Small, Locally Owned Cafes in San Francisco that students can support
Why students should be supporting “Local Flavor” rather than feeding it to corporate companies
June 30, 2023
The inviting aroma of freshly brewed coffee scented air envelops the building in a comforting embrace, the perfect place to unwind for students who desire more comfort, quality and community.
Local cafes put a focus on individualized service and a homey atmosphere which have quickly grown as a spot for students to hang out and study. Supporting these locally owned establishments benefits students and contributes to the San Francisco community’s entrepreneurial spirit and sustainability.
“An essential vibe for coffee shops is comfortability, which is what I get at any local cafe. They care about their customers –– it’s like supporting local flavors.” said Alyssa Brookes, a senior at San Francisco State University.
Why should locally-owned cafes be supported?
Most locally owned cafes cultivate a sense of community that resonates with customers. These cafes often become gathering places where like-minded individuals gather to study or simply relax and catch up with friends. Unlike impersonal chain establishments, local cafes provide a welcoming ambiance, fostering a sense of belonging and creating opportunities for meaningful connections for residents.
“One time, on my third visit to Tabita’s, I had one of the staff members remember what I had ordered the previous days before and I felt as if I was treated like a regular only my third time there,” Brookes said.
Small cafes take pride in curating their menus, offering a range of handmade culinary delights based on their recipes.
“It’s important to have homemade food in the shop. It brings comfort to the customers,” said Romana Diaz, the owner of Tabita’s Cafe.
Unlike standardized chain establishments, these cafes often prioritize sourcing local and organic ingredients, resulting in flavorful and nourishing food and beverages. The emphasis on quality contributes to introducing them to unique flavors and culinary experiences beyond the mundane.
Here is a list of small locally-owned cafes to support near SFSU and their locations:
1. Tabita’s Cafe, located at 1101 Taraval St, San Francisco, CA 94116
Weekdays: 7 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Saturday: 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Closed on Sundays
Opened on February 23, 2022, Tabita’s Cafe has already built a familiar circulation of regulars after only being open for a year.
“The challenge of owning your own business is making it a success,” Diaz said. “You have to make sure everything is consistent.”
The cafe has an open study area allowing customers to work or socialize, with accessible Wi-Fi. The establishment has a variety of seating, with a lounging couch, bar seating and numerous tables to work on.
“At the beginning, it was challenging making it comfortable for our customers so it looks nice. The environment was really important to me –– I wanted customers to feel welcomed and cozy.”
Their menu consists of baked goods, salads, sandwiches, and other handmade items made in their kitchen daily. “We make our own handmade empanadas here. It is my mother’s recipe. We also make our scones, muffins, cookies, apple fritters and peach cobbler,” Diaz said. “We also make our own tea. We ensure our product is fresh.”
2. Railroad Expresso, located at 705 Monterey Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94127
Weekdays: 6 a.m – 1 p.m.
Weekends: 7 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Railroad Expresso has been open for 23 years in the Sunnyside district. The cafe has an extended nook to allow customers to sit down, work or enjoy coffee in a comfortable environment. There is a sectioned-off part of the cafe where children can enjoy and play. The seating varies in the establishment, with comfortable seating and accessible Wi-Fi.
“It has a very homely and warm vibe to the cafe to give an ambiance of comfortability,” said Elizabeth Lee, a resident of Westwood Heights.
“It was tough at first. I grew up in the neighborhood, so it made it easier since I knew what the area needed, a community,” said owner Josefa Matus. “My goal is to get more people to leave the house more. You gotta stop for a minute and actually engage with the saying ‘Coffee break.’ People need an actual coffee break and stop ordering online.”
Matus also believes that “people need to come out more and take a coffee break and socialize, it’s a part of the human experience.”
When opening the cafe, there wasn’t too much convincing for Matus.
“I just said, let’s just do it.” Matus said.
Railroad Expresso is known for its engaging and social environment.
“Keeping the social part alive by engaging with the customers, I just like having a warm environment,” Matus said.
3. El Antigua Cafe, located at 1131 Taraval St, San Francisco, CA 94116
Monday-Saturday: 7 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Sundays: 7 a.m- 12 p.m.
“We strive for our customers to feel comfortable in our cafe,” said Eric Zelaya, son of the owner of El Antigua Coffee. “Our coffee is organic, so that’s how Antigua has been open for 10 years.”
The cafe has a private study area allowing customers to work with accessible Wi-Fi. There is a variety of seating, with bar seating and numerous tables to work on.
El Antigua prioritizes using high-quality ingredients. Whether it’s freshly roasted coffee beans, homemade banana walnut bread and scones, “Antigua ensures that their products are sustainable and of superior quality,” said Zelaya.