This morning on my way to work, I swung by The Summit, which just opened its doors today. The space is modern and massive, with ceilings reaching to almost 24 feet high, wood paneled walls and an angular handcrafted wood bar made of reclaimed walnut (I'm waiting for someone to dare to tell me something's not reclaimed). Above, a mezzanine set with work spaces wraps around and below, sits the cafe space set with bench tables and couches, of which were already occupied with the requisite Mac laptop users nursing Blue Bottle. It's a sweeping, light-filled space.
Partly the brainchild of managing director Desi Danganan—formerly the owner of Poleng Lounge—the new cafe is only the half of it. The other half of the space (divided by that partial wood-paneled wall) is an "incubation space" for start-ups funded by I/O Ventures. Today the desks were bare, but they see it as a third space, a place that "facilitates and fosters broader, more creative interaction." They will be renting out desks to other start-ups but you have to apply within.
Danganan sees the cafe as a incubation space for cooks too. To this effect, he's going to have a rotating group of in-house pastry chefs that work for four month stints. The regular chef is Eddie Lau formerly of Poleng and Orson but perhaps more notable for his heady blog Hot Food Porn. Lau has a two-part series interview on SFoodie should you want to learn just how pornographic he gets. You can also read his blogs chronicling the opening process for The Summit. I like his blog on "cookbook mixed tapes."
Although the space is completely wired, with outlets provided by the tables should you want to plug in, I asked Danganan what he would do if people made this "third space" their permanent office away from home—the biggest fear of places like Ritual that can't make money on a guy that buys one coffee and sits there from 9 to 5 writing the next War and Peace. Danganan admitted that that they hope people will understand the cafe has to make money too. If not, he'll just pull out all the outlets. He said, "A good laptop battery lasts about six hours. That should be plenty of time to sit here."
The Summit is ambitiously open from 8 am to 2 am. They also will be serving beer and wine soon. Because, sometimes, the best community building comes when a little alcohol is introduced.
780 Valencia St. @ 19th