – but then you need to combine with a few playful elements. I’m a collector of vintage china so I like to start with that. However, clean, white dinnerware will do. I would then add in a collection of colorful glassware, and a crisp, starched linen napkin alongside hotel silver flatware. All set atop a floral tablecloth crafted from fabric found at the discount fabric store!
Island Girl Cocktail
Recipe by Casandra Salazar
- 1.5 oz Blackwell Rum
- ½ oz Giffard Bana
- ½ oz Lemon Juice
- ½ oz Spiced Simple
- .75 oz Orange Juice
- ½ oz Luxardo Cherry Morlacco
- 4 Dash Old Fashioned Bitters
- ½ oz Banana Puree
Directions Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into glass over fresh ice. Garnish with a banana leaf and fresh flower.
Crab & Rock Shrimp Louie
Recipe by chef Jenn Puccio
- 1 pound crab meat, picked and cleaned
- 4 gem lettuce heads, outer leaves removed, cut in half lengthwise, and sliced crosswise into 1/4 inch strips
- 1 large fennel bulb, sliced very thinly on a mandoline and soaked in ice water
- 8 easter egg radishes, sliced very thinly on a mandoline and soaked in ice water
- 1 cup mache (to be added to the fennel and radish salad)
- 2 hard boiled eggs, yolks and whites separated, grated on the fine holes of a box grater
- 1 oz orange tobiko
- Lemons, halved
- Olive oil
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Directions Dress the lettuce gems with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. Place on the plate. Dress the drained and dried fennel and radish with lemon juice, olive oil and salt, arrange over the top of the lettuce. Sprinkle the egg whites over the salad, then the yolks. Finish with the tobiko. Arrange the crab meat on the plate next to the salad and garnish it with a bit of freshly cracked pepper. Serve the Louie dressing on the side, with lemon wedges.
For the Rock Shrimp 1 pound rock shrimp, rinsed and cleaned 3 teaspoons garlic, minced 1/4 cup canola oil Salt, to taste
Directions Warm a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the oil and the minced garlic. Cook until fragrant with no color. Add the shrimp and saute, moving constantly until the shrimp is just cooked, or a little undercooked. Remove to a plate in a single layer and chill in the fridge. Do not remove from the juices and oil that are in the pan.
For the Dressing
- 3.5 cup mayo
- 1 cup ketchup
- ¼ cup grainy mustard
- ¼ cup Sriracha
- ½ cup chives
- ½ cup parsley
- ¼ cup capers
- ¼ cup gerkins
- ½ cup sauerkraut
- ¼ cup pickled jalapeño
- 4 hard boiled eggs
Combine the first five ingredients in a bowl. Put the rest of the ingredients except the hard boiled eggs into the bowl of the food processor and pulse frequently, scraping the sides of the bowl until the mixture is finely diced but not pureed. Add the eggs to the food processor and pulse. Add to the contents of the bowl and season with salt and black pepper to taste.