In a town brimming over with new coffee shops, San Francisco’s Inner Sunset neighborhood has so far not seen much of the new wave. Eugene Kim and his team at Snowbird Coffee plan to change that with their newly opened cafe, in the old Drip'd Coffee Lab space.
Snowbird Coffee is a dimly lit, low-ceilinged, cozy cave of a cafe tucked away beneath the salmon colored window frames of a faded apartment complex. An assortment of vintage paraphernalia line the shelves and walls– ancient Golden West coffee cans filled with succulents and an Attack of the 50 Foot Woman movie poster, amongst other items. On both of my visits to Snowbrd, the smattering of plush seats and wooden banquettes were filled with locals absorbed in conversation, diligently pounding away at their laptops or nose deep in a book. It’s a spot that seems to encourage you to sit down for a minute, take a breath and get comfortable. Kim, a filmmaker-turned-coffee-shop-owner, wouldn’t have it any other way.
Equipped with a Hario V60 pour over set-up (designed and built by co-owner Dave Feng), a La Marzocco GB5, and a pair of Mazzer grinders, Snowbird serves their own roasts as well as a rotating selection of national coffees (Snowbird’s currently the only source in the Bay Area for Wisconsin’s Ruby Coffee). Kim and his staff offer the standard coffee selections, their own take on cold brew, and a duo of specialty beverages: the Cafe Bombon (a shot of espresso topped off with a floater of condensed milk) and an iced variation of the drink, dubbed the 1906 Shakerato. Both drinks ride a subtle line between the nutty tang of the espresso and the rich, sweetness of the condensed milk.
Eugene Kim took a moment to sit down with Sprudge and fill us in on why he chose the Inner Sunset and just what Snowbird Coffee’s philosophy is.
Why the jump from filmmaker to coffee bar owner?
I would say that I got into coffee by accident. I've always loved coffee, and I drank a ton of it but I never thought I'd own a coffee shop. While working on film projects with Dave Feng we figured out we were really tired of filming videos, and we both really enjoyed good coffee. That was really the beginning of Snowbird Coffee.
Why the Inner Sunset?
The location was literally dropped into my lap. One day while grabbing a cup of coffee at Drip’d Coffee Lab, the owner told me he was trying to find someone to take over the space. I immediately took it as a sign and told him I was interested in the space. Not to mention there wasn’t a single place that had anything good to offer in the neighborhood.
Do you think Snowbird marks the beginning of new times for coffee in the Inner Sunset?
The Inner Sunset is an older neighborhood. It hasn't changed too much…yet. It's inevitable. There are a lot of coffee spots in the neighborhood–however, not many that would be considered “good coffee” for today's standards. I think once these older coffee shops realize that people are actually learning to enjoy the taste of good coffee, they’ll reassess the way they roast their beans and source their coffee. Times are changing, and you have to stay relevant in order to survive.
What do you want people to find when they visit Snowbird?
It's a bit cheesy, but we have a slogan, which is “Snowbird Coffee: For the dreamers.” We always envisioned a traditional cafe as a social meeting place to discuss things, meet people, etc. It should be a place filled with philosophy and ideas. Since a ton of creative folks we know spend a lot of time in coffee shops, we wanted to create a cozy place where they could come get inspired.
And why the name Snowbird?
The name “Snowbird” was taken metaphorically from the term that describes people that live in cold climates in the Northeast that often escape to warmer climates during the winter. We figured it'd be a perfect name for a coffee shop if we ever opened one (which happened sooner than we thought). Snowbird Coffee, a warm and inviting place that you can always escape to.
Noah Sanders is a contributor to Eater SF, SF Weekly and The Bold Italic. This is his first feature for Sprudge.
Photos by Molly DeCoudreaux for Sprudge.com.