About the Owners: After 19 years in a delicatessen catering department, Ramana Brodeth knew her way around a sandwich. In 2010, she and her sons, TJ and Mark, opened Lou’s Cafe. One of them is always behind the counter, crafting inventive, satisfying sandwiches and topping them with Lou’s Special Sauce, a housemade garlic-and-herb aioli.
From the Press
Dutch crunch: also called “tiger bread,” this roll features a mottled exterior that hides a soft, chewy center. Bakers use sesame oil to lend it a distinct aroma, and paint the top with rice paste before baking it to create a cracked appearance and salty-sweet flavor.
While You’re in the Neighborhood
Before: Take a stroll through Clement Nursery (1921 Clement Street), the oldest in SF, housed in lovingly restored farm buildings.
After: Make a picnic of it and let the kids run around the renovated Argonne Playground (18th Avenue & Geary Boulveard); three picnic tables sit alongside the tennis courts.
While You’re Waiting: Get your taste buds tingling with anticipation by checking out the glass display cases stocked full with paninis, baked goods, and other treats.
While You’re in the Neighborhood
Before: Play pinball and shop for shirts at Free Gold Watch (1767 Waller Street).
After: Buy a painting at Creativity Explored (3245 16th Street), which helps artists with developmental disabilities create, exhibit, and sell their works.
If You Can’t Make It, Try This: Trade paninis for the classic reuben sandwiches at Blue Front Cafe (1430 Haight Street).
Noeteca‘s owners spent their lives looking forward to running their own restaurant, so it’s no surprise that the French-inspired tapas spot feels comfortable in its own skin from early morning meals until late into the night. During the day, Noeteca seems like a cafe, where patrons sip on international coffees from local roasters brewed by the cup or for personal-sized French presses. At brunch menu, familiar dishes share space with ambitious French-inspired offerings—the croque monsieur becomes a croque Napoleon with slices of bread pudding layered with black forest ham and emmantaler. When the weather is nice, guests can wander out to a patio colored by a flower and herb garden to learn the sun’s secret handshake.
As evening falls, candlelight fills the dining room and guests switch their focus to wine. The award-winning list includes more than 30 varieties, each available by the glass or half-glass. For dinner, patrons can build their own cheese plates or share a tarte flambèe, Alsatian flatbreads the San Francisco Bay Guardian said have “a lovely thin, blistered crust that was a bit softer and more luxurious than a typical pizza crust”.
Philz Coffee founder Phil Jaber claims in a video on his website he was “born to make coffee.” Given that he’s created more than 30 unique blends, it seems he’s fulfilling his destiny, like an electrician named Dwight D. Electrician. Along with hosting single-bean coffees from Columbia, Africa, and Yemen, Jaber blends coffees that use anywhere from two to seven different beans. Jaber agonizes over every aspect of each flavor, even the name. As he puts it, “I want to come up with names that match my products, my concept, and what it is all about.” Take his “Tesora” blend for example. Meaning “treasure” in Italian, Tesora is something you could, Jaber says, “put in the archive in your heart.” Jaber knows something about taking things to heart. His love of coffee is what led him to open his own coffee station, where he and his staff make each cup one at a time so it suits the customer’s specific taste. Along with a passion for coffee, the staff at each Philz Coffee location shares a passion for the earth. Each day, the company composts more than 2,000 pounds of coffee grounds, recycles as much as possible, and refrains from slapping endangered birds. The company also encourages customers to bring their own reusable mugs by charging the price of a small cup to fill the mug regardless of its size.
Your senses seem stronger inside Samovar Tea Lounge. Warm sunlight streams through tall windows and hushed conversation mingles with the sound of tea flowing from nubbly iron kettles, their contents perfuming the air with hints of herbs, smoke, toasted rice, flowers, and revolutions in Boston. This is owner Jesse Jacobs' vision, what he describes on his website as "an escape from the overflow of information" into an intimate space for human interaction, carved out by the global ritual of sharing tea.
This global emphasis inspires an artisanal menu of small plates and sandwiches that could conceivably be served during tea services in India and Morocco, or, in a playful turn by the chef, the Paleolithic era. It is the tea, however, that enables guests to get acquainted with international terroir without sneaking small shrubs through customs. Small, family farms in countries including Kenya, Paraguay, and Nepal, many of them organic, send their whole-leaf brews to fill Samovar's carefully curated collection. Each of its three locations serves the entire menu, which is comprehensive enough to classify oolong and pu-erh separately and boast vintage blends dating back to 1989.
Named in honor of the women in owner Paulo Acosta Cabezas’s life, Mamá Art Cafe creates a local hub for the output of creative energy and the intake of savory snacks. Mamá's baristas brew a lineup of specialty fair-trade organic coffees, with beans culled from Berkeley Coffee and Tea and served up hot and fresh from an array of roasts, flavors, and magic-beanstalk origins. The intimate café setting boasts an interior adorned with local and international artwork—with past art exhibitions showcasing Marta Ayala's paintings and Charles Anselmo's photographs—and the cafe regularly entertains with creative performances, such as dinner tango routines and live jazz music.
Mamá Art Cafe's tireless effort to give back to the community earned the eatery a shout-out from then-Mayor Gavin Newsom with a 2010 Latino Heritage Award for Achievement in Business, as well as honors at the 2011 Annual Hispanic Business Salute.