A few months into the pandemic, Eater SF was sad to report that Art’s Cafe, the beloved Korean-American diner in the Inner Sunset, was closing after 30 years. Owners Sarah and Hae Ryong Youn said that they were ready to retire, and received an outpouring of nostalgia from generations of residents who grew up at its counter. But now, Art’s Cafe is open again with new owners, who are in fact local, do have diner experience, and are keeping the spot’s beloved crispy hash browns.
The rumors started swirling on Irving Street last week, when Eater SF received word that there were workers coming and going in the space and an “opening soon” sign was up in the window. Mr. and Mrs. Youn were spotted inside, dressed up in nice clothing and chatting with a couple on the sidewalk. Tablehopper broke the news on Twitter that the diner was reopening on Friday, and the SF Chronicle was on the scene to speak with a concerned fan of the bibimbap omelette.
Big exciting breaking news: Art’s Cafe is back and reopening tomorrow (!) with new owners, reportedly a Korean couple who will keep the Art’s hash brown and teriyaki magic alive! ✨✨ pic.twitter.com/VOxdsUfzrG— Marcia Gagliardi (@tablehopper) February 4, 2021
Speaking with Eater SF, new owners Chol and Young Lee confirm that they don’t plan on making any major changes to Art’s, news that will likely help calm fans of the restaurant’s last iteration. The husband-and-wife team says that they lived in the Sunset for almost 20 years during the 80s and 90s, and are currently based in the East Bay, where they opened Yia-Yia’s Sandwiches in Jack London Square almost 15 years ago.
According to the Lees, they had to close Yia-Yia’s permanently during the pandemic, after their landlord refused to negotiate on rent. Friends recommended that the Lees check out Art’s Cafe as a possible new location, and the two diners definitely share some similarities: both were known for serving a combination of American classics and Korean specialties. While Art’s was known for crispy hash browns and teriyaki beef omelettes, Yia-Yia’s had a fan following for club sandwiches and bibimbap.
Fans can scrutinize the new menu over here. Young Lee wants to reassure everyone that they are keeping the hash browns and omelettes, while also adding more sandwiches, including a tuna melt and several clubs; burgers, adding on veggie options; and specialties, such as bibimbap and spicy pork belly. After three decades, they also deep cleaned the space, adding fresh paint, appliances, and shelving. And while Art’s was famously cash only for years, the restaurant now accepts credit cards, and there’s even a website for online ordering.
But the counter and stools are still the same, with the old pictures and postcards from friends and family preserved under the glass. And now, there’s a new mom and pop behind that counter, ready to serve the next generation of San Franciscans hungry for all-day breakfasts and classic burgers.
Art’s Cafe is now open Tuesday through Sunday, 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.