Bi-Rite owner Sam Mogannam confirms that plans are in the works to bring soft serve ice cream, salads, and a “bad-ass” breakfast sandwich to a new Civic Center outpost that could open as soon as late February or early March. That timing would coincide with the unveiling of two new playgrounds next door, all part of an effort to revitalize the often overlooked area right in the heart of town.
Construction on the playgrounds (at either end of Civic Center on Larkin) broke ground in February with a $10 million dollar donation from the Helen Diller Family Foundation. The Foundation recently announced another $1 million donation to the Civic Center Community Benefit District to provide the street cafe. From there, the CBD selected Bi-Rite as its ideal tenant. If the project is approved by the Planning Department next month, the CBD will serve as the food purveyor’s landlord.
A native San Franciscan whose parents ran the market before him, Mogannam was “honored” that Bi-Rite was chosen for the project. His business already operates in the immediate area, providing grants in partnership with the Civic Center farmer’s market to double the value of EBT dollars. Bi-Rite is also a supporter of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation and their Healthy Corner Store Coalition through fundraisers, food donations, and participation in their outreach and education events.
“All of the work we do is to create community around food,” says Mogannam, who hopes Bi-Rite’s increased presence in Civic Center can bring “a sense of pride” to the area. As it stands now, it doesn’t exactly invite families to linger. Bi-Rite’s head butcher, for example, tells Mogannam that when he takes his kids to the public library for their summer reading program, he leaves right after it’s over. In the future, he hopes to take his kids to the playground, go to the cafe, and make a day of it.
The proposed street cafe space at Grove and Larkin would be small, so Bi-Rite’s menu there wouldn’t be long: Coffee, pastries, and that egg sandwich in the morning, then salads, sandwiches, and snacks in the afternoon, including kid-focused food like PBJ sandwiches, popsicles, and bags of carrots and dip.
But — plot twist — don’t come looking for Bi-Rite’s hard ice cream, the stuff that draws wraparound lines near Dolores Park on warm weekends. Instead, Bi-Rite will sell its (under-appreciated) soft serve ice cream at Civic Center. Mogannam prefers Bi-Rite soft serve, currently sold at its own window on 18th Street, and admits he rarely touches the hard stuff these days. “There’s something about that texture that makes me happier than shit,” he says. “I love it.” That could be the buffalo milk talking, of course, which is sourced from Double 8 Dairy in Petaluma. Stay tuned more as plans develop.