[S]an Francisco has a lot of micro-roasters and a lot of industry clout. It’s an espresso city for sure, whether you’re considering it in the historical sense (North Beach) or in third-wave terms (the Mission). This presents a challenge to new roasteries to not only meet the standards of delicious, transparently sourced coffee San Franciscans now expect, but to have an edge—whether that be a menu of artisan toasts or a café tucked into an alleyway.
Lauren Crabbe and Michael McCrory own one of the city’s newest roasteries, Andytown Coffee Roasters, and they’re definitely doing their own thing. Their pocket shop in the city’s Outer Sunset district is dreamlike, with fresh flowers and soft wood accents, a levered Kees van der Westen, merry employees crafting hearty Irish soda bread and scones, and a busy rotation of amazing smelling coffees being roasted in the back. It should feel crowded but it mostly feels cozy, because the couple’s goal, when they set out, was to create a space that felt like home to them. Drawing from Michael’s Irish heritage (he’s from Andersonstown outside of Belfast, Andytown for short), and on the shop’s misty, oceanside locale (the beach is six blocks away), Andytown evokes fog, surf, and grandma’s kitchen, creating a singular experience that has brought the couple (sometimes overwhelming) success. I chatted with Lauren about how it all got started.
How did you two meet?
We actually met as baristas. We both worked as baristas at a café in San Diego called the Pannikin. It’s been there for like forty years, it’s a really great little spot. We always got scheduled on the same shifts and then we started hanging out and we started dating and I convinced him to move to San Francisco with me, because I was going to SF State. We both worked at coffeeshops here, and eventually decided to start our own thing.
How did that happen?
We live in the Outer Sunset where our café is, and a friend of ours noticed that one of the old cafés in the neighborhood had gone out of business and the building was up for lease. We called the landlord and he responded and offered us up the lease, which was crazy, because we didn’t have anything really—we knew what we wanted to do, but we didn’t have a name yet, we didn’t have an idea except that we wanted to build the café that we always wanted in our neighborhood. We somehow got the lease and it all happened from there. Michael worked on it by himself for a year, I worked three jobs supporting us in the meantime, and yeah, we managed to open in March of 2014. We got the lease in November of 2012.
What was your vision for Andytown, starting out?
The café we always wanted in our neighborhood had freshly roasted coffee that is one-hundred percent transparent where it came from, and we wanted freshly baked goods. A lot of coffee roasters in San Francisco, they have really amazing coffee but they source their pastries from somewhere else. And even if those pastries are really good we wanted to have full control over our pastry program, so we opened with a small baking component. We used it as an opportunity to resurrect Michael’s grandmother’s soda bread recipe, we do a scone that’s kind of in the style of a soda bread, you know, kindling his heritage but also having fresh soda bread everyday for ourselves. The customer service is really the most important thing for us. We wanted everyone to feel really comfortable when they entered our space. We try to make everyone feel as if they’re in our grandmother’s kitchen having fresh soda bread.
There definitely seems to be a theme, Ireland meets San Francisco.
The Outer Sunset has always been an Irish neighborhood. There’s people out here that moved here in the sixties from Ireland, old fellows that sit and read their papers in Andytown. You have that and you also have the young hipsters, if you want to call them that, hanging out next to the old Irish guys, and the construction workers, and the young moms. It’s kind of a fun, diverse neighborhood. A lot of people dismiss the Outer Sunset as being this boring suburbia of the city but it really is a vibrant community.
How was the reception when you first opened?
So, the Outer Sunset is really quiet, and the corner that we’re on in particular. We’re not in the middle of a major intersection, we’re literally smack-dab in the middle of the avenues and we’re not along the rail line, so we weren’t expecting a lot of foot traffic, and when we opened we had a line to the gas station on the corner, which was insane. And we didn’t hire anyone because we didn’t think we’d be busy. So I had all of my friends inside and outside of the industry helping us in the those first few weeks, and now we have twenty people working for us. But when we opened we were not expecting it at all. We were planning on just being me and Michael, a little mom-and-pop shop, and it just turned into something way bigger. It’s been great, we’re just trying to keep up with demand and manage our success in a responsible way and take care of the people who help us.
—Regan Crisp is a writer based in Portland.