Finding Andytown’s newly-opened downtown cafe at 181 Fremont is, at the moment, a little like approaching a speakeasy. It wasn’t supposed to be: When the Salesforce Transit Center reopens to the public, customers can stroll through the elevated park and into the cafe. But with repairs to the cracked public transit structure delayed, that won’t happen until June at the earliest.
For now, customers should go to the lobby of 181 Fremont, a 55-story skyscraper home to Instagram offices and luxury condos, and ask security for directions to Andytown. There’s no need for a secret password, but there’s no signage, either.
A public elevator labeled with directions to a “Privately-Owned Public Space” will whisk customers up to the 7th floor. Their reward: A gleaming new cafe (designed by Juniper Architecture) that’s open but sparsely populated, offering plenty of seating, coffee, and views of the still-closed park, empty save for a lone security guard endlessly circling on bicycle.
Andytown’s new cafe has been open like this for about a month, although just about the only people who know it either work or live in the building.
“It’s been fun and interesting to see who can find us here on the 7th floor” says Lauren Crabbe, who owns the business with her husband Michael McCrory.
“It’s a dreamy location — it’s just kinda bizarre and weirdly ghost town-y [with the closure].”
Crabbe and McCrory decided to open the new location to the public when the Transit Center’s reopening appeared more imminent than it really was. Now they’re making the most of it: Pouring coffee and making espresso drinks on a Kees Van Der Westen Spirit machine. Eventually, they’ll use a brand new La Marzocco Leva machine, only the second in the US, for single-origin coffees.
And of course, Andytown is mixing their signature (and trademarked) beverage, a Snowy Plover: Pellegrino, ice, and two shots of espresso lightly sweetened with a big dollop of cream.
Andytown is named for Andersonstown, a Belfast suburb nicknamed Andytown from which McCrory hails. Beyond coffee, SF’s Andytown has earned a strong reputation for its Irish-inspired baked goods like soda bread. The couple started Andytown in 2014 at 3655 Lawton Street, not far from their Outer Sunset home. In 2017, they opened a second Andytown cafe location 3629 Taraval Street, and expanded to a new roastery at 3016 Taraval.
The new cafe at 181 Fremont marks a major departure for the small coffee company. “But with access to the park, it felt like we could put a piece of Andytown, and that connection to nature, and who we are, in the middle of skyscrapers,” says Crabbe.
The new space also offers a sizable kitchen for executive chef Ali Hooke. Behind enclosed glass, she’s busy testing recipes for house-made yogurt with saba and granola, and larger lunch items like trumpet mushroom soup with charred onion, urfa chili powder, and roasted maitake mushrooms.
“The first five years of food at Andytown have been very focused on sort of replicating Michael’s grandma’s soda bread and other recipes,” says Crabbe, “but now, we’re looking ahead.”
Irish food can get a bad rap, but once customers try Andytown’s dense brown wheaten bread, they might reconsider. Andytown is changing minds “one scone at a time,” Crabbe jokes.
Hooke’s full food menu will be available this summer, timed, once again, to the reopening of the transit center and park.
“If there’s on thing this location has taught me, it’s to be very flexible,” says Crabbe. “There’s just so much that’s out of our control.”
For now, Andytown is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday and closed weekend, with longer hours to come.