Cafes are my favorite place to work. I love the clinking dishes, the quiet music, the ebb and flow of voices. I gain energy and focus from that hum of life. I disappear into my thoughts, yet remain tethered to the earth. If drinking coffee and eating food are the price of a table, well, that's OK with me.
For 17 years, Que Tal was my go-to cafe. It was right near my house, had good food, great coffee and a relaxed atmosphere. Everything I worked on over 17 years I worked on there. More than a satellite office, it was also the unofficial heart of our neighborhood--our village green. My neighbors and I bought coffees, pastries, and sandwiches, in exchange for which the owner of Que Tal let us sit as long as we wanted. And sit we did. We wrote novels and dissertations, dreamed up business plans and conducted job interviews. We talked to neighbors we never would have met otherwise; the sarcastic novelist, the swing-dancing fire fighter, the Latino NASCAR fan. When our children were born, Que Tal was the first place we took them out in the world. Hospital, home, Que Tal: it was a natural sequence. When friends and relatives visited, we brought them to Que Tal so they could see our San Francisco.
So it was a shock when Que Tal closed. That was a little over a year ago. The landlord decided not to renew the lease and our village green disappeared. There were a lot of tears on the day it closed and a lot of grim encounters with neighbors in the months after. We'd greet each other with serious handshakes and ask, "How are you doing?" Which really meant, "How are you doing since Que Tal closed?" We'd ask about people we used to see there, but now didn't see at all. One neighbor made coffee at home in protest, until he missed seeing his neighbors. I ran into him on the street as he was walking towards a new cafe. I wished him good luck.
In a city with hundreds of cafes, it was a sad and lovely thing to learn that one of them just couldn't be replaced.
Thank you, Que Tal.
With a Perspective, I'm Evan Sagerman.
Evan Sagerman is a San Francisco architect and children's book author.