Oooooh, I think I have found the perfect place where you can meet up for a "getting to know you" first date/blind date (everyone's favorite occasion--not!) or perhaps a coquettish pie date (my friend told me her first date with a fella was for pie, cute). It's an ideal spot for a casual biz lunch when you want to be able to talk and not have the hustle of restaurant service all around you--it's a chill café. ~MISSION BEACH CAFE~ to be exact, and it's a pretty new concept for SF in terms of café culture: there is no WiFi, no dogs, no bulletin board with notices about yoga studios and housecleaning services, no dinged up café chairs, and a hell of a lot more to eat than bagels and a couple kinds of muffins and somewhat stale cookies in a basket on the counter.
Instead, what you get here is a really cleanly designed and welcoming space, like hello groovy modern 50s lights overhead and tall-backed two-tone chairs with an ultra suede feel (ditto on the padded banquettes) and gorg wood tables and beautiful natural light streaming in from the big windows (it's on a corner) and a stunning original angular ceiling and Heath ceramics for everything and cool arty prints on the wall. Yes, it's "Designer Café!" But not tired Design Within Reach modern design--it's much more tasteful, and personal. How freaking civilized. I suddenly felt like I was transported to an arty designy café in L.A. on 3rd Street. If I was wearing Birkenstocks (which I wasn't, or ever would, but I'm just saying), they would have morphed on the spot into some Louboutins. (Oh, if only.)
It feels like a good discovery when you walk in. You can tell the owners really sunk some dough (and thought) into this place. It's spiffy. Even the bathroom has an arty wood piece in it (although I'd be happier with some toilet seat covers).
The appetizing Cali-Euro-New American lunch menu has items like a grass-fed burger ($10.50) or lemon fettuccine pasta ($11) or curry chicken salad ($8.50), but my pal and I opted to try the flax-encrusted tilapia ($11.50) with lemon and capers on a bed of spinach. Totally something I'd like to try again at home--juicy and tasty. Loved the nuttiness of the flax against the fish.
Also tried one of the sandwiches (there are five offered, all $9.50)--we went with the house-made roast beast (it's roasted each day) with caramelized onion, cheddar, and horseradish. It could have used more kick from the horseradish, but overall it was a very satisfying sando--meaty and cheesy, and the hearty Della Fattoria wheat bread held up well. Also pleased with the super-fresh mixed green salad that came with it--the produce was quite good, not a nasty leaf in the bunch. Just needed a touch more s+p. And I recommend trying a side of the seasoned house fries ($3.50). Why? Because fries taste good. Especially with sandwiches.
As you're partway through your meal, you'll start hearing the catcalls from the pastry case. The coffee caramel cheesecake ($6) hissed, "Hey, baby, why doncha hop in my ride?" and the raspberry coconut cream pie ($6) offered an even friskier time. Whoa, I totally blushed. Chocolate pecan pie ($5) totally tried to make a move, and strawberry mousse cake ($5.50) actually tried to pinch me, but I ultimately fell for the banana butterscotch cream pie ($6) with a big dollop of whipped cream that was plopped next to it. The delicious pie was served a bit too chilly for my taste--next time I'll just order dessert first and let it sit out and flirt with it while I eat my sandwich. Hopefully it will warm up a little.
Alan Carter (formerly of Chow) is the charming man behind the wild array of pastry--don't miss his über-crusty canneles with their custardy center, and he has all kinds of other wicked treat in the case--just follow your sweet tooth (or whatever is winking at you the most). You can also buy entire pies. (I won't tell if you buy one all for yourself.) For the record, everything in the case is made with organic ingredients. And they use Blue Bottle coffee, which makes for a lovely accompaniment to any of the sweet treats. There are also dessert wines offered, my kind of café.
I am curious about dinner--I kind of like this upper-scale café/not a restaurant vibe. Would be an easy place to bring your book and have a cozy solo meal. Pretty place to catch up with a friend, whether it's over a glass of wine off the interesting wine list or for more shameless flirting with dessert, like the white and dark chocolate angel food cake. With chocolate sauce. Excuse me, what did you say? Slap!
Mission Beach Cafe
198 Guerrero St.
Cross: 14th St.
San Francisco, CA 94140
Prices for lunch only