San Francisco saw many businesses close in 2020 due to the pandemic. Covid did not discriminate when it came to which industries it took out. Retail shops, restaurants, salons; both old and new have been impacted. Whether they were family/independently owned small businesses or chain stores, no business was immune to the shutdowns and ‘Shelter in Place’ mandates that kept customers away.
In a city that loves their coffee, I still worried about my little neighborhood cafe in the OMI (Ocean View/Merced/Ingleside) area of San Francisco. Blue House Café is family owned and located in a relatively quiet and mostly residential area, close to SF State. While the Muni M line runs right past it, this is certainly not a high foot traffic area. Despite the challenges, this place is resilient and a little scrappy, just like the neighborhood it calls home. If this is an indication of what is possible in this part of Ingleside, there is nothing to be blue about.
Thursday, January 7, 2021 - This way to the Blue House Café. Photo: Johanna Miyaki
Blue House Café had its grand opening on September 21, 2019. Its located next to a day care center with The Ocean View Library and a Community Center nearby. Pre COVID, Blue House Cafe saw a growing customer base with SFSU students that live in the neighborhood or commuters passing by on their way to the nearby campus. While they counted parents from the preschool and residents among their patrons, the students quickly became their biggest clientele. Blue House Café barista, Dylan Merry, says “Due to COVID and SFSU not being in session and being in Ingleside with little foot traffic caused our sales to dip. To make it through 2020 we had to come up with many ideas throughout the year to stay afloat. We extended our menus, adding new drinks and food items.”
The specialty foods and select baked goods are made in house. Merry says, “Our most popular food item has to be the ‘Sushi Bake’ tray ($18), which we do on Fridays. We started with the original spicy Mayo and we released a ‘Misoyaki Sushi Bake’ in November 2020, which is on the sweet savory side.” Both come in a tray, chilled and ready to eat or can be warmed. Each order comes with a side of pickled ginger, a side of wasabi cream aioli, two packs of crispy seaweed sheets and a whole lot of “umami”. Each tray is the equivalent of two sushi rolls. They also have Vietnamese beef noodle bowls and Vietnamese shrimp salad plates every Tuesday for $13. Merry, is the creator and maker of the ‘Sushi Bake trays, the “Misoyaki” is a family favorite at my house. Both the Sushi Bake and Vietnamese bowls/plates are available only by pre order in person or by phone. They may take your order if you DM them on Instagram, but that may be reserved for regulars and locals, like yours truly.
Wednesday, January 6, 2021 - The Sushi Bake Tray at Blue House Café. Photo: Blue House Cafe
There are a variety of baked goods and snacks available daily. “House made treats include fresh baked cookies, made by one of our baristas, says Merry, and we have a ‘Basque Burnt Cheesecake’ that is made by one of the owners, Annabella Tong. Also, be on the look out for new treats in 2021”.
Blue House Café gets their coffee from local roaster, Sightglass Coffee, which is great on its own, but they don’t stop there. They offer specialty coffee and tea drinks as well. Merry says, “The customer favorites in 2020 have to be our ‘Lavender Vanilla Latte’, and the ‘Nutella Latte’. Also popular are the ‘Thai tea’ and ‘Vietnamese Iced Coffee’, all new additions to the menu that were created in house, from scratch, by our baristas”.
Wednesday, January 6, 2021 - The Vanilla Lavender Latte at Blue House Café. Photo: Blue House Cafe
The Blue House Café owners encourage their baristas to come up with new ideas for the business. “Despite the chaos that 2020 brought us, we were able to work with the community to give back”, says Merry. We donate coffee every Friday to the volunteers at a COVID testing site serving the OMI community at 50 Broad St. We also hosted a ‘Free Cookie Community Day’ on Friday, December 18, 2020, offering a free cookie to everyone that visited us that day.”
In October, they tested a Saturday “happy hour” and saw a boost in sales. The offer is 20% of an espresso beverage with a purchase of a pastry. They plan to bring the “Saturday Happy Hour” back in 2021, details will be available on their website and social media soon.
Lily Young is a weekday a barista at Blue House Cafe. She shared a preview of one of the new items coming for 2021, ‘Snowy Bites’, also made by co-owner Annabella Tong. Young says, “This is a traditional Taiwanese treat, similar to nougat candy but lighter and more flaky - it won’t stick to your teeth either! We have two flavors, the traditional with mixed nuts and one with dried mango. It is on our current menu and will be indefinitely, we’re looking to sell that as one of our signature items."
Wednesday, January 6, 2021 - A new treat coming soon to the Blue House Café menu, "Snowy Bites" Photo: Blue House Cafe
The Blue House Café is located at 302 Randolph St. in San Francisco
They are open Sunday to Thursday from 8:15am-:30pm and Friday & Saturday from 8:15am-4:45pm
Preorders can be placed over the phone 415-619-4858 or in person from Wednesday-Monday
You can visit their website to view their full menu at www.bluehousecafesf.com
Follow them on Instagram for updates on specials and new items @bluehousecafesf