Family Cafe has opened its jewel box–like space in North Beach for Japanese curry dishes, Mr. Espresso Coffee, matcha drinks, and baked goods. It’s two floors, each a postage stamp–sized 300 square feet connected by a staircase. And in keeping with the cafe’s name, that staircase is hung with “family” portraits of owners Jessica Furui (a former sake director at Ozumo) and Ray Lee (also owner of Akiko’s Restaurant), as well as chef Tadayuki Furui (Jessica’s ex-husband, most recently of Soba Ichi).
“It’s almost like an old soda fountain vibe,” says Jessica of the space at 362 Columbus Avenue, previously a carryout chicken restaurant. But this soda fountain is cuter than most: Family’s counter is a Calcutta white marble slab, with bright turquoise green arabesque tiles beneath. On the second floor, a big dining table seats up to 10 people, and more seats and stools line the windows.
Family Cafe’s daily menu, prepared in a small kitchen by chef Tadayuki, is written on an antique mirror. From Jessica at the counter, customers order items like katsu chicken sandwiches on Japanese milk bread and daily specials including Jessica’s own baked goods. Those are “whatever I like to make — whatever’s in season,” she says, including cheesecakes and cakes with seasonally changing fruits.
At Family, Jessica wants to emphasize in-house orders for food and drinks, and won’t be handing out disposable cups willy-nilly. “People are coming here to Family to create community and meet people,” she says. “It’s absurd that people get espresso to go — it’s three ounces!”
In addition to coffee, Family stocks premium Japanese teas, including some from Nakatsugawa in Gifu Prefecture, near where chef Tadayuki is originally from. He and Jessica may no longer be family in the legal sense, but they’re “very amicable,” she says.
Originally intended as a sake bar, Family became a family-friendly, community-focused cafe “inadvertently.” Zoning snafus ruled out a beer and wine license, at least for the moment. But the team pressed on, leaning into the rest of their offerings. A beer and wine license is still possible down the road, but to make sure the cafe can meet revenue goals without one, Jessica and co. will offer everything from catered lunches and private dinners to community workshops and buyouts. “Baby showers, divorce parties, art shows,” Jessica lists as possible uses of the space. “We want to be a real San Francisco cafe — always changing and unique.”
Family Cafe is now open from Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., with coffee and tea drinks available starting at 10 a.m.