Southern Flair Enhances the Neighborhood

by Bob Barnwell

Boxing Room at 399 Grove at Gough only opened a few months ago in Hayes Valley but is already a success for The Absinthe Group (formerly Mad Will’s Food Company). Specializing in Southern Louisiana home-style cooking, Boxing Room recently opened for lunch. Its oyster bar is open from lunch through the afternoon and dinner. Housed in the former Standards Shirt Company building, Boxing Room is named for its location in the room where shirts were boxed and shipped. Now owning four locations in Hayes Valley The Absinthe Group is known for its top ten San Francisco restaurant rated Absinthe Brasserie & Bar at 398 Hayes. Next door is a private event dining room sharing a wall with Arlequin Cafe and Arlequin Wine Merchant at 384 A-B Hayes. That is a pretty impressive north side of Hayes between Franklin and Gough. Behind all of them on Ivy is the bakery that supplies all pastry for the Absinthe Group family of restaurants. Bill Corbett, Pastry Chef of The Absinthe Group was recently named by San Francisco Magazine as Best Pastry Chef of 2011.

Justin Simoneaux is the Executive Chef at Boxing Room. A Louisiana native, Justin was a 2009 Chronicle Rising Star. Boxing Room showcases Simoneaux’s Cajun/Creole flavors and techniques. People love the specialty items on the menu including deep-fried alligator, hushpuppies, crispy boudin balls, fried seafood po’boy and fried chicken. The gumbos and stews are also crowd pleasers. Behind the oyster bar is a large bulletin board listing specialty beers. Boxing Room’s beer and wine list benefits from the thirteen years that Absinthe has been in business and the talents of wine director, Ian Becker, winning awards including the Wine Spectator 2011 Best of Award of Excellence. Boxing Room is open for lunch from 11:30 to 3 and dinner starts at 5 in the evening.

Billy Russell-Shapiro and his family own The Absinthe Group. With almost 200 employees in Hayes Valley alone (230 total with a private label packaging plant in Auburn), The Absinthe Group is one of the largest employers in the neighborhood. The Russell-Shapiro’s are well known for their philanthropic support of arts and culture in San Francisco. Many HVNA members know The Absinthe Group for its support of local arts such as the Symphony and the Conservatory of Music. Since the 1990’s members of The Absinthe Group have provided food for HVNA meetings and events such as the “Taste of Hayes”. They have also supported auctions and silent auctions at community fund raising events. Boxing Room, with Chef Justin Simoneaux and GM Zach Pacheco, is a great addition to Hayes Valley and we look forward to enjoying the good vibes, food and drink at 399 Grove.