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Chef Reem Assil Swears by This Mission Wine Bar’s Immaculate Vibes

Written by Olivia Cruz MayedaPublished Dec. 05, 2022 • 6:00pm
Chef Reem Assil talks to Armand Lee Williamson at Buddy, a wine bar in the Mission, on Saturday, Dec. 3. | Jana Ašenbrennerová for The Standard

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When Chef Reem Assil of Reem’s California isn’t busy being a triple threat—chef, activist and author of a hybrid memoir packed with recipes—she likes to frequent a neighborhood spot with a lot of heart and a short list of great eats like a mortadella sandwich wearing a crispy cheese skirt and a glass of orange wine.

For her, that place is Buddy, the bar and restaurant only a few blocks from Assil’s own Mission restaurant that is co-owned by a quartet of bartenders with True Laurel roots in the space that used to house Californios.

Chef Reem Assil and friend Clay Williams enjoy a Saturday night at Buddy in the Mission. | Jana Ašenbrennerová for The Standard.

There, shelves of houseplants and natural wine bottles with cute labels make for a great backdrop to the stunning, curvilinear bar. In the bathroom, there’s an altar to smooth-jazz demigoddess Sade.

“I like to eat at places for the ambience,” Assil said. “If I’m sitting at a restaurant next to a person I don’t know, and we’re chatting like good friends by the end, that’s a good place to be.”

In other words, the vibes are immaculate.

Buddy is on 22nd Street in the building that once housed Californios. | Jana Ašenbrennerová for The Standard.

Buddy is the type of buzzy, community-centered place that hosts a funky Bay Area food zine’s release party—which is how I first encountered the restaurant over the summer and where I, too, became friends with other diners.

That sense of community and a straightforward, ingredient-focused menu are what Assil loves most.

“There’s no bells and whistles, and there’s not 20 things on the menu,” she said. “They do like 10 things, and they do them really well—like their pickled watermelon rind and halibut crudo.”

A glass of wine is poured at Buddy. | Jana Ašenbrennerová for The Standard.

Because Buddy lacks a hard liquor license, its staff got creative when it came to drinks. Their wine-forward cocktails, like their Campari-less Campari soda, are another reason Assil loves Buddy.

When co-owner Claire Sprouse heard that it was Assil’s first choice recommendation, she was a little taken aback—in a good way.

“We’ve definitely enjoyed hosting her,” Sprouse said. “I mean, we’re just a neighborhood place, so anytime somebody gushes about us, we’re always pleasantly surprised.”

The fried mortadella sammy is a popular item at Buddy. | Jana Ašenbrennerová for The Standard.

How To Buddy 

That Fried Mortadella Sandwich

A natural crowd-pleaser, Buddy’s “claim to fame that does not disappoint,” Assil said.

Shrooms, Shrooms, Shrooms

The roasted trumpet mushrooms are a gem on Buddy’s selective menu and one of Assil’s favorites. You might want to order bread just so you can sop up the leftover chili oil that came with the shrooms—it’s that good.

Roasted trumpet shrooms is one of Reem Assil’s favorite dishes at Buddy. | Jana Ašenbrennerová for The Standard.

Ol’ Bud 

A cocktail that marries a vanilla aperitif with cacao, orange and chai. It’s Michael Bublé’s rendition of “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” in a glass.

Not Red, Not White

Assil paired a glass of Artemis Botanical’s orange wine with her mortadella sammy.

No Stress, Just Vibes

Whether you’re planning a chill yet sultry date night or want to ask your barstool neighbor what they thought about the The Menu starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Buddy is the place.

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