AL's Place is a neighborhood restaurant in the Mission district of San Francisco from chef-owner Aaron London. We offer a seasonal, ingredient-driven menu, that highlights the produce of Northern California.
AL's Place has no dress code. We want to create a fun, relaxed and exciting place for people to come together and enjoy food in company of family and friends!
Aaron London - Chef/Owner
Hailing from West Sonoma County, Aaron London has been banging around the kitchen since he could reach the pots and pans. Constantly cooking for neighbors and family as a youth, the obsession with all things culinary carved his inevitable path to “chefdom.” With experience in top-tier Michelin starred restaurants such as L’ Astrance, Daniel, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, the AL’s Place cuisine touts our fearless leader’s expansive palate and boundless capacity to explore and create. When pressed to pick one dish most representative of himself, he references the menu’s ‘eat-with-your-hands’ baby lettuces with herbed avocado and pistachio, explaining how they showcase his connection to the garden, as well as “taking something common and making it really special.” Tattooed and tactical, gregarious yet precise, the heartbeat and mastermind behind AL’s Place never ceases to tease and awaken San Francisco’s unsuspecting eaters.
Kimberly Litchfield - General Manager
Starting out as a “shot girl” in a Miami nightclub, the trajectory of this Floridian’s hospitality career has been anything but straightforward. A proud 3rd generation alumni of The University of Pennsylvania, Kimberly made her way to San Francisco, where she found herself in an unfulfilling job in corporate management. Once she discovered her love for hospitality, she dove full-force into a floor manager position at bacar and never looked back. In 2014, Kimberly was in a near-fatal accident. She threw herself into physical therapy and after a painstaking 14 months of rehabilitation, made a full recovery. This ferocity of spirit and her determination to approach life with tenacity and resolve - these are the qualities of a great leader; traits that Kimberly exudes both on and off the restaurant floor. Self-proclaimed “Jew-mom” to daughter Paloma as well as the AL’s Place staff, Kimberly is everyone’s go-to for cold medicine and extra pens. If Kimberly were to describe herself as one dish on the menu, it would be the seared duck with strawberry mole. The complex harmony of sweet and smoke and spice resulting from the mole’s slow and layered cooking process remind her of husband Josué’s home in the Yucatan, while the textural melt-in-your-mouth richness of the duck breast reminds her that life is short - so enjoy the luxuries.
Andrew Lee - Executive Sous Chef
It’s quite possible that Chef Andrew Lee deserves his title more than anyone else at AL’s Place. Hired on as Aaron London’s first commis, to say Andrew has completely dedicated himself to the restaurant would be an egregious understatement. He has spent ample time mastering virtually every kitchen station, and one might argue he knows the inner-workings of 1499 Valencia more intimately than most people know one another. But Andrew’s life didn’t always angle toward a career in the kitchen. Born in Seoul, Korea, Andrew emigrated to the United States as a young boy. A natural student, he excelled in academics, always landing in the top of the class. Coming from what he describes as “old school Asian parents,” Andrew says he was expected to follow the path of more traditionally respected professions like that of a doctor or a lawyer. After scoring a 1600 on his SAT (for all you millennials out there, that = a perfect score) and beginning pre-law studies at U.C. Berkeley, those ducks appeared to be lining up in a rather neat and tidy row. But - as it does - life shifted one summer as Andrew took a job that would dramatically alter his path. He began shucking oysters at Hog & Rocks in the Mission and fell hopelessly and irreversibly in love. He loved the directness, the connectivity with the food - the vast breadth of techniques to apply: everything from simply prying open some shellfish to manipulating trout skin into another thing entirely. He immediately dropped out of school and went full-throttle into the cook’s life, never pausing to look back. The AL’s Place menu item most representative of Andrew is “without a doubt” the lightly cured trout. Not only was it the first dish he tasted and adored, but also the first menu item he ever plated. Overseeing the intricate curing process was also the first major responsibility passed along to him in the kitchen. As the lightly cured trout holds many of Andrew Lee’s AL’s Place “firsts,” we especially encourage any first-time diners to give it a try; see if it makes you fall in love like he did.
Julie Mackay - AGM
A wild Washingtonian at heart, Julie has called San Francisco home since 2009. With nearly fifteen years front of house experience, she’s worn every hat from hostess to food runner to server to manager. After hopping around the fine dining pool in places such as Michael Mina and Quince, she found a true home in Aaron London’s cozy blue-painted nook on 26th and Valencia. A former English teacher and avid lover of words, she’s always there to keep the staff’s food and wine descriptions eloquent and on point. Her daily “5 Minutes of Wine Time” allow staff to discuss and fine-tune knowledge on specific bottles and producers. If she were to find solidarity with one menu item, it would be the roasted beets with borscht-spiced seeds and burrata. “You think you know how the components taste and what you’re going to get, but you have NO idea. The flavors come at your palate in the most perfect storm.”
Edwin Sandoval - Sous Chef
Bay Area native Edwin Sandoval claims he’s “just always been in the kitchen.” Growing up with parents that loved to cook, plus current home-life with Rachel Maresca, Pastry Chef at Spruce, things for Edwin have always centered around the shared experience of preparing and enjoying meals. That vitality- the powerful sense of community and commonality ignited by food- called to Edwin. Hence it felt completely natural to skip college and jump immediately into culinary school at the C.C.A. (despite some slight protestation from mom). Beginning his career in home-town San Mateo, Edwin spent 2 years sharpening his freshly acquired culinary skills at 231 Ellsworth. Hungry for more experience, Burlingame’s Nectar came next, where he absorbed the tutelage of his mentor, Chef Gavin Schmidt. Edwin’s voracity next landed him a spot at Madeira, cooking on the team that would earn the restaurant its Michelin Star. Not long after, at the age of 24, he was offered his first Sous Chef position at Americano, which would put him on the radar of Chef Aaron London and eventually lead him to his current position, nestled in the family tree of AL’s Place as Sous Chef. After his initial stage at the restaurant, Edwin’s love of all things peach led him to choose the stonefruit curry as the dish to try. The vibrancy of the flavors, the layered nuances of the black-lime cod, the silky texture of the curry- his mind was blown. So much so that he couldn’t wait to share the experience with Rachel the first time they dined at AL’s, and she was equally taken aback. The synergy of that moment felt like coming home to Edwin, and for that reason the curry is the dish he feels closest to. Plus, Edwin playfully notes, “Who doesn’t love delicious, soupy things?!”
Kyle Greffin - Bar Director
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Kyle found himself sandwiched between two sisters and transplanted in California by the age of 7. Introduced to the world of hospitality through a country club job in Orange County, he gleaned an infectious capacity to whittle out a smile from even the shyest of patrons. After venturing north and settling down in San Francisco, Kyle helped craft beverage programs for places ranging from major international hotel chains to smaller local spots like the Castro’s Starbelly. Whether biking across the peninsula or concocting the coolest vermouth-based drinks in town, he’s always on the move; waxing poetic on “the importance of hand-cut ice cubes” and “the citrusy nose of Motueka hops.” And much to Liz Subauste’s chagrin, his awkward behind the bar dancing (aka “noodling”) has become an AL’s Place staple. As a dish on the menu, Kyle sees himself as the brassicas with apple-dashi yuzu vinaigrette and mushroom relish. As he concisely puts it, “They’re a little spicy and a little sweet.” It’s all about that balance.
Justin Roberts - Wine Director
Growing up in the South Bay, Justin Roberts stayed a busy and competitive child, trying his hand at everything from soccer to guitar. At the age of 24, backed with experience at several different liquor companies and a culinary arts degree, he started as a barback and food runner at Aqua. It was there he took on his first wine gig: receiving, sorting and organizing shipments. Or as he likes to joke, working as the “cellar rat.” During his early twenties he developed an infatuation with obscure grape varieties and boutique producers. As the guru of oenology at AL’s, Justin has managed to sculpt a list that’s both approachable and worthy of admiration from even the most particular of vintners. Whether your craving an Austrian Rotgipfler or Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, he’s got you covered. As a dish on the menu, Justin would consider himself the steak tartare with pickled kohlrabi and black mandarin oil. As he says, “It reads simple enough. But there are layers on layers of flavors and textures as you begin to explore.” We’ll take two.
Jenn Dowdy - Music Director
For Jenn Dowdy, summers growing up in Thomaston, Georgia, meant two things: singing and tending her grandparents’ 10-acre farm. The vegetable gardens became playgrounds and concert halls, and it was there she discovered the sheer joy of music and farm-to-table living - a hybridity of passions that would inevitably propel her toward AL’s Place stardom. During graduate school, Jenn would continue to dip her toes in both pools - doubling as an independent music photographer as well as a server at well-known vegetarian hot spot, The Grit. Amidst this swirl of indie rock and hospitality, Jenn cultivated a love for the unknown - unknown bands and unknown flavor combos, craving only to experience the innovative and the untapped. Luckily - the exact things that Chef Aaron London had to offer. Whether she’s praising the biodynamic splendor of Blue Dane Farm, or humbly speaking to the meticulous organization of her playlists, Jenn’s passionate and always all-in. Couple that with her background as a classically trained vocalist and, well, you’ve got yourself a Michelin-starred music director, folks. Jenn’s playlists excite the casual listener and surprise the niche connoisseur - aiming to strike the perfect balance between the familiar and the undiscovered. For Jenn, the playlist is a journey, with something different to gain after every listen. Much like the cuisine at AL’s Place, Jenn’s arrangements feel fresh and hungry with something to prove, fervent, even, like the bands they present. As a dish on the menu, Jenn would be the grits “hands down.” A distinct nod to her Southern roots, the dish is rich, creamy and smooth, but uniquely complex and bright from the addition of mandarins and herb blaster. Jenn swears the first time she ate them she literally laughed with joy as she was teleported back in time - to days spent drinking coffee and eating grits with grandma before hitting the farm in the hot Georgia sun.
Blue Dane Garden
A biodynamically run operation located in Grass Valley, Blue Dane Garden is run by married duo Rose and Dakota Becker. Chef Aaron has been working with Rose Becker for years, back when they were at Ubuntu in Napa Valley.
Blue Dane grows produce exclusively for AL’s Place, and we source the majority of our produce from them. Despite the two hour driving distance, Rose and Dakota take turns making weekly produce runs to AL’s. The key and unique component here revolves around the fact that all produce is delivered still potted in soil, and kept as such in our basement grow area until right before every service.
Some of the most special and noteable items on the menu from Blue Dane include our radishes, sweet herbs, and baby lettuces.