Tucked away on Hyde Street in Russian Hill, luella is the epitome of a neighborhood restaurant in San Francisco. But that’s left Chef Ben DeVries with a bit of a quandary.

“There are some items that are added to the menu depending on the season. But it’s difficult, between feeling like I have to feed the neighborhood and bringing in people from outside the area,” said DeVries. “There are some longtime guests who order the same dish all the time. So it’s hard to take those dishes off the menu because there are too many that people are attached to.”

DeVries said he’s fortunate though in that he really can change the menu on a whim; he might keep the same menu for a month or two or change it every day during a week. “But when I do put new items on the menu, it’s a long process. My team and I will constantly tweak the recipe, adding or subtracting something each time. There is a certain evolution to each new dish and everyone has to be on the same page before it goes on the menu.”

Chef DeVries said his cooking style has been described as many things, from refined comfort food to grub for stoners. But his Midwest roots tend to shine through in many of his dishes. “It’s my version of soul food. Most people when they think of soul food think of Southern cuisine. But to me, it’s food that comforts your soul, that makes you feel good. The biggest compliment I can get as a chef is for someone to say that my food reminds them of what their mom made.”

Two staples in DeVries kitchen – balancing dishes and using sustainable products. He has also developed a children’s menu. With a daughter of his own, he has spent a lot of time working with children on cooking programs at local schools and through demos. “I almost always have Sundays off and since my wife normally doesn’t cook, that would normally be our night to go out and enjoy a nice meal with our daughter. But I just found a lack of options for kids. So the menu is pretty simple but filled with mostly items that we make in house. So my Sunday family night became the same at luella.”

DeVries said during winter, he’s usually excited to work with pomegranates, citrus, oxtail and some of the unique seafood that is available. Here’s one of his most well-known recipes that although he said he would probably not normally order himself, has been a hit since Day One at luella.

Coca-Cola Braised Pork Shoulder with Pickled Red Onions



·   8 lbs boneless pork shoulder

·   Salt and pepper

·   2 liters of Coca-Cola

·   1 gal chicken stock


·   3 cups dried cannellini beans

·   Olive oil

·   Salt & white pepper


·   2 sliced red onions,

·   1½ cups red wine vinegar

·   ¼ cup sugar

·   1 bunch of julienned mint

·   Water to cover



·   Season the pork with salt and pepper. In a deep, lightly oiled pan, sear the meat on high heat until golden brown. Remove the pork from the pan and set aside.

·   With the pan still on high heat, pour 2 liters of Coke and reduce the liquid by ⅔. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.

·   Place meat back into the liquid, cover and put in a 450 degree oven for 2 hours or until meat falls apart with a fork.

·   Remove from the oven and let it rest (preferably overnight). When ready to serve, reheat in a 400 degree oven until hot.

·   Remove meat from the pan. Place the remaining sauce over medium heat and reduce until syrupy.


·   Soak white beans in water over night.

·   Drain and simmer with water, olive oil and salt until very soft.

·   Drain and puree in robot coup until smooth, adding olive oil, salt and white pepper to taste.

·   When ready to serve, stir over low heat.


·   Bring all ingredients to boil in a sauce pot; then lower heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.

·   Take off flame and let cool. Add more vinegar for a more intense ‘pickling’ or more sugar if a sweeter flavor is preferred.


·   Place pork over a bed of white bean puree and garnish with the pickled red onions tossed with mint

luella is located at 1896 Hyde Street in San Francisco.



Photo Credit: luella