San Francisco Guide #2: 20th Street Sightglass

A San Francisco post written by on June 21, 2014


the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes
― proust

San Francisco Guide #2: 20th Street SightglassSan Francisco Guide #2: 20th Street Sightglass


Sightglass Coffee, 3014 20th Street, San Francisco, CA, 94110

One Thanksgiving, many moons ago, my roommates and I walked to Sightglass in search of morning lattes and were rewarded with a sip of wine. The place was practically a shell at that time with one lonely barista volunteering to make grumpy morning cooks their daily cup. He was jovial, friendly. That was when there was a tiny cart in the garage that’s now decorated with bikes on bike racks. The same bench is still there, which I appreciate, because it reminds me of the times we would come and sit next to the friendly baristas in our unusually personal exchanges. That’s rare in this city.

The old location has changed a lot since I first moved to the neighborhood. I hardly go anymore because the faces are different and the lattes never seem quite the same… I think I am a drinker of old habits.

San Francisco Guide #2: 20th Street Sightglass

San Francisco Guide #2: 20th Street SightglassSan Francisco Guide #2: 20th Street SightglassSan Francisco Guide #2: 20th Street Sightglass

When I heard of the new location on 20th street, I was eager to see the place, because I knew it would elicit some of that new Sightglass sentiment I had when I first moved to the city. I was lucky because on the particular day of my visit, I saw familiar faces behind the counter and it made me feel a bit nostalgic for my present neighborhood in a different time. The latte was a perfect pour and I sat with my camera, thinking about all of the photos I never took of the original location in SOMA and that one time when I got free wine with my latte.

Sightglass isn’t the only place where I happened upon wine while seeking coffee. On one of my first mornings in Paris, my roommate and I wandered around aimlessly in search of liquid sustenance. We landed at a bar about the size of an American bathroom. It was at the juncture of five tiny cobbled streets, hardly big enough for modern motor vehicles. We sat ourselves down for coffee, but we also had wine. The bartender insisted.

Of course, the coffee there and everywhere else in Paris at the time was pretty forgettable. I just remember the madeleines. They came in small plastic wrappers and looked every bit the pastries of miniature people. In retrospect, I wished we sipped more wine, made more talks, spent some more time on those chairs looking at the other Parisians looking at us. I think I felt nervous about the taste of those French words on my tongue so I sat, but quietly.

San Francisco Guide #2: 20th Street Sightglass

San Francisco Guide #2: 20th Street Sightglass

When I’m in a new city, it’s often easy to keep moving, keep searching for new things to experience, but now, I think I like to feel the same spaces, and feel myself changing with those spaces. Sometimes that takes years, but my years here in San Francisco feels vaporous, foggish  – I can barely recall one year from the next. I think I am just yearning for a week or two in a different town…

San Francisco Guide #2: 20th Street Sightglass

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12 Responses to “San Francisco Guide #2: 20th Street Sightglass”

  1. Jennifer says:

    I love this location its such a beauty!

  2. Maci says:

    Beautiful space!!

    • phi says:

      I like it better than the original location… but I also like it bc it’s small, and hello, beautiful marble counter!

  3. Joyti says:

    Whoa! I haven’t been back to Sightglass since their early days either (I can walk to Blue Bottle and Ritual, Sightglass has great coffee but just isn’t as convenient)…and it HAS changed. Didn’t know they served wine. Didn’t realize they got so – pretty? Their site looks great.

    Lovely work/photographs. Thanks for sharing )

    • phi says:

      haha. they definitely don’t serve wine – one of the baristas had a bottle and was drinking and he gave me some. it was great, which makes me think they should serve wine!!

  4. The mood set in these photos is inviting & chill…& cosy; well done! (Do you do people too?) 🙂 Isn’t it beautiful how almost everyone has nostalgic fuzzy memories of cafés! I was once a surly barista (I had my favorite customers…woe to those who didn’t make the “list,” they often received a hint of frostbite from my icy demeanor. Thank goodness for the maturity of time, I’m less angry these days!).

    I think I’d like to return to Paris now and find that bar you mentioned! xo

  5. that banquet … those glorious windows!!! what a lovely space.

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