Seven Bayview businesses that powered through the pandemic

Marcel-Banks-Frisco-Fried-storefront-Third-Street-0721-by-Camille-Cohen, Seven Bayview businesses that powered through the pandemic, Local News & Views
Frisco Fried has been a Bayview Hunters Point staple since 2010, serving up Southern food the way it should be. – Photo: Camille Cohen

by Meaghan Mitchell

While it’s known for being home to historical landmarks like the Hunters Point Naval ShipyardBayview Opera Houseand Sam Jordan’s Bar, the Bayview District is also a historically under-resourced neighborhood. It’s considered a food desert and has struggled over the years to secure basic neighborhood amenities such as a full-service affordable grocery store

Despite these setbacks and a nationwide pandemic, over the past year, a group of solution-oriented and relentless craft makers and “do-it-yourselfers” combined their resources to create a booming food and art scene. And while COVID-19 shuttered hundreds of businesses citywide, the Bayview District gained 12, with seven owned by women of color along Third Street. 

In our first episode featuring the Bayview, you will see a glimpse of some of these changemakers through interviews with the teams behind Public Glass, the Bayview Makers Kitchen and Old Skool Cafe.

Here are seven more businesses owned by community trailblazers who pivoted toward success.

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Cafe Envy, 1701 Yosemite St.

Cafe-Envy-three-customers-Third-Street-0721-by-Camille-Cohen, Seven Bayview businesses that powered through the pandemic, Local News & Views
A trio of customers kicks back at Cafe Envy. – Photo: Camille Cohen

The people: Owner and chef April Spears opened her second restaurant, Cafe Envy, in 2018 after her first, Auntie April’s Chicken, Waffles & Soul Food, became a neighborhood favorite. 

The pitch: While Auntie April’s is known for its Southern-influenced comfort food in a diner setting, Cafe Envy is a bar and grill that serves American food.

The pivot: During the pandemic, the restaurant was the first to incorporate a parklet as part of the city’s Shared Spacesprogram and partnered with SF Black Wallstreet to create a “First Friday” event centered on supporting Black-owned businesses and local artists. They also partnered with Young Community Developers (a neighboring organization) and passed out personal protective equipment.

Fox and Lion Bread, 5273 Third St.

Fox-and-Lion-Bread-Co.-Third-Street-0721-by-Camille-Cohen, Seven Bayview businesses that powered through the pandemic, Local News & Views
Outside Xan Devoss’ Fox and Lion Bread. – Photo: Camille Cohen

The people: While bread baking became a hobby for many during the pandemic, Xan Devoss of Fox and Lion Breadperfected the craft years ago when she opened her business on Third Street in 2011.

The pitch: Fox and Lion Bread is a neighborhood mainstay that serves craft pastries, sandwiches, salads, coffee and pizza in a quaint storefront with walls full of local art. 

The pivot: Locals kept Fox and Lion afloat, but Devoss said partnerships with other local businesses were key. During the pandemic, she partnered with neighboring business Las Palmas on an outdoor parklet, which allowed both businesses to expand seating for customers. 

Frisco Fried, 5176 Third St.

Marcel-Banks-Frisco-Fried-in-the-kitchen-Third-Street-0721-by-Camille-Cohen, Seven Bayview businesses that powered through the pandemic, Local News & Views
Chef Marcel Banks making his famous fried chicken. – Photo: Camille Cohen

The people: Chef Marcel Banks, a San Francisco native and owner of Frisco Fried, keeps a low profile but has fed the Bayview community for over a decade. 

The pitch: “Fried with pride” is this award-winning and family-owned restaurant’s motto. They serve a wide array of Louisiana-style soul food and are known for their fried chicken. It can take up to 20 minutes to prepare, but it’s worth the wait. 

The pivot: Last year, Banks was looking forward to celebrating the 10th anniversary of Frisco Fried’s opening with a public celebration, but COVID brought those plans to a screeching halt. Instead, Banks doubled down on to-go orders and participated in the city’s Shared Spaces program, which enabled him to build a double parklet. 

Gratta Wines, 2022 Lane St.

Barbara-Gratta-of-Gratta-Wines-Third-Street-0721-by-Camille-Cohen, Seven Bayview businesses that powered through the pandemic, Local News & Views
Barbara Gratta of Gratta Wines and Gratta Italian Market. – Photo: Camille Cohen

The people: In 2015, Bayview resident and winemaker Barbara Gratta opened the first and only wine tasting room in the neighborhood.

The pitch: For two decades, Gratta Wines has become a neighborhood fixture. In 2006, she got an official permit to sell her homemade wine, and in 2015, she opened a tasting room on Lane Street.

The pivot: Gratta’s long-term goal was to expand her business beyond the wine bar by opening an Italian market. Once the pandemic hit, Gratta pivoted to essential goods and opened a second storefront called Gratta’s Italian Market. At the market, Gratta sells everything from fresh pasta to sauces, olive oils and wine. The market even features a community shelf that sells goods from other craft makers in the Bayview District. 

The Jazz Room, 5267 Third St.

Jazz-Room-Third-Street-0721-by-Camille-Cohen, Seven Bayview businesses that powered through the pandemic, Local News & Views
Inside the Jazz Room. – Photo: Camille Cohen

The people: Bernadette Smith aka “Ms. B” is the owner of The Jazz Room, which is one of the Bayview District’s oldest businesses. 

The pitch: Since 1962, the Jazz Room has served as the Bayview’s “Cheers” and a place where you are likely to run into some of the neighborhood’s longtime residents. Interestingly, you are not likely to hear jazz music when walking into the Jazz Room. Instead, funk, R&B and old-school hip-hop music fill up the bar and pour onto the street. 

The pivot: In the early stages of the pandemic, when the city announced that bars were allowed to serve to-go cocktails, that news was a relief to Ms. B. The only problem was that to-go cocktails also had to be served with a bonafide meal, and the Jazz Room didn’t have a kitchen. So Ms. B. sprung into action and transformed the Jazz Room into a temporary food facility. She partnered with a local caterer and secured a shared spaces permit, allowing the Jazz Room to serve their longtime customers.

Tato Mexican Restaurant, 4608 Third St.

Tatos-Mexican-Restaurant-Third-Street-0721-by-Camille-Cohen, Seven Bayview businesses that powered through the pandemic, Local News & Views
Outside Kristin Houk’s Tato’s Mexican Restaurant. – Photo: Camille Cohen

The people: Tato is owned by Chef Kristin Houk, the mastermind behind Bayview restaurants All Good Pizza and Cafe Alma

The pitch: Tato has been open since 2018 and is a restaurant known for its innovative style and authentic take on Mexican cuisine. The restaurant’s theme was inspired by Houk’s son, who is half Mexican.

One taco Tuesday, a customer paid $1k for a taco plate.

The pivot: Like so many businesses, Tato took a financial hit due to the pandemic, but partnering with nonprofit organizations like SF New Deal to prepare meals for seniors and the unhoused became a lifeline for the restaurant. Houk also invited the community to Tato for a pay-what-you-can “Taco Love ” on Tuesdays, where participants’ $10 cash donations go to feed a Bayview neighbor or a person in a Shelter in Place (SIP) hotel or homeless encampment. One taco Tuesday, a customer paid $1k for a taco plate.

Word A. Cafe, 5114 Third St. 

Word-A-Cafe-Third-Street-0721-by-Camille-Cohen, Seven Bayview businesses that powered through the pandemic, Local News & Views
Outside Kat Anderson and Carl Hall’s Word A. Cafe. – Photo: Camille Cohen

The people: Word A. Cafe was built from owners Kat Anderson and Carl Hall’s love for reading and writing – hence the cafe’s name. 

The pitch: Since 2018, Word A. Cafe has been a cafe by day and a bar by night. They offer breakfast dishes, gourmet sandwiches, homemade soups and salads. They transform into a bar in the evening and offer craft cocktails and a light dinner menu that changes weekly. 

The pivot: Throughout the pandemic, and as the city continues to work toward recovery, the duo brainstormed on creative ways to not only keep their business afloat but also energize the commercial corridor. It had nothing to do with reading or writing but with live music. 

Every weekend evening and during their Sunday brunch, Word features live music from renowned Bay Area musicians. Kat and Carl took it a step further by building a coalition of local musicians and venues, which they call the Musicians and Venues Development Alliance (MAVDA). Their mission is to revitalize neighborhoods in San Francisco, starting with Third Street by producing high-quality live music events. They also want to ensure fair workplace standards and compensation for artists, venues and their staff.

Meaghan Mitchell’s life mantra is based on the African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” As a native San Franciscan and journalist, Meaghan has successfully built residents’ trust from the city’s most marginalized communities by prioritizing news coverage in areas like the Bayview, Fillmore, SoMA and Tenderloin Districts. Meaghan’s background is multifaceted and meets at the intersection of diversity, inclusion and community engagement. As a neighborhood editor, Meaghan has written hundreds of articles for Hoodline and recently for Here/Say, has been featured on local outlets such as SFIST, Broke-Ass Stuart and the SF Bay View newspaper.