Inspired by the regional cuisines and traditions of Spain, The Absinthe Group’s Executive Chef Ryan McIlwraith crafts an eclectic menu of meats grilled on a wood-fired hearth, inventive paellas, Old World stews, fresh seafood, medium-sized tapas, imported charcuterie and cheeses, as well as slow-roasted vegetable dishes.
The Spanish-focused cocktail menu from Jonny Raglin, Director of Bars at The Absinthe Group and co-creator of Comstock Saloon, features Spain’s cocktail of choice, gin tonic. The all-Spanish wine list emphasizes small producers and growers, and features sherry on tap.
Located in a landmark building on the National Register of Historic Places, Bellota is part of The Absinthe Group, a collection of San Francisco restaurants and drinking establishments created by proprietor Bill Russell-Shapiro, led by operations director Eric Vreede.
With a mix of both industrial and hand-crafted design elements, the 140-seat dining room captures the surrounding urban cityscape and channels an airy, Mediterranean setting. The space invites you to relax with live music at the 30-seat full bar and lounge, host events in the private dining area, or enjoy front-row seating around the open kitchen with a custom hearth, the heart and soul of Bellota.
RYAN MCILWRAITH, EXECUTIVE CHEF [RIGHT]
JOEL EHRLICH, CHEF DE CUISINE [LEFT]
Joel Ehrlich, Chef de Cuisine at Bellota, played an integral role in developing and opening Bellota, and is currently responsible for running the Spanish restaurant’s daily activity, overseeing the kitchen and team, and ushering guests through an immersive culinary experience. Previously Executive Sous Chef under Ryan McIlwraith, Ehrlich is known for his hard work ethic, motivational leadership, and intricate knowledge of authentic Spanish cuisine.
Ehrlich, born in Fort Lauderdale, returned to Florida after graduating from the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University. After an invaluable tutelage under Nick Morfogen, Ehrlich moved to California to serve as line cook—and eventually sous chef—at Michael Chiarello’s Tra Vigne in Napa Valley. Ehrlich continued sharpening his skills in other acclaimed wine country restaurants including Martini House by Todd Humphries, Viansa Sonoma Winery, Brannan’s Grill in Calistoga, and Michelin-starred Bistro Jeanty.
Alongside Ryan McIlwraith, Ehrlich served as Executive Sous Chef at Michael Chiarello’s Bottega Napa Valley and as a part of the opening team at award-winning Coqueta in San Francisco. He continued his partnership with McIlwraith in the subsequent transition to The Absinthe Group. The duo’s extensive travels in Spain allowed Ehrlich to immerse himself in the rich Spanish culture and formulate a clear vision as to how that could translate to guests at Bellota. His favorite experiences abroad include exploring jamon houses in the Extremadura region, learning about Sherry in San Lucar de Barrameda, and shopping the boqueria market in Barcelona.
In his spare time, Ehrlich enjoys experimenting with home farming and fermenting, and remaining active with jiu jitsu and a wide variety of outdoor activities.
COLLIN NICHOLAS, BAR MANAGER
Collin Nicholas is responsible for the Spanish restaurant’s comprehensive and innovative beverage menu, overseeing the talented bar team and guiding guests on a journey through the drinking traditions of Spain.
Nicholas, a Bay Area native, began his hospitality career by waiting tables and bartending throughout high school and college. Upon graduation from Loyola Marymount University, he was hired by a restaurant group in Italy, BC Hospitality, to help establish a chain of cocktail bars, clubs, and restaurants. While abroad, Nicholas traveled extensively and spent much of his free time exploring the numerous regions of Spain, where he gained a deep understanding and appreciation for the dining and drinking traditions of the country. In 2013, he returned to the States to attend The Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. After several years of bar development in NYC with the Epicurean Management group, he returned to San Francisco, hired as part of the opening team at Mourad.
Joining Absinthe Group Bar Director Jonny Raglin, Executive Chef Ryan McIlwraith, and The Absinthe Group team to develop Bellota allowed Nicholas to rediscover his passion for Spanish culture and traditions. Embracing the experiences of his travels, Nicholas delivers a culturally-focused beverage experience that accents Chef McIlwraith’s robust Spanish dishes. Offering an ingredient-focused cocktail menu that changes with the seasons, Nicholas is well-versed in modern cocktail development. He specializes in the Spanish staples of sherry, dry cider, and sangria, and the creative, deconstructed Spanish-style “gin tonic.”
TRACY SMYTH, GENERAL MANAGER
As General Manager at Bellota, Tracy Smyth brings with her more than 25 years of experience in hospitality. Formerly of Foreign Cinema, Tracy combines her talent for taking care of people with a tireless dedication to great service.
MICHAEL GOSS, SOMMELIER
Michael Goss is responsible for the Spanish restaurant’s detailed and inviting wine list. Serving as a knowledgeable and approachable guide for diners as they consider the wine list, Goss encourages guests to explore new varietals, test new pairings, or find a long-lost favorite.
Goss is a Cleveland native with more than 20 years of restaurant experience, starting out as a busboy and working virtually every position on his way up the ladder. After several years as a line cook, baker, and bartender respectively, Goss found his passion for wine. He earned his WSET advanced certificate, and worked as a sommelier in several renowned San Francisco establishments, including Foreign Cinema, 25 Lusk, and The Absinthe Group’s Absinthe Brasserie & Bar before joining the Bellota team in early 2016 to lead the wine program. Being a part of The Absinthe Group team has allowed Goss to take on the challenges of expanding his horizons and continuing to learn about wine, while sharing his extensive knowledge with guests.
A San Francisco resident for well over ten years, Goss enjoys the exquisite food and drink of the city, while also taking every opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, including camping, snowboarding, golfing, hiking, and more.
STEPHANIE KIMURA, EXECUTIVE PASTRY CHEF
As Executive Pastry Chef for The Absinthe Group, Stephanie Kimura oversees all aspects of the pastry departments for the group’s San Francisco dining establishments: Absinthe Brasserie & Bar, Boxing Room, Comstock Saloon, Arlequin Cafe and Bellota. Stephanie first joined the organization in 2013 as pastry sous chef at Absinthe Brasserie & Bar, where she quickly became known for her hard work, beautiful plating and rich flavorful desserts.
JONNY RAGLIN, DIRECTOR OF BARS, THE ABSINTHE GROUP
As Director of Bars for The Absinthe Group, Jonny Raglin oversees bar operations at Absinthe Brasserie & Bar, Comstock Saloon, Boxing Room, and Bellota. A native Oklahoman, Jonny’s favorite place in the world is Spain, where you take your time to eat tapas, stroll leisurely, and drink dry ciders, vermouths, sherries and “gin tonics” copiously.
BILL RUSSELL-SHAPIRO, PROPRIETOR, THE ABSINTHE GROUP
Bill Russell-Shapiro, proprietor of The Absinthe Group, is recognized as one of San Francisco’s top restaurateurs. He dedicates himself to the well-being of his staff, and to providing guests with memorable food and drink experiences at Absinthe Brasserie & Bar, Arlequin Cafe, Arlequin Wine Merchant, Boxing Room, Comstock Saloon, and the vibrant Spanish restaurant, Bellota.
ERIC VREEDE, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, THE ABSINTHE GROUP
Director of Operations and Vice President of The Absinthe Group, he was the original General Manager of Absinthe Brasserie & Bar, and previously managed Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn, where he oversaw what was then the largest wine list in California.
The Absinthe Group
THE ABSINTHE GROUP TEAM
Bill Russell-Shapiro – Proprietor
Eric Vreede – VP of Operations
Stephanie Kimura – Executive Pastry Chef
Jonny Raglin – Director of Bars
The Absinthe Group (TAG), founded and managed by food-industry veteran Bill Russell-Shapiro, creates and operates unique, high-quality food and wine enterprises. TAG includes a carefully built collection of seven businesses, five of which are located in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. They are overseen by TAG Vice President Eric Vreede, Executive Pastry Chef Stephanie Kimura, and Bar Director Jonny Raglin. These include Absinthe Brasserie & Bar, Absinthe Private Dining, Arlequin Café and Food-To-Go, Arlequin Wine Merchant, Barcino, Bellota, and Comstock Saloon in North Beach.