Equator Coffees, the local coffee roaster with half a dozen cafes currently open around the Bay Area, is going to start brewing in the Round House Cafe, the historic circular cafe with a sweeping view of Golden Gate Bridge.
San Francisco’s iconic bridge welcomes millions of walkers, runners, cyclists, and other visitors every year, and with this new lease, the cafe on its southeast side will go from serving tourist-standard hot dogs and bread bowls to local-caliber espresso, hot chocolate, kale salads, and avocado toast, hopefully as soon as Labor Day holiday weekend.
Equator co-founder Helen Russell says, “To see this iconic, legendary bridge that we’ve all read about, and to know that the Round House Cafe has been there since the 30s — it’s an amazing opportunity for Equator to move into a space and honor its history and heritage, and also create memorable experiences for all those who travel through our doors.”
The Round House Cafe was built in 1938, one year after the bridge was completed, and it’s now part of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. Originally designed by Swedish architect Alfred Finnilia, it’s Art Deco in style and completely circular in shape, with big fish-eye windows offering full views of the bridge and bay. Equator has hired architect Sarah Fucinaro to renovate the 1,600-square-foot space, which means putting in a new counter and pastry case for all that espresso equipment, replacing the bar running around the window and 24 tall seats, as well as fresh paint, floors, and tiles.
The Conservancy has been serving standard hot dogs and bread bowls to visitors in recent years, but Equator will bring in a full menu that’s likely to appeal to local coffee drinkers and salad eaters. Equator will serve its fair-trade, small-batch coffee, in pour-over, espresso, cold-brew, or iced form. The cafe will also have Guittard hot chocolate, to warm up after a walk in the fog, plus a full menu of soups, salads, pastries, hand pies, breakfast burritos, and toast. In addition to fueling locals and travelers, Russell says Equator also hopes to host events, serving as a meeting point for Rapha Cycling Club and others.
Equator was originally founded in a Marin garage in 1995, and it’s proudly woman-owned, LGBTQ-founded, and a B Corp. But it’s grown significantly since then, reaching eight locations pre pandemic, across SF, Mill Valley, and Oakland. Six are currently open, as the SoMa location in the LinkedIn building is still temporarily closed. The Tenderloin location next to the Warfield theater on Market Street did permanently close.
But the company is back in expansion mode, planning to open another location in Culver City, and continuing to partner with the Conservancy. In addition to the Round House Cafe, the company is already providing wholesale coffee at the Warming Hut at Crissy Field, and will be at Alcatraz. Not to mention, Equator’s wholesale accounts include Google, Twitter, Slack, and LinkedIn, so business will be up when tech workers start trickling back into the office.