Café Abir Outta Hir; the Final Day of a Strange Cafe with an Inscrutable Business Plan

(Did you see what I did there?

Don’t judge. It was either that or “Café Abir is Café A-bye-bye”.)

Your reluctant neighborhood activist is typing this drinking what will likely be his last ever foul, acrid coffee drink at Café Abir.

Those of us living in Popeyes Gulch long term have witnessed the strange, gradual transformation of a beloved local meeting place and newsstand into a strange, incomprehensible madhouse of a cafe/bar with seemingly arbitrary rules, hours, and menu offerings that sometimes changed daily; lengthy 6-month closures for “renovation” that barely changed anything; and a several-years-long series of bizarre changes that a student of Zero Mostel would could only see as a run of desperate and comically unsuccessful attempts to drive the customers away. Whether it was the “one size fits all” limiting to a single serving size for every beverage including coffee, tea, and beer; the gradual removal of every popular menu item and eventual paring down of food service hours to lunchtime only in this evening-and-weekend-centric bedroom community; the amazingly consistent tendency to be out of your first, second, and third choices of what you’d like to eat; the broad choice of in-house free wifi networks which never in at least 15 years all worked properly, and frequently, not even one worked; the sudden switch to “vegan only” resulting in the café’s refusal to put lox on a bagel, despite the sushi restaurant operating 15 feet away in the same space under the same management; the removal of almost all electrical outlets from the customer seating area of this first and most popular neighborhood laptop café; the addition of strange seating options like the former elevated “throne wall” (since removed to make way for the inexplicable incursion of the sake bar seating into the café space, a change no doubt applauded by the same 5 people who always appear to be seated there) and a giant wooden table apparently bought at auction from an evicted viking clan or kept in storage since shortly after the end of the Last Supper.

Now, the plan seems to have achieved fruition. As announced recently on corporate shill and comment troll haven Hoodline, and apparently nowhere else, Café Abir and Corkage, the sake overpricerie with which it shares its space, will shut their doors permanently today. This was confirmed with the strangely sullen barista working the final shift, as there are no signs on the business itself indicating this. Other than the presence of the manager behind the coffee bar, from a vantage point by the window it seems in all ways like just another day at Café Abir. The lack of hoopla is perhaps a fitting farewell for the café whose regard for its customers never seemed perticularly high.

What can we say, Café Abir? Despite the always burnt coffee, the food that was never better than subpar when it was available at all, the endlessly frustrating wifi problems, and the ever-shifting surprise changes in hours, policies, and offerings, I’d venture a guess that the majority of residents who’ve been in Popeye’s Gulch any length of time over the last two decades have some good recollections from Café Abir. Your correspondent has quite a few. Lots of memories in this space. Lots of memories.

It was an easy place to complain about, but a hard place not to love.

A word of thanks is perhaps appropriate to the many, many good people who’ve manned the register and espresso machines here over two decades. Remembering them all is impossible, but a fond final thanks to Béa, Erin, Flaming Horse, Nino, Theo, Cat, another Erin, and all those many dozens of others whose names have escaped or never were caught.

According to the Hoodline, the space will be occupied by an unspecified “Japanese Restaurant”. Whether this is an expansion of Tsunami, or something else, is yet to be seen. Also yet to be seen is whether it will be accessible to the budgets of long-time residents of this neighborhood or just another overpricerie catering to wealthy fashionista lego people coming from over the surrounding hills, and whether we’ll see any Japanese people actually eating there.

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A community point of contact for issues & discussions related to the rights of tenants and homeowners on and around Grove Street in the Popeye's Gulch neighborhood of San Francisco, CA