When Sharon Lindley was a kid in Scotland, her uncle—the first in his family to immigrate—moved to San Francisco and started bartending. “I used to get parcels from San Francisco,” Lindley says, while sitting out in front of Scullery, her new cafe in the Tenderloin neighborhood, on a milk crate covered with a slab of wood.
Some 26 years ago, Lindley followed in her uncle’s footsteps, moving from Hong Kong to San Francisco’s Tenderloin with Jason, a Brit she had met previously. They lived in an apartment at 550 Larkin, just across the street from where Scullery now serves coffee on a quietly burgeoning block. Lindley walked to her job at O’Farrell’s Sports Bar, which they would later buy and then sell so they could open Olive, the first upscale cocktail bar in the area.
The Tenderloin, seedy and destitute as it can be, was their neighborhood: they ate there, they drank there, they opened bars there, they had two children there. The Tenderloin was/is their home, and Scullery feels like an extension of that: a place where Lindley serves coffee and Scottish delicacies to neighborhood locals whose names, occupations, and pets she rattles off effortlessly.
After years in the food industry—as a bartender, then an owner—Lindley felt drawn to the world of coffee. “We saw all these Third Wave coffee shops—Blue Bottle, Sightglass, Four Barrel—and just thought it was an amazing niche,” she says. “So we graduated from liquor to coffee.” With Scullery, she wanted to emulate a more European “grab-and-go” style of cafe that she and her husband had grown up with. “You drink your coffee and you’re out of it,” she says.
The design of the space reflects this idea. The cafe is small, cozy even: a squarish shoebox taken up almost entirely by the coffee and kitchen area. Large windows pull sunlight into the seating area and the knickknacks are arranged artfully on shelves among plants and a variety of local food products. Customers sit on canary-yellow metal stools, earbuds in place, fingers pressed to their phones.
And as much as it has that “new San Francisco coffee shop” feel, there’s a depth to it—a sense of time and place that makes it feel different. The PG Tips tea—sort of the official tea bag of the UK—and Welsh rarebit on the menu are part of this: Rarebit is a Scottish delicacy, an open-faced grilled cheese with a healthy dollop of chutney spread on top. “Everybody wants rabbit,” she says. “We don’t have rabbit, we have rarebit.” The dish is a nod to her Scottish upbringing. “It’s an essential, go-to supper in Scotland,” she says, “I’d have this every night around 8 p.m., white bread with orange cheddar.”
If the rarebit is an allusion to what came before, it also represents the life Lindley and her family have made in the U.S. The chutney used is from the Tenderloin-based McQuade’s Celtic Chutney and the bread is from the Midwife and the Baker (a farmer’s market discovery). At Scullery, it seems that the past is wrapped in the present. Her presence is etched into the space, her past and present ingrained into the rough wood counter and every beverage or snack that slides across it. She seems to know everything about the cafe’s regulars: who they are, what they do, and even their current relationship status.
Scullery chose to serve Sightglass coffee because Lindley and Jason were inspired by its story of starting with just a coffee cart. “They were the right fit,” she says, and in a place that feels as intimate as Scullery does, the “right fit” is paramount.
Scullery maintains a special feeling throughout the space: It’s like a shiny new, classic Third Wave SF coffee shop, but imbued with a sense of history and place, a feeling of providence, of belonging. It is a feeling you may have forgotten that a sparkling new cafe in San Francisco could still produce. And for that, you have Lindley to thank.