The “Lord of the Rings” soundtrack lists easily in the morning air out of Savor, a new vegan and vegetarian cafe on the corner of 5th and Irving Avenue. The shop is the latest in a string of new businesses to debut in the past year over the span of a few short Inner Sunset blocks: Midnite Bagel, Third Culture Bakery, The Red Tail, Foghorn Chicken and Beer, and a still-to-be-named Mexican seafood restaurant taking over the old Pluto’s space. Savor owner, Mohamed Aboghanem, says he’s happy to be in the mix. “I’ve lived in this city for like 33 years, man,” Aboghanem says. “It’s a nice step back from the fine dining thing.”
Savor, focusing on Arabic cuisine with a “modern twist,” will fill some of the gaps in the neighborhood, Aboghanem hopes. He’s channeling his home of Sana’a, Yemen in his cooking, but unlike his former ventures’ focus on dinner, at Savor he plans to offer cafe items like almond bear tortes and cauliflower lavender soup; with Tart to Tart closing down the street he’s banking on his baked goods being a hit. The space doesn’t have a full kitchen, though, so he’s planning to bring in baklava, bagels, and brownies.
Aboghanem is no rookie in the restaurant game. After moving to the Bay Area in 1987 from northern Yemen, he busted his chops in a string of restaurants as both a cook and owner. His restaurant Saha, which he ran in both San Francisco and Berkeley for more than 15 years, was a 115-seat powerhouse, though even the most popular of restaurants have fallen prey to the impact of COVID, as Saha did. Between the closing in 2020 and now, he tried to open a series of restaurants — a Vietnamese place in Mill Valley, a rebirth of Cafe Flor on Market and Noe Streets — but nothing panned out. A friend owns the building that used to house Martha Bros. Coffee, and, after two and a half years out of the game, he suddenly found himself playing again. “We haven’t gotten a volume of coffee drinkers yet,” Aboghanem says. “We have to try and change habits and bring people back.”
While he finalizes the menu, he’s just enjoying the neighborhood and the slowness of getting started. He lives in SoMa, and he finds the Inner Sunset to be diverse and beautiful, full of doctors and medical students buzzing past his door. “It’s for foodies, healthy people who know what they want,” Aboghanem says. “People tell me they are excited about my restaurant. I think I’m different on the block.”
Savor is open for brunch and lunch; 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.