Cafe Ariana is the definition of a neighborhood cafe, an unpretentious but cozy place to grab something to eat, a coffee, meet a few of your neighbors and catch some sun sitting outside. You could even attend an AA meeting or do some community organizing, if you were so inclined.
Cafe Ariana’s owner, Bill, has been living on that block of Geary between Hyde and Larkin for a few years. One day about a year and a half ago, when the Mexican restaurant next door to his place went out of business, he knew he wanted to do something with the space. At the time he was working in IT, but was tired of being in an office and felt like he needed a change. Bill says he wanted to do something for the community, but the community ended up helping him a lot.
Cafe Ariana has a few tables downstairs, an internet corner with one computer and some outdoor seating. Then there’s a meeting room upstairs that hosts AA meetings four times a day, six times per week, as well as the Tenderloin Neighborhood Association monthly meetings, some transgender association meetings, and more. Bill says when he opened the cafe he wanted it to be always open for the neighborhood and the community. That’s part of the reason why he doesn’t have a website and doesn’t do any kind of social media advertising. He wants people to come to his cafe through word of mouth and return because they feel at home there. And although the place is filled with regulars who know each other and keep a steady supply of inside jokes, the first time I went there I did indeed feel welcomed by all. Also, I want to notch some bonus points for the dog-friendly attitude (not that I have one, I just like meeting some).
On the food front, Cafe Ariana has a large menu that can probably accommodate anyone’s taste, most of it made in-house by his wife or himself. Bill says he’s really been trying to have more fresh, local and organic ingredients in his menu, but since he’s open every day from 8am-8pm it’s hard to get everything from farmers markets as he’d prefer. The various bagel options are the most popular items, and for lunch people love his falafel wrap. They also have other Mediterranean food options such as shawarma wraps, but also many other things like a few soups, salads, sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers, cookies, cakes and even Turkish delights (I love them!). As you can see here, the menu seems to keep growing every day:
And best of all, Cafe Ariana’s prices are very affordable. Also, it’s open every day from 8am-8pm, with Saturday evening as a community music night. So if you haven’t been to Cafe Ariana, go check it out and catch up on all your neighborhood gossip while eating one of their delicious falafels. When I asked for a testimonials, a retired teacher who apparently who goes every day to get a slice of cheesecake told me: “this damned cake is so good I would keep coming here even if Bill didn’t give me free coffee sometimes”.