With a new cafe kiosk in the shadow of City Hall, Bi-Rite’s second-generation owner Sam Mogannam hopes to reach the next generation of San Franciscans — the ones playing on swings and slides at a brand new playground next door. After a year of construction at 52 Grove Street (at the corner of Larkin), Bi-Rite Cafe opened to the public today.
The new cafe joins the locally famous grocer’s two markets at 18th Street and Divisadero and its popular 18th Street ice cream shop Bi-Rite Creamery. It serves Sightglass coffee, sandwiches, and salads — plus free fruit for kids who visit the nearby San Francisco Public Library’s main branch and get a sticker with which to redeem their healthy prize.
For something a bit more indulgent, there’s Bi-Rite soft serve in two flavors, banana splits, and Bi-Rite’s famous salted caramel ice cream by the cup. The full menu is below.
“We wanted it to be accessible and affordable,” says Mogannam, whose stores are known for their quality food and sometimes steep prices. “We wanted children and adults to feel like they were getting something that was Bi-Rite.”
The homegrown business, founded in 1940, was chosen by the Civic Center Community Benefit District to operate the kiosk, part of a revitalization project made possible by a $10 million donation from the Helen Diller Family Foundation and a $2 million Mercer Fund grant for the cafe. The effort was undertaken by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, the Trust for Public Land, and the Civic Center Community Benefit District.
“As someone who’s always looking for a good place to have lunch in close proximity to City Hall, I’m so excited to have Bi-Rite here,” said mayor London Breed yesterday at an unveiling ceremony. There, the kiosk’s patterned metal awning, which doubles as a grate during overnight closure, was raised to the public in an opening gesture. The new structure was designed by WRNS Studio, the firm behind Airbnb’s headquarters and the Hayes Valley playground.
With the new Civic Center playgrounds, cafe, and more downtown programming and street cleanups, City Hall hopes to bring new life to its often unsavory front yard. The area looks a bit like 18th street did when Bi-Rite first opened its store there. At that time, the Dolores Park adjacent corridor was hardly the upscale block it appears today, Mogannam recalls.
“That block had storefronts that were covered with metal grates. We took those grates down, and we saw change happen. That block had 30 people working on it, and now, 300 jobs are on that single block of 18th street. Similar work has happened on Divisadero, and the same thing’s gonna happen here.”
“That’s the power that good food has: It brings us together.”
Bi-Rite’s Cafe at 52 Grove Street is now open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends
Cafe Menu | Bi-Rite by on Scribd