Part café, part wine bar, The Social Study, is the latest addition to the spate of new venues opening up in the Lower Fillmore neighborhood, and will be sure to delight coffee and jazz lovers across the city.
Serving locally-roasted Four Barrel espresso and coffee as of January 11, the groovy lounge fills a long-vacant space formerly occupied by a cannabis club on the corner of Geary at Fillmore behind Won Mi Korean BBQ. I stopped by the day after it opened on the advice of a friend who works next door and immediately wished that I could spend all day working in this café rather than in an office downtown. The high, vaulted ceilings have windows that go almost all the way up the walls, letting in plenty of light for such a small storefront.
Stepping through the almost unmarked front door (luckily, a sandwich board points thirsty guests in the right direction), my first impression transported me directly to my grandfather’s library. A long community table that could seat 10-12 people is just inside the tall front windows and the rest of the space features a unique take on bar tables -- the entire wall from the front door to the back of the lounge is covered with a quilted blue faux leather, out of which seats and tables fold out down (think 1960s airline jump seats).
Along the top of the wall, behind the register, running along the beams of the exposed brick wall on the other side of the building, and decorating many of the open spaces are books, books, and more books. A varied library that includes titles from all genres is available for leisure reading while hanging out in the café, and free wi-fi will sustain those who can’t bear to leave their laptops at home during coffee time.
In the mornings, The Social Study serves homemade pastries like crumpets, croissants, sticky buns, and one-mouthful-only chocolate croissant bites. The small selection is a testament to the tastiness of the pastries (on a foggy Thursday morning there were only a few pastries left by 10:15am): large, fresh pecans stud the glistening top of a caramelized sticky roll, and the slightly uneven texture of the croissants promises a hand-rolled, fresh-baked taste that doesn’t disappoint. Owner Harmony Fraga, East Bay native and former bar manager of Farmer Brown, plans to bring in a larger selection of pastries soon, but until she finds the perfect combination (great taste, made in San Francisco, preferably in her neighborhood, with fresh, local ingredients) The Social Study is baking their own.
But it’s not all coffee and pastries at The Social Study. Like any good European-influenced café, the place gets livelier as the day wears on. Beer, wine, and house-made sangria replace morning beverages, and the menu gets an upgrade starting in the afternoon. “Study Snacks” like charcuterie and cheese boards go great with a draught Guinness, and roasted fingerling potatoes are a healthy (and local!) alternative to the fast food French fries available a little bit lower down Fillmore street.
The record covers that adorn the walls are more than just decoration: The Social Study has a serious collection of vinyl. From jazz to R&B to hip-hop and Motown, the record library is as varied as its library counterpart, and the music in the café does a great job of matching the ever-shifting mood of the neighborhood.
The pace picks up even more on Friday nights, when live music takes the place of the vinyl selection and DJ Doc Fu steps behind the turntables. More music is promised, too--there’s been talk of a live house band (called Hot Pocket) playing in the lofted area above the main floor on Saturday nights. Although The Social Study doesn’t have a full liquor license (though Fraga says that’s in the works, along with a regular movie-screening night), I think it’s kind of nice. A beer and wine bar is a mellow addition to what can be a rowdy part of town, and when you want to step out for a cozy bite in a place that feels like an extension of your own living room (and face it, who can afford a place with an actual living room near Fillmore street?), The Social Study is just the place to be.