At most drinking establishments, the interaction with the customer begins and ends at ordering, save for a question about adding a vague amount of milk or sugar. Not at Raging Boba—here, the drink makers ask guests to taste their bubble tea before being served and offer suggestions. This allows the shop to tweak each serving to a visitor's particular taste for sweetness, flavor, and straw thickness. This care extends to Raging Boba's snow ice, a Taiwanese fruit concoction topped with jellies and boba pearls.
As Charles Kusuma was coming up in the restaurant and hotel industry, his mother?who had long hoped to own her own cafe?kept him grounded with a simple piece of advice: always treat your guest as your friend. When she passed away, Charles decided to pursue her dream in her honor. He rescued a local cafe from closing, and reopened it on his mother's birthday in 2010 as Never Too Latte, complete with a business mantra that would make her proud: "Enter as strangers, leave as friends."
From the red-velvet mochas to the boxes of macarons baked by Charles's wife, Sheila, most things at Never Too Latte have a personal touch. You can even stay well into lunch and dinnertime, as the menu features chicken-apple sausages, kettle chips, and sandwiches.
After losing a sizeable amount of weight with his kitchen-made juices, Sal had the idea to open a café coupling his love of French culture with his new appreciation for the role of food in health. With the help of his son, he opened Deja Vu, where painted ivy sneaks around the edges of menus on walls the color of rich buttercream. On the menu, Sal’s original French inspiration shines through in crepes, and fruit and veggie smoothies made from organic ingredients stay true to his nutritional vision.
Low in sugar and ideal for cleansing, the drinks can also be amplified with multiple types of protein. Blenders purr, full of smoothies and juices made with kale, green apples, ginger, oranges, and even hints of parsley, all delivered fresh daily. Crepes are also a Deja Vu specialty, whether filled with bananas and chocolate-hazelnut spread, or ham, veggies, or warm chicken and pesto. Conversation about the weather or the weatherman’s constant weeping drift over warm corned-beef sandwiches, and shoots of steam blossom from fresh-brewed organic coffee.
Bay Coffee Company treats visitors to sip after luxurious sip of freshly made cappuccinos, iced lattes, and simple cups of joe. A welcome respite from mega-chain java joints and the coffee-like brown liquid found in office break rooms, the small shop sources its beans from local roasters. Guests can begin the day with piping-hot cups of flavored latte, hot chai, and Americano, or end it with an icy coffee smoothie or Italian soda.
Faded blue starbursts top each table within San Mateo Coffee Company, each explosion of color emanating from the stylized cup of coffee printed at the middle. Here, patrons pull up a chair and sip hand-tempered espresso drinks, nibble on pastries that once resided in neat rows beneath glass countertops, and banish midday munchies with loaded deli sandwiches. The shop also deals in beans by the bag, equipping customers with the raw material to make cappuccinos and coffee in the comfort of their own homes or inflatable bounce houses.
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.