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Former Atelier Crenn Sous Chef to Open New Restaurant in Ocean Beach Cafe Space

The sad news: Outer Richmond loses a casual beachside cafe. The good news: Frank Gama will bring fresh Santa Cruz County produce to the ‘hood.

Ocean Beach Cafe will close and reopen as a new restaurant under chef Frank Gama.
Ocean Beach Cafe will close and reopen as a new restaurant under chef Frank Gama.
Paolo Bicchieri is a reporter at Eater SF writing about Bay Area restaurant and bar trends, coffee and cafes, and pop-ups.

In fall 2021, Frank Gama was walking through the early morning fog at Ocean Beach, thinking a coffee would be the perfect addition to the chilly gray. He stumbled upon Joshua James’ Ocean Beach Cafe in its early days. James was still staffing up the nonalcoholic cafe, and, much to Gama’s disappointment, there wasn’t much in the way of coffee. But there was a spark of friendship between the two, and an idea began to bandy between them.

More than six months later, James has decided to sell his business to Gama, who will close Ocean Beach Cafe and reopen it as a new restaurant in the coming months. The new business plan is still getting finished up, but Gama says it’ll be a hybrid breakfast and lunch restaurant focused on health and wellness. The two announced the decision on Instagram on April 1.

James is feeling excited about his departure and looking forward to focusing on his work as a proponent of the burgeoning non-alcoholic beverage scene in the Bay Area. “I’m leaving on a high note,” James says. “I had someone uniquely positioned to take over ownership. I am not on this world to make lattes right now. There’s a lot to do in the [non-alcoholic beverage] world.” James still is building out his nonalcoholic speakeasy, which will be a headquarters of sorts for his future endeavors. He also recently finished producing a documentary, Mindful Drinker, and feels he needs to promote it. James plans to continue consulting on nonalcoholic beverage programs for businesses, and says he generally needed to free up his time for his increasing litany of projects.

Gama, for his part, has had a lengthy career in fine dining and will be bringing plenty of experience to the new restaurant. Gama says he started his career as a seasonal chef at the Bohemian Grove, the ultra-secret San Francisco private club, before a stint as a sous chef at Atelier Crenn in 2019, when it was ranked 35th best in the world on the World’s 50 Best list. He went on to work as a sous chef at Sorrel; at Cafe Monarch in Scottsdale, Arizona; and most recently back at Bohemian Grove in San Francisco.

The first pop-up dinner Gama put together at Ocean Beach Cafe in March was a big hit, James says. Gama prepared the meal at his home and featured four courses with six or seven non-alcoholic pairings by James for $85. “It was the dream; it was super awesome,” James says. It went so well the two held another event one Sunday later. That’s when Gama made James “an offer he couldn’t refuse” and the ownership change was decided.

Gama says he’s thrilled at the challenge. He’s lived in Nob Hill since moving back to San Francisco in August to “be in the culinary hub.” He grew up in Watsonville and knows plenty of organic farms that will be central to his food and menu. A sense of “hyper-seasonality and community” will be foundational in his new restaurant, he says. “I’m not here to compete with anyone,” Gama says. “I want to be in community with everyone. Rising tides raise all ships.”

Ocean Beach Cafe

734 La Playa Street, , CA 94121 (415) 753-9352 Visit Website