New Neighborhood Eatery Reclaims Classy California Charm


Sitting brightly atop the cable car line where the bustle of Nob Hill, Russian Hill, and Chinatown intersects is Mason Pacific, the newest foodie addition to the culturally rich neighborhood.

I stopped by the restaurant and sat down with Shannon McTiernan Thomson, head designer of San Francisco-based Relish Interiors, and found out how she teamed up with husband and co-owner, Jay Thomson, and brother Sean McTiernan (now Executive Chef) to open this charming space. Drawing inspiration from a recent trip to Paris where she indulged in great wine and drank in the beauty of small spaces, Thomson and Relish business partner Kendra Frisbie went to work revamping the space to exude classy and casual California style. “When you think of California, you think of fresh, clean and young,” said Thomson. “In Mason Pacific, we saw a location that was urban and walkable. After getting to know the area, we found that the cross section was home to young, hip, happening people.”

Mason Pacific Opening. Photo by Nik Vasilopoulos

Fostering community engagement was the design teams’s main goal in recreating the space. The bright, window-clad space looking out at Pacific Avenue is decked out with high tables crafted from reclaimed barn wood and paired with copper brass legs. These elements make for a really rad, beautiful finish that maintains an industrial look while appealing to the Golden State’s devotion to sustainable resources. Durable, rustic stools were chosen to encourage guests to lean into conversations, move freely, and gesture wildly with their hands – organically creating a social atmosphere. In the midst of your conversation, look up! Quite possibly my favorite piece of decor is the radiant Satellite Chandelier from Design With Reach, giving the space a futuristic nod.

The second room boasts tufted leather banquette seating, fit for lounging and splurging, reclining and indulging, allowing guests to enjoy a taste of the decadent life. Hanging over the wine serving table is another breathtaking lamp installation from a shop called Chandelier in Encinitas.

Banquette seating. Photo by Patricia Chang, Eater SF

Thomson incorporated her love of the art galleries and studios that she found in Paris into the decor and chose two fun paintings of finger monster puppets by artist Paul Madonna to adorn the light cream walls. A vibrant painting by Marilyn Levin, called Varanasi at Dusk, provides a gem-toned backdrop to the wine station. A fusion of contemporary and vintage details creates an eclectic space that houses personal stories and history. The new Heath Ceramics tiles brighten up the bar backsplash, while emerald-tinted bottles (handmade from blown glass by Thomson’s great-grandfather in France and Italy) line the shelves and proudly look over the guests. Much like the perfectly curated New American menu, the interior design decisions were made with much thought to get the California “taste” just right.

The uniqueness of Mason Pacific lies in the details; for example, no two pieces of silverware are the same. Hand-selected from various flea markets and antique shows, each utencil sports its own design – each fork, knife and spoon has its a story. One of the floral handles of a particular knife was from post-World War I; friends strapped for money pulled together all of their coupons to purchase this tableware set as gift for a beloved friend.

Mason Pacific Wine Table | Photo by Patricia Chang, Eater SF

 The next time you find yourself in the neighborhood, make sure your path crosses Mason Pacific. Drink in the homey, eclectic ambiance, and enjoy the city’s sights, sounds, and tastes. Open Tuesday – Sunday, 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. 1356 Mason Street.

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