Amidst the hubbub of construction, traffic, and the din of human existence in San Francisco's Mid-Market neighborhood, our friends and partners at Mill Valley's own Equator Coffees have thrown open the doors to their hotly anticipated first San Francisco cafe. Designed by Boor Bridges Architecture, the cafe features large picture windows that peer out onto this slowly evolving section of San Francisco’s main thoroughfare. Or if you're Devorah Freudiger, Equator’s Director of Training and Education, you hope the windows will invite passersby to peer in.
“We want to be all about accessibility,” she says, sitting on a cube of faux-concrete in a small outdoor area outside of the cafe, bordered by metal planters boxes (designed and built by “miracle metal worker” Luigi Oldani). A diverse stream of tech kids, homeless folks and tourists go wandering by—it's a Tuesday morning in San Francisco. “We really want to stick to the idea that great coffee should be for everyone,” Freudiger tells me, and this is reflected in the design of the space. Equator's new shop seeks to balance delicately within the ongoing narrative of gentrification and change happening here in San Francisco, and to be a part of the Mid-Market/Tenderloin community (a notoriously sketchy area on the rise). The cafe is meant to look open and inviting, without seeming tailored to an elite clientele.
For her part, Devorah Freudiger doesn’t want to hide from the less savory sides of this neighborhood. Equator want to be an active, engaged part of the community, looking out for what’s best for everyone—neighbors and customers alike.
Once considered a wasteland of abandoned buildings and crime, recent Market Street move-ins by tech companies like Twitter and Uber have upped this part of San Francisco's profile, creating an ideal customer base for specialty coffee brands like Equator (Blue Bottle and Paramo will open spots in Mid-Market later in the year). “This is where tourists should come,” Freudiger says. “Market should be a street that you want to walk from The Castro to The Embarcadero.”
And Freudiger wants Equator to be the coffee shop that treats them along the way, where everyone feels comfortable stopping in to place an order. To buoy this idea, Equator is happily serving a variety of specialty drinks, including a house soda bar, as well as an almost entirely gluten-free food program featuring arepas and fried chicken wraps. Also on the menu is a classic shakerato: a shot of espresso, some cream, a little brown sugar and ice, shaken till frothy. It's like ‘drinking ice cream,' Freudiger says. “We want to offer a menu that appeals to fans of Starbucks and Peet's,” she tells me, but with “high quality and organic” ingredients.
This devotion to accessibility is twinned with modern coffee equipment. The space is anchored by a gleaming white La Marzocco FB-70 espresso machine, served by a trio of Nuova Simonelli Mythos grinders. A Fetco batch brew system and Hario V60 pour-over bar provide filter coffee options to compliment the espresso service.
Freudiger & Equator are dead-set on bringing great coffee to anyone and everyone, and that includes their staff. To that end, they've hired a diverse team of both experienced baristas and brand new faces to the speciality coffee scene. The goal, she tells me, is to create a staff environment that fosters communication about coffee and accessibility, “without coming across as condescending.” It’s a noble cause, and judging by the steady line of customers on opening day, it seems like Freudiger and Equator Coffee are well on their way.
Noah Sanders is a Sprudge.com staff writer based in San Francisco, and a contributor to SF Weekly & The Bold Italic. Read more Noah Sanders on Sprudge.