In a quiet part of San Francisco’s Mission District, far from the saturated main drags of Valencia and Mission Streets, Sightglass Coffee has now opened the doors to its new café and roaster, located at 3014 20th Street. The neighborhood is a very rapidly changing mix of retail, light industry, converted industrial buildings, increasingly exorbitantly-priced apartments, and a burgeoning cafe and restaurant scene. This new Sightglass cafe is located in converted manufacturing space, between Alabama and Florida Streets.
The café is classy, classic, warm, and welcoming. It’s a little different than their flagship café in SOMA on 7th Street–not nearly as cavernous, with more of a neighborhood feel. The aesthetic of this smaller addition to the Sightglass family (this is only the second Sightglass cafe) shares a family resemblance with its older sibling, but instead of the uber industrial design-barn chic of the original, you get something that looks like a cross between a 60s San Francisco steakhouse and 50s Parisian café.
The new café boasts two custom wood-panelled, white-painted La Marzocco Strada MPs, a Mahlkönig EK43 grinder, and its own cute little vintage 5 kilo Probat roaster. The coffee for this café will come from that roaster, while most of the wholesale roasting will continue to be done at the Sightglass location in SOMA.
Big factory windows take up the front wall, letting plenty of natural light into the space. On the cafe’s opening day, a grey San Francisco late-winter Sunday, the new Sightglass felt warm and cozy, thanks in part to the crowds of people. Globe lights provide a soft yellow glow, and the café is finished in dark wood, white marble, brass, and dark leather, completing the psuedo-Continental effect.
Like in the bigger Sightglass there are a pair of Square registers here, to be fired up simultaneously to quickly dispatch long queues into multiple drink production stations. What you order determines what station you’re shuffled off to, with one machine pulling primarily espresso shots and small drinks and the other reserved for larger drinks.
The beautiful banquette seating–a staple of Parisian and Viennese cafés–forces people to sit close together. This was especially true during their busy opening morning, when the space was packed almost to standing room only. Drink in hand, I joined a table of friendly older gentlemen who seemed to be from the neighborhood. Obvious as it sounds, the best way to guarantee that people sit together is to make sitting together the only option. What Sightglass has created in the Mission is a more intimate, transitory space–this is no laptop squatter’s café, though no doubt some will try.
The bar was hopping busy when I visited, even with five people behind the counter. For this new café, the Sightglass roasting team has developed an exclusive new espresso blend called Jerboa’s Jump, a rotating blend of Latin American and East African coffees. They plan on developing more exclusive coffee offerings for this location as well.