Shops To Watch Out For: Farley’s San Francisco

Here’s a bold claim for your Friday reading: Farley’s Potrero Hill is our new favorite cafe in San Francisco. They’ve been open for over twenty-two years, serving up coffee from a no-name who-remembers forgettable roaster all the while. This changed three weeks ago when they welcomed in newcomer De La Paz, a boutique microroaster embedded in and currently building out a cafe in SOMA’s erstwhile “Roaster’s Row”.

If, like us, you grew up on Cafe Nervosa and Central Perk, the helplessly nineties design at Farley’s Protero Hill is just to die for – our first reaction was somewhere between blissful abyss and la petit mort. There’s dioramas in the windows, a Ouija board stacked amongst several other board games [Ed. note: “a Ouija board”? – “an Ouija board”? – does “Ouija” take the -n modifier?], Lincoln Logs, books and books and books, a fully functioning newsstand in the southwest corner of the shop, warped floorboards, mismatched chairs – the cafe feels very nostalgic and worn in, without being cloyingly nostalgic and worn in.

We were able to chat with the working manager, Evan, for a hot second amidst Farley’s modest afternoon rush. “People were terrified of the change, but we were ready for it,” he told us. “We’re really excited about it. We didn’t really have much choices with our old roaster. We didn’t know coffee was seasonal.”

The folks who frequent this cafe are protective. While snapping photos with mouth agape, a regular stopped us and demanded to know the meaning of our daguerreotypic intrusion. Once informed that we were associated with an oft-trashy online publication, the Farley’s regular (name forcibly withheld) exclaimed: “I’ve lived up the street for fifteen years. I come here everyday. I don’t like seeing tourists.”

As Evan the trusty manager elucidates, “the coffee’s changed, nothing else has. The place feels the exact same. The coffee just tastes a whole hell of a lot better.

** Correction: The original version of this story implied that Jack Farley was the current owner of Farley’s, a statement that could not possibly be true on account of Mr. Farley having died in the 1920s. The current owner is in fact Jack’s great-grandson, Chris, who has operated Farley’s East in Oakland for 2.5 years and took over ownership of the original Farley’s from his father, Roger, back in June. We regret the error, but otherwise stand by our praise.**

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