Q & A with Lauren Crabbe of Upcoming Café, Andytown
Veteran baristas Lauren Crabbe and Michael McCrory are gearing up to open Andytown, a cozy new café in the Outer Sunset. The café slated to open in November pending another funding push, though breaking through the rest of the city's red tape may take a wee bit longer than that. We caught up with Lauren Crabbe, former lead barista at Blue Bottle in the Ferry Building, to get to know her dream a little better.
Andytown The Andytown team takes a rest during buildout
Tell me about your barista history.
I started in coffee at an independent cafe in my home town as a barista in high school. At a great community coffee shop called The Pannikin La Jolla. It's where I met Michael. He was also a barista and we would get scheduled together a lot.
After I moved to SF to study photojournalism at SFSU, I worked briefly at Trouble Coffee, Hollow, and eventually Blue Bottle, where I stayed for three years, becoming lead barista at the Ferry Building. Meanwhile, Michael worked for the Outer Sunset mainstay Java Beach and helped them open and manage Beachside Coffee Bar and Kitchen.
When and Andytown come into being as a concept?
My husband and I had always wanted to open a coffee roaster and cafe together. Even before we started dating, we would work long shifts at The Pannikin and talk about what our coffee shop would look like and joke about what sort of (usually bizarre) things we would serve.
Since we first started in coffee, our outlook (as well as a lot of other people's) has changed. A drink's identity used to be defined by what was added to the coffee, now it's more about the coffee itself -- where it is sourced, how it is roasted, and the way it is prepared. We wanted to introduce this level of honesty and purity of product to the Outer Sunset. We are working with the best importers in the Bay Area to buy small lots of sustainably farmed coffee from reputable farmers around the world. In Andytown, we will roast it with precision, brew it with care, and serve it with pride.
Tell me about your vision.
The smell of freshly roasted coffee, the taste of a warm latte, and steam from your lamb stew rising up to meet the fog.
What does the name mean?
Michael is from Andersonstown, Belfast, Ireland. It's a working class community on the western edge of the city. The locals call it Andytown. We adopted the name because we wanted to recreate the feeling of comfort that you get when you enter a home in Andytown. No matter what is going on in your life, or how crappy the weather is outside, in Andytown, the kettle is on, the bread is baking, and you're always welcome.
What can we expect from Andytown when it opens?
Andytown is small, but very functional. We will be roasting coffee on a 5-kilo roaster with our friends at Orivor -- an ecommerce-based roasting company that specializes in high-end coffee. We are sharing the production space and the roaster as we start up. All of our coffee will be roasted on-site and our customers can watch the process.
Our espresso drinks will be made on our Kees van der Westen lever machine -- a beautiful piece of machinery that lived in Blue Bottle's MoMa cafe for years. Our menu will have the basics like lattes, mochas, and drip coffee, but it will also have a rotating menu of specialty drinks that are usually reserved for barista competitions.
When we moved to the Sunset, we fell in love with the neighborhood. It is the perfect combination of mellow beach vibe and city living. Michael took up surfing and would come in from the water and cook up amazing traditional Irish stews and breads that would have our friends coming over for dinner almost every night. We wanted a space where we could share his recipes with the rest of our neighbors.
You and Michael are married (in case you didn't know). What's it like to open a space with your husband?
It's the first time either of us has opened our own cafe, so we don't know any other way, but so far, opening a business as a husband/wife team has been pretty awesome.
The service industry is very time consuming. There was a time when Michael was managing a restaurant, and I was full time at Blue Bottle while doing freelance writing 15 to 20 hours a week and we just never saw each other. Now, we get to work together all the time and that has made this whole experience so much better.
Does Andytown have a spirit animal?
We were just talking about this the other night with our graphic designers! We imagine "Andy" as a surly seagull who won't take nothin' from nobody. Now that I think about it, that describes a lot of our neighbors in the Sunset, too.