Downtown San Francisco has seen some controversial additions to its skyline in recent years, from the asymmetrical, recently renamed Nancy Pelosi Federal Building to LinkedIn’s “black hole” to the tilting Millennium Tower.
But pretty much everyone agrees that Mira—architect Jeanne Gang’s white, 39-story tower one block from the waterfront—is pretty cool. And the twisting, four-year-old mid-rise that catches commuters’ eyes as they cross the Bay Bridge is about to get even cooler with the addition of Mili Wine Bar, a project from first-time restaurateur Shubhra Sarkar.
Sarkar and her husband are a pair of well-traveled empty nesters who wanted a change, so they bought a condo in Mira and eventually approached the ownership about occupying a commercial space in the building that she called an “empty shell.” In spite of having no no experience building out a restaurant, they got it—a testament as much to the Sarkars’ enthusiasm for collecting wine as to Downtown’s parlous economic state.
Their inspiration came from Vintage Wine Bar, a well-regarded spot along San Jose’s Santana Row.
“We like that, and we travel a lot. We’ve been to 50-plus countries,” Sarkar said. “We like meeting people—especially when you go and talk and you make good friends and connections with a perfect stranger.”
The term “wine bar” has become increasingly flexible, encompassing high-end, full-service kitchens and multipage wine lists as well as places that serve affordably trendy orange wines or creatively oxidized experiments alongside crackers and tins of seafood. Sarkar sees Mili as skewing toward the latter, a casual spot for people to learn a little bit while enjoying cheese boards and osetra caviar.
“We are trying to cater to people who don’t have much experience,” she said, “but we will also have very fine wines.”
Sarkar, a veteran Silicon Valley engineer as well as a visual artist who holds an MFA, cites Gary Danko, Nopa, Prospect and La Mar Cebicheria as places she’s enjoyed exploring.
Mili is set to open in early February, pending its last inspection and the crossing of its final t’s. As for the name, Sarkar says she picked it because it’s easy for people from any cultural background to pronounce—and no one had taken it yet.
“In Sanskrit, ‘Mili’ means gathering,” she said. “It speaks to our heritage and it just seems the best.”
Mili Wine Bar
📍 110 Folsom St., SF
Astrid Kane can be reached at [email protected]