Why Trailblazer Tavern Isn’t Just Another Hawaiian Restaurant

 On the surface, Trailblazer Tavern, Michael Mina’s latest restaurant partnership with Hawaiian chefs Michelle Karr-Ueoka and Wade Ueoka in the new Salesforce East building in East Cut district, may seem like another overt tropical design. But LA designer Bishop Pass subtly weaves together the owners’ Hawaiian welcome with enterprise software giant Salesforce’s corporate culture to create a vibrant gathering space that is both inspiring and aspirational.

Entering the 7,000 square-foot restaurant onto the glass-enclosed mezzanine is like being outdoors with tropical landscaping and trellises framing the space. The free-form patterns of stone, tile and wood on the floors create a topographical map and visual path referencing Salesforce’s motto of “blaze your trail”, a message of empowerment and opportunity for both employees and clients. The discovery continues into the main dining area and bar, through a portal with the carved Hawaiian welcome “come in, come sit, eat, and talk” which is at the heart of the Ueokas and Salesforce ohana culture of being part of a larger family.

Being part of something larger and greater, with equal access, are values Salesforce shares with the National Parks and it’s reflected in the outdoorsy design, particularly from the optimistic post-war era. Bishop Pass Design Director Stephen Knight said “the design was based entirely on the Salesforce aesthetic, combining elements of mid-century “Parkitecture”… with the stylized graphic identity of the Salesforce brand.” Parkitecture, the rustic architecture of the National Parks that incorporates native materials to complement the landscape, is reflected in the Trailblazer space in a very mid-century way with the use of warm redwood and lava rock, grass cloth covered walls, pops of turquoise and a distinctive butterfly canopy over the bar. Elsewhere on the walls and ceiling, colorful graphic murals recall period Hawaiian travel posters.

The modern lanai

To emphasize the feeling of being part of the outdoors, Bishop Pass layered lush landscaping throughout the multiple settings to “blur the line between inside and out.”

The Hawaiian comfort food menu also has a nostalgia all its own, with many re-inventions of Michelle and Wade’s childhood favorites such as Hawaiian Style Stew and Rice, North Shore Style Kauai Shrimp with spicy garlic sauce, and Mixed Plate Sandwich. Trailblazer Tavern is a great place for cocktails and small plates with a 24-seat bar with beach-evoking white countertops and downlit teal counterface. The tropical cocktails and wine list of 100 under $100 go well with the mouthwatering appetizers like Ahi Poke Nachos with avocado salsa, Unagi and Butterfish Arancini and the most clever take on “S.P.A.M. Musubi” that, for those who know the original, will make you smile. The bar has a complete spirits selection featuring bourbon, Japanese whiskey and Hawaiian beers.

Trailblazer Tavern is open Monday-Friday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch, through Saturday for dinner from 5-10 p.m. Happy hour weekdays 3-6 p.m. 350 Mission Street, SF, in the East Cut.

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