Cafe Divis will be unrolling a slew of changes over the next week or so, including brewing up Blue Bottle coffee, serving bites from popular street food carts, and pouring a wine selection courtesy of a dedicated sommelier.
But what’s “Cafe Divis,” you ask? Well, that’s change number one.
Cafe Divis is the new name for the bistro at 359 Divisadero. You know, the location where On the Corner used to be:
Back in April, when O.T.C. abruptly shuttered, we were left to wonder what would take its place. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wonder for long. Barely a month later, the owners of the Upper Haight’s Panini took over the location and threw open their doors.
Owner Mike Musleh, who also runs the Pork Store Cafe, tells us that they initially weren’t sure whether to make the restaurant a second Panini location or its own standalone cafe. But after a few weeks in operation, they gained a better understanding of what they wanted the space to be — not just a panini restaurant, but a unique, stylish neighborhood cafe.
As such, the theretofore-nameless restaurant was finally dubbed “Cafe Divis” around July 22nd.
And then the real changes began.
Musleh assembled a team to help reinvent the space — “people who do what they love… a co-op of experienced pros,” as he calls them. That team includes chef Christian Ciscle, formerly of SOMA’s Little Skillet, (and before that, Divisadero’s BlueJay Cafe, and before that, Big Sherm’s, the pre-cursor to Estela’s Fresh Sandwiches — whew!), who was tasked with planning the menu.
Ciscle first moved to the Lower Haight in 1996, and aside from a brief stint back in his native Baltimore, he has lived in the area ever since. So he had a sense of what folks in the neighborhood would want — namely, authenticity, community, and really good coffee.
First addition: Blue Bottle. Aside from a few sit-down restaurants like NOPA, the closest place to get a cup of Blue Bottle is over at the Hayes Valley kiosk. That’ll change by Friday, when Cafe Divis starts brewing up the much-revered grounds.
Another change? The food. Ciscle and Musleh have tapped Jonathan Quintos (of SOMA coffee kiosk Cento), who brings expertise from the street food world. Together they have selected a handful of popular S.F. street food delicacies for the menu, including Goody Goodie baked goods, empanadas from El Porteño, and whoopie pie-style gobs from Gobba Gobba Hey.
They’re talking to a few other vendors and should have several additions to the menu soon.
Aside from street food, Cafe Divis will be serving up breakfast items like freshly-made egg sandwiches, and small plates like baked pastas in the evenings. And they’ll still be offering their signature panini, of course. Their cooking options are a bit limited by the space’s lack of an exhaust hood, but they’re determined to make the freshest, tastiest eats that their small countertop oven will allow.
Finally, Musleh decided to serve both beer and wine at the location. They’re expecting approval of their beer and wine license any day now, and are in the process of filling the role of a sommelier. The space’s interior even makes a few nods to the wine world, including a wall covered with sandblasted grapevines, and wine racks suspended over the counters. (The aesthetic was designed by Musleh’s brother.)
Until the license is approved, Cafe Divis is open from 7am to 7pm weekdays and 7am – 5pm on weekends, but once they can start serving up the booze, they expect to stay open as late as midnight. They also expect to have menus printed up and new signage out front within the next week or so.
And now, as a reward for your making it all the way through this article, here’s a bonus. Stop by Cafe Divis on Friday, mention Haighteration, and you can get yourself a free cup of Blue Bottle Coffee. How about that? (If coffee’s not your thing, go check it out anyway — these folks are putting a lot of work into this place, and it looks like it’s going to be a winner.)