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 backpackers, bike advocates and a lot of babies and young kids, if the line out the always-open front door of Beachside Coffee Bar and Kitchen is any indication.
The corner of Judah Street 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), hamlike 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 knockout.
Every Friday and Saturday night, starting 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.
His grilled, sliced hanger steak — draped over a dab of white bean puree, and 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 one another.
Patricia Unterman is the author of many editions of the “San Francisco Food Lovers’ Guide.” Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Location: 4300 Judah St. (at 48th Avenue), S.F.
Contact: (415) 682-4961
Hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays
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, Visa
Reservations: Not accepted; counter service, food to go