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This surf-inspired restaurant aims to reclaim a piece of pre-tech SF

Bearing West Bar and Galley offers raw oysters on the half shell and "boat drinks." | Sarah Holtz/The Standard

For much of the 20th century, the Parkside neighborhood—stretching along Stern Grove and Pine Lake Park out to Ocean Beach—coalesced around a community of Italian American families who operated restaurants along Taraval Avenue, cooking San Francisco originals like cioppino and griddled sourdough. John Giuffre, a lifelong surfer and longtime Sunset District resident, has written a love letter to San Francisco seafood with Bearing West Bar and Galley—a new ocean-to-table eatery on Taraval Street between 33rd and 34th avenues. 

Bearing West is a joint project of Giuffre and San Francisco restaurant industry veteran Jeff Hanford. The two partners met in 1997 while working on the opening team at Beach Chalet Brewery and Restaurant in Golden Gate Park. 

The menu combines the best of San Francisco-style seafood and the dishes Giuffre and Hanford said they fell in love with during their time at Beach Chalet. They hope to invoke the staples like seafood chowder and cioppino that you might find at San Francisco institutions like Swan Oyster Depot and Tadich Grill. 

“We want to showcase the kind of throwback dishes that showcase this beautiful ocean we have right next to us,” Giuffre said. 

After Giuffre and Hanford’s tenure at Beach Chalet, Giuffre opened the now-shuttered John Colins, a beach-themed cocktail and sushi bar in SoMa, in 2005. When the bar fell prey to Covid in 2020, Giuffre pivoted his second business, Sunset Cantina on Judah Street, to a to-go business, thereby ensuring its survival and making room in Giuffre’s schedule to begin building out Bearing West. 

Of course, opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant in San Francisco during Covid was no easy feat, and Giuffre said that Bearing West was largely made possible by acquiring the $250,000 liquor license through a city-run lottery to activate the outer neighborhoods of San Francisco, like Bayview-Hunters Point, Excelsior and the Sunset. 

Giuffre himself lived in the Sunset for 30 years, though he recently moved to Ingleside, and the restaurant’s contemporary nautical design comes from his decades as a surfer—a hobby he said has taken him to the beaches of Europe and the Caribbean.

The owners of Bearing West retained the original bar but built out the back wall for their full cocktail menu. | Sarah Holtz/The Standard

An alum of bygone gems like The Elite Cafe on Fillmore Street and Cha Cha Cha in the Mission, Hanford brings his cocktail background to Bearing West. Giuffre told The Standard that the cocktail menu centers on what he calls “boat drinks”—the sort of spritzes, sours, highballs and punches one might enjoy on a yacht.

“We’re having fun with yacht culture without any of the snooty shit,” he said.

Though Bearing West reads as a contemporary restaurant, Giuffre told The Standard that he hopes the place reflects a sense of timelessness that he feels has eroded from San Francisco.

“I hate to say it, but tech has really taken a lot of the soul out of the city,” he added. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here, just execute well on what people want and expect.” 

To that end, Bearing West sources its oysters and clams from Washington and prawns from Texas with an emphasis on traceability. Vegetarians will find a novel alternative in the miso corn chowder. The restaurant’s cioppino simmers in a spicy tomato broth. Having worked his first job at Candlestick Park, Giuffre said he’s particularly excited to offer garlic fries—a snack the old ballpark helped to popularize.

For now, Bearing West is open for dinner only, but Giuffre said they plan to add a happy hour, weekend brunch and will make use of the patio in time for summer. 

Bearing West Bar and Galley