San Francisco: Momi Tobys

Amendment: Since this review was published, I have been asked by the owner not to use some of the tables during lunchtime. As there were other readers/writers at similar tables, I assume this has to do with the frequency with which I visit the cafe and the duration of my visits (usually around two hours). I stand by my general comments below but retract my recommendation of the place as friendly to writers and hanging out. They are clearly more concerned about one-time spenders on busy days than steady repeat business, so I’m striking Momi’s from my list of regular haunts.

The most hospitable café in the Hayes Valley neighborhood for a warm cup of tea, low-end food and a place to take your laptop or the Sunday paper. There are other cafes but they are on busier corners or have odd clientele that make me nervous or annoyed. (Prime example, the otherwise serviceable café on the corner of Page and Laguna where you are likely to be overwhelmed by a crowd who have just had to sit quietly at the Zen Center across the street for God only knows how many hours. Beware.)

Momi Tobys serves excellent bagels (for San Francisco) which are toasted right up to the edge of burning and are not swamped by cream cheese (see Noah’s Bagels). Try onion or multi-seed, both happily salty. Their coffee is pretty bad, sitting in pots on burners as it does, but they have espresso drinks and a great selection of teas, some juices and both wine and beer, nice options in the evening. The menu is basic lunch stuff – chicken Caesar, soup, baguette crostini with pesto and a small selection of sandwiches – none of it superb but all of it solid. (If a tasty lunch is your sole object, head around the corner to Frjtz or a couple blocks down Hayes to Arlequin. Neither place is conducive to hanging out, but the food is superior to Momi’s.)

The main reason to stop by Momi Toby’s is to read for a while, to write for a bit or to hook up with friends for a coffee. (Don’t go overboard with the friends: none of the tables will accommodate more than three people comfortably.) Depending on who’s working, the music varies in quality and volume, but it’s generally interestingly circus-y alternative. (The chick who used to crank up the insane metal-meets-Muzak tunes has disappeared from the staff rotation, thank God.)

I write there regularly. The crowd’s there studying or reading themselves, so you get the friendly atmosphere without a lot of distracting, jerks who have something to prove on cellphones, the reason for abandoning a café closer to my apartment.

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Categories: Eat, San Francisco (here)

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