San Francisco’s oceanside community feels like another country, with its own weather and enthusiasms. People actually born in the City live here, along with three legged dogs, surfers, RV dwellers, solo back packers, bike advocates, and a lot of babies and young kids, if the view out the always open front door of Beachside Coffee House and Kitchen is any indication. The corner of Judah and 48th avenue, one block from the end of the street car line, and two blocks from Ocean Beach, is one happening crossroads, and this new homey beach shack cafe rides on the waves of the vitality of this micro-hood.
Beachside fits in so uncannily well because its owners Buffy and Patrick Maguire, seem to know everyone, and most of the customers in the cafe know each other. The couple started the kitchen-less Java Beach Cafe, one block west, in 1993, and opened Beachside, which has one, at the end of August.
The Irish Breakfast Sandwich ($6.95 small/ $9.95 large), is manager Buffy Maguire’s triumph, a bap (a soft, flour dusted bun), filled with black and white puddings (uncased sausage), ham-like bacon, and grilled pork links, all imported from Ireland. The meats are moistened with sliced grilled tomato, and an over easy fried egg with runny yolk. The balance is sublime, the satisfaction deep. Beachside knows to serve this sandwich unceasingly, all day and night, as it does all the breakfast items.
Fried chicken and waffles are the wood oven pizza of the moment. For those who want to try this rural southern comfort food, Beachside makes tender Belgian waffles and tops them with spice coated fried chicken ($7.75/9.95) that has been pre-cooked but finished to order to develop a crunchy coating. Whipped butter and maple syrup unexpectedly taste just fine with the chicken.
My other favorite is the country sausage sandwich ($7/9.75), a big moist patty of house-made pork sausage slathered with sauteed peppers and onions, deglazed with a whisper of vinegar, piled into a bap liberally spread with mustardy mayonnaise. It’s a knock out.
Every Friday and Saturday night, starting at about 6:30 p.m. Beachside’s experienced chef, Nick Patchen, cooks four special dinner items that change each week. One night a heaped plate of fried calamari drizzled with smoky pimenton aioli ($7) and a little gem salad ($5) in creamy, lemony vinaigrette, with big freestyle croutons rivaled any in the city, at half the price. And his grilled, sliced hangar steak, draped over a dab of white bean puree, scattered with roasted peppers, and an herbal green Argentinian salsa textured with crisp bread crumbs ($14) was stunning. It called for a generous pour of Poppy Pinot Noir ($8) in a thin wine glass. With warm apple crisp ($3.75) for dessert, this luscious meal was an unbelievable bargain.
Everyone orders at the counter. Bendable silverware comes rolled in thin brown paper napkins; water self-poured into tiny plastic cups.The tables wobble. The long wooden banquette shakes whenever someone sits down. The front door lets in cool breezes and the enthusiastic staff could use a little more method. But these quirks and inefficiencies only make Beachside more endearing to its many regulars. Like one big happy family, the floor staff, customers, cooks and owners mingle practically every day– and still love each other.
Beachside Coffee House and Kitchen, 4300 Judah (at 48th avenue) San Francisco
Contact: 415 682-4961
Hours: Sunday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Price range: $3.50 to $9.95; Friday and Saturday dinner $5 to $14
Recommended dishes: Irish breakfast sandwich; country sausage sandwich; fried chicken and waffles; fuji apple coleslaw; apple crisp
Credit cards: MasterCard and Visa
Reservations: not accepted; counter service; food to go